Hood River, OR
Time from Seattle: 3-4 hours - beware of traffic
Well hello my fellow adventurers!! Let me just start this post by touching on one vital aspect of any adventure that I've learned hugely contributes to a successful trip: Surround yourself with people that keep you stoked on life, make you happy, and are in it for the same things as you. Happy people make ALL the difference in the world and sometimes all we need is that extra little nudge from another human being to push us to do the things that might make us a little uncomfortable but always end up being epic in the end. This trip to Hood River, Oregon and beyond was with two incredible people who are so incredibly full of stoke and kindness, and those qualities, among other things, make them ideal adventure partners and great friends. If that isn't a recipe for a successful trip, what is?
Preston and Mary Ellen (the couple full of stoke and kindness) rented a sick adventure camper van for a night, and they were kind enough to invite Arturo and me along for the ride. So with that, we packed up our backpacks and hit the road (I90 to be exact because I5 on a Friday? See you never) for Oregon.
Camera + 50 mm lens (still rockin' that one-lens life)
1 pair of leggings
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of jean shorts
1 pair of running shorts
1 hiking shirt
1 comfy sweater/pullover/zip-up
1 swim suit
I90 is just one hour out of the way if there's no traffic on I5 (which there almost always is) so more often than not, the arrival time is pretty close if not the same! I don't know about you, but I'd rather avoid traffic and drive a little longer than vice versa, but that's just me! If you do go I90 and down through Yakima, the scenery is so wonderfully different from west of the Cascades. It's a desert drive, and the change of scenery is nice! There are also a TON of wineries throughout Yakima and along the Columbia River, so if you're feeling a tasting flight, you can't get much better than that!
A few notable stops along the way include:
Stonehenge Memorial - a WWII memorial that's ALMOST identical to the real thing
My recommendation to you is to drive the Washington coast of the Columbia on your way to Hood River. This road is atop the riverbank cliff, which offers gorgeous views of the river and the bank beyond. This side also features a ton of beautiful vineyards and wineries with incredible views. Then on the way back, take the Oregon side for a different feel. The drive takes you along the river at river level. It might make a little more sense from the image below. Also gross, would you look at that smoke? Thankfully it cleared at the time of this writing!
We arrived to Hood River just after Golden Hour and checked into Bridge RV Park & Campground. Sadly, this is the only campground near town, otherwise I'd recommend something else entirely. It's across a vehicle-only toll bridge from town ($2 one way). The campground itself consists of a square grassy area with trees surrounded by a chain-link fence. It would've been fine if I didn't think I was about to be hit by a train every time one passed about 50 feet from the campsite. Yikes right? Talk about nightmares. Instead of fearing death, try out one of these places to stay:
It's an old motel turned rugged modern with gorgeous wood slabs sliding on rails for bathroom doors, metal pipe external closets, and epic adventure artwork hung on the walls. Each room has a different adventurous theme and the view is decent! Andres owns the place - the same guy who rented us the epic Rogue Adventure Van for the weekend! He's super hospitable, and literally provided our entire weekend itinerary. He loves what he does and damn does he do it well!
If you want to forgo staying in town all together, rent the Rogue Adventure Truck for your entire stay. This bad ass vehicle comes with a blow up air mattress in back, seats five people, and our favorite part: the Tepui rooftop tent. These vans are no joke. They're super durable, spacious (11' tall you guys) with the entire space under the air mattress available for storage, and I mean, how freaking cool is a steel-plated roof top tent that folds over the side of the truck with an extendable ladder?? If I could afford one now, I'd be all over that.
On the same adventurous trail, why not rent a 1961 Airstream Trailer? I mean., think of the photos! It's not insanely cute or anything and it's in someone's backyard but it's super cheap at only $30 a night, and they have chickens... so like, win, win if you ask me.
There are also a TON of cute cabins for rent on Airbnb (which is also where all these accommodations were found) and I'd recommend this route over your average hotel anyway. But hotels are available right in town as well.
