STEVENSON, Wash. Dolce Skamania Lodge is the best-known place to
stay on the Washington side of the awesome Columbia Gorge and with
good reason. While it bills itself primarily as a conference
center, my family found it to be a stimulating leisure retreat,
during a recently hosted weekend.
Less than an hour’s drive from Portland, Ore., the lodge does
steady business with groups from the Western United States. It is
owned by the Dolce Intern-ational conference center chain, and it
is one of the few Pacific Northwest members of the International
Association of Conference Centers, which has a very stringent
In honor of its tenth anniversary this year, the lodge just
finished a $15 million expansion, adding 10,000 square feet of
group facilities and 59 guest rooms. It now features 22,000 square
feet of meeting space and 254 guest rooms, all with high-speed
wireless Internet access. On an average day, it hosts five to 10
groups of 50-75 people each, but it can accommodate groups as large
Since our family was traveling at leisure, we splashed in the
lodge’s 20-yard-long indoor swimming pool and soaked in the outdoor
hot tub, while a gentle mist frosted our hair. We shot a few games
of pool at the River Rock Lounge, off the lobby; and dined on
regional specialties in the Cascade Room restaurant. Our favorite
indoor haunt was the mezzanine-level library with its books,
magazines and games for all ages, overlooking the lobby’s two-story
Dolce Skamania Lodge recently introduced an audio tour of its
permanent exhibition of Native American and Northwest art. During
our stay, we learned about the collection’s hundreds of pieces of
art, like Native American petroglyphs dating back thousands of
years, hand-woven antique rugs, paintings and sculptures created by
Outside, our daughter made a beeline for the kid’s play area
with swings, slides and seesaws. The three of us explored the
grounds on the resort’s three walking trails, winding four miles
over creeks, around lakes and through woods. We didn’t have time to
try the property’s mountain bikes, outdoor tennis courts and
volleyball court; and since we don’t golf, we simply appreciated
the 18-hole course for its beauty.
Overlooking a sweep of the Columbia River between the sleepy
town of Stevenson and the Cascade Locks, Dolce Skamania Lodge’s
location is central to the gorge’s most popular visitor activities
and attractions. Within walking distance of the lodge, the
eight-year-old Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center features exhibits
on the area’s history and nature. Five minutes away is the
Bonneville Dam Visitors Center, with a fish-viewing room; and the
Cascade Locks Museum with its artifacts, steam locomotive and old
A 25-minute drive west, leads to Beacon Rock State Park, where a
switchback trail up 800 feet rewards hikers with up-and-down views
of the 80-mile-long gorge. Twenty miles east of the lodge is Hood
River, Ore., best known for its prime windsurfing conditions.
Hits: Extensive meeting facilities and group services.
Misses: Limited children’s menus.
Clientele: 65 percent groups from the Western United States; 35
percent leisure travelers.
Be Aware: It rains here a lot from November through January.
Rates: From $129-$209 per night.
Contacts: 800-221-7117; www.dolce.com.