Wind sports, waterfalls, alpine adventures, world-class wineries and breweries collide in the Columbia River Gorge, and Hood River, Oregon is in the heart of the action.
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Located on the banks of the Columbia River, the population of the city of 8,000 people swells in the summer months when out-of-towners arrive to play in the ‘Gorge gym.’ With year-round activities like mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, kiteboarding, paddleboarding, hiking, rock climbing, fly fishing and windsurfing, Hood River is one of the few places in the world to tackle a tri-sport day.
You don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy Hood River; with spas, a picturesque waterfront, great foodie scene, shopping and fantastic wineries, it’s also popular for those looking to enjoy a couple’s weekend or girls’ getaway. From the top restaurants and hotels to fun activities for all ages, here’s what to do in Hood River, Oregon.
Where is Hood River
The city of Hood River is in northern Oregon just across the water from Washington, at the confluence of the Columbia River and Hood River. Mt Hood (Oregon’s tallest peak), Mt Adams and Mt St Helens are all nearby.
The stunningly-scenic drive from Portland to Hood River takes about one hour, along I-84 through the Gorge. Hood River is about four hours south of Seattle, and a three hour drive from the Oregon coast.
Best things to do in Hood River Oregon
Most Hood River activities centre around the waterfront–especially when the wind is gusting. The event site is absolutely packed some days, with kiteboarders, windsurfers and foilboarders descending on the beach and sandbar, getting set to launch. Bright kites dot the otherwise arid landscape, as expert riders catch the wind to make the most of the swell.
Many events in Hood River like summer concerts and competitions also happen along the waterfront, which has a kids park, lots of green space, and multiple launch sites. There are also a few restaurants, breweries and a couple of food truck areas.
Some other fun things to do in Hood River are:
Post Canyon: Hop on a mountain bike and rip around the Post Canyon trails, a 17-mile system that’s one of the USA’s original gravity networks. With nearly 3,400 feet of vertical descent it’s sure to excite even the gnarliest riders, and has a series of bermed turns through the thick forest. There’s also a bike park with plenty of jumps for keeping the kids occupied.
Another good bike ride is along the Mosier Twin Tunnels trail, which links Hood River to the community of Mosier. It only takes about 30 minutes each way with a couple of inclines, and has outstanding viewpoints overlooking the Columbia River.
Museums: Aviation buffs will want to stop by the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automotive Museum (WAAAM), which has one of America’s largest collections of antique planes and cars that are still in use. Marvel at the 1917 Curtiss JN-4D Jenny aircraft, a historic Ford Model T or Studebaker.
The History Museum of Hood River County is across from the marina, and a good place to learn about the history of the area. There are a number of exhibitions and artifacts special to the Gorge, such as local inventions and the first windsurfing board.
Hood River golf courses: Hit the fairways at either Indian Creek Golf Course or the Hood River Golf and Country Club, which both have 18 holes and great views of Mt Hood. Divots restaurant at Indian Creek is fantastic, and Phelps Creek Vineyards is conveniently located next to the clubhouse at the Hood River course if you want to check out their tasting room after a round.
The Hood River Fruit Loop: More than two dozen local producers are part of this self-guided tour, which is one of the best things to do near Hood River for foodies. The scenic drive highlights the agriculture areas found around Mt Hood, like orchards, lavender fields, farm stands, cideries and wineries. Don’t miss the Gorge White House which has wine tasting and a u-pick for things like fresh flowers, berries, apples, cherries and pears.
Mount Hood Railroad: Riding the rails on the iconic Mount Hood Railroad is one of the best Hood River attractions for kids, and a fun way to enjoy the scenery of northern Oregon. Departing from the station downtown, the hour-long Hood River Valley Excursion winds past the river, orchards and vineyards in the surrounding Gorge, and has great mountain views.
Over the holidays, book a seat on the Mt Hood Christmas Train which features dancing elves, Christmas lights and even a visit from Santa.
Exploring downtown Hood River
Besides the Hood River waterfront, the downtown area is where you’ll find most of the action, particularly on the weekend when Portlanders make their escape from the city. Restaurants, clothing boutiques, pubs and decor stores line both sides of Oak Street, and you’ll also find some of the best Hood River coffee shops here like Ground Espresso Bar and Doppio.
To enjoy Columbia Gorge wine right in town, drop into the Evoke Winery or Stave & Stone tasting rooms.
On Saturdays from May through November be sure to drop by the farmers market to pick up fresh produce, baked goods, meat and cheese from area producers. Kids love Mike’s Ice Cream, which usually has a lineup out the door when it’s open from April through October.
Breweries in Hood River Oregon
The Hood River breweries have earned quite a reputation over the years, luring even the most discerning beer-drinkers away from hipster-heaven Portland. There are a handful places to whet your whistle in town, including:
- pFriem Family Brewers: With a prime location on the waterfront, a gorgeous restaurant, tasting room and private events space, pFriem is one of the most popular breweries in Hood River. Their brewing techniques come from a combination of experience gleaned from breweries in the Columbia Gorge and Europe, resulting in craft beer that has racked up more than 100 awards in competitions around the world. The food is also excellent, and Canadian visitors will be happy to know pFriem has the best poutine ‘round these parts.
