Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge are popular recreation areas east of Portland, Oregon.
Mt. Hood has year round skiing and snowboarding while the forests below have plenty of hiking trails, campsites and hot springs.
The Columbia River Gorge (often referred to as just "the Gorge"), and Hood River in particular, are noted for wind surfing. The Gorge is formed where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountain range, an 80 mile section of which is designated as a National Scenic Area. This article is oriented toward the Oregon (southern) side of the Gorge, but information about the Washington side is included where appropriate.
- 1 Government Camp - A ski-village on the shoulder of Mt. Hood with lodging and restaurants available
- 2 Hood River - At the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, with great windsurfing and kiteboarding, and relatively close to Mt. Hood
- 3 The Dalles
- 4 Dufur
Along the route Lewis and Clark pioneered on their trailblazing journey in 1805, the Columbia Gorge cuts through the Cascade mountain range which is made largely of volcanic (basalt) rock, leading to a number of spectacular cliffs. The bountiful presence of water on the west side of the Cascades leads to a number of very tall waterfalls which intersect the river. The key characteristic of the Gorge's climate is Wind. Wind speeds are often upwards of 30mph. This is because the gorge is a wind tunnel from the warm/dry east end to the cooler/damp west end. A large number of wind turbines have been installed on the ridges of both sides of the Gorge to take advantage of the power of the winds in this area.
The unique setting of the Gorge is partly due to repeated mass floods at the end of the last ice age, when the collapse of huge ice dams near Missoula, Montana unleashed walls of water over 1000 feet high at the east end of the gorge, which were still over 2,000 feet deep when they reached present-day Portland.
The region is included in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area which protects the scenic quality of the region by requiring most new development to occur inside of existing towns.
To reach the Gorge from downtown Portland, simply follow I-84 east toward The Dalles.
Mt. Hood can be reached from the Portland Metro by US-26. Follow signs to Mt. Hood from I-84 exit 17 in Wood Village, which will eventually lead through Gresham to US-26. An alternate route to Mt. Hood is to take OR-35 south from Hood River, which will eventually intersect with US-26 on the southeast side of the mountain. OR-35 will take more time, but is viable depending on traffic conditions or if a change of scenery is desired.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) extends along the West coast of the United States, from Mexico to Canada. It approaches Mt. Hood from the south and passes Timberline Lodge, circling the west side of the mountain. The trail then descends into the Columbia River Gorge over the next 25 miles where it reaches its lowest elevation and the only city on the entire route at Cascade Locks. The Bridge of the Gods is the trail's connection between Oregon and Washington over the river.
Interstate 84 follows the southern shore of the Columbia River through the Gorge and is the primary connection for all cities in the region. Be aware that I-84 can sometimes close in the winter due to icy/snowy/windy conditions. Even if the freeway is open, caution is advised in wintry driving conditions.
Alternate routes through the Gorge include WA-14, which parallels I-84, but on the Washington side of the river. WA-14 is a two-lane highway for most of its route, which some may consider a more enjoyable drive although it is marginally slower. Note that connections across the Columbia River are sparse; bridges along this stretch are 20-30 miles apart, and the bridges in Cascade Locks and Hood River are toll bridges (though the toll is relatively inexpensive, just be prepared to pay cash).
Before I-84 was built in the 1950s, U.S. Route 30 was the main thoroughfare for visitors and residents of the Gorge. Much like U.S. Route 66, in the Southwestern U.S., much of the highway was bypassed or paved over by the new interstate, if not abandoned entirely. This section of highway is now referred to as the Historic Columbia River Highway, and US-30 is still a signed route along both the sections of highway that still exist, and the sections of I-84 that overlap its former route. Many would consider the Old Columbia River Highway to be the premier way to tour the Gorge, see the itinerary for more details.
The Amtrak Empire Builder stops in Bingen, WA (near Hood River) and Wishram, WA.
- 1 Bonneville Lock and Dam, ☏ +1 541-374-8820. The third highest hydropower project in the US, at about 1.2 MWatts. Accessible via exit 40 on I-84, you can visit the dam (after passing a friendly guard who will inspect your car) as well as a fish ladder installed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Salmon run in the river almost year-round, but the fall is peak season.
- 2 Bridal Veil Falls.
- 3 Bridge of the Gods.
- 4 Horse Tail Falls.
- 5 Multnomah Falls.
- 6 Vista House (at Crown Point).
- Maryhill Museum and Winery.
- The Fruit Loop south of Hood River passes many fresh fruit stands in season.
- Historic Columbia River Highway
- Fishing in the Columbia River, its tributaries, or the mountain lakes that dot the Cascade Range. Review the ODFW wildlife report to see up to date fish counts and stocking schedules.
- The steady winds that funnel through the Gorge provide world-class windsurfing and kiteboarding opportunities along the river, with Hood River being a particular destination for these activities.
- Both the Gorge and Mt. Hood have ample amounts of mountain biking trails, including bike parks with lift access at the Timberline and SkiBowl resorts.
- Hiking trails abound in both the Gorge and on Mt. Hood, with many steep climbs gaining up to 4000 feet. The Oregon Hikers Field Guide is the leading resource for the most accurate and up to date information on hikes in the region, and elsewhere in the state.
- The Eagle Creek Trail is the most famous hike, passing many waterfalls, including one where the trail goes through a tunnel behind the waterfall. Although the hike was at the center of a wildfire in 2017, the trail remains popular.
- Angel's Rest is a hike that is convenient for people visiting from Portland leading to cliffs that provide a spectacular view of the Gorge from above.
- The 40 mile Timberline Trail encircles Mt. Hood (along the timberline), and makes for a world-class backpacking expedition for enthusiasts, while day-hikers can enjoy many of its sections and offshoots.
- Mt. Hood is a mountaineering hotspot, considered "the second most climbed mountain in the world".
Hood River has many restaurants serving a wide variety of food, but good restaurants can also be found in Bingen and Stevenson, on the Washington (north) side of the Gorge.
Indian tribes that are native to the Gorge often sell fresh and smoked salmon and steelhead in cities like Cascade Locks and Hood River.
The region is famous for craft beers and is developing a reputation for its wine as well, particularly in the eastern end, where many wineries are concentrated around the small town of Lyle.
The portion of the Columbia Gorge between Troutdale and Hood River forms one leg of the Mount Hood Scenic Loop. From Portland, the loop can be done clockwise (through the Gorge first) or counter-clockwise (via Mount Hood first). One can take Oregon 35 from Hood River to Government Camp on the slopes of Mount Hood.