Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway

April 4, 2013 (Updated March 7, 2017)
Vista House, built in 1916, on Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. (Photo credit: Larry Geddis)

This day trip around Mt. Hood and along the Columbia River Gorge invites travelers to experience the rugged wilderness, verdant farmlands and charming small towns that lie just outside of the vibrant metropolis of Portland. Due to the location of EV charging stations along this route, drivers of vehicles with a range of 60 miles or less should travel the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway in the counterclockwise direction described below.


Charging station: Portland, Electric Avenue, 121 SW Salmon Street (between SW 1st and 2nd Ave.)

Start your day in downtown Portland at Electric Avenue (121 Southwest Salmon Street). While you’re charging up, choose from a host of delicious downtown breakfast spots like Tasty n AlderBlue Star Donuts or Kenny & Zuke’s. Fill up your to-go mug at Public Domain CoffeeThe Fresh Pot or Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel before you hit the road.

Welches, Government Camp, Parkdale

Charging station: Barlow Trail Roadhouse, 69580 Highway 26 and Old Parkdale Inn, 4932 Baseline Dr., Parkdale

Leave Portland heading east on US-84 and take US-26 toward magnificent Mt. Hood. If you find yourself in need of a charge, stop in Welches at the historic and beloved Barlow Trail Roadhouse. In Government Camp, you’ll find recreation options aplenty at Mt. Hood Skibowl with the largest night-skiing terrain in the U.S. as well as Cosmic Tubing with lasers, black lights and music during winter months. In summer, check out the Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl with mountain biking, disc golf, go-karts and an 800-foot zipline. You can also power up the car here at the electric vehicle charging station across the highway from Collins Lake Resort. Stop for a bite at the Glacier Haus Bistro, a family-owned restaurant serving up European comfort food like jagerschnitzel and goulash.

Continuing east, don’t miss historic Timberline Lodge, which celebrates 80 years in 2017. The grand wooden structure, a project of the Works Progress Administration, preserves the artistic styles of the 1930s and the richness of local forests from which its beams, floors and walls were harvested. Get a cocktail or hot chocolate and sit next to the grand fireplace with its towering rock chimney. You can watch skiers swoosh down Palmer Glacier year-round (though more runs are available in the winter.) In warmer weather, take one of the hiking trails from the lodge and climb up into the Mt. Hood National Forest. For a romantic dinner, book a table at Cascade Dining Room and watch the alpenglow kiss the peak of Mt. Hood.

Head north on OR-35 toward Hood River and you’ll find yourself traveling along the Hood River County Fruit Loop with dozens of options for experiencing the local bounty of this agricultural region. Turn into Parkdale where you can charge at the Old Parkdale Inn while you check out the view of Mt. Hood from Solera Brewery. Stop in at Draper Girls Country Farm for the freshest fruits of the season and The Gorge White House for wine tasting, fresh cut flowers and U-pick berries. Just before arriving in Hood River, take a quick side trip out to Panorama Point for stunning views of Mt. Hood and the valley.

Hood River

Charging station: Hood River City Parking, 607 Columbia St.

Founded as a fruit-packing town in the 19th century, Hood River (pop. 7,379) remains a top producer of tree fruit with pear, apple and cherry orchards, as well as small family farms dotting the verdant valley between the Columbia River and Mt. Hood. The compact downtown blocks offer themselves up for great browsing as cafes, boutiques and sporting goods stores abound. For a closer look at the kiteboarding and windsurfing sports that make the town famous, head down to the Hood River event site. You can watch the wind junkies rig their gear and catch big air. On a windless day, you’ll see folks paddling SUP boards around the flat water. Sports equipment rental and lessons are available from shops like Big Winds. In winter, you can rent snow sports gear from Doug’s Sports or 2nd Wind Sports and head up to one of the four ski areas on Mt. Hood. If you are staying overnight, check into the historic Hood River Hotel downtown or the romantic Columbia Cliff Villas.

If you need to power up your car, stop downtown at the Hood River charging station near Full Sail Brewing Company, one of Oregon’s first microbreweries, founded in 1987. Take the free brewery tour and enjoy a flight of tasters. You might be inspired to visit some of the town’s newer watering holes, like Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom and Pfriem Family Brewers. You’ll find a tasty meal at any of the above.

Driving back toward Portland, you’ll get some of the best views of the Columbia River Gorge, and it won’t take long to understand why Congress voted in 1986 to turn the 85-mile stretch into a National Scenic Area. As you drive along, take in the soaring basalt cliffs and deep gorge walls created by the raging waters of the Missoula Floods 15,000 years ago.

Cascade Locks

Charging station: Cascade Locks Public Parking, 95 NE Wa-Na-Pa Street

Just 20 miles west of Hood River on US-84 you’ll find the charming river town of Cascade Locks (pop. 1,148). A short walk toward the river yields views of the magnificent Bridge of the Gods, which spans the Columbia River, as well as the picturesque Cascade Locks Marine Park. From here you can take the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler paddleboat onto the river and in summer watch international sailing races launch from the shore. Proximity to Oregon’s northernmost section of the Pacific Crest Trail is another option for getting into the woods. If you are looking to charge your vehicle, stop at the City of Cascade Locks public parking lot. Take time to check out Soderberg Gallery & Studio, the first woman-owned bronze foundry in the U.S. In town, you can see the artist’s “Sacagawea, Pompi and Seaman” sculpture, which was commissioned by the Port of Cascade Locks. If you need a snack, stop at Thunder Island Brewing Company for a pint and a selection of small plates or at East Wind Drive-In for a burger and towering soft-serve ice cream cone.

Historic Columbia River Highway

Head west on US-84 toward Portland and pick up the Historic Columbia River Highway. The brainchild of early-20th-century entrepreneur Samuel Hill, the highway was built from 1913 to 1922 to connect Portland and The Dalles. The route passes historic features such as Shepperd’s Dell Bridge, Vista House at Crown Point, the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, and many of the Gorge’s signature waterfalls. If you feel like stretching your legs, hike the lush forests around Horsetail Falls, Bridal Veil Falls or Latourell Falls, or stop at Multnomah Falls and tip your head back to take in a view of the 620-foot cascade.

Return to Portland

Return to US-84 near Troutdale to travel back to Portland. And as you make your way toward the City of Roses, leaving the snowy peak and soaring cliffs in the rearview mirror, make a list of all you’ll see and do on your next trip around Mt. Hood and along the Columbia River Gorge.

Travel Tips

Don’t own an electric vehicle? You can rent an electric BMW i3 from ReachNow in Portland. Visit the ReachNow website for information about how to sign up and start driving.

For the most up-to-date information about EV charging stations around Oregon, download the PlugShare app. This online resource provides real time detail about station locations and services as well as trip planning features.

Check out Oregon’s Electric Byways Road Trips for more EV itineraries around the state.

About The

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.