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Rails, Rivers & Roses Tour

This unique 7-day itinerary departs from the BC interior June 6, 2023 and features two train rides, two different river experiences and all the beauty and excitement of the Portland Rose Festival. Read on to find out more about these interesting highlights and learn a few interesting facts about the ‘City of Roses’ and the history of the Portland Rose Festival.


We will ride two trains on this tour. The first is aboard the historic Mount Hood Railroad as it takes a scenic tour through orchards, vineyards, and forests with a view of Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest peak. This century-old, short line railroad served as an economic lifeline for the Hood River Valley since 1906, carrying fruit and forest products to market. The second train ride is aboard Amtrack as we travel between Portland and Seattle following the events and excursions of the Portland Rose Festival. Sit back and enjoy the scenery as you ride.


Our route to Portland largely follows the mighty Columbia River. This river system is one of the largest in the United States and along with its tributaries, the Columbia River basin has shaped the the geography, culture and history of the Pacific Northwest. From its headwaters located in British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River flows more than 1,200 miles (2,000 km) and drains an area of 258,000 square miles (668,000 square km). Join us as we explore the beautiful Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area which according to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center is recognized internationally as a “destination for exploring the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest”, see Multnomah Falls, and learn more about the geology, flora, fauna, history and development of the Gorge natural resources at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.  

Spring blooms in the Columbia River Gorge. Photo from Adobe Stock.

The Willamette River is the second river that we will experience. The Willamette River is a major tributary of the Columbia River, with the two converging in Portland. Following the Grand Floral Parade on June 10th, we will take refuge from the busy Portland streets aboard the Portland Spirit and enjoy a two-hour lunch cruise along the Willamette River. 

Lunch Cruise on the Willamette River aboard the Portland Spirit. Photo from Adobe Stock.


The Portland Rose Festival has been part of Portland’s ‘popular culture’ for well over a century. This event is currently organized by the non-profit Portland Rose Festival Association. The Rose Festival was originally inspired by the success of the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905 which was created to attract people to Portland and boost the economy. According to 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, the Lewis and Clark Exposition was such a large success, that the Mayor of Portland, Harry Lane, thought an annual Rose Festival would ‘continue to have a positive economic impact’ and thus the Portland Rose Festival born. Portland’s first Rose festival occurred in 1907 and since then has ‘continued to evolve and have a positive impact on the community‘—bringing smiles to faces, lifting spirits, and showcasing the ‘diverse interests and culture of the community.’

We will visit four events of the Portland Rose Festival: a behind-the-scenes tour of the floats barn, the Rose Show, and the Rose Queen’s Coronation, all culminating with the Grand Floral Parade, which has become the festival’s signature event. You will watch the parade from excellent seats under shelter inside the coliseum.

Final preparations underway in the float barn prior to the Grand Floral Parade. Photo provided by the Portland Rose Festival Foundation.
The Grand Floral Parade at the Portland Rose Festival. Photo provided by the Portland Rose Festival Foundation.
The Grand Floral Parade at the Portland Rose Festival. Photo provided by the Portland Rose Festival Foundation.

In celebration of this amazing festival, here are 3 interesting facts about the City of Roses and the Portland Rose Festival:

  • Roses aren’t native to Portland – According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, the first rose bush arrived in the Pacific Northwest 1837. It was a wedding gift for Anna Maria Pittman, who married missionary Jason Lee near Champoeg. Cuttings from that bush were planted at Champoeg Park, on the campus of Willamette University and in gardens around the region.
  • A ‘City of Roses’ is born – In preparation for the Lewis and Clark Exposition, it was reported that 10,000 bushes of the Madame Caroline Testout Rose were planted along Portland’s streets. The Madame Testout Rose is a hybrid tea rose with lovely large pink flowers.
  • Rose refuge – With over 10,000 rose bushes, the International Rose Test Garden is one of the best known gardens in Portland. During WWI, hybrid roses from Europe that were in danger from being destroyed by bombing were sent to the Rose Test Garden for safe keeping. We will visit the gardens prior to attending the Rose Show on June 9, 2023.
The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon. Photo from Adobe Stock.

If you would like to learn more about this tour. Please visit our website, give us a call 1.800.667.9552, or stop by an office near you.

Written by Miranda Schulz