Double Mountain Brewery is a crowd favorite and where we had our arrival meal of a tuna melt, delicious pizza, and some local brews. Segue into post-dinner hours and break out your dancing shoes - their live music gets the locals up on their feet!
Trillium Cafe is your go-to spot for delicious sandwiches. Also a hub for live music and dancing!
If you "brunch," peddle over to Kickstand Coffee and Kitchen. We're talkin' chicken and waffles, breakfast tacos, avo toast, lavender lattes, and more. Seriously. Even if you don't "brunch," this place will convert you.
For a meal with a view, check out Big Horse Brewery and Pub. Walk up the stairs to the house on the hill for - I kid you not - the best salmon chowder I have ever had. Devour it while gazing over the town at the Columbia River. Why not try a local beer while you're at it? YUM.
SO these are just the restaurants we tasted while in the area. If you're interested in the full list, "Gorge the Gorge" did a hell of a job putting this list together! Check it out!
Hood River to Mt. Hood - Where to Stop Along the Way
We let the train be our alarm as we awoke bright and early Saturday morning to meet up with Mary Ellen and Preston at the Adventure Lodge to pick up the Rogue Adventure Van. We transferred over our belongings, grabbed a tasty bite from the Kickstand Kitchen and hit the road. Next stop: Punch Bowl Falls.
Punch Bowl Falls
Punch Bowl Falls is a waterfall in Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Just a stroll down from a secluded pullout's gated forest road just before your cross the bridge is the cliff only the most daring will conquer. It's probably about 80' down, no joke. Navigate with care. For those who wish to live, there's a small swim platform at the top of the falls where you can jump to the fall's base and climb out on the rocks to the right. You'll have to scale a few rocks and use the provided rope to get down the trail but it's so freaking beautiful! Just do it! The water is this gorgeous bright blue color and the walls of the cliff are made up of impressive hexagonal basalt pillars! We arrived here at about 10 a.m. - talk about a wake up call.
Next on the itinerary is the majestic Tamanawas Falls. Just 3.6 miles round trip and a gain of only 560', this hike is a beautiful and easy outdoor excursion for anyone. The trail guides you over bridges, along a river, and through a boulder field to the 150'-tall lava cliff that the Cold Spring Creek tumbles over. The river bed and surrounding rocks is covered in bright green moss and a little island sits at the base of the falls, causing the river to fork. Make sure to walk up along the cliff to venture behind the epic falls for a view through the cascading water and down the river. SO worth the hike!! Highly recommend. Also recommend to bring along a local beer or two of Everybody's Brewing. I mean, when a can says "Mountain Mama," how you can you not pick up a six pack?
Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood
After a fun surprise of randomly running into some college friends from Washington on the return hike, we made it back to the Rogue van, kicked off our hiking boots, and settled in for the rest of the drive to Mt. Hood's historic Timberline Lodge. This lodge, built in 1937, is still a working hotel and a haven for those preparing to venture out on backpacking trips and other mountainous adventures. Decked out in historic photos and ancient ski gear, the lodge truly is an ode to the past yet with all modern amenities (they're just noticeable enough that you know they're there but they don't take away from the historic experience). Have a snack at the upstairs restaurant, take a seat on the patio, or venture down below to the hidden bar, the Blue Ox. Back in the day upon its creation, architects realized a little too late that there wasn't a bar - a necessity in the ski industry. So, they converted an old storage closet into this hole-in-the-wall refuge complete with beautiful stained glass, delicious pizza, and Mt. Hood Brewery beer.
Other secrets await! Read the plaques around the lodge to discover even more history, and gaze through the glass at a preserved room as it would've looked upon the lodge's opening days.
It's maybe 4 p.m. now and we're already pretty beat, but the fun doesn't end there! We're headed back down the mountain to Trillium Lake for a gorgeous view of Mt. Hood with the lake in the foreground. If you happen to wake up at sunrise with clear skies, this is where you want to be! Sadly, it rained over night into the next day, so we didn't have much of a sunrise view. The lake is perfect for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or just hanging out by the shore!