With soaring cliffs, views of Mt. Hood and a rolling landscape that evolves from golden hills to craggy, forested cliffs with cascading waterfalls, the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge region is one of Oregon’s most sublime natural areas. Though simply experiencing the thunderous power of water tumbling down into rushing rivers or hiking through alpine forests are luxuries, you can elevate any experience with special tours, restaurants and accommodations to make the trip even more unforgettable.
Get Cool at Waterfalls
More than ever, you’ll want to plan ahead for summer visits to the Columbia Gorge waterfall corridor. From May 24 to Sept. 5, 2022, timed-access permits for motorized vehicles will be required from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for each personal vehicle driven on the Historic Columbia River Highway along part of the Waterfall Corridor unless you’re traveling by shuttle or bicycle. So why not consider car-free options?
Play: If you prefer to go completely car-free, take a private, all-day guided tour from Portland with Evergreen Escapes’ Columbia Gorge Waterfalls & Wine Tour. The trip not only includes stops at magnificent cascades and plenty of vistas from the basalt cliffs lining the Columbia River, but you’ll also learn more about the geology of the Columbia Gorge and its wildlife on interpretive nature walks at two of the falls. You’ll also be able to experience some of Oregon’s finest pinot noir at your choice of two exclusive Gorge winery tastings. Find even more tour providers, for every budget.
Eat: For contemporary farm-to-table fine dining, try Celilo Restaurant & Bar in Hood River, which has been committed to sustainable practices for over 16 years. Sample Columbia River salmon in season, flanked by vegetables grown at farms close by, and glass pairings thoughtfully chosen from their wine menu.
Stay: Established in 1926 as a road stop for drivers on the new — now historic — highway, the stately Bridal Veil Lodge is the only place you can stay within the waterfall corridor. Book a charmingly modernized cabin or rent the entire lodge, and you’ll gain uncommon hike- or bike-in access to more than 70 waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway — or just hop on the local Waterfall Trolley at its Bridal Veil stop.
Tour and Taste Wine in Fruit Loop Vineyards
Play: The gentle hills of Hood River’s Fruit Loop in the Gorge’s orchard and wine country just beg to be explored by bicycle. A private wine-tasting e-bike tour with MountNbarreL offers a guide through the backroads — even literally through vineyards — and all the insider tips on enjoying the bounty of the Fruit Loop. You’ll enjoy an all-inclusive package with e-bikes, helmets, catered lunch and even shuttle service from your Hood River hotel.
Eat: Wine lovers will want to book well ahead for immersive tavern dinners or tasting lunches at Hiyu Wine Farm for an exquisite experience sampling their estate-grown wines with dishes chosen to best complement their limited-run vintages. Much of the produce and meat come from Hiyu’s dynamic on-site farm. For more eats, check out dining options within the Fruit Loop.
Stay: Stunning views will be yours with a plush condo-style suite at Columbia Cliff Villas in Hood River, located atop a cliff overlooking the Columbia River and its colorful windsurfers. Just a mile away from downtown, the grounds include a walk to a waterfall and on-site dining.
Explore Oregon History
Play: Put the wind in your sails, literally, with an unforgettable Columbia River morning or sunset cruise on the 38-foot sloop Wy’east with Heart of the Gorge Sailing. Learn all about the basalt formations, tales from the Lewis and Clark explorations and ancient legends of the original Bridge of the Gods as you enjoy views of Mt. Hood and the Gorge cliffs. Operating from the Cascades Locks Marina from late May through October 2, even beginners will enjoy the deft guides navigating this sleek, fast beauty through one of the windiest stretches of the Columbia. Book your own private tour or reserve ahead to share the trip with up to three couples.
Eat: The historic Baldwin Saloon in The Dalles — recently purchased and spruced up by the same family that restored the Sunshine Mill — brings the old-school charm in this mahogany-and-oak-furnished restaurant filled with plants, vintage oil paintings and antiques. Executive chef Joe Kosarek brings his experience working with Emeril Lagasse and a New Orleans flair to the menu. Explore the East Gorge Food Trail for even more fun culinary stops — farmers markets, U-pick orchards, restaurants and even a cannery.
Stay: Relax and rejuvenate in the restored, 20-room, boutique Balch Hotel in Dufur, just 13 miles south of The Dalles. The attractive brick hotel dates from 1907 and serves breakfast and dinner from its bistro. Choose an air-conditioned king suite for its oversized whirlpool bathtub, antique furnishings and stellar views of Mt. Hood. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a facial or reiki energy treatment at the spa.
Outdoor Fun on Mt. Hood
Play: Skiing is always the main draw at Mt. Hood — after all, Timberline Lodge has year-round skiing — but summer is a great time to explore Mt. Hood National Forest as well. A range of hikes on the highest peak in Oregon, from restful spring-wildflower strolls to challenging climbs, will please any fan of Oregon’s outdoors. Travel in style as you spot wildlife from your easy chair, or rather your seat on the Magic Mile chair lift. Climbing to the 7,000-foot level on the mountain, this 30-minute round trip ride is as close to the top of Mt. Hood as you can get without mountaineering or navigating your way on skis. Get your camera ready for the unique views of Mt. Hood, Palmer Snowfield and Mt. Jefferson.
Eat: In a dining room made welcoming with warm wood tones and craftsman care, the Pacific Northwest-centric contemporary menu at Timberline Lodge’s Cascade Dining Room in Government Camp is designed for hospitable meals. Pair Mt. Hood Brewing Co. ales with lamb osso buco or pan-fried gnocchi, and save room for dessert. Why not? You’ll be out on the slopes tomorrow!
Stay: For private accommodations in upscale lodgings close to Timberline Summit Pass and the Mt. Hood Skibowl, select perfectly sized cabins or ski lodges, all located on well-appointed properties managed by Mt. Hood Rentals in Welches.