Ainsworth State Park is the perfect place to camp along the Historic Columbia River Highway, with 45 full-hookup campsites and great access to numerous hiking trails as well as waterfalls. Located 22 miles east of Troutdale, Oregon, Ainsworth State Park is situated within the larger Columbia River National Scenic Area and is open from the first week of March to the last week of October. The state park is along the Historic Columbia River Highway just minutes from a number of stellar waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls.
The 180-acre state park was first created in 1933 when John C. and Alice Ainsworth donated 40 acres of land to the state of Oregon. The state park has been enlarged over the years with additional land grants in 1947 and 1966. Ainsworth State Park contains many historic structures and original trails that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935.
Ainsworth State Park is the ideal camping spot for RVers that are traveling along the Columbia River or through the Columbia River Gorge and want to view hundreds of waterfalls within an easy drive or hike. The park itself does not offer direct access to the Columbia River because of an active Union Pacific Railway, which is nestled between the Historic Columbia River Highway and the Columbia River.
The state park boasts plenty of activities, including trailheads that lead to Saint Peter’s Dome and Rock of Ages, where you will have splendid vantage points of the numerous waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge. Other activities include biking within the campground or along the historic highway. You'll also love the ranger-led interpretive programs during the season that are interesting and packed with facts about the local and natural history of the area.
The weather at Ainsworth State Park ranges in temperature from the mid-50s in the spring months of March and April to the mid-80s during the summer months. Cooler temperatures are also found in October just before the park closes for the season. Rainfall is plentiful in the park with up to 11 inches in the spring months but drops considerably in the summer months to an average of three inches, with July being the driest month to visit.
Ainsworth State Park is the perfect weekend getaway, as it is only about 30 minutes from Portland. Access to the park is off of the Historic Columbia River Highway, also known as Oregon State Highway 30. If you are traveling on I-84, you will still need to drive one mile on the historic highway. Driving along the Columbia River Gorge is challenging for drivers in large RVs or pulling trailers. The steep undulating highway through the Cascade Mountain Range and the gorge is easier by navigating on I-84.
Both I-84 and Columbia River Highway follow the river. You will find slower traffic on the Columbia River Highway with sightseeing drivers and bicyclists using the road. There is faster flowing traffic on I-84, and the shoulder of the road is better for turning out when you need to let traffic pass. Drivers should be aware of traffic build-ups as there are state fines and fees for not allowing traffic to flow freely.
Once inside the park, your driving is limited to the one-loop campground. The one-way loop road is easy to navigate and only has one narrow curve to maneuver. There are several pull-through campsites, and drivers should be aware of RVs and trailers pulling out or through these campsites. Caution should be used within the campground as there will be pedestrians, bicyclists, and children playing in the road area. Please respect the posted speed limits at all times.
The Ainsworth State Park campground is open seasonally from the first week in March through the last week of October. The campground has 45 campsites situated along one loop, all of which offer full hookups, including electricity, sewer, and water for your rig. Twenty campsites are pull-through, which will help you if you have a bigger RV or trailer. Each campsite is outfitted with a fire ring and picnic table. RVs and trailers will find paved parking pads, which may require some type of leveling.
RVs and trailers are limited to 70 feet in length, although parking pads at each campsite vary. You should dump your holding tank at the entrance before hooking up to the sewer at your campsite. The campground has flush toilets and hot showers, as well as freshwater drinking stations and a recycling area. You will find two playgrounds for your children, and there are horseshoe pits in the middle of the campground loop, as well as an area for ranger-led talks. Generators may be used between the hours of 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Pets are welcome but must be restrained on a six-foot leash. Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance.
If all the sites were full at Ainsworth State Park, you won't have to go far to find a place to park the teardrop overnight. Whether you're traveling up or down the river, there are numerous campgrounds with RV-friendly options just minutes from Ainsworth.
Your closest option is to head just out of the park to the surrounding Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Just ten minutes from Ainsworth, the Eagle Creek Campground inside of the Eagle Creek Recreation Area offers 17 primitive style sites to RV campers.
There are also a number of private RV parks along the Columbia River Gorge that offer more modern facilities, with some of the closest being Cascade Locks / Portland East KOA and Cascade Locks Marine Park Campground.
Bring your binoculars along in the camper-- not only for the waterfalls but for the wildlife too. Nature lovers will be thrilled with the wonderful wildlife watching opportunities that are seen at Ainsworth State Park, with common animal sightings including beaver, yellow-bellied marmot, black-tailed deer, the Pacific tree frog, and an occasional black bear. Bird watchers are all smiles with over 200 species of birds in the area. You can expect to see Canadian geese, mallards, great blue heron, as well as buffleheads. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the threatened Northern Spotted Owl.
When you just need to rest from a long drive or need a day to unwind without stress, Ainsworth State Park is ideal for relaxing at your campsite. The RV campground has plenty of trees for shade on hot summer days, and the lush green grass at each site is manicured by state employees. There are a couple of things you can enjoy in the campground such as a game of horseshoes with your family, and children will like the two playgrounds situated nearby. After a nice picnic lunch at your campsite, you can relax and relish in the tranquility of the park.
Bicycling in Ainsworth State Park is a great way to stretch your legs after a long ride in the motorhome, and cyclists will have plenty of peddling opportunities in the undulating terrain along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Bikers enjoy cruising the one loop campground road while taking in the lush forested areas of the park. Other cyclists like to be more adventurous by cycling the historic highway in either direction. A real challenge is the ten-mile round-trip ride to Wahkeena Falls where you will see Multnomah Falls along the way too.
If you're interested in seeing some more of the Columbia River Gorge, hop in the Sprinter and drive one of the country's most scenic routes. No matter which direction you head after exiting the park, you'll be treated to post-card perfect views of the Columbia River, and depending on the time of year you visit, you might catch the stunning fall foliage in full swing. You'll also find plenty of scenic overlooks and quaint towns to stop off at on your scenic drive.
You and your family will enjoy attending one of the many ranger-led programs available at Ainsworth State Park. Talks are geared toward the natural and cultural history of the Columbia River Gorge area. The talks are held nightly within the center of the campground loop. Children will be pleased working through Oregon’s Junior Ranger program which has kids learning more in-depth about the environment of the gorge and river. During peak season in the summer, ranger-led nature hikes take place along the Ainsworth Loop Trail.
If you are a waterfall enthusiast, you will be thoroughly pleased with an RV road trip to Ainsworth State Park. Although there are no waterfalls directly in the park, the good news is that you have access by foot and car to one of the largest concentration of waterfalls in the world. You can take a strenuous hike to Oneonta Falls where you can continue on the same trail to Triple Falls. If you are searching for a grand view of the tumbling waters of the 620-foot Multnomah Falls, then take the four-mile drive on the historic Columbia River Highway.
One of the more popular things to do when you park the Airstream at Ainsworth State Park is to go hiking. There are several interesting trails that pass or start within the state park, and many of these trails were originally cut by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1935. Some of the more popular trails are the Gorge Trail #400, which follows the historic highway and allows access to Oneonta Gorge Trail and Horsetail Creek Loop Trail. Families will enjoy the easier half-mile Ainsworth Loop Trail.
Although Ainsworth State Park does not offer the greatest windsurfing conditions, you're not far from some of the best areas in the nation. If you'd like to get out on the water during your time at the park, aim the fifth wheel towards Hood River, just 30 minutes upriver. Dubbed as the windsurfing capital of the world, Hood River offers strong winds for advanced surfers but also has some calm crannies that are great for beginners.