Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls & Mount Hood Full-Day Trip!
If you’ve read any of our blogs, you know that part of what we love about Portland, is the abundance of outdoor recreation areas that can be found within close proximity to city limits. In fact, with so many options to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming for first time visitors to narrow down the options! Fortunately, we’ve got loads of experience, and some top-notch recommendations on how, and where to plan your epic Oregon adventure. If you’ve got just one day to explore, read on….this blog is for you!
For a full-day, adventure-packed trip that will tick just about all the boxes, our top pick would have to be a loop through the Columbia River Gorge and around Mt. Hood. On this route, you’ll have a chance to see some of Oregon’s more well-known landmarks as well as a few sweet surprises! Start your day early and aim to leave from downtown Portland no later than 8:30am to beat the traffic. You’ll be traveling on I-84 East until you reach the small town of Troutdale (affectionately known as the “Gateway to The Gorge”). Once you see signs for Troutdale, take exit 17 and head through the quaint and artsy downtown area, following signs for Highway 30.
Also known as the Historic Columbia River Highway, Highway 30 was completed in 1922 and was the first National Scenic Highway constructed in the United States. You’ll be following this road for approximately 21 miles, all the way to Ainsworth State Park, and along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at several of our favorite places, including the Crown Point Vista House, Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls, and Horsetail Falls. For a complete look at what to expect on this segment of your journey, make sure to check out our March blog post here! As a reminder, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area does require permits between May and September during the peak of travel season. You’ll need two timed entry permits, one to access the Historic Highway and another one at the popular Multnomah Falls. These can easily be purchased online at the recreation.gov website.
After you’ve spent the first half of your day chasing waterfalls, hop back onto I-84 at Ainsworth State Park and head further east to Hood River. This small town on the Columbia River will steal your heart! Hood River is a piece of paradise for all sorts of adventure sports, and on most days, visitors can see some world-class windsurfing and kite boarding from a waterfront parks that overlooks the river. Grab some lunch at one of the local restaurants in the center of town, or grab a sandwich and head to a park for a picnic. There are tons of yummy options to choose from, but if you want our suggestion, try out Full-Sail Brewery. The food is good, and those over the age of 21 can enjoy lunch with libations.
After your appetites are satisfied, set your GPS to Timberline Lodge. This will put you onto Highway 35 headed southbound through the Oregon Fruit Loop and Hood River Valley. This area is the number one producer of Anjou Pears in the world and has a bountiful supply of other delicious produce that is super brag-worthy. There are a handful of farms with U-pick options located just off the highway, and depending on the time of year, you’ll find fresh cherries, peaches, apples, and just about every assortment of berry you can imagine. Check out The Gorge White House, where you can pick fresh fruit and fresh flowers while you sample some of their house-made ciders and wines. We also love Draper Girls, which has U-pick options as well as a lovely little farm store that sells everything from locally made honey and jams to delicious baked goods. While you are there, don’t forget to purchase some livestock feed at the register. There are some baby goats (and maybe a llama or two!) in a small area adjacent to the main parking lot, and they are ALWAYS hungry!
From here, continue your journey up to Mt. Hood — all the way to 6,000 ft. above sea level — to the iconic Timberline Lodge! The lodge itself is a Historic Landmark and a rather famous one, too! Fans of the 1980 film The Shining, based on the Stephen King novel, will recognize the lodge from several of the spookier scenes in the movie. Apart from being a Hollywood attraction, the lodge is beautiful, with craftmanship that is worth admiring. Take some time to check out the larger-than-life fireplace that serves as the lodge’s centerpiece, and make sure to spend plenty of time outside on both the north and south facing patios. To the north, you’ll be rewarded with larger-than-life views of Mt. Hood’s peak, and to the south, you can spot several other cascade mountains in the distance.
By this point, you’ll have driven approximately 115 miles and seen firsthand some of Oregon’s most treasured outdoor spaces. Take in one last sweeping view from Timberline Lodge and hit the road back toward Portland on Highway 26 headed west. After this action-packed itinerary, we are guessing you’ll be pretty tuckered out and in desperate need of some R & R. If all that driving sounds like a little bit too much for you, we highly suggest joining an organized tour. Wildwood Adventures offers this exact itinerary guided by a local expert in one of our luxury passenger vehicles with high roofs, plenty of leg room, and large windows. Hop on board for a guided adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime!