Hood River pairs small-town with lots to do
written by Sheila Miller
If you could build the perfect town from scratch, it might just be Hood River. On the Columbia River in the heart of the Gorge, Hood River has nearly everything you could want—stunning views of Mount Hood (and several other mountains on the Cascade Range), a waterfront and hillsides bursting with outdoor activity offerings, a charming downtown and lively food and drink scene.
Yes, it’s windy. But nobody’s perfect—and at least here, as the wind whips your hair wildly around your head, you can watch windsurfers and kiteboarders glide along the river.
Hood River has just about everything you could want—stunning views of Mount Hood (and several other mountains on the Cascade Range), a waterfront and hillsides bursting with outdoor activity offerings, a charming downtown
and lively food and drink scene.
For a town of its size—fewer than 8,000 people call Hood River home—there are buckets of options for recreation and entertainment.
First note: remember that sometimes things are famous because they’re awesome. Such is the case of the Fruit Loop, which runs through Hood River County and highlights nearly thirty farmstands, wineries, antique shops and other stops. The loop really gets going as the fruit ripens in July, August and September, and you can pick up plump cherries, perfect pears, apples and a bonanza of other fruits. Add a few jams, a bunch or two of lavender and a bottle of pinot and you’re doing it right. Don’t miss the cookies at Packer’s Orchard & Bakery, or the restaurant options in Parkdale.
With your snacks packed, you’ll be ready for some outdoor activity. There are dozens of hiking and biking trails throughout the Columbia Gorge—waterfalls and views are easy to come by here. An interesting option is the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Once upon a time, this was U.S. Highway 30, where drivers carefully picked their way along the cliffs above the Columbia River Gorge. Today, three disconnected sections of the highway are open to hikers and bicyclists. Check out the Mosier Twin Tunnels section. Start just a few minutes east of Hood River in the tiny town of Mosier at the Mark O. Hatfield East Trailhead and meander up for about 1½ miles to the Twin Tunnels, used in the early years of the highway. You can also use Sol Rides for an electric bike tour to this area or several others in the region. Keep going the full 4½ miles to Hood River, or turn back and stop at Mosier Company for a snack and a beer.
Speaking of beer, Hood River has long been known for it—longtime star Full Sail Brewery has been a steadfast member of the community since 1987, and it’s still a wonderful place to visit, grab a beer and do a free tour. But today, there are more options. Double Mountain Brewery has a delightful, low-key taproom downtown, where you’ll be able to try any number of beers and if you’re smart, get the Truffle Shuffle pizza. Or head down to the city’s recently developed riverfront, where you can try beers at the new Ferment Brewing Co., or knock back a couple at pFriem Family Brewers.
While you’re at the waterfront, you may want to try your hand at a water sport. Hood River WaterPlay can rent you a kayak, a standup paddleboard or a jet ski, among other equipment. It can also set you up with windsurfing lessons on its private stretch of beach—you’ll look like a local in no time.
A must-stay is the Hood River Hotel. This National Register of Historic Places property is vintage done right. The old building has been lovingly restored and the lobby and common areas, with their black-and-white-checked carpeting and mounted animal heads, feel very much like you’re in an ultrahip Portland establishment. Bonus—the restaurant adjacent to the lobby, Broder Øst, has the Scandinavian brunch of your dreams.
Finally, don’t sleep on the restaurant options in Hood River. Sure, you’re full from all the Fruit Loop samples, but Celilo Restaurant is worth it. A small menu of local ingredients, Celilo does everything well, from the risotto to the salmon. It’s all fresh, and the restaurant is a pretty downtown setting. In the morning, try Pine Street Bakery, tucked into the Heights neighborhood. This spot serves lattes and breakfast sandwiches, and perhaps you’d like a fruit hand pie to go for the drive home?
Double Mountain Brewery
Solstice Wood Fire Pizza
Pine Street Bakery
Hood River Hotel
Best Western Plus
Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa
Mt. Hood Railroad
Hood River WaterPlay rentals and lessons
Full Sail Brewing