ere is a suggestion: As glorious as the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge is, the Washington side might actually be ... better? We know, we know. Sacrilege! But think about it: What’s the view from the Washington side, and more specifically from White Salmon, across the river and up the hill from Hood River? Mount Hood, that’s what, in all its glacial glory.
White Salmon & Bingen
Where to Eat
Grab cardamom buns or coffee cake for breakfast, salads and sandwiches for lunch, or fresh loaves for a picnic at the divine White Salmon Baking Co, or land there for its weekly pizza night. A local staple since 2008, Everybody’s Brewing is enjoying its fourth year in a new, larger space, next door to its more humble original brewpub and with the same glorious view from the patio. Down the hill in Bingen, the main drag offers reliable Mexican, Italian, and more, and watch for the warm-weather return of brioche-bun burgers and pork-topped polenta at the Huck Truck food cart.
Where to Stay
Circling what was once a school baseball field, the private cabins at the Society Hotel (a sister inn to the Society in Portland’s Old Town-Chinatown) were coveted lodgings even before the pandemic. Hammocks and picnic tables sit just outside your door in the covered, wood-paneled breezeways, and the swish spa and bathhouse, with saunas and indoor/outdoor tubs, are just steps away.
Where to Play
The Washington side is drier, leading to the glorious wildflower meadows and alluring paved trail at Catherine Creek, six miles east of Bingen. (Book a tasting at nearby Syncline Winery, and lounge in a hammock after your hike.) But it’s also plenty wet, home to some of the closest white-water rafting to Portland—try a trip on the White Salmon River with a local outfitter like River Drifters or Wet Planet. Bring your wheels for mountain biking at the community-built White Salmon Bike Park, or hit Bingen Skate Park. Time a visit for early July to catch the all-too-brief U-pick window (last year it was only one week!) for cherries at Schmerber Farms. —JS
ust an hour’s drive (or bus ride) east of Portland, the city of Hood River has grown over the years around trains and trade, orchards and timber, easy access to snow and water sports, and a dining scene that capitalizes on the area’s bounty, all adding up to a buzzing weekend destination.
Where to Eat
Start with a hearty Nordic-inspired breakfast at Broder Øst, which serves delicate Danish powder puffs known as aebleskiver, Norwegian potato crêpes stuffed with chevre, and other Scandinavian-style dishes. Stop by Ground Espresso Bar & Café for a post-breakfast pick-me-up.
A drive along the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic loop, takes you through the Hood River Valley to several member stands offering fruits, wines, produce. Back in town, find wood-fired pizza and a glass of pinot at Solstice, lunch perfection (whether it’s spring rolls or your kid’s new favorite grilled cheese) at Boda’s Kitchen, and Asian fusion at Pho River: vegan pho, curry, fried rice, and, for dessert, a crispy mango sticky rice with coconut sauce and wontons. Texas-style food truck Grasslands Barbecue cooks up mean, oak-smoked meats at the waterfront.
Long-standing breweries include Full Sail and pFriem. Newcomer Ferment Brewing, opened in 2018, has already made a name for itself with its second-floor pub and patio (with tiny yurts in winter) and award-winning brews.
Where to Stay
Hood River Hotel, the city’s oldest, got a major face-lift in 2017 and recently debuted a 10-bunk hostel with a shared kitchen, locker rooms, and a sauna. Columbia Cliff
Villas and the Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa feature lavish rooms and breathtaking views. Family-owned Westcliff Lodge sits on several acres where guests enjoy lunch on picnic tables by pine trees and wildflowers in the spring and summer. Or book one of the lodge’s glamping tents and sleep among the trees.
Where to Play
Hood River is a mecca for all manner of wind sports—windsurfing, sailing, kiteboarding, and more, with gear rentals and lessons at several spots, including Big Winds.
Take communion at Hood River’s first climbing gym, Brimstone Boulders, built inside a 108-year-old church (it still has the stained-glass windows and repurposed organ pipes). Explore nearby trails and waterfalls on horseback with rides from Double Mountain Horse Ranch. The paved Indian Creek and Hood River Waterfront out-and-back trails offer easy year-round strolling, while the Tamanawas Falls and the Lost Lake Butte Trail (25 miles south of town) offer a more challenging experience, paying off in gorgeous—yes, pun intended—views. —GG