Hood River, Oregon, and the Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland, are hot spots for lovers of wind, water, and spectacular scenery. Visitors come from around the world to take advantage of the eastern end of the Gorge's steady wind conditions, ideal for windsurfing and kite sailing.
The Columbia River town of Hood River offers a number of attractions in addition to outdoor recreation including a scenic railroad excursion, brewpubs, wineries, and the delicious fruit available along the Hood River County Fruit Loop drive.
Hood River is located at Exit #63 on Interstate 84 approximately 60 miles east of Portland, Oregon and 230 miles from Seattle. The closest commercial airport is Portland International Airport. The drive from Portland to Hood River will take you through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, with soaring, forested cliffs and stunningly beautiful waterfalls.
Spend the Night
The historic town of Hood River, with views of snow-capped Mt. Hood and the Columbia River, offers a range of accommodations, from grand full-service hotels to value lodging, some with views.
Columbia Cliff Villas at the Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa: New condominiums adjacent to the historic inn, both perched on a wooded hillside overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, offer a scenic getaway with gardens, luxury lodging, spa, and a fine dining restaurant known for its elegant, multi-course Sunday brunch.
Hood River Hotel: This charming European-style inn with river views, fine dining, and meeting facilities will put you in the middle of town so you can walk the streets for shopping, art galleries, and wine tasting. On the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel is often recommended as one of the Northwest's top romantic getaways.
Hood River Inn: The Best Western Hood River Inn, located right on the Columbia River, offers convenient access to Gorge and Mt. Hood recreation and attractions. The inn's Riverside Grill features a range of local and international cuisines. Rooms range from "value rooms" to more expensive river view accommodations.
Catch the Wind
Due to the Columbia River Gorge wind and the river currents, Hood River is internationally renowned for windsurfing. Fans come from around the world to partake of the perfect conditions or just to watch and photograph the windsurfing and kite sailing action. Whether you are new to the sport or an experienced boarder, in Hood River, you'll be able to find new, used, and rental equipment, river guides, lessons, and Columbia River Gorge windsurfing information.
The Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association, one of the largest windsurfing organizations in the United States, is based in Hood River. The organization works to improve conditions and access for wind sports enthusiasts in the Gorge. They also sponsor a number of meetings, lessons, and events, including the US Windsurfing National Championships in August which is exciting to watch.
Kitesurfing, also known as kite sailing or kiteboarding, has also become extremely popular in the Columbia River Gorge. If you haven't tried the sport yet, consider connecting with the Gorge Kiteboarding School, Kite the Gorge or New Wind Kiteboarding for lessons and advice.
For windsurfing and kiteboarding equipment and more, Hood River Waterplay sets up on the east lawn of the Best Western Hotel on the Columbia. Big Winds Hood River on Front Street both sells and rents equipment.
Take a Hike
Waterfalls, rushing rivers, views of Mt. Hood and the lush forests draw hikers of every skill level to the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood area. There are short scenic trails and longer strenuous hikes to challenge you.
- Day Hiking is popular with both visitors and locals from the Portland area. In fact, some trails like Dog Mountain, on the Washington side, now require a permit on weekends. Another popular day hike, one that is cooling on a hot summer day, is to Horsetail Falls on a short but steep hike going behind the base of Upper Horsetail Falls (also called Ponytail Falls) and through a basalt half-tunnel.
- Hiking along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail provides some easy hiking along what used to be the old highway. With the construction of Interstate 84 in the 1950s, many sections of the old highway were abandoned. Sections have been turned into trails for hikers and bikers, with more being restored for use each year.
- Hike the Chinook Trail, destined to be a 300-mile loop trail. The Chinook Trail Association, a citizen organization, is working to create this trail that covers both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Gorge. For now, the several hiking trails in the Chinook Trails system are unconnected but available to hikers.
- Find the Gorge wildflowers in Spring on nearby trails. An especially scenic hike in the spring is the 3.5-mile Mosier Plateau Trail, where you can see more than 30 different wildflower species. The best time catch the wildflowers in bloom is March through May.
Bike the Gorge
Historic roadbeds, cross-country ski trails, and hilly, scenic terrain make the Hood River region attractive both to road cyclists and mountain bikers.
