Sun-drenched plateaus, Oregon’s oldest bookstore, a 13-foot Columbian mammoth — you and the kids will discover all this (and more!) in The Dalles, Oregon. Located about 75 miles east of Portland, this laid-back city makes an easy day trip or multi-day getaway. Read on to learn more about some of our favorite spots for family fun in The Dalles.

On the Plateau Trail at Tom McCall Preserve

Hiking in the Tom McCall Preserve, photo by Carrie Uffindell

Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena

Get a bird’s eye view of the area (and stretch your legs) with a stop at the 231-acre Tom McCall Preserve, located on a plateau overlooking the Gorge. This is where the rainy, forested west side of the Cascades gives way to the grassy, sunny prairies of the east. You can also explore one of the preserve’s two trails: a one-mile trail that crosses the plateau, encircling a permanent pond, and the two-mile McCall Point Trail, which begins at the south side of the turnaround and gains around 1,000 feet in elevation.

Pro tip: Colorful wildflowers usually carpet the plateau from late February through June. No dogs or bicycles are allowed; this is to protect rare plants and sensitive wildlife.

Tom McCall Preserve
Hours: Open daily
Old Columbia River Scenic Highway (Highway 30), between Hood River and The Dalles
Online: nature.org

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

Exhibit at The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, photo by Carrie Uffindell

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

The exhibits in this impressive 48,200 square foot timber-and-glass facility explore regional plant and wildlife, eleven thousand years of local history and catastrophic floods that carved out the Gorge. An impressive life-sized Columbia mammoth dominates the Ice Age section of the center. Throughout are more displays where children can learn, touch, dress up and create, including the Kids Explorer Room. When you’re done inside check out the restored grounds, which are home to over 90 native plant species as well as walking paths, a pond and scenic overlooks.

Pro tip: Make a day of it by packing a picnic lunch or grabbing a bite to eat at the center’s Basalt Rock Café. (Think soups, sandwiches and burgers.) Live raptor presentations are in the main foyer every day.

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Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center and Museum
Hours: Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $9/Adult; $7/Senior; $5/Ages 6-16; Free/Ages 5 and under
5000 Discovery Dr.
The Dalles, Or
541-296-8600
Online: gorgediscovery.org

 

Coumbian Mammoth at the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center

Columbian Mammoth, photo by Carrie Uffindell

Sorosis Park

Set high above downtown, this 45-acre city park is filled with the usual amenities: picnic tables, BBQ pits, softball fields, tennis courts and a disc golf course. But what makes this park truly great for families is the sprawling, castle-themed wooden play structure where you can kick back and watch the kids frolic for hours.

Pro tip: If time permits, be sure to check out the park’s wide-angle views of the Gorge.

Sorosis Park
Hours: Open daily
300 E. Scenic Dr.
The Dalles, Or
541-296-9533
Online: nwprd.org/parks

 

Fort Rock Campsite

On the Riverfront Trail, photo by Carrie Uffindell

Riverfront Trail

Walk, bike and/or stroll along this wide, ten-mile long paved path hugs the scenic southern bank of the Columbia River between the discovery center and The Dalles Dam. Along the way you’ll encounter a learning garden, Lewis and Clark’s Fort Rock campsite, downtown The Dalles, Riverfront Park and more. Pets and strollers are welcome.

Pro tip: Start from the northwest terminus at the discovery center. While the trail has little to no elevation, younger children may tucker out before reaching Riverfront Park six miles away. Fortunately, the trail is accessible approximately every mile between the center and the park. A portion of the trail near The Dalles Dam isn’t complete, between miles eight and ten.

The Riverfront Trail
541-296-9533
Online: nwprd.org/rivertrail

 

Klindt's Booksellers

Browing at Klindt’s Booksellers, photo by Carrie Uffindell

Klindt’s Booksellers and Stationers

To visit Oregon’s oldest bookstore, which opened its doors in 1870, head to the heart of The Dalles’ historic downtown. Here you can browse amidst the original wooden bookshelves and cabinets. Kids of all ages will love Klindt’s excellent selection of children’s, middle reader and young adult fiction. Unsure where to start? The friendly and knowledgeable are happy to offer recommendations.

Pro tip: Klindt’s hosts regular young adult and middle reader author events and fiction festivals. See their website for more info.

Klindt Booksellers and Stationers
Hours: Mon. – Sat., 8 a.m.– 6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.– 4 p.m.
315 E. 2nd St.
The Dalles, Or
541-296-3355
Online: klindtsbooks.com

What are your favorite family spots in The Dalles? Tell us in the comments below!

— Carrie Uffindell