The Columbia River Gorge’s majestic beauty lives on after the September 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Lucky for us, the Gorge is back open for business and welcoming visitors with open arms — whether it’s apple-picking, wine tasting, shopping for art or renting a bike to cruise around town. And while some trails are being rebuilt, there are still plenty of alternative hiking options to explore.
How can you show your love for the Gorge? Let us count the ways.
1. Come hungry
There’s a bounty of tasty eats in the Gorge — the only question is how hungry are you? An hour east of Portland in Cascade Locks, the family-run Brigham Fish House has been salmon fishing in the Columbia for decades. Order a bowl of chowder and salmon fish n’ chips take some of their addictive smoked Chinook to go. Other top spots for a bite are Lilo’s Hawaiian BBQ in The Dalles, Hood Crest Winery in Hood River for wood-fired pizza, Celilo Restaurant in Hood River for upscale dining, Boda’s Kitchen in Hood River for grab-and-go deli items, and Cascade Locks’ East Wind Drive-In and Gorge Kitchen in Hood River for ice cream.
2. Start sipping
Like your beer, wine and cider with a view? You’re in the right place. The heated outdoor tables at Thunder Island Brewing Co. are a prime river-front spot for a pint with lunch, as is Bent River Restaurant in The Dalles and Riverside in Hood River, with a killer happy hour menu at Cebu Lounge — with a full bar, 12 beers on tap and an award-winning wine list. Other buzzworthy sipping stops include Cascade Locks Ale House, Brian’s Pourhouse in Hood River and Route 30 in The Dalles. Oenophiles should make a beeline for Gorge Wine Weekend (Nov. 10-12, 2017), when winemakers and chefs will celebrate the end of the season with an evening soiree and sparkling brunch.
3. Appreciate art
Through December, the First Friday Art Walk in Troutdale (February – December) is a brilliant way to get a flavor for the community and support local artists. Hood River is also a vibrant art community, with boutiques and galleries on every block. One way to get it all in one spot is to visit the Columbia Center for the Arts, which showcases local artists and hosts a different themed exhibition each month, open to the public with a kickoff at a monthly First Friday reception. November 2017 features Native American art and culture; December is the annual holiday art show and sale. Gorge artists get the spotlight at The Dalles Art Center, with the 60th annual art auction on November 4, art quilters on display through November 11 and a special Holiday Invitational in December — plus acclaimed local wineries Moody Tollbridge and 15 Mile Winery pouring at opening receptions.
4. Go shopping
In Cascade Locks, don’t miss coffee and local artwork at Spruce Gifts & Provisions, a nonprofit owned and run by Oregon Wildlife Foundation, located at Bonneville Dam; and pick up a treat at Locks of Dogs & Treats in town, where you can also sample the vegan hot dogs and sorbet. Buy a gift card to come back and shop later as part of the Cascade Locks Strong campaign to support local businesses recovering from the fire. Hood River businesses have also banded together for a campaign called “Kick Ash;” check their Facebook page for upcoming promotions. For book lovers in The Dalles, Klindt’s, the oldest bookstore in Oregon, is not to be missed.
5. Ride trails
Load up the bikes — or rent them at Mountain View Cycles, Discover Bicycles or Hood River Bicycles — and ride the 5-mile Mosier Twin Tunnels segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail between Hood River and Mosier. The Mark O. Hatfield Western Trailhead and the trail to The Dalles are open. Bonus points if you also hit the singletrack at Post Canyon, home to some of the state’s best mountain bike trails. For specific trail, road, and recreation sites affected by the fire, check for up-to-date information on closures.
6. Tour the Fruit Loop
It’s a magical time of year to tour the Hood River County Fruit Loop — the 35-mile scenic drive through the valley’s orchards, forests, farmlands and friendly communities. Find fresh fruit, flowers, lavender, artisan treats, boutique wines and adorable alpacas along the way. Pick up a Fruit Loop map and drive or bike it. Or let the experts do the guiding and set off on a special wine-tasting adventure with MountNBarrel.
7. Take in the views
Driving through the Gorge is lovely, but what about seeing it from the skies? Envi Adventures offers scenic flights over the Columbia River Gorge with views of the river, waterfalls and the historic highway — including many locations that remain closed for restoration. Prices are per flight for up to three passengers. When spring comes around, you’ll be ready to cruise the river on the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler and appreciate the landscape in an another way.
8. Stay the night
Two days in the Gorge are always better than one. Four are better than two. There’s no lack of lodging options here, including hotels, motels, resorts and cozy bed and breakfasts — many of which come with a waterfront or mountain-top view. To support the “Show the Gorge Some Love” campaign through November 30, you can take a ReachNow car from Portland to select Gorge hotels and get the vehicle, gas and room for just $130.
If you can’t visit, then consider a donation to the any of these Gorge-based organizations that are working on restoration efforts. Compiled by the Gorge Community Foundation, the list includes Friends of the Gorge and the National Forest Foundation fund dedicated to the Eagle Creek Fire.
Note: The Historic Columbia River Highway is open from Troutdale to the Portland Women’s Forum — a great viewing site for the Gorge, as seen in the header image. The forum is hosting temporary visitor information center while the Vista House is closed. For more information about road closures, visit TripCheck.com.