- Bicycling and Mountain Biking Trails in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area: There are many roads and trails on this USDA Forest Service land, offering access to old-growth forests, majestic river viewpoints, and varied terrain.
- Columbia River Gorge Bike Map: The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has provided a detailed set of maps for bikers. The map can be viewed in PDF format, or a hard-copy can be obtained from local bike shops.
- Biking Hood River County is for road cyclists and mountain bikers alike. You can bike along the roads to enjoy the Fruit Loop or ride the old highway on the Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail.
Take a Scenic Drive
The Columbia River Gorge offers a wealth of scenic wonders—river views from high cliffs, waterfalls and wildflowers, snowcapped mountain peaks, and verdant forests and farmland. A scenic drive is a great way to enjoy all this beauty. Head out from Hood River along Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, or State Highway 14 on the Washington side; you'll be surrounded by scenery on all sides.
Historic Columbia River Highway: This amazing driving tour winds from Troutdale to the west and to The Dalles to the east of Hood River. Popular stops include Vista House, Bridal Veil Falls, and Multnomah Falls, all iconic Columbia River Gorge sights.
- Vista House: Built as a monument to Oregon's pioneers, the historic Vista House is one of the Gorge's most photographed destinations. It lies on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, near the town of Corbett.
- Waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge: The many spectacular waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge include Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall cascade of water.
Fruit Loop Tour: The farms, vineyards, and orchards of the fertile Hood River County valley offer beautiful views, seasonal fruit-picking, and specialty food shopping stops throughout the growing season. The spring bloom on the orchard trees entices many visitors to the area—fresh produce stands and farmers' markets keep them coming until harvest's end.
Ride the Rails
The Mt. Hood Railroad will take you on a scenic ride starting in Hood River and traveling through the orchards with panoramas of majestic Mt. Hood. Choose from morning or afternoon sightseeing excursions, or weekend dinner and brunch trains.
The train ride is especially scenic during spring blossom time in the orchards and fun for the whole family at holiday time when "The Train to Christmas Town" captures the spirit of the season.
Visit the Carousel Museum
The carousel museum is currently closed but is expected to relocate and eventually re-open so check with the Hood River Chamber of Commerce before you plan a visit. The International Museum of Carousel Art is dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and exhibition of antique carousels and displays over 125 carved animals from around the world. Related carousel art, chariots, a working 1917 Wurlitzer Band Organ, and an antique steam engine are also part of the collection.
Savor the Local Wine and Beer Scene
After a day of hiking, biking, or windsurfing, you'll be hungry and thirsty. You'll find windsurfers at the Full Sail Brewing Company located in the historic Diamond Fruit Cannery building overlooking the Columbia River. Full Sail's Hood River Brewery offers tours where you can sample some of Full Sail's acclaimed ales and seasonal brews.
Double Mountain Brewery, in central Hood River, is a gathering place for locals and offers wood-fired pizza, sandwiches, and salads.
Wine fans can easily spend a day touring the area wineries. The Columbia Gorge AVA consists of four counties including the Hood River valley so you'll find vineyards as well as fruit orchards in this beautiful area. Enjoy wines grown in the Columbia River AVA including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Semillon varietals. Winery tours and tastings are available seasonally at the larger wineries and cozy tasting rooms will attract you for some relaxed wine tasting and conversation. Some of the most enjoyable wineries to visit are:
- Mt. Hood Winery: Stop and relax in the large tasting room with a view of Mt. Hood or sit back in an Adirondack chair outside and sip a glass of wine.
- Cathedral Ridge Winery: Select your own flight of six wines from their award-winning wine list and relax in the tasting room of their half-timbered building or sit close to the vineyards on a bench with a view.
- Viento Wines: Named after the ever-present Gorge winds, Viento Wines is located just off I-84. Their light-filled tasting room with art created by local artists overlooks stately oak trees. Winemaker Rich Cushman makes wines for his private label, Viento, and for other well-known wineries in the area.
- Wy'East Vineyards: Located seven minutes south of downtown Hood River, the Wy'East (the Native name for Mt. Hood) tasting room and surrounding patio and vineyards is an ideal place to relax. The winery dog will laze at your feet and you'll be treated to an excellent flight of wines with a beautiful Mt. Hood design label.