Driving a loop through the Gorge and up over Mt. Hood is actually a perfect, popular and picturesque day trip from Portland. The total drive time is approximately three hours, so you’ll have time to for multiple stops.
Keep in mind that the Gorge waterfall corridor around Multnomah Falls is extremely popular, especially on a weekend. But, here are some tips to help you beat those crowds and be rewarded with waterfalls and mountain views.
Wake up early and explore the Gorge waterfalls first. I’d recommend a quick drive by-type visit so you can save time. Then head to Hood River for an early lunch. From Hood River, drive south on Hwy 35 for a scenic drive to the Tamanawas Falls trailhead (the website mentions an impassable landslide, but it’s been cleared). You will see some other visitors here, but no crowd control needed. The beautiful 5-mile round-trip hike climbs slightly along a bouncy little creek to an impressive 100-foot waterfall with plenty of picture potential. You can even duck in behind the waterfall and enjoy a snack. Afterwards, continue up Hwy 35 to for close-up Mt. Hood views. Stop anywhere along the way for photos. Finally, jump onto Hwy 26 and stop by at Timberline Lodge for sweeping cascade panoramas, or continue on Hwy 26 for the last hour’s drive back to Portland.
Alternatively, you can skip driving and join a shuttle for guided tours of the area. Happy trails!