This Columbia Gorge Playground Caters to a Wide Range of Tastes
From a trail alongside the Columbia River, I delight in the swoops and swerves of what appear to be rainbow-colored butterflies off Hood River, Oregon, the town’s iconic bridge serving as a backdrop. Of course, these “butterflies” are not of the insect variety, but rather, the daring kiteboarders who, along with windsurfers, are drawn to the area’s world-famous conditions. You don’t have to be a water sports enthusiast to feel the wind fill your sail in this picture-perfect Columbia Gorge town. A historic downtown filled with eclectic shops and restaurants and jaw-dropping views of the river, Mount Hood or Mount Adams at nearly every turn appeal to a variety of tastes. And though it was affected by smoke, highway closures and damage to the surrounding wilderness during the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, the town is more than ready for visitors again.
From the Columbia River to the Fruit Loop
Finding inspiring Gorge views is as easy as taking a stroll along the Hood River Waterfront Trail. The paved path leads past the 6-acre Waterfront Park, whose features include a small sandy beach and cool climbing structures for kids. The east end of the trail offers prime viewing of windsurfers, stand-up paddleboarders and kiteboarders. To plunge in yourself, rent equipment from Big Winds, which also offers lessons. South of town, the Hood River County Fruit Loop (above) is a beautiful 35-mile country drive through the orchards that make Hood River famous. Better yet, ditch your car and tour the loop’s farm stands, U-pick farms, wineries and breweries by bike. For easier pedaling, rent an electric bike from Oregon E-Bikes, or sign up for a guided tour with MountNbarreL, which offers a choice of conventional or electric bikes. As many of the area’s trails undergo rehabilitation from last year’s fire, the trail to Mosier Creek Falls in Mosier, about 7 miles east of town, and the short, paved path to Starvation Creek Falls, about 10 miles west of town, are best bets for waterfall viewing.
Hood River Restaurants
The area’s locavore food and beverage scene offers a variety of ways to taste the local bounty. In the southwestern Heights neighborhood, the fruit and savory hand pies at Pine Street Bakery are must-try morning pleasures, as are the yogurt parfaits and smoked trout at downtown’s Broder Øst (above), the Gorge outpost of Portland’s favorite Scandinavian breakfast joint. Popular downtown newcomers include Whiskey Tango, a chic cocktail club with great happy-hour oyster specials, and the intimate, modern Czech bistro Kin, ladling classic goulash. Celilo Restaurant and Bar remains a favorite for its exquisite Northwest cuisine. Near Waterfront Park, pFriem Family Brewers satisfies thirsts and appetites; its Belgian Strong Blonde Ale pairs perfectly with house-made bratwurst. On the Fruit Loop, Fox-Tail Cider excels in hard ciders and perries, while The Gorge White House, built in 1908, offers tastes of its own wines and ciders, and those from nearby producers. (Designate a driver or use alternative transportation when tasting wine or other alcoholic beverages.) Don’t leave the Fruit Loop without a few jars of the local fruit jams available at the Apple Valley Country Store.
If you’re curious about local history, sign up for a 90-minute downtown walking tour led by guides from the History Museum of Hood River County. Through May, the museum, located along the waterfront, presents an exhibit on the Eagle Creek Fire, including moving photographs and video footage, as well as interpretive panels on forestry management.
– Written by Jennifer Burns Bright