The whole state of Oregon is rich in natural phenomena and recreational opportunities, but the Mt. Hood, Oregon, and Columbia River Gorge region just might have the largest concentration.
Along the northernmost border toward the center of the state, just east of Portland, this region is an outdoor-oriented wonderland full of awe-inspiring features: the mighty Columbia River and the basalt cliffs of the river gorge, more than 75 waterfalls, old-growth forests, crystal blue lakes, and valleys and hillsides dotted with wildflowers, farms and orchards. Overshadowing all of this is the state’s highest peak, Mt. Hood, tipped in snow year round and visible from up to 100 miles in every direction.
The Columbia River Gorge, known locally as The Gorge, is a 4,000-foot-deep canyon stretching for more than 80 miles as the Columbia River winds through the Cascade Range, forming the border between Oregon and Washington. It’s a federally protected National Scenic Area (the largest in America) and an extremely popular destination for outdoor recreation. Waterfalls are a highlight here, including the 620-foot Multnomah Falls. The towns of Hood River, The Dalles, Cascade Locks and White River are hubs for shopping, dining, accommodations and outfitters in The Gorge. This site gives you all you need to know about this region and everything in it.
Mt. Hood, Oregon, 50 miles east of Portland, is a volcano topped with 11 named glaciers. It is a popular climbing destination and is distinctive because its perpetually snowy peak allows for year-round snow sports. Towns and communities around Mt. Hood include Government Camp, Parkdale, Estacada, Sandy, Zigzag, Welches and Rhododendron.
Recreation in Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood
Where to begin? In a place where you can snowboard in the morning and kiteboard in the afternoon, you can bet that athletes of all types flock to this area. Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge is one of the top windsurfing/kiteboarding areas in the world, while Mt. Hood offers 4,600 acres of skiable terrain at six ski areas, including year-round winter sports at Timberline Lodge. Mt. Hood National Forest contains more than 1 million acres, 1,200 miles of hiking/biking trails and three alpine lakes. Throughout this region of Oregon, you can mountain and road bike, fish for salmon and steelhead trout, hike to waterfalls and wildflowers, camp alongside lakes and rivers, bungee jump, alpine slide and zipline, kayak and canoe, drive the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway and the Historic Columbia River Highway, tour the Fruit Loop of orchards and farms, sample beer along The Gorge Beer Trail or tour wineries. Whatever its is you want to do in this region, from dining and drinking to playing and sleeping, you’ll find everything you need to know right here on this site.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the weather like in the Columbia River Gorge?
In spring the high is 57 and the low is 37. In summer the high is 79 and the low is 53. In fall you’re looking at a high of 62 and a low of 38, and in winter a high of 39 and a low of 27. Keep in mind that The Gorge is a very windy area, so temperatures will feel cooler. Always bring a jacket and layers.
What fish species are in the Columbia River?
The Columbia River is home to 61 different fish species, both native and non-native. The most significant and popular for Columbia River Gorge fishing are salmon, chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead.
Is it safe to swim in the Columbia River?
Swimming, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, kiteboarding and boating are popular in The Gorge. Much of the Columbia is safe for these activities, but some stretches have unsafe bacteria levels or toxic pollution. Columbia Riverkeeper monitors water quality in Columbia River Gorge and at popular recreation sites in The Gorge, such as Hood River Waterfront Park Swim Beach, the Event Site and the Outer Hook and Inner Hook. Check their Swim Guide at https://www.columbiariverkeeper.org/columbia/swimguide before swimming. They suggest always rinsing off after swimming and avoid swimming if you have open cuts or wounds. Stay close to shore to avoid fast currents and steep drop offs.
What is the weather like on Mt. Hood?
As the highest peak in Oregon at 11,000 feet, it’s definitely cold up at the mountaintop! In winter, expect temperatures in the teens and lows in the single digits. In spring and fall, temperatures will top in the 20s and 30s with lows in the teens and single digits. In summer, highs only reach into the low 40s. Temperatures are significantly warmer around the base of the mountain.
Is Mt. Hood an active volcano?
Mt. Hood’s last major eruption occurred in the 1790s, and its last minor activity occurred in the mid-1800s. Though it shows no signs of imminent activity, it is not classified as dormant. Steam plumes can be seen rising from the volcano’s fumaroles (steam vents), indicating that magma lies a few miles below the summit. Scientists do not know when it will erupt again, but they are constantly monitoring it for signs of unrest so that they can give the public warning.
Is it true you can ski in the summer in Oregon?
Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood has the longest ski season in North America. It closes for only a few weeks in September. The snow conditions are not as optimal in seasons other than winter, and the runs are limited, but there is terrain open nonetheless. Competitive skiers and snowboarders make up a large portion of the users in the summer.
Can you climb Mt. Hood?
Since there are not trails to the summit, climbing Mt. Hood is considered a technical climb. More than 15,000, some say it’s closer to 20,000, people attempt to climb Mt. Hood every year. Training and planning are imperative for a safe climb, and a Wilderness Permit is mandatory. Consult a good guide to learn about the best climbing and safety practices.
What is the nearest town to Mt. Hood?
Government Camp, locally known as “Govy”, is the only town within 5 miles of Mt. Hood and is the gateway to several ski resorts. It’s full of après-ski opportunities all year round.
What is the Hood River Fruit Loop?
The Hood River Fruit Loop is a 35-mile scenic loop through the Hood River Valley at the foot of Mt. Hood. Along the way are orchards, farm stands, farmlands, wineries, breweries, restaurants, you-pick farms, family activities and more. The route runs along OR Highways 35 and 281 south of Hood River. Find more info at www.hoodriverfruitloop.com.
Can you walk across Bridge of the Gods?
Bridge of the Gods spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, Oregon, and Washington state. The 1,856-foot-long bridge is on the Pacific Coast Trail and is open to vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. A toll is charged to vehicles but not to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing from Oregon into Washington.