Oregon attracts travelers from all around the world to experience the quirkiness of Portland and the great outdoors. While Portland is relatively easy to explore without prior planning, the small towns and wilderness require a bit of advance research. In this post, we'll highlight a weekend trip itinerary to the Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge region of Oregon.
Our trip begins and ends in Portland. We travel mainly on I-84 East following the path of the Hood River. There are two main overnight bases in the small towns of Hood River and The Dalles, along with a scenic driving path of the agricultural Fruit Loop. We also make stops at iconic landmarks including Latourell Falls, Cascade Locks, Twin Tunnels, and several farms.
Realistically, this route can be done as a long day trip. But to make the most of it, aim to stretch it into a 2-night long weekend trip. It's also worth noting that having a car is essential as public transit is limited. You'll also want the option to make detours on your own.
First Stop: West Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls
Start your day with a coffee in Portland (we love Stumptown) and then head east on I-84. If you want to take the slower scenic route, take exit 22 and hop onto the Historic Columbia Highway.
About an hour in, you'll reach the popular Multnomah Falls, which is typically full of visitors year-round. If you prefer a more under-the-radar spot, stop at Latourell Falls first. This lesser-known waterfall has its own unique factor of being surrounded by a wall of columnar basalt sprinkled with bright yellow lichen. There's a paved path that leads to the base of the waterfall. For a longer hike, opt for the 2.1 looping path that leads to the upper falls.
Second Stop: Bonneville Dam and Hatchery
Continue past the waterfalls and stop at Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery. Here you'll find the largest of Oregon's 33 hatcheries. Each year, this hatchery produces over 6 million chinook, 750 coho, and 310,000 steelhead fish. If you're lucky, you might see part of the process in which salmon are spawned, sorted and handled.
Third Stop: Cascade Locks
By now, you're probably ready for lunch. Just past Bonneville Dam is the small city of Cascade Locks. You'll also find the Bridge of the Gods, the only bridge that allows you to cross the Columbia River between Portland and Hood River town. There are also many hiking paths in the area as it is a notable connection point to the Pacific Crest Trail.
While in Cascade Locks, swing by Brigham Fish Market to pick up varieties of fresh, locally caught salmon. There are fresh fillets for taking home to cook yourself, or you can order food cooked on the spot. Be sure to try their sturgeon fish and chips and take some smoked salmon to go. If you're in the mood for some famous Oregon craft beer, head over to Thunder Island where the small batch beer offerings change seasonally.
Last Stop: Hood River
Wrap up day one by crashing in the town of Hood River. Known as the windsurfing capital of the world, this scenic town is at the crossroads of the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia River Gorge. Not only is the town gorgeous, but it's the perfect base for year-round outdoor activities including windsurfing, hiking, mountain biking and even winter skiing. At this point of the day, you may not have time for a long adventure, so go for a long stroll along the Columbia River waterfront. The park offers ample space for watching the windsurfers in action.
You'll also find lots of food and drink options at the waterfront and in Hood River town. Be sure to grab beers at two popular microbreweries: Full Sail Brewing Co and pFriem Family Breweries. Food-wise, make a dinner reservation at Hood River's most upscale restaurant: Celilo. Here, you'll enjoy a menu based on all of the fresh, seasonal foods and wines that come from the nearby Hood River Valley.
For accommodations, rest up at one of the many overnight options. You'll find everything from rustic bed and breakfasts to classic and luxurious hotels. On this trip, we opted for a stay at the classic Hood River Hotel. Centrally located, this hotel has been family owned and operated since 1911. It was recently restored and gives off the ambiance of a charming European inn. There are 41 rooms and suites available, all furnished with antiques.
Breakfast at Broder Øst
Start your next day with a delicious breakfast at Broder Øst. Conveniently located at the base of the Hood River hotel, this hotspot has a Scandinavian and Norwegian-inspired menu. Don't miss the excellent œbleskiver (Danish pancakes), lefse (Norwegian potato crepes) and köttbullar (Swedish meatballs).
