Samantha Brown’s Guide to the Mt. Hood Region in Every Season
I love a versatile destination, and if that’s what you crave, Mt. Hood and its surroundings fits the bill. You’ve got the more urban vibe of Portland mixed with the lush Willamette Valley, and of course the gorgeous backdrop of Mt. Hood—a glacier-covered dormant volcano. Here’s how to make the most of your trip here in any season.
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm is a springtime must. With tulips exploding over 40 sprawling acres, Mt. Hood and the fact that everyone speaks English may be your only markers that you’re still in the USA and not Holland. From late March through April, the farm celebrates Tulip Fest, complete with pony rides, cow tours, fun runs, food, wine tasting (made Wooden Shoe’s estate grown grapes), hot air balloon rides and more.
Does tip toeing through the tulips sound a little too chill for you? Then you ought to check out white water rafting on the Clackamas River. The spring melt provides for the biggest whitewater with large waves and powerful currents. Check out half- and full-day trips from Blue Sky Rafting. Celebrate your bravery at Fearless Brewery in nearby Estacada, Oregon. Trust me, you’ve earned that famous Viking Burger and Scottish Ale.
Drop your bags at Wonser Woods, a 622-acre farm located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range near Estacada.
Owned and operated by Mark and Jean Wonser since 1990, the estate recently underwent a renovation that now includes a beautiful B&B. Each room is unique, offering a variety of mountain views, farm fields and Portland city lights. The majority of this stunning farm is forested and available to guests for fishing, riding and hiking.
I love Oregon in the summer. The weather is absolutely perfect—not oppressively hot and humid, making it perfect for hiking and biking. I vacationed here in August of 2017 with my husband and kids, and we decided to bundle our rental car, hotel and “dining options.” Yep, we rented an RV.
I was skeptical, but it ended up being one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. You only need to unpack once! A big shout out to the campground at Toll Bridge Park near Parkdale, Oregon. We stayed here our first night, and it was just heavenly. Wooded, near a beautiful river, close to the town of Hood River and the mountains.
Another favorite activity? Exploring the Hood River County Fruit Loop. Located in the Columbia River Gorge scenic area, it’s home to numerous orchards, berry farms, wineries and farm stands. You can easily spend a day leisurely driving the route (map here), stopping for snacks, fruit picking, wine sampling, whatever!
We loved Kiyokawa Orchards, who specializes in growing over 100 varieties of apples and more than two dozen varieties of Asian and European pears. Pick your own fruit, take a hay ride, and enjoy a picnic on their beautiful grounds.
It’s pretty easy to spend a day or two in Hood River. This quaint town (population: 7,167) alongside the Columbia River offers breathtaking views, great food and access to all sorts of outdoor sports In fact, it’s one of the world’s premiere spots for kiteboarding. Take a lesson with Cascade Kiteboarding. This 2.5 hour session includes all the necessary gear– the only thing you need to bring is guts!
Don’t want to get your hair wet? Grab a slice at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe, where delicious grub meets beautiful river and kiteboarding views. My daughter went absolutely crazy for their PB&J pizza. Don’t worry, they have all sorts of grown-up, pies like the country girl cherry, an award-winning combo of cherries, house-made chorizo sausage, goat cheese, shredded mozzarella and marinara. There’s also a good selection of local wine and brews for mom and dad.
I love visiting the mountains in the fall, especially as the colors change. Around Mt. Hood, the huckleberry and vine maple explode into reds, oranges and yellows. It’s simply stunning, and a great reason to plan an autumn visit.
Doesn’t Oregon feel like the epicenter of the Tiny House movement? If you’re not ready to commit to sleeping in your kitchen every night, why not just try it out for a weekend? The Tiny House Village at Mt. Hood offers a unique way to experience the Portlandia vibe while surrounded by the nature of the Pacific Northwest.
Ranging from 175 to 260 square feet, these beautiful tiny homes are perfect dipping your little toe into the living small pool. And as the temperatures drop, you might like the extra coziness!
Channel your inner Cheryl Strayed and hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Mt Hood National Forest includes 130.1 miles of this iconic route. There are several places to jump on the trail—check out your options here. Though not officially on the PCT, the Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular day hikes. The 2.1-mile trail loop around the its namesake reflects an unparalleled view of Mt. Hood. It’s a great option for beginners and families, and open from April 30 – November 1. In peak foliage season, this hikes earns the moniker of the “Fall Color Extravaganza.”
Due west of Mt Hood is the famed Willamette Valley wine region. Dubbed “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast in 2017, you’ll find incredible pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling and more. Fall marks harvest season, and many wineries celebrate big time. Planted in 1978, St. Josef’s is one of the original Oregon wine pioneers. This winery hosts their annual Grape Stomping Festival every September. Pretend you’re Lucy Ricardo and see how you fare barefoot in a vat of grapes.
For access to great sipping sans car, book a stay at the Painted Lady Guesthouse. Located in beautiful Newberg, Oregon, this charming accommodation puts you within walking distance of about 10 tasting rooms. Even better, your next door neighbor is the Painted Lady Restaurant. Situated in a Victorian house, it’s fine dining made with local ingredients. If that sounds too fancy, their sister restaurant Storrs Smokehouse does some of the best ‘cue in the state, and it’s only a short walk.
When it comes to the Oregonians, a little snow doesn’t keep people indoors. Skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling… if it involves snow, you can do it here!
Did you know you Timberline Lodge and Ski Area offers the longest ski season in North America? Really, you can ski in the middle of the summer! However, you’ll have access to a lot more runs during the colder months. The ski area also offers snowshoeing, sledding and snowcat rides to the mountain top. What I might love the most about this place is Timberline Lodge. Dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, this National Historic Landmark is perched near the top of Mt. Hood. You may remember it as the exterior of the hotel featured in The Shining. I don’t think it’s haunted, but if you catch your significant other maniacally typing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” you may want to get the heck out of there!
Nightlife takes on a whole new meaning at Mt. Hood’s Skibowl. It’s the largest night skiing resort in the country. All lifts, including the Lower Bowl, Upper Bowl, Multorpor and Cascade lifts have lighting, providing 34 lit runs. For something unique, try Cosmic Tubing. Friday and Saturday nights, the tubing hill is illuminated by over 600,000 LED lights, laser light shows, black lights, colored lights, music and more! Best part? No need to shred your gloves on a tow rope– just jump on Mt. Hood’s only tube conveyor.
The only thing that’s more fun than skiing is après skiing. Head in the town of Government Camp for a pint at Mt. Hood Brewery. Pair pizzas, burgers and fondue with an Ice Axe IPA or Hogsback Oatmeal Stout. Dogs are allowed on the patio, and get their own special menu featuring stock-sickles— all-natural jumbo stock ice cubes; ½ pound cheeseburger patty; and peanut butter bacon biscuits using the brewery’s spent grains. How can you not love that?
Have you been to Mt. Hood? What are some of your favorite things to do there?
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