- Ferment Brewing Company: Located just down the street from pFriem, Ferment has some great views thanks to its large, outdoor patio that looks over the water. Serving up food, beer and kombucha, there’s also a tasting room where you can fill up a growler or keg with your fave brew.
- Full Sail Brewing Co.: Brightly-coloured kites adorn this side of this brewery in downtown Hood River, a nod to the local roots of this brewery that was dreamed up way back in 1987 at the site of a former fruit cannery. Fast forward a few decades, and it’s now a popular spot to sip their award-winning Session Lager or Amber Ale after a day on the water.
- Double Mountain: Come for the beer, stay for the pizzas at this Hood River brewery. With tap rooms in both downtown Hood River and Portland, Double Mountain serves up flavour-forward dry ciders using locally-grown apples and pears, as well as core and seasonal beers.
Hood River wineries
Arid conditions paired with favourable, sunny weather create perfect growing conditions to cultivate grapes like the Pinot Noirs this region is famous for, which makes Hood River a premiere wine destination. There are nearly a dozen wineries near Hood River, and plenty more across the river in Washington and scattered throughout the Gorge.
Some of the best Hood River Oregon wineries are:
- Stave & Stone: With a spacious tasting room, jaw-dropping views of both Mt Hood and Mt Adams and a serene outdoor area with lawn games, Stave & Stone is a treasured local hangout, especially in the summer months. Oh, and there’s even a lavender farm next door, as if you needed yet another reason to visit.
- Marchesi Vineyards: The next best thing to being in Tuscany, the Italian-inspired tasting room is surrounded by vineyards and there’s fresh-baked focaccia bread and olive oil at the bar. Sip on their flavour-forward Sangiovese or Primitivo, which pair beautifully with Marchesi’s charcuterie boards and are best enjoyed al fresco.
- Hood Crest Winery: Along with the fantastic, award-winning wine, Hood Crest also serves up wood-fired pizzas and has an on-site distillery that makes cherry vodka and Sangiovese brandy. Time your visit for one of their live music nights, which happen every weekend.
Best restaurants in Hood River Oregon
If you love Mexican food, then you’re sure to love dining out in Hood River where there are a crazy amount of excellent taquerias and taco trucks. There are some great pizza joints, and a number of restaurants close to or along the waterfront which are a fun place to spend a summer evening.
Some of the best places to eat in Hood River are:
- Celilo Restaurant & Bar: For an upscale dining experience, head to Celilo along Oak Street. The menu features the likes of house made beef and pork meatballs, Cascade Farm braised pork shoulder and pasta with Mt Adams chanterelle mushrooms, all sourced from area producers.
- Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar: Thanks to creative cuisine like their Country Girl Cherry Pizza and Siragusa Pear, Solstice is the best pizza place in town. There’s plenty of room inside as well as an outdoor patio with water views, and you can also grab a pie to go and enjoy out in the park.
- Riverside: With a fantastic location right on the water with a huge outdoor patio, this great restaurant that’s part of the Best Western Hood River gets packed during the summer months. The adjoining Cebu lounge is great for a happy hour drink, and be sure to keep an eye out for their pasta specials.
Day trips from Hood River
Hood River is the perfect base for day trips around the Columbia River Gorge, like wine touring, e-biking and rafting down the White Salmon River. There’s plenty to explore around Mt Hood and Mt Adams, which are home to some of the best hikes near Hood River.
On the Washington side of the Gorge which is a stone’s throw away from Hood River, there are even more wineries, the community of Trout Lake which has cool underground caves, and the historic town of Bingen which has a cool downtown strip including a great antique store.
It takes about 45 minutes to drive up to Mt Hood where you can downhill or cross-country ski in the winter, snowshoe to frozen Tamanawas Falls, and visit iconic Timberline Lodge which is known as the hotel in The Shining. In the summer months, grab your paddle and head to Lost Lake, Laurance Lake or Trillium Lake for some fun in the sun.
The best hotels in Hood River Oregon
There are quite a few options for Hood River lodging, from quaint B&Bs to riverside hotels. If rooms are hard to come by in the height of tourist season, head across the river to White Salmon or stay at the uber-cool Society Hotel in Bingen, Washington which is just a few minutes from downtown Hood River and also has a fantastic spa and bathhouse.
- Best Western Hood River: With multiple restaurants, an outdoor pool and hot tub area, gym and conference centre, the Best Western Plus Hood River is one of the largest Hood River hotels. Nestled along the waterfront on the east end of the town beside the marina, many suites have views of the water. Some also include amenities like jetted tubs, balconies and full kitchens which makes it ideal for a longer stay, and the hotel is also pet-friendly. Click here to book
- Columbia Cliff Villas Hotel: This pretty property (and its sister hotel, the Columbia Gorge Hotel) is perched on the cliff on the west end of the city, which means it has a front row seat to some of the best sunsets in Hood River. The boutique-style hotel is surrounded by serene gardens and walking paths for enjoying the water views, and there’s also a spa and restaurant on site. Click here to book
- Hood River Hotel: With an awesome location in the heart of downtown, this historic hotel has individually designed rooms including pet and family-friendly suites. Just steps away from some of the best shopping and restaurants, it’s a great base for exploring the best things to do in Hood River. Click here to book
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