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Need suggestions for Columbia River Gorge / Mt Hood Loop

Need suggestions for Columbia River Gorge / Mt Hood Loop

Old Jul 5th, 2021, 01:16 PM
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Need suggestions for Columbia River Gorge / Mt Hood Loop

In late July we'll be spending some time in Portland and Seattle. For one of the days we'd like to do a loop out of Portland thru the Columbia River Gorge and down around Mt. Hood. Google says it's about a 3 hour loop but I'm realizing that with summer traffic that's likely a low estimate. My question is what would be the recommended stops along that loop to get a feel for both areas...the Gorge and Mt. Hood. We don't mind a fair amount of time in the van, and enjoy our the other family traveling with. What we want to do is see a beautiful waterfall or two, see some vistas, stop at a few unique things and enjoy the drive. This will either be a Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the weather, so that should help the traffic a bit. Below are things that are standing out:

- Vista House, it appears that it's closed but you can park and look at the view? Will parking be impossible in July?

- Water falls, between Multnomah, Wahkeena, Wahclella or Latourell Falls, which is the most impressive and which will likely have the best parking options?

- Cascade Locks, worth stopping here to see the locks?

- Any strongly recommended stops as we loop around Mt. Hood, any great hikes that aren't too far from the road?

- Government Camp - maybe for some snacks?

So, any advice on this loop would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Jul 5th, 2021, 02:51 PM
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Coming from Portland, take 84 east and then get off at exit 22 for Corbett. Go up the hill to the stop sign and take a left. That will put you on the old scenic highway. The Portland Woman's Forum is not too far down on the left and has beautiful views and actually looks down on Vista House. Then Vista House itself is good for views. Parking is limited, but just see how it pans out. Then the road will go past a few waterfalls before getting to Multnomah Falls. The lot there is tiny, but there is a large lot on the freeway between the east and west bound lanes, so if you need to backtrack to find parking that is easy enough. It will be busy though!!! Parking will be rough at all of those places. As for hikes, there are too many to mention, so take a look at www.wta.org which is actually WA based, but they cover the hikes in he gorge due to the proximity. Rowena Crest is another nice spot for views but also a nice short hike on the plate, about 2 miles. Just be mindful of rattlesnakes which are common here.

Government Camp is fine, our go to there is Huckleberry Inn. You should also be sure to stop up at Timberline Lodge before that though.
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Old Jul 6th, 2021, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Wekiva View Post
...We don't mind a fair amount of time in the van, and enjoy our the other family traveling with...
Music to my ears.

Now, if time is not a horribly constricting factor and you'd be prepared to make a full day of it, I'd recommend expanding the range of your loop, and also possibly reversing the order of things. Here's a map - https://goo.gl/maps/yCvrpXHJ6qmhBC67A - showing this idea.

You'd start by heading up to Timberline Lodge, maybe with a breakfast stop at the Zigzag Mountain Café near Rhododendron. Visit Timberline, then head down the gorgeous Hood River Valley on SR 35, possibly stopping at a winery or a fruit stand along the way. (Consult the listings on the Fruit Loop website - Hood River Fruit Loop, Hood River, Oregon - for possible places.) Shortly before you get to Hood River, stop and go up to the top of Panorama Point, from which the views of the valley and Mount Hood are terrific.

Then here's where the add-ons start. Instead of heading west from Hood River toward the waterfall country, turn east on I-84 and head out toward The Dalles. You will note the landscape drying out, the trees becoming thinner, and the hills becoming rock faces as you cross through the Cascade crest and into the more arid east side of Oregon and Washington. At The Dalles, cross over the Columbia to the Washington side, then continue east a few minutes to the Maryhill Museum of Art, set on a cliff overlooking the great river. This is a remarkable place, full of fascinating art including a terrific collection of Native American arts and crafts, as well as the quirky "Théâtre de la Mode" exhibit of postwar French fashion mannequins. You could also extend the drive a couple of minutes further east to include the weird "replica" of Stonehenge, built as a World War I memorial, also perched above the Columbia.

Then return toward the wet side of the mountains, staying on WA 14 on the north side of the river rather than I-84, so that you can enjoy the marvelous views of Mount Hood as you head west along the Columbia. Cross back over the river at White Salmon (WA) to Hood River, then head west along the "Historic Columbia River Highway" as much as possible, rather than the freeway.

I've shown a couple of stops en route in this direction, including the marvelous Bonneville Hatchery, home of Herman the Sturgeon, a huge and ancient fish, both Multnomah Falls and Latourell Falls, then the Portland Women's Forum pullout, which is THE vista point along the way.

The reason for suggesting this reversal of your route (counter-clockwise, basically) is to allow for better sun angles in the Hood River Valley and especially in the late afternoon looking east back up the Gorge. In the morning the eastern sun can make for hazy and washed-out views from the likes of the Women's Forum and Vista House pullouts, while in the afternoon the sun is behind you, making for MUCH nicer views. Even if you forego the Maryhill extension, I'd still do the trip in this order for the same reasons.

Happy travels!
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Old Jul 7th, 2021, 11:37 AM
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Wow...such great and detailed info. I so appreciate your use of Google Maps to make your points...we think alike! We'll scrutinize your route and likely use it as the basis for our day. MMS, thank you also for your great tips. I do see the Women's Forum overlook is actually better.

We do plan on using the entire day for this, so expanding if possible is OK.

My only question is will it be easier to hit the small parking lots at waterfalls and lookouts in the morning or the afternoon. Fortunately this is a weekday which will help. Maybe by late afternoon the crowds will actually be lighter at those small lots so your reverse route could actually help.

Thank you again so much.
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Old Jul 11th, 2021, 07:23 AM
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The small parking lots are better first thing in the morning.

Multnomah Falls is on a reservations system now, so get that squared away asap.
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