What to Do in Hood River: A Complete Travel Guide
Hood River has always been like Portland’s secret getaway to me. It’s a mecca for outdoor activities, great food and beer, farm stands, or a killer weekend retreat. What would I do without Hood River? Where would I go after my Gorge hikes? Where would I get apples in the fall? Where would I take my out-of-town visitors to impress them with the endless wonders of the Pacific Northwest?
It would be impossible to count how many times I’ve been to Hood River in my life, but I assure you it never gets old and I never don’t want to go. Yes, I have my favorite spots, but there’s new stuff popping up all the time to keep it fresh and exciting.
In this guide, I’ll take you through the best things to do in Hood River, and I’m sure you’ll love it as much as me!
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The Best Things to Do in Hood River, Oregon
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Hood River in no particular order.
Explore Downtown Hood River
Downtown Hood River can only be described one way: cuuuuuute! It has one of those main streets that looks like it’s lifted right out of a Hollywood movie.
The main drag that runs through downtown (Oak Street) isn’t too long and strolling up and down is a great way to poke your head into different shops to get a taste of the town. It’s one of the best first things to do in Hood River, Oregon to get a sense of the overall vibe.
Here are few great spots to check out:
Coffee in Hood River
- Kickstand – Not only does it have some of the best coffee in town, but it also serves incredible food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Highlights are their bloody marys, burger and fries, and of course—coffee! I’m a black coffee drinker myself, but if you like the fancy stuff I hear their rose latte is delightful. It’s a few blocks farther down on Oak, but well worth the slightly longer walk.
- Doppio Coffee – Doppio is right in the center of town and is an ideal place to fuel up on coffee and breakfast sandwiches before heading out on an adventure. Try their Triple-B Egg Sandwich (bacon, brie, and basil) along with a honey lavender latte.
- Ground Espresso Bar & Cafe – Holding down the fort at the eastern edge of downtown is cozy Ground Coffee that roasts its beans onsite (and also roasts for Doppio). They serve simple but delicious sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. Ground Espresso is a great place to relax with friends, catch up on work emails if you’re staying in town a while, or grab a cup of joe to go.
Food in Hood River
I’ve written about Hood River several times and without fail when it comes time to cover food, there’s always something new on my radar.
I’ll give more recommendations below for restaurants, but here are my top three picks for downtown:
- Broder Øst – I know I write about this restaurant all the time, but it’s just really good, okay?! And yes, it’s super popular and trendy and there are three other locations in Portland, but I can’t deny it—I’m in love with their æbleskiver.
- Bette’s Place – Bette’s is part of the old guard in Hood River and has been open since 1975. It has your standard diner fare, but it’s done well and the space is just so goddamn homey and welcoming I wanna stay there all day long and shoot the breeze with the old timers holding court at the counter.
- Fish People – Although they’ve been in the fish business since the late 90’s, it wasn’t until 2021 that Fish People opened a storefront in town where you can not only buy fresh seafood to take home, but you can also order crab rolls, tuna sandwiches, or a cajun shrimp salad to eat there!
Drinks in Hood River
There’s just too much to cram in here, so I’ve made specific sections for wine, beer, and cider below!
Shopping in Hood River
- The Ruddy Duck – Cool place to grab some new threads, and I’m always impressed with how reasonable their prices are. And they share their historic 1890’s house with Mike’s Ice Cream!
- Hood River Hobbies – Gah! Do I love a hobby store, or what? This place could keep me entertained for hours. Great for puzzles, board games, RC cars, model sets, and craft supplies.
- Waucoma Bookstore – A mainstay of Hood River since 1976. If you’ve been meaning to get a new bedside read, stop by Waucoma and support your local independent bookstore!
- G. Williker’s Toy Shoppe – An oh-so-cute, locally-owned-and-operated since 2002 toy store.
- Doug’s Hood River – Doug’s has been around since 1984 and is the best outdoor apparel and gear outfitter in town—and they have ski, snowboard, snowshoe, SUP rentals!
Drive the Hood River Fruit Loop
The cleverly-named Hood River Fruit Loop is a 35-mile driving or biking route that takes you past 27 local farms and businesses with selections of apples, pears, cherries, blueberries, lavender, baked goods, food, ciders, beer, wines, and even vodka and whisky!
