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Columbia River Gorge Photos

February 27, 2022

Filed in: Families

Today I’m sharing about a new offering for my families: Destination Sessions! I get a lot of requests for family photos at Columbia River Gorge or the coast, and now I’ve added that as an option for family sessions! I’m so excited to create family photos that showcase our incredible state’s epic views. What a fun way to make family photos even more wall-worthy: your family loving on each other and having fun with Oregon’s favorite destinations and their incredible landscapes as a backdrop. If you are dreaming of photos that show off the best of the PNW, you’re going to want Columbia River Gorge photos for your next family session. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this uniquely Oregon experience.



columbia river gorge family photo sessions - portland family photographer

Planning Columbia River Gorge Photos With Your Family

Columbia River Gorge Photo Spots

While the Gorge stretches along the Columbia River, I’ve selected a few favorite photo spots for my clients. These are chosen for their relative closeness to Portland (although some can be turned into a weekend getaway). I’ve also chosen locations that get plenty of light and afford a view of our stunning PNW scenery in the background: so expect wide-open fields, mountainous backgrounds, and lush wildflowers.


spring family pictures in the wildflowers at the columbia river gorge


In the springtime, the Columbia River Gorge has a showstopping wildflower bloom. If you’ve never travelled out there, it’s worth the trip! I love Rowena Crest, near the Dalles. I wrote more about wildflower photos in the Gorge here. If this sounds like something you’d love, get in touch with me around February to start planning a spring session. Even if we miss wildflower season, this spot is still stunning for its view, with the desert landscape to the east.

Beacon Rock

Nothing says the Gorge like a view of Beacon Rock! I love to bring my clients to the open fields that surround Beacon Rock. There’s plenty of room to run around and explore as the sun sets behind Beacon Rock.


I have a few other viewpoints up my sleeve for incredible views of the Gorge and that landscape you just can’t find anywhere else. Whenever a client tells me that they’re hoping for an incredible PNW view in their photos, the Gorge really is the best place for this!


family photos with teens and dog

Dogs at Columbia River Gorge Photo Spots

I love to include dogs in family photos! Is your pup is up for adventure and you’d like to include them in your family photos at the Columbia River Gorge? Let me know early in the planning process so we can be sure to select a location that allows dogs. Most Columbia River Gorge photo spots allow dogs on a leash, but a few locations are nature preserves where dogs are not allowed. Don’t forget to read through my tips on what you can do to have successful family photos with a dog here.


Best Time of Year for Columbia River Gorge Photos

The Gorge is always beautiful, but the best time for Columbia River Gorge family photos is from spring through midsummer. This avoids the extra wet winter months. You’ll also avoid potential smokey skies from possible late summer and early fall wildfire season. Of course, photos in the off-season are completely feasible (the one below was taken in late January!), but be prepared to be more flexible to allow for weather reschedules and remember to layer up to keep warm.


Columbia River Gorge Hotels & Things to Do

There’s no shortage of beautiful places to stay and things to do in the Gorge before or after your session if you decide to make a weekend out of it. The area thrives on its tourism, particularly in the Hood River area, so you’re sure to find lodging that suits your family best. Skamania Lodge or the historic Hood River Hotel are two favorites! Looking for a treat after your session? A milkshake at the Eastwind Drive-In is a time-honored classic, or try a treat from my favorite little delicatessen in Hood River, Boda’s Kitchen.



Outdoor family picture in front of Beacon Rock near Portland Oregon



Columbia River Gorge Photos FAQs:

Where are sessions held?

There are a few locations to choose from, but plan to drive between 1 to 1.5 hours from Portland to the location depending on which spot you choose. Lucky us, it’s a beautiful drive along I-84, with stunning views!

When should I book family photos at Columbia River Gorge?

The experience will be best in late spring through mid-summer, to hit dry weather. Since my calendar does fill up quickly for summer and Destination Sessions take more time on my calendar, it’s best to book at least three months in advance so I can be sure to block enough time for you.

Are the locations good for young children?

We’ll chat about any requirements your family might have for a location and choose one that suits you best. Some gorge locations may have drop-offs, so make sure to tell me who all will be participating in the session and your comfort level. There are some options in the Gorge that are much better than others for small children.

What should I wear for family photos at Columbia River Gorge?

Just like any other session, the Client Closet and Wardrobe Guide are available to clients who have booked family photos at the Gorge. I’m always happy to work with you to provide further guidance with a personalized style board with shopping links. Because it is often windy and chilly in the Gorge, I recommend plenty of warm layers as well as longer dresses with some movement to them to provide swishy, stunning, epic photos!

Can I see more family photos at Columbia River Gorge?

Of course! Here are a few of my favorite family photo sessions from the Gorge:

Rowena Crest Maternity Photo Session

Family Photos with Teens at the Columbia River Gorge


Gorge sessions are available in the evenings only. If you’d like something closer to Portland, you can check out my list of the best locations for photos in Portland here. Or, you can learn more about family photos with me here or contact me to chat more about your options!




PS: This week I’m sharing another favorite family photographer from around the country, and Beth’s post about baby photos at six months old caught my eye! Love seeing incredible work from my sweet friends.

comments +

  1. […] location is farther east than some of my other favorite locations for family photos in the Columbia River Gorge, but it is SO worth the drive. Along with yellow balsamroot and purple lupine wildflowers, Rowena […]

  2. […] family session inspiration? Check out this Portland maternity session in the wildflowers, or these family photos at the Columbia River Gorge. Ready to chat about booking your own family photos? Contact […]

  3. […] check out these family photos at Columbia River Gorge, or these Rowena Crest wildflower maternity photos. And if you’re ready to book with a […]

  4. […] 5. Let the landscape do the work at the Columbia River Gorge […]

  5. […] photographers from around the world. Today, I’m sharing Samantha Shannon’s gorgeous Columbia River Gorge photos. She gives quite the details of a successful family photoshoot and shares her beautiful […]

  6. You always find the most magical locations that work so well with the outfits of your families. Love your work!

  7. jasmyn says:

    What a detailed and thought-out post for Portland families! Your photos as always are so gorgeous!

  8. Beth Miga says:

    Such a beautiful location and so much helpful information when it comes to planning a session. A great resource for Portland families planning a family photo session!

  9. Karla Vacek says:

    I’m so jealous of all of your locations… they are beautiful!

  10. Wow! I am in love with the images take at the river gorge! This makes me want to make another trip out to Oregon this spring! An absolutely thorough guide for photography clients! Thanks for sharing!

  11. […] that just can’t be beat. A close second is any location with a quintessentially Oregon view: family photos at the Columbia River Gorge are my favorite. (Like these Columbia River Gorge maternity photos published at The Motherhood […]

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