I think you’ll find plenty to explore here in the Gorge! Here are some accessible outdoor and indoor activities:
As for outdoor activities: Drive the Historic Columbia River Highway along the waterfall corridor to see multiple majestic waterfalls directly from the road. These waterfalls are a must-see — especially in January! For a 3- to 4-hour outing (from Hood River or Portland), I suggest using exit 35 off I-84, and then driving west. You’ll pass Horsetail Falls on your left, which has a parking area and is absolutely worth a stop. Hop back into your car for a short, but beautiful drive to the famous Multnomah Falls. Then journey on to the Vista House for panoramic Gorge views and a history lesson. However, these are very popular sights and parking is limited, so I recommend you visit early or on a weekday.
To extend your outing or to avoid the crowds, I recommend a short walk around the Starvation Creek Trail area to see three waterfalls in less than a mile of walking! Take Exit 55, which can only be reached on I-84 Eastbound (if driving west, take the Wyeth exit and turn around). You’ll find Starvation Creek Falls just at the trailhead, but if you stroll .5 miles west on the flat, paved path, you’ll find Cabin Creek Falls and Lancaster Falls. It’s quite the bang for your buck!
One last idea for the outdoors: Walk along Hood River’s waterfront trail to view the mile-wide Columbia River and stop at pFriem Brewery, Solistic Woodfire Cafe, or Camp 1805 Distillery, all of which are locally owned. To access this area, turn north off exit 62.
If you’re looking for cozier activities, consider taking a sternwheeler cruise on the Columbia River, poke around the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum, brave the winter roads to visit Timberline Lodge, or ease into a gentle flow yoga class at Flow Yoga.
Since the Gorge prides itself with an abundance of artists, breweries, wineries and cideries, wandering the small towns and sampling their specialties is always a fine choice. Gorge locals are quick to boast about their craft beverage industry, so you’ll find a tasting space just about anywhere you go. Explore the quaint downtown of Hood River and you’re sure to stumble into local art or drinks. Or drive around the countryside and visit some local vineyards. Marchesi, Cascade Cliffs, Mt. Hood Winery, WyEast Vineyards, and Syncline are some favorites, but call ahead because winter hours can be less predictable.