Visiting Our Neighbor to the East: Hood River
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about the Columbia Gorge may not be the wind surfing conditions available at such notable locations as “the Hatch” (what locals call the area of the Columbia adjacent to their local fish hatchery).
If you’re relatively new to Portland, you may not have even ventured far enough past Multnomah Falls to realize that there is an Eastern terminus to the beautiful Columbia Gorge. But there definitely is.
And the gorgeous little town perched on the side of the Gorge just west of where the land turns from green to brown is worth visiting for a large variety of reasons. Let’s talk about Hood River, shall we?
How to Get to Hood River From Portland
Windsurfing all the way out to the Gorge would take you, well – forever. Plus they probably wouldn’t let you use the locks at Bonneville Dam for your sailboard. So you’re stuck with walking, biking, or driving. Yes, you can actually walk or bike to Hood River from Portland. In fact, once you get a bit east of Troutdale, you can walk or bike in relative ease on sections of the old Columbia highway that have been preserved and converted into a pedestrian/bike path.
But of course, you can also drive. If you’re in a hurry, you can just zip out to Hood River on I-84 and get there from downtown Portland in less than an hour, without traffic. However, if you want to take that scenic route, you can drive the Columbia Gorge Highway past some of the most amazing waterfalls in the world; cross over to the Washington side and take scenic, two-lane SR14; or for the most scenic route, drive up and over Mount Hood and take the Hood River Valley through the apple orchards, all the way into town.
What to Do on the Way to Hood River
Depending on your route and the time of year, there are many activities that you can partake in on the way to or back from Hood River. For starters, the Columbia Gorge offers a staggering amount of beautiful hikes on both sides. Look up Dog Mountain or Beacon Rock for a couple of examples on the North side, and Oneonta Gorge or Ponytail Falls for a couple of examples on the Oregon side.
Just remember to have your parking permits visible, as fines can be hefty. If you’re traveling over Mount Hood, be sure to consider a stop at Timberline Lodge or a stop at one of the lavender farms or fruit orchards on your way down the Hood River Valley.
What to Do When You Get to Hood River
Hood River has really come a long way in the last couple of decades. What was once a sleepy town in the Gorge, dedicated solely to windsurfing and distilling cheap vodka (HRD), now has an array of great boutiques, a couple of internationally known breweries, and a several great little restaurants to choose from.
Consider taking a tour of Full Sail Brewing Company, Pfriem Family Brewers, or Double Mountain Brewery, just to name a few of the biggest and best. Pfriem tends to be super family friendly, in case you’re traveling with little ones, but the pizza at Double Mountain rivals the best of what you may have found in Portland.
For breakfast, be sure you pay your respects to Bette’s Place, which literally serves every single thing you could ever want for breakfast – skillets, scrambles, every meat option, pancakes, smoothies, cinnamon rolls, pie – but don’t expect to find an onion bagel. Great coffee houses in the area include Doppio and Dog River Coffee.
For dinner, you’ll have several options to choose from in the downtown area. Highlights include Brian’s Pourhouse, the 3 Rivers Grill, Celilo Restaurant & Bar, and the Sixth Street Bistro & Loft. If you’re willing to jump on the freeway to head just one more exit to the east, you can dine on the Columbia with gorgeous views and fantastic pasta dishes served at the Riverside restaurant at the Best Western.
For extra points, travel a bit farther east on the Washington side and check out world-class collections of the Maryhill Museum of Art. Then hit the tap room in White Salmon, where you can enjoy some freshly brewed pints of Everybody’s Brewing beer, Washington-style.
If you’re staying in town overnight, make sure to check out the historic (some say haunted) Columbia Gorge Hotel, perched on a cliff with its own waterfall, overlooking the river. There are a great many other standard hotels and bed and breakfast options as well, including the Hood River Hotel, which is quaint and affordable though the rooms tend to be no-fuss and on the smaller side; or the Oak Street Hotel, which is located on the quieter side of downtown Hood River, and features just about the best hot hotel breakfast you’re ever going to have.
Hood River Is a Great Place to Getaway to for the Day or the Weekend
Hood River has come so far in the last couple of decades that if you are returning after a long hiatus you may suffer from a bit of future shock. Between the shopping, the breweries, the ever-present laid-back attitude, and the scenic wonder it sits in, this town is well worth the excursion east from Portland. Through in a hike or a kite-surfing lesson and you’ve got reason enough to call it a weekend getaway.
[Photos Via: Wikipedia; Hood River Chamber of Commerce; Oregon.com; 3 Rivers Grill; Oak Street Hotel]