In terms of scenic resorts set just a short drive from a major city, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than Skamania Lodge. Set in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, it’s a refuge just a stone’s throw from so much, from waterfall-strewn hikes and windsurfing, to wine tasting and small-town wandering. The lodge itself, named after the Chinook term for “swift water,” sits on a pair of small lakes and some nature trails, and overlooks the stunning Columbia River near the Bridge of the Gods in Stevenson, Wash. The roughly 1,000-foot elevation means a decent chance of some winter magic as well — and if you need more, Mount Hood is close and always caked in snow.
In terms of food and drink, there’s plenty to check out. In the winter, there are two main dining areas: the Cascade Dining Room and the smaller River Rock Lounge. The former is the lodge’s grand dining hall, while the latter is a more intimate bar and eatery built around an inviting stone fireplace.
As you might expect given the PNW backdrop, there’s a healthy mix of surf and turf to be enjoyed at the lodge. The breakfast is hearty, with dishes like avocado griddle toast and steelhead omelet to power guests through a day of exploring the Gorge. If you had a little too much wine the night before, there’s a breakfast sandwich aptly named “the cure” made with prosciutto, spinach, onion, gruyere, egg and aioli on sourdough. There are plenty of healthier options as well.
Lunch highlights include the bison chili, lodge seafood salad and the burger, which you can get in a traditional format or with Beyond Beef. At the dinner table, check out the eye-catching stuffed piquillo peppers or forest mushrooms, treated to red wine, shallots and Rogue Smokey Blue Cheese, among other things. Dinner entrees tend to cover all the major genres, from pasta to steak and seafood stew.
What of the liquid? There are a handful of signature cocktails accompanied by seasonal ones (along with some mocktails). Do order a Bloody Mary, action-packed and made with garlic and basil-infused Lewis and Clark Vodka along with a house mix. Other regional brands are also represented, like Westward Whiskey, Koenig Vodka and Fremont Mischief Bourbon.
If you prefer wine over a cocktail, know that the wine scene at Skamania Lodge is quite good. The glass pour list is respectable (17 available upon my visit), featuring great NW labels like Abacela, Kiona, Quady North and Walla Walla Vintners. If you’re feeling vacation-y, comb the bottle list for gems like the mineral-driven AniChe Albarino (a must-visit local winery), supple Archery Summit Dundee Hill Pinot Noir, or beautiful Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon from the wildly unique Red Mountain AVA. Of course, visitors who love wine should definitely get out to area tasting rooms and vineyards such as Syncline Winery, Cor Cellars, Analemma and Idiot’s Grace, all on the Washington Side of the Gorge. All told, there are countless locations to explore in the nearby Columbia Gorge and Columbia Valley AVAs — start with GorgeWine.com to get your bearings.
Back at the lodge, other highlights include the plethora of kid activities available, even in the off-season. While this writer visited, there were scavenger hunts, make-your-own stuffed animal classes, and a general all-ages vibe just about everywhere. The pool is worth checking out, bested only by the outdoor hot tub, arguably one of the lodge’s best features. If you need a good thaw and some fresh air, this is the spot.
The sustainability side should be mentioned as the lodge seems to be really looking after its natural surroundings. In addition to gas fireplaces and bonfires, Skamania is watching its water use (using a special laundry water recycling approach, for example), avoiding single-use plastic, and looking for clean energy options to keep the place illuminated and warm. There are also charging stations for those traveling by electric vehicle.
Check out the website to stay up to date on seasonal offerings and special holiday menus. Presently, the lodge is featuring a handful of weekly specials, including Winter Whiskey & Trivia Wednesdays and prime rib on Fridays.