Indoor & Outdoor Escapes Around Mt. Hood & the Gorge

January 4, 2017 (Updated November 21, 2017)
Timberline Lodge photo by John Valls
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With its winter snow-cloak and historic communities, Mt. Hood’s mix of outside play and inside fun offers a world-class getaway. Top off your volcano visit with a trip down the mountain to the Columbia River Gorge. In winter and spring, the Gorge’s windswept vistas are wild and wonderful counterpoints to its cozy brewpubs, shops, museums and galleries.

On the mountain

Snow-capped Mt. Hood is not all about the outdoors. On its flanks are charming small town oases of art, history, and shopping, plus restaurants serving up Oregon’s bounty of food and drink.

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Photo by Robbie McClaran

Sandy

In Mt. Hood’s western foothills, Sandy saw 50,000 Oregon Trail pioneers trek the Barlow Trail 160 years ago. Follow their footsteps in its quaint downtown with a historic walking tour (and don’t miss the bear claws at Joe’s Donut Shop). On weekends, take in a comedy, drama or musical at the Sandy Actors Theatre. Heading up the mountain, spend the night at the confluence of two glacier-fed rivers at Sandy Salmon Bed and Breakfast Lodge. It’s one of many inns, hotels, motels and hostels on the mountain. The Rendezvous Grill, nearby, is a local favorite for lunch or dinner.

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Photo by Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory

Government Camp

At 4,400 feet on Mt. Hood’s south flank, this town got its name from wagons abandoned by the U.S. Army in the winter of 1849. Those soldiers wouldn’t recognize today’s lively gateway to outdoor play. Government Camp’s main street, lined with ski shops and restaurants, is punctuated by the Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum. Here, marvel at low-tech equipment from early days of downhill skiing, and learn about the region’s volatile geology and pioneer heritage. In its Mountain Art Gallery, buy local art and crafts. Uphill from town warm up by the fire at Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark of beautifully curated Depression-era art and handcrafted beams, stone and ironwork.

 


 

Columbia River Gorge photo by Alan Majchrowicz

In the Gorge

From Government Camp, travel Mt. Hood’s east flanks on scenic Route 35. It leads through the spectacular Hood River Valley and into the Columbia River Gorge, the nation’s most visited National Scenic Area. Explore these four fascinating Gorge towns, from east to west.

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Photo by Lance Koudele

The Dalles

In one of Oregon’s oldest towns, sample Gorge-grown wine in a former flour mill at Sunshine Mill, and create a glass ornament at Nichols Art Glass on Mill Creek. In between, stop at The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce for maps and lodging info. Don’t miss historic downtown with Oregon’s oldest bookstore, Klindt’s, as well as Sedition Brewing Company and Freebridge Brewing in a stone U.S. Mint building. It’s one of many brewpubs in the Gorge.

Open on weekends all winter, Fort Dalles Museum showcases an unique collection of pioneer and military artifacts and antique wagons in an 1856 military complex. On the west side, stop at the riverfront Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum. Its clifftop Interpretive Pond Walk tells stories of the land and people in the most scenic of outdoor settings.

Continue east on an especially scenic stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway, a National Landmark. Stop at Rowena Crest for epic views or stretch your legs with a flat 2.5-mile walk.

Photo by Justin Bailie

Hood River

Located at the crossroads of the Columbia River and Mt. Hood, Hood River buzzes with outdoor fun in summer and fall, while winter and spring are the perfect time to discover its more mellow side. Explore its picturesque downtown with the 1-mile Big Art downtown walking tour (part of a longer 3.4-mile Hood River art walking tour), a treasure hunt for outdoor art interspersed with shops, galleries, restaurants and even one of Oregon’s longest staircases, the 413-step Second Street Stairs. Come evening, catch a play or film at the Columbia Center for the Arts, or stop by one of the local boutique wine tasting rooms for live music and great food.

Hood River was just named as one of the Top 10 wine travel destinations in 2017 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine; cellar doors are open here and throughout the Gorge during Valentine’s weekend and beyond.

For maps and lodging ideas, stop at Hood River County Chamber of Commerce on the burgeoning waterfront.

 

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Photo by Susan Seubert

Cascade Locks

Mid-Gorge is Cascade Locks, named for the 1890s locks that let steamships cruise past the roaring Cascades of the Columbia. WaNaPa Street is part of the Historic Columbia River Highway. At one end is Gorge Art Gallery and Gifts; at the other is Brigham Fish Market. Native Americans have fished the Gorge for 10,000 years; this market is the latest link in that long tradition. From there, walk across the old stone locks and onto Thunder Island at Marine Park to place yourself in the heart of the region’s story, and fuel up with a refreshing pint at Thunder Island Brewing Co.

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Photo courtesy of McMenamins

Troutdale

West from Cascade Locks, continue to Troutdale, the Gorge’s western gateway. At the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia rivers, it’s rich with shops, restaurants, galleries and small, friendly museums. Discover the artists at Troutdale Art Center, midway between riverfront paths at Glenn Otto Community Park and downtown. Have a meal at a vintage Sandy River roadhouse like Tad’s Chicken ‘n Dumplins, or stay in inventively upcycled splendor at a former poor farm, McMenamins Edgefield.


 

Before you go
Winter and spring conditions in the Gorge and Mt. Hood areas are often variable, so check the current road conditions and weather before you go. 

About The
Author

Laura O. Foster
Laura O. Foster writes books about Portland and nearby places in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been featured on Oregon Field Guide, Oregon Art Beat, AM Northwest and KBOO, as well as in The Oregonian, Willamette Week and the Portland Tribune. An Oregonian since 1989, she lives with her husband on 20 acres of forest in Northwest Portland with the youngest of their four children. Her newest book is "Columbia Gorge Getaways: 12 Weekend Adventures from Towns to Trails."

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