Cheap Admission To Nature’s Amusement Park

Sorry for the relative silence recently, I had friends over for the weekend. A while I ago I wrote about choosing frugal hobbies, and one great thing about Portland is that the biggest draw, regardless of cost, is really the outdoors. You get crisp mountain air, gorgeous views, and the main price of admission is simply your willingness to walk. We hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls and Dog Mountain, where you can catch views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens when it’s clear. Here are actual pictures we took, to me they almost look like postcards!

Columbia River Gorge Multnomah Falls Hike Wildflowers

The total cost per person including gas, tolls, and park fees was less than $5. Also, we simply packed our own picnic lunches to eat at the top. Hiking is definitely something I need to do more of, and would be a great summer counterpart to our more expensive hobby of skiing.


  1. PiggyBank Raider says:

    I live in the Appalachian Mountain area and we have a lot of the same benefits. Lots of parks… plenty of hiking trails… awesome views and spots for camping. It’s great “free” entertainment!

  2. Spencer says:

    Sounds like a good deal to me.
    I haven’t been out to the gorge in far too long (I’m also from Portland). I’ve been wanting to go but.. I went to Bagby (hot springs) Sunday night, which cost about the same (gas only). It’s kind of a lazy version of hiking. The walk from the parking lot to the springs is easy, and only 20-25 minutes, but it makes the hot water about 5x better.
    As long as you don’t mind seeing a few dangling body parts, I highly recommend it.

  3. The Portland area is awesome for stuff like this. Between all the hikes and so forth in the Gorge, the coast can also be fun and cheap if you either do not stay over night or stay at one of those scary $30/night places (makes for better storytelling, too). Camping is incredible in WA and OR, too. Once you’ve already bought a basic tent, sleeping bags and grill upfront, future trips cost just gas and about $18 or so a night, so it’s still not too bad, especially for families. You cook your own food, so other than an extra bag or two of chips and makings for s’mores (gotta have camp food), it’s not much more than you’d spend eating at home.

    I am just loving this blog since I found it. Keep the good stuff coming!

  4. Yeah, people who live along the west coast tend to enjoy their nature a lot more than us here in the heat of Texas. My favorite place on earth at the moment is still Seattle for the same reason.

  5. >>”gas, tolls, and park fees was less than $5.”

    Just curious how can that be? how do you calculate gas here?

  6. Portland rocks! Why would you guys move?

    We hiked up the Salmon River on Sunday on the Mt. Hood National Forest.

    Dirt baggin it in the outdoors is the way to go! Save up all your money so you can retire early and live out of a van and climb mountains for the rest of your life. That’s my plan.

  7. Beautiful pics! I have a friend in portland so when I finally make it around to visiting, I”m going to remember this post and we can go hiking!

  8. Hot Springs sounds interesting. I know hiking for a few hours make brown bag lunches taste divine!

    “Just curious how can that be? how do you calculate gas here?”

    Put 4 people in one car, and it was cheap 🙂 $2 tolls and $5 “recreational fee” for the entire car. Gas split 4 ways.

    One additional cost: a few pain relievers if you walk up and down a lot of stairs since your legs might be sore…

  9. Praveen says:

    Jonathan, where was the middle pic taken? I went to Multnomah falls like 5 times and climbed it twice to the top of the falls, but didn’t see that stream before. BTW did you drive on the “bridge of the gods” ? Next time you go to multhnomah falls, take the scenic highway from exit 17(the one after walmart). Theres a portland womens(or something like that) view point and vista house.

  10. The middle pic was taken at Mult. Falls. After you get to the top there is an additional hiking loop where you can lots of smaller waterfalls and even do some boulder climbing.

    Yep. drove over the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. Definitely got to check out Vista House later.

  11. sfordinarygirl says:

    Those photos are gorgeous. Your post has inspired me to rethink my trip to the NW. One of my friends lives in Maupin and wanted for the longest time to have me visit and camp instead of going to Portland. It’d definitely be cheaper and fun – fly fishing, hiking and other fun outdoorsy activities.

    My other friend in Seattle mentioned taking me there the next time I visit. I’m going to make that a top priority definitely.

  12. Awesome post! We also live in the NW, and I’ve hiked Dog Mountain too – a hidden (sort of) gem! My husband and I took my most favorite (and extremely frugal) vacation last summer by driving and camping around Oregon. It was absolutely amazing! We packed our own food and grilled out almost every night. Took a tiny bit of spending money for postcards and the occasional marionberry ice cream cone along the way, but otherwise we barely spent anything. I’ll never forget it.

    But the important part is, you can have this experience no matter where you live. Just budget for gas, pack a cooler and go have an adventure.

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