GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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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 because of snow and ice. If you're planning a winter visit, be sure to carry plenty of warm clothes. High winds and single-digit temps are par for the course around 6,000 feet in January. Note that chains are a requirement for traveling over mountain passes.
Temperatures in the gorge are mild year-round, rarely dipping below 30 degrees in winter and hovering in the high 70s in mid-summer. As throughout Oregon, however, elevation is often a more significant factor than season, and an hour-long drive to Mt. Hood's Timberline Lodge can reduce those mid-summer temps by 20–30 degrees. Don't forget that the higher reaches of Mt. Hood retain snow as late as August.
In early fall, look for maple, tamarack, and aspen trees around the gorge, bursting with brilliant red and gold color. No matter the season, the basalt cliffs, the acres of lush forest, and that glorious expanse of water make the gorge worth visiting time and again.
Columbia Gorge Bluegrass Festival. One of the premier bluegrass fests in the West takes place in Stevenson, Washington, every fourth weekend in July. www.columbiagorgebluegrass.net.
Maryhill Winery Concert Series. About 20 minutes east of The Dalles on the Washington side of the Gorge, Maryhill Winery hosts summer concerts, drawing some nationally renowned rock and pop acts, in a cozy, 4,000-person amphitheater. www.maryhillwinery.com.
Holiday Wine & Art Festival. Held in mid-November at the Resort at the Mountain in Welches, this holiday-themed gathering features tastings from several prominent wineries and a marketplace of crafts vendors and artisans. www.theresort.com.
Hood River Hops Fest. In late September, beer lovers have the chance to sample some 60 hop-intensive beers in Hood River, which has become one of the top small towns in Oregon for craft brewing. www.hoodriver.org.
Nicky USA's Wild About Game. This meat-centric food festival held in early September on Mt. Hood at Timberline Lodge features a competition among four top chefs each from Portland and Seattle. Guests can sample and vote on each dish and nibble and sip from a large marketplace of top Oregon purveyors, including cheese makers, charcuterie producers, wineries, and breweries. www.nickyusa.com/wag.
Timberline Lodge Mountain Music Fest. This free single-day gathering at iconic Timberline Lodge takes place over Labor Day weekend and showcases top-name bluegrass bands from around the country. www.timberlinelodge.com/mountain-music-festival.