If a crisp winter breeze off the Columbia River, the warmth of a fire after a day of skiing on Mt. Hood, or a train ride to a mystery destination called Christmas Town are the kinds of things that put you in a festive mood — well, then, the Hood River Valley is for you.
Stretching from the Columbia River at Hood River south to Mt. Hood, the Hood River Valley has all the makings of a perfect holiday escape. Skiing and snowboarding? Check. Seasonal artwork and holiday theater productions? Indeed. Libations and culinary creations that make the holidays complete? Of course — it’s Oregon, after all.
Here are a few ways to escape to the Hood River Valley for the holidays this year. Chances are you’ll find it’s the place to be.
Ski and Stay
A great day of skiing or snowboarding on Mt. Hood can be hard to beat. One way to do it? Have a great day of skiing or snowboarding on the mountain, then spend the night. With Mt. Hood Meadows, the most popular ski area on the mountain, just 30 miles from Hood River, it’s easy to stay in town before or after a day on the slopes. And throughout the season, the Peak Day Shuttle offers a free ride to the ski area from the Hood River Event Site, where parking is also free. A few hotels even offer ski-and-stay packages that let you do both for a great deal. In Hood River, the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn and the Historic Hood River Hotel team up with Meadows for ski and snowboard package deals. A little more than 15 miles outside of Hood River, the Old Parkdale Inn offers guests discount lift tickets to both Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline Lodge & Ski Area over on the south side of Hood. And at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, which sits about halfway between Meadows and Hood River, you can stay in the lodge or cabins and either ski the resort’s 10 runs or head up to Meadows with a discounted guest pass.
The holiday season in the Hood River Valley is already a pretty magical time on its own. But climb aboard the Mount Hood Railroad’s Train to Christmas Town and the spirit rises to another level altogether. The festive train rolls out of Hood River on select dates between November 16 and December 29, and lumbers up toward the mountain and Christmas Town. Along the way, there’s hot chocolate, festive songs and games, elves and, of course, a visit from Mr. Claus himself.
Shopping for the Season
There’s no denying the feeling of seasonal cheer that comes from a stroll along a charming main street lined with local shops decked out for the holidays. Downtown Hood River is the perfect place to capture that feeling, with independent shops such as Waucoma Bookstore, G. Williker’s Toy Shoppe and 2nd Wind Sports. To amp up the holiday flair, visit on Friday, December 6, when Hood River holds its annual holiday parade and tree lighting.
A holiday escape to the Hood River Valley would not — could not — be complete without stops along the way to refuel and indulge in some of the region’s culinary creations. In Parkdale, Apple Valley BBQ has carved itself a niche with its cherry wood-smoked meats, while in Hood River, wood-fired pizzas from Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar showcase local ingredients. You can also find high-end fare and a wide vista overlooking the Columbia at Three Rivers Grill.
If craft brews are on your wish list, the Hood River Valley is the place to sample and stock up. In Hood River, longtimers like Full Sail Brewing Co. and Big Horse Brewery join the somewhat younger generations of Double Mountain Brewery, pFriem Family Brewers and Ferment Brewing Company. For a worthwhile side trip, zip up to Solera Brewery in Parkdale for some tasty brews and big views of Mt. Hood.
Harvest is typically high time for the Hood River County Fruit Loop, a 35-mile drive past orchards, farms, vineyards and other agricultural businesses. The produce usually tapers off this time of year. but the fun doesn’t have to. The loop is lined with more than a few of the wineries and cideries that have helped give the region a well-deserved reputation. While not all of the area’s cideries are open year-round, wineries like Marchesi Vineyards, Phelps Creek Vineyards and Viento Wines welcome visitors in every season. Remember, if you imbibe, don’t drive; designate a friend to take the wheel and keep the holiday party rolling along safely.
The natural landscape of the Hood River Valley — the mountain, the rivers, the soaring Doug firs — inspires local artists of many mediums and styles. Several art galleries and collectives showcase their varied work. For a brisk and festive art tour, try the Big Art Walking Tour in Hood River, a 2.6-mile stroll past 18 sculptures. You’ll also find holiday cheer at the Columbia Center for the Arts, which holds its annual Peace Talks: Holiday Gift Show from November 23 to December 30 and several holiday performances in its theater throughout December.
A holiday trip to the Hood River Valley wouldn’t be the same without an outdoor adventure. Little John Sno Park, about a half-hour south of Hood River, is the place to sled this time of year (depending on the snow), while the Tilly Jane Trail can be a pleasant snowshoe hike up the flanks of Mt. Hood. If you’re just looking to stretch your legs and avoid the snow, take a walk along the Columbia River on the Hood River Waterfront Trail. Or, if you’ve brought your bikes along, pedal the scenic stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail known as the Mosier Twin Tunnels.
If You Go:
Be sure to check road and weather conditions before heading out and carry snow chains or traction tires when advised.
Whenever you’re adventuring in the winter, wear waterproof layers, appropriate snow boots and don’t forget your sunglasses. Learn how to come prepared by brushing up on tips at How to Winter Like an Oregonian. Always follow Leave No Trace principals, including packing in and out, leaving what you find where it’s at, and respecting wildlife and other visitors.