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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 80-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 to be the only waterway that led 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 towns 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 trolling the Columbia's banks in search of gourmet cuisine, artisan hop houses, and top-shelf vino. Highlights of the Columbia River Gorge include Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam, and the rich orchard land of Hood River. 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 11,245-foot-high Mt. Hood. With more than two million people living just up the road in Portland, you'd think this mountain playground would be overrun, but it's still easy to find solitude in the 67,000-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 ski conditions that are as close to year-round as anyplace in the country.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Waterfall walkabout Hikers will discover dozens of gorgeous cascades along the Historic Columbia River Highway and its adjoining trail network, including 620-foot Multnomah Falls.
  2. Outdoor rec mecca From kiteboarding the gorge to mountain biking the slopes of Mt. Hood, this is a region tailor-made for adventure junkies. Get the gear and the beta from outfitters in Hood River and Government Camp.
  3. Historico-luxe Grand and gaudy landmarks like McMenamins Edgefield, Timberline Lodge, and the Columbia Gorge Hotel are guest favorites and entries on the National Register of Historic Places.
  4. Suds-tacular Western Oregon is the national seat of craft brewing, and the Gorge/Hood area has its share of inviting taprooms, from Stevenson's tiny Walking Man Brewing to Full Sail's upbeat national headquarters in Hood River.

When To Go

When to Go

Winter weather in the Columbia Gorge and the Mt. Hood area is much more severe than in Portland and western Oregon. At times I–84 may be closed...

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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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