Recharge with a getaway to Skamania Lodge

by Debbie Stone | Guest Columnist

Once again, I found myself flying through the forest with the greatest of ease. Only this time, I was on the zipline course at Skamania Lodge, a well-known resort in Washington State, within Columbia Gorge country. Surrounded by natural beauty, the lodge is an idyllic property with inviting guest rooms and common areas, an impressive Northwest art collection, award-winning dining, a spa and fitness center, a swimming pool, hot tubs, golf and disc golf courses and plenty of other outdoor activities to satisfy any adrenaline junkie. Do as much or as little as you want at this all-ages playground, where you can re-energize, refresh and renew.

The zipline tour I experienced includes seven different lines, offering a variety of distances, heights and speeds, three sky bridges and an auto-belay station. As you soar through the woods in Tarzan or Jane fashion, open your eyes, as the views from high in this stretch of Pacific Northwest rainforest are magical.

The guides are upbeat and fun, inserting entertaining banter throughout the well-designed course. They encourage you at each step and show you how to use different positions to up the ante. Lay back, for example, go hands-free, try spinning or a slingshot push off the tree, and definitely assume a cannonball for speed.

There's also an aerial park on the property, where you can test your strength, balance, and agility as you maneuver through different challenges of varying degrees of difficulty. You are safely carabineered, so you can let loose and do your best ninja imitation.

While you're at it, add axe throwing to your repertoire. As you toss your axe at the wooden target to score points, channel your competitive inner Paul Bunyan. And experience that powerful, primal release when you land a Bull's Eye.

Though the lodge has an indoor fitness center with all the bells and whistles, I decided to get a full-body workout on the Gorge Loop Fitness Trail. This trail combines hiking with challenges at five fitness stations. You can use the provided equipment to do your regimen or follow the recommended exercises listed at each station. There are modifications for different levels, which I appreciated. And being immersed in the lush natural beauty of the environment is a definite plus.

If that's not enough, the lodge has two other hiking trails that lead you through a wooded landscape. They start near the Golf Shop and range from 1.5 to 1.75 miles long. Do some forest bathing along the way. And if you are unfamiliar with this activity, the lodge has a guide you can follow. It's all about absorbing the atmosphere, getting in touch with nature, being mindful and embracing your senses. Research has shown substantial health benefits of such a practice, leading to lower blood pressure and decreased stress levels. And no, there's no actual bathing required!

Continue the relaxing vibe with a soak in the outdoor or indoor hot tubs. Then book a restorative massage or replenishing facial at the Waterleaf Spa. I had an incredible facial with Laurie, who incorporated a number of elements into my session, including an anti-aging mask, hot stone massage and ice balls. I felt like my skin had been brought back from the dead!

Of course, you'll work up an appetite during your stay. Just know that you're in good hands with the chefs at Skamania. In the Cascade Dining Room, the menu emphasizes fresh, seasonal and local whenever possible. One night, I started with a cup of creamy and flavorful Steelhead Chowder, followed by the Pan Roasted Steelhead with a veggie hash. Another night I had the hearty NW Seafood Stew, a chockful of clams, shrimp and Pacific fish in a tomato fennel broth. My husband enjoyed the Lodge Seafood Salad, which had clams, poached shrimp and smoked Steelhead.

For a casual, pub-style environment, go next door to the River Rock Lounge, where you'll find small plates, sharable items, local brews, creative cocktails and mocktails, and fine wines. If weather permits, sit outside on the deck and take in the unparalleled views or watch a game of frisbee on the large lawn.

Later, make your way to the fire pit for some good old-fashioned smores. Get a smore kit from the gift shop and roast those marshmallows perfectly golden brown. Then you know the drill – smash them between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate for that yummy (and sticky!) campfire treat.

Lodge accommodations are spacious and comfy, with fireplaces and views of the Columbia River or old-growth forest. If you're looking for a bit of rustic hospitality, opt to stay in one of the Tree Houses. These secluded abodes are graced with expansive decks, indoor/outdoor fireplaces, king-size beds and full baths. Each has an outdoor dining and recreational area with a fire pit below. They stand twenty feet in the air and boast large windows to make you feel like you're sleeping amid the canopy of trees.

Though there's more than enough to do at Skamania, outside the lodge doors, you'll discover a world-class recreational paradise ripe for exploring. The Columbia River Gorge, a protected National Scenic Area, straddles Washington and Oregon and spans nearly 300,000 acres. It boasts the greatest concentration of high waterfalls in North America, including the impressive Multnomah Falls, the grand dame of them all. Within a half hour, you can reach a number of these cascading beauties. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds, as this is a popular corridor.

If you're a hiker, this area is nirvana with 57 trails that, when combined, stretch over 218 miles in length. For memorable panoramic vistas (and good cardio), climb Beacon Rock, the second-largest monolith in the northern hemisphere, standing 848 feet tall. It shares its prominence with such geological features as California's El Capitan, Georgia's Stone Mountain and Wyoming's Devils Tower. Once the core of an ancient volcano, Beacon got its name from Lewis and Clark, who encountered this behemoth on their westward journey to the Pacific.

Reaching the top of Beacon Rock involves a near-continuous series of 54 switchbacks, many less than twenty feet long, along with numerous concrete and wooden bridges. The trail, though, is not too steep and handrails line it. Most importantly, your efforts will be well rewarded with inspiring views of the mighty Columbia River and the surrounding area.

To learn more about the history and culture of this special region, check out the nearby Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum. You can spend hours here, as the displays are interesting and interactive.

Thirteen exhibit areas focus on such themes as First Peoples, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the development of pioneer communities along the Columbia, the eras of the railroad, highway and sternwheeler, Bonneville Dam and the geology of the Gorge.

The largest gallery is about the Gorge's timber and fishing industries. It contains a waterfall, a replica of an 1882 fishwheel, a 1921 Mack log truck loaded with cedar logs, a stationary steam engine from 1895, and suspended from the ceiling, a 1917 "Jenny" bi-plane, typical of the first airplanes that delivered air mail in the Gorge.

Another "off-campus" destination is the town of Stevenson, a charming waterfront community with eclectic shops, galleries, local restaurants and an award-winning brewpub. I enjoyed tasty fish and chips at Clark and Lewie's while sitting on the outdoor patio with a river view. Afterward, I went to the dock and watched the riverboats cruising and the windsurfers gliding across the water. This area offers some top locations to catch waves, as the Columbia acts as a funnel for wind that blasts down the river corridor.

Those who want to do a deep dive into the Gorge's wine scene have plenty of options, as there are forty-plus wineries in the area, located on both sides of the river. Not into wine? No problem. Take your pick from a dozen or so brewpubs, cider houses and even a distillery to meet your libations needs.

If you’d like to learn more about the Skamania Lodge, visit