I’m sitting on a veranda, glass of chilled white wine in hand, gazing over lush green orchards with snow-covered volcanic peaks in the distance. Nothing beats a warm afternoon wine tasting and cycling through the low-traffic farm roads of Hood River.
“I think I was put on this earth to bike and drink wine,” I say. My guide and cycling companion for the day laughs in agreement.
A Perfect Bike Ride Among the Orchards and Vines
On a sunny morning, I arrive at Wy’East Vineyards, just south of Hood River’s downtown on the Hood River Fruit Loop. I’m greeted by our guide with MOUNTNBARREL bike tours. Now under new ownership, this locally owned and operated outfitter leads guided and private small-group cycling tours along the Fruit Loop. Manager Matt Sweeting hints at lots of exciting developments to come. With 28 different stops, the loop includes farms, U-pick markets, wineries, cideries and breweries where you can taste the flavors of Hood River. Summer and autumn are especially good times to visit, with fruit-laden branches promising cherry and apple pies in July through September, and the countryside buzzing with grape harvest and winemaking from late August to October.
Itineraries and routes can be customized based on the season and group. They know how to introduce you to the best the valley has to offer, including some private, exclusive experiences like tastings with vineyard owners.
After a quick safety briefing next to the winery, we hop on our bikes and head off through the orchards and vineyards. Along with regular bikes, the tour company also offers electric bicycles which use a small motor to provide extra power boosts as you pedal. Even as an avid cyclist, I prefer e-bikes for sightseeing, as they make it easier to actually enjoy the ride’s scenery and not have too extreme a workout.
After acquainting myself with the speed and power options on a quick practice spin around the parking lot, I feel comfortable enough to hit the road. We loop onto a side road overlooking the valley. A relatively flat route, I’m free to gaze at the scenery: mile upon mile of rolling vineyards and patchwork-patterned orchards, with the occasional red barn popping up out of the greenery.
Along the way, our guide tells me more about the history of the area. The transitional climate, golden sunshine and volcanic soil have made Hood River as a bountiful fruit basket and agricultural region where strawberries, cherries, apples, pears and more thrive. In fact, the majority of American pears are grown in Hood River. With such a rich farming and orchardist background that dates back to the 1850s, farmers started planting grape vines in the 1980s, growing Hood River into the wine scene it is today as part of the Columbia Gorge American Viticultural Area, with nearly 100 vineyards and over 30 wineries.
The level roads make for a leisurely ride, with the e-bike power assist making easy work of any hills or slight ascents. Look one way and you’ll see forested hills cascading back to the witch’s hat of Mt. Hood dominating the skyline. Look to the other and you have the mighty Gorge, with Mt. Adams peeking above the rocky basalt cliffs to the north.
After roughly 45 minutes, we turn off and head through a manicured orchard. Dating from 1908, the Gorge White House is a grand historic family farm that makes its own cider and wine. Choosing a table on the veranda, I sip my way through a cider and wine flight paired with a gooey, delectable gorgonzola-and-pear flatbread from the on-site Gorge White House Cafe seasonal food cart (to avoid summer crowds visit mid-week or early on weekends). More guests arrive and head over to one of the sunny picnic tables with their dogs for a refreshing cider on a warm afternoon. Responsibilities feel miles away. I sit back contentedly with my glass, at peace.
Hopping back on the bikes, we head a short distance away to The Fruit Company for a fruit-orchard tractor tram tour. There we learn about all the innovative ways that farmers protect their fruit from the elements, like using a helicopter to dry off cherry trees after a storm and prevent mold from growing along the stems.
Then it’s back to Wy’East for a wine tasting on their back patio, this one overlooking the resident alpacas roaming around in the fields behind the winery. By happy coincidence, the winery’s owners and mountNbarrel’s owner join us for a happy-hour glass of wine. They share news about the valley and town; it really is a close-knit community, and I feel how strongly its residents love the quality of life here. When the tasting is done and it’s time to take my leave, I do so reluctantly but know I’ll be back soon for more wine tasting and bike riding around this idyllic pocket of Oregon.
Places to Eat and Stay in Hood River
There’s plenty to see and do in Hood River all year long. For a taste of Scandinavia, fuel your outdoor adventure on Danish aebleskivers, Swedish meatballs and aquavit cocktails during brunch and lunch at Broder Øst. On weekends head down to the Columbia River waterfront for barbecue from the wildly popular Grasslands Barbecue food truck, with fall-off-the-bone smoked meats available in plate or sandwich form. Be sure to go early — they sell out.
To stay in the middle of the action, try the charming rooms at the historic Hood River Hotel in downtown. For a luxe retreat overlooking vineyards and Mt. Hood — and breakfasts with produce from the garden at this working 22-acre farm and orchard — book a weekend at Sakura Ridge Farm & Lodge. For more inspiration, follow the self-guided West Gorge Food Trail or East Gorge Food Trail.
Other Oregon Bike Tours
With its friendly communities and Scenic Bikeways, Oregon is one of the best states to tour by bike. In Eugene, pedal through 100-year-old historic covered bridges on a 30-mile e-bike ride along a rails-to-trails route with Zero Emissions Tours. In Bend Oregon Adaptive Sports offers adaptive rides for people with disabilities and the community at large multiple times a week, as well as guided mountain biking trips.
If you prefer to do a self-guided Gorge cycling tour, there are several options in the area, including Mount Hood Railroad, which offers e-bike rentals from the Hood River train station for adventures around downtown or out to the Mosier Twin Tunnels.