While the secret is out about Portland’s popular breweries, neighboring Hood River is becoming a beer destination of its own that remains frequented by locals and in-the-know out-of-towners. On your next trip to Portland, include extra time in the Columbia River Valley and uncover the history and culture of the small towns while soaking in the natural beauty (and brews) of the region. We've prepared a two-day itinerary that includes a few of our favorite wineries, museums, up-and-coming breweries, historic restaurants, and outdoor activities that make for a memorable getaway.
Columbia River Gorge — Photo courtesy of McD22
Get an early start on the day by hopping on I-84 and head east toward Troutdale with your cameras ready for the stunning scenery. Towering 628 feet, the two-tiered Multnomah Falls are the tallest in the state of Oregon and offer several hiking opportunities and a footbridge that grants visitors views above the second tier.
While most tourists find themselves turning around after snapping a few photos of the falls, we suggest continuing on toward Dalles, a quiet frontier town that remains refreshingly under-the-radar. Spend an hour or two at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, an often missed museum that brings the Columbia River Valley to life. Exhibits showcase the transition of the valley from the ice age to modern era, including information about the Lewis and Clark expeditions.
For lunch, visit the Baldwin Saloon, a historic restaurant in Dalles that makes everything from scratch. Don’t miss Sunset Mill, where an afternoon (or evening) can easily slip by – properly. Indoors, wine bottles are cleverly displayed as well as factory belts and other antique machinery, while the friendly staff is on hand for wine tastings. Special events, including outdoor movies, croquet, and live music, are common during the summer months.
Following an afternoon in Dalles, head back on I-84 to Hood River and check in to the Columbia Cliff Villas, a boutique hotel situated on the edge of a 210' cliff in the Columbia River Gorge overlooking the river. The 37 condominium options vary dramatically and include two and three bedroom suites with walk-in closets, gas fireplaces, private patios (some with river views), and gourmet kitchens. Just next door is the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, so guests staying at the Villas can take advantage of the luxurious spa, restaurant, and lounge. Gorge View from Columbia Cliff Villas — Photo courtesy of Columbia Cliff Villas
The town of Hood River is a four-season destination: it is Oregon’s windsurfing capital during the spring and summer when visitors can also explore the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which encompasses 292,500 acres. In the fall, visitors can go on an orchard or vineyard tour and in the winter, nearby Mt. Hood beckons skiers with 11 lifts 4,500 feet of vertical terrain.
The town is blossoming into a microbrew haven and for some truly unique beer try Double Mountain Brewery and Tap Room (their bottles are now available on the shelves at Portland-area Fred Meyer and Trader Joe's). Catchy brew names like the “Vaporizer,” a hoppy pale ale, and “Fa La La La La,” a malty winter ale grace the drink menu. The smell of hops lingers in the air from the attached brewery and house-made pizza dough is slow-fermented so that a wood-fired slice complements any of the beer selections. Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom — Photo courtesy of Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom
In 2012, the area’s newest addition, the Pfriem Family Brewers opened its doors just across from Hood River’s waterfront park making it the perfect way to wind down after a day spent windsurfing or kayaking. Stop by before the crowds discover it.