Drive the Fruit Loop
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and load up your car. It's time for a self-guided tour of the Fruit Loop! This 35-mile long driving path takes you through the agriculturally rich Hood River Valley. Also known as the nation's largest pear-growing region, this valley has many farms with roadside stands and wineries with tasting rooms. There are also scenic views of Mount Hood throughout. No matter what time of year you visit, Mount Hood is probably covered with snow. After all, it has the longest ski season in the USA.
Fruit Stands, Alpacas, BBQ, and Cider
You'll have lots of fruit stands to stop at, but we recommend Kiyokawa Family Orchards in particular. This family-owned orchard traces its roots back to a grandfather who immigrated from Japan. Today, over 100 varieties of apples and pears are grown in the orchards. Stop by and fill your shopping bag with fruit varieties you've probably never seen or tasted before.
Next, head to the nearby Apple Valley BBQ for lunch. Their 100% Angus beef is cooked to perfection and come with a choice of side dishes. Opt for the coleslaw as it is made with fresh pears from Kiyokawa Family Orchard.
If you love alpacas, you must make a stop at Cascade Alpacas of Oregon. There are a surprising amount of llama and alpaca farms throughout the Pacific Northwest. But very few are open to the public. This Hood River farm welcomes visitors and lets you feed and pet alpacas. They also have a shop selling a large selection of alpaca yarn. You may even be able to meet a baby alpaca if you're lucky!
Oregon is known for craft beer, but there is also a growing cider industry. To sample and purchase a range of alcoholic ciders, swing by The Gorge White House. This 100-year old landmark is housed in a charming 1908 Dutch Colonial House. Their tasting room offers a range of cider options including apple-pear and blueberry. Sip your ciders outside to get a view of the scenic orchards in the backyard.
Go for a Hike or Bike Ride
After your journey on the Fruit Loop, drive back towards the Columbia River. Make a stop at the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to burn off your BBQ and cider. This five-mile trail offers stunning views and is perfect for hiking, running, or biking. Best of all, the trail is closed to motorized vehicles so you need not worry about motor traffic.
Drive to The Dalles
Wrap up your second day by driving another 40-minutes on I-84 East to the wild west town of The Dalles. This historic small town is perched on the banks of the Columbia River and has great views of both Mount Hood and Mount Adams. Interestingly, The Dalles also sees over 300 days of sunshine every year, making it another great base for outdoors enthusiasts.
Beer and Dinner
Fuel up from your afternoon bike ride with a delicious beer at Freebridge Brewery. Located within the former U.S. Mint Building in downtown, Freebridge has an active production floor that contains a 45-seat tasting room. Sample craft beers and indulge in their food menu. The spelt grain pretzel bites with beer cheese were our favorite!
Be sure to save room for dinner at Baldwin Saloon. This popular eatery housed within a historic building is currently lead by Chef Tamara Huffman. The menu is rather robust, and our favorites were the chevre-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, homemade pasta, chicken pot pie, and decadent made from scratch desserts.
Spend the Night at R&R Guesthouse
Instead of a hotel, rest your head for the night at the beautifully designed R&R Guesthouse. This privately owned classic home has been tastefully remodeled into a spacious and comfortable guest house with 3 private rooms, each with its own bathroom. Perhaps the best part (besides the super comfy beds) was the backyard. Not only is there a fire pit, but there's also a large outdoor pool and hot tub. Freshly made breakfast is also included.
Start your last day off with a morning SUP yoga session with Big Winds. Despite the company's name, the early morning weather means the water is still and calm enough for easily doing yoga moves while keeping your balance on a standup paddleboard. It's a great way to start the day off, and you might even see some wildlife along the way.
After yoga, head over to see the arrival of the Portland Spirit River Cruise. This unique river cruise offers brunch, lunch and dinner cruises aboard an authentic Sternwheeler boat. The boat itself is worth marveling at, and you might also time your arrival just right to see the Fort Dalles Floozies and Friends who often gather to greet the boat's arrival.
And thus ends your Hood-Gorge long weekend trip! From here, head back to Portland, which should take about 90 minutes by way of I-84. See more travel photos of the Hood-Gorge region here. Have you visited the Hood-Gorge region of Oregon? What were your favorite spots and activities? Let us know in the comments below, and share this post with your road trip buddy if you found it helpful!
Note: Accommodations, travel, meals, and activity expenses were covered by Travel Oregon. All opinions and photos are by Gemini Connect.