We spent a few days in gorgeous Portland this September and while there’s plenty to do in Portland for first timer visitors, we wanted to drive to the Gorge and explore surrounding areas. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know how excited my munchkin gets on spotting waterfalls, and there are plenty of those along the historic Columbia River scenic byway so he was pretty excited about heading out even though we woke him up early. We told him that after the waterfall hike, we’ll try and head to the Hood River beach for a lunch picnic and he was all excited for the drive and the long day ahead of us. We left from downtown Portland early in the morning – a quick spot to pick up coffee and we hit the gorge area before the crowds got in. Unfortunately, it was drizzling for the first hour or so of our trip, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the early start. It got much better as the day progressed and by the time we reached Mt. Hood, the weather was gorgeous too! Although its best to spend a day each at Mt. Hood, but if you are in a time crunch and are trying to fit in both in a day trip, here’s a recommended day itinerary.
Vista House at Crown Point: Our first stop was at the Vista House observatory. It had amazing views of the Gorge even on a drizzling morning. I can imagine it being picture perfect on a bright sunny morning.
Columbia River Gorge – Waterfalls Hikes: After leaving from the Vista House, we headed to Latourell Falls. Its a pretty short hike to the base of the falls and can be easily done with a toddler. Our next stop was Multonomah Falls, and finding parking there was a nightmare because they are the most famous falls along the loop being the second tallest in the US. If you are short on time, and don’t plan on hiking to the top of the falls, I would skip going up to the bridge and rather pick a hike to Wahcleella which is toddler friendly.
Bridge of Gods, Cascade Locks: Bridge of Gods spans across the river connecting Oregon and Washington and we decided to drive on the steel truss instead of getting out since it had started drizzling again.
Bonneville Lock and Dam: This was an unplanned spot, but we found out there was an option of spotting fish through the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam and N wanted to see some “fishies”. A pleasant stop to spot some fish :).
Historic Columbia River Gorge Hotel: Another unplanned stop was at the Historic River Gorge Hotel. This is a nice place to sit, sipping coffee and enjoying the spectacular views of the river.
Waterfront Park at Hood River – The best stop of our day trip: This was an absolute gem. Away from the crowds, more popular with the locals, the Waterfront Park has a nice sand beach with shallow waters for swimming. Hood River is THE place for windsurfing and kitesurfing in Oregon and Waterfront Park is THE place to watch the windsurfers and kitesurfers. Plenty of restaurants at walking distance from the park for lunch and some food trucks if you want to do a picnic lunch at the beach. There are breathtaking views of the gorge from this park. Ideally, you could easily spend an entire day here.
Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood: After a late afternoon lunch, we headed to Mt. Hood. En route are plenty of orchards for apple picking, but our kiddo was napping so we decided to head directly to Timberline Lodge. If you are headed to Mt Hood post lunch, don’t forget to stop for some freshly baked goodies at one of the orchards/bakeries on your way. The route itself is quite scenic. After spending some time at the Timberline Lodge, we headed up the hiking trail. N was excited to climb the mountain. Although it was chilly, he had the energy to pace up the trail.
Timberline Lodge has picturesque views of Mt. Hood and it was worth every bit of it. We headed back to downtown Portland after a wonderful day in the gorge and Mt. Hood! We did spend a lot more days in downtown Portland, but this day trip was a highlight of our mini vacation for my son – waterfalls, swimming at the beach, sand play, climbing mountains (well, for him that’s what it is even though it’s barely a mile or half of climbing :)). Can’t ask for more, right?