C. Bruce Forster
Vista House (from Portland, take I-84 east to exit 22, then follow signs 4 miles to Vista House and Crown Point State Park; 503/695-2230)
Road-trippers today don't expect much more from a rest stop than a stale vending machine and, if they're lucky, a clean bathroom. But on Oregon's super-scenic Historic Columbia River Highway, the rest stop is its own reward. Perched 733 feet above the Columbia River is Vista House, the crown jewel of Crown Point State Park, built in 1918 as a "comfort station" for weary travelers.
And what an amazing comfort station it is. Surrounded by panoramic sweeps of sky, rock, and river ― and in June, carpets of wildflowers, lush hiking trails, and waterfalls ― the appropriately named sandstone observatory looks better than ever after a four-year, $4 million facelift.
The 88-year-old regal place of respite boasts a gift shop and espresso bar along with its trademark Tokeen Alaskan marble, stained glass, limestone carvings, brass fixtures, and gilt plaster. On June weekends, pioneer crafts will be on display. Stop by for a picnic, a picturesque afternoon, or just a pit stop complete with vases of freshly picked wildflowers.