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The Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood Area Travel Guide

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  • Photo: nikitsin.smugmug.com / Shutterstock

Plan Your Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood Area Vacation

Volcanoes, lava flows, Ice Age floodwaters, and glaciers were Nature's tools of choice when carving a breathtaking, nearly 100-mile landscape now called the Columbia River Gorge. Proof of human civilization here reaches back 31,000 years, and excavations near The Dalles have uncovered evidence that salmon fishing is a 10,000-year-old tradition in these parts. In 1805 Lewis and Clark discovered

the Columbia River, the only major waterway that leads to the Pacific. Their first expedition was a treacherous route through wild, plunging rapids, but their successful navigation set a new exodus in motion.

Today the river has been tamed by a comprehensive system of hydroelectric dams and locks, and the towns in these parts are laid-back recreation hamlets whose residents harbor a fierce pride in their shared natural resources. Sightseers, hikers, and skiers have long found contentment in this robust region, officially labeled a National Scenic Area in 1986. They're joined these days by epicures scouring the Columbia's banks in search of farm-to-table cuisine, artisanal hop houses, and top-shelf vino. Highlights of the Columbia River Gorge include Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam, the rich orchard and vineyard land of Hood River, and Maryhill Museum of Art. Sailboaters, windsurfers, and kiteboarders take advantage of the blustery Gorge winds in the summer, their colorful sails decorating the waterway like windswept confetti.

To the south of Hood River are all the alpine attractions of the 11,250-foot-high Mt. Hood. With more than 2.2 million people living just up the road in greater Portland, you'd think this mountain playground would be overrun, but it's still easy to find solitude in the 300,000-acre wilderness surrounding the peak. Some of the world's best skiers take advantage of the powder on Hood, and they stick around in summertime for the longest ski season in North America at Palmer Snowfield, above Timberline Lodge.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Orchards and vineyards For decades, Hood River and nearby towns on both sides of the Columbia have produced prized apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and berries. More recently, winemakers have planted highly prized vineyards and are turning out top-notch, reasonably priced vino. Dozens of farm stands and wine-tasting rooms are open to visitors.
  2. Outdoor rec mecca From kiteboarding in the Columbia River to mountain biking the slopes of Mt. Hood to hiking among the roaring waterfalls of the Gorge, this is a region tailor-made for adventure junkies.
  3. Historico-luxe Grand, distinctive landmarks like Timberline Lodge and the Columbia Gorge Hotel exude history and architectural distinction, offering some of the most memorable lodgings in the Northwest.
  4. Road-tripping This is a perfect region for backcountry driving through spectacular scenery—from Portland, you can make a full 250-mile loop through the Gorge out to Goldendale, Washington, returning to Hood River and then circling Mt. Hood to the south.
  5. Hop havens Oregon is the national seat of craft beer brewing, and the Gorge/Hood area has a fast-growing proliferation of taprooms, from Stevenson's tiny Walking Man Brewing to Pfriem, in Hood River.

When To Go

When to Go

Winter weather in the Mt. Hood area is much more severe than in Portland and the Willamette Valley, and occasionally rough conditions permeate...

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Check historic weather for your trip dates:

Travel Tips

The Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood Area Travel Tips

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