It’s almost too much to take in for one day which is why you’ll have to plan strategically (and maybe pick a designated driver).
You’ll see the Fruit Loop listed in just about every “What to Do in Hood River” guide out there, but there’s a good reason for it! It’s just so charming, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be won over by it. Here are a few highlights:
- Hood River Lavender – Even if you’re not in the market for lavender-scented products, it’s worth going just to see—and smell—this place.
- Draper Girls Farm – Awesome spot for u-pick cherries, apples, pears, flowers, and pumpkins. And there are farm cats!
- Stave & Stone Winery (conveniently located right next to Hood River Lavender) – Stave & Stone has a tasting room in downtown Hood River, but if you can make it up to the actual vineyard and winery, you’re in for a treat. Incredible views, bomb charcuterie boards, and wine!
- Gorge White House – Y’all, this place has been up and running for over 100 years and has it all including fresh fruit, cider, wine, flowers, and great burgers from their on-site food cart (pro tip: order early on the weekends, then take a long walk around the grounds because the place gets packed).
- The Old Trunk – I generally prefer a thrift store to an antique store, but this shop walks the line between the two beautifully and is full of funky and eclectic treasures. They’ve also got an old-timey soda fountain where they make their own fresh-fruit soft serve. I’d come here even if I wasn’t on the Fruit Loop, but it makes a nice stop because let’s face it, you can only taste so many apples and wines before you need to cleanse your palette with a little vintage shopping!
Admire the View from the Rowena Crest Viewpoint
In my opinion, the best way to really take in the splendor of the scenic Columbia River Gorge is to hike to the top of Dog Mountain, but I understand this isn’t for everyone (or maybe it is for you but you just don’t have enough time).
The good news is there’s a spectacular viewpoint just 20 minutes east of town.
You can get to the Rowena Crest Overlook by car making your way through the tight curves on the Old Gorge Highway (which also look very cool from the top and you might want to take a picture).
Here you’ll get expansive views of the area east toward The Dalles and west into the Hood River Valley. You’ll also have access to easy hiking trails in the Tom McCall Preserve should you have some extra time to stretch your legs.
Go Wine Tasting
Admittedly, I take my wine cues from friends who partake more freely than I do (I’m more of a beer gal, but I’ll never say no to a glass of wine that appears in my hand), and I have it on good authority that the wine produced in the Hood River Valley is excellent!
Now, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about growing regions or the ideal climate for wines, but I will say everything I’ve tasted here has pleased my palate considerably.
There are about 36 wineries in the Hood River area (and even more across the river in Washington, especially near the towns of Stevenson and Underwood like Loop de Loop), and while I’m sure they’re all deserving of love, I can’t possible highlight them all.
Here are three standouts (in addition to the two noted above) not to miss:
- Marchesi Vineyards – This place racks up award after award, especially for their barberas (please don’t ask me for detailed information—I just know it’s red), so you basically can’t go wrong ordering. Many people describe visiting the vineyard like stepping into Italy. I’ve never been to an Italian vineyard myself, but the owner is actually Italian, so maybe there’s something to it.
- Grateful Vineyard – Did I choose this one because of my ever-present hippie leanings? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great! Grateful Vineyard offers epic views, live music, pizza, wine, beer, and cider. This place is super-chill and family friendly. You can roll up picnic-style and throw a blanket out on their meadow or sit inside their open and airy tasting room.
- Mount Hood Winery – This winery probably has the nicest tasting room in the area with its huge vaulted ceilings and picture windows looking straight out onto Hood. Plus, the wines are great and very reasonably priced for both tasting flights and bottles.
- Honorable mention that’s not actually in Hood River: Analemma Wines, located in the hills of Mosier, is open Friday through Sunday for tastings of their award-winning, biodynamic wines. A great place to host a family picnic with well-curated and phenomenal wines.
Go Brewery Hopping in Hood River
On to my favorite subject to write about (besides hiking)—beer! Oregon has a lot to offer in this respect and one of the best things to do in Hood River is visit the local breweries.
Second only to Vermont, Oregon has the most craft-breweries per capita in the country, and some of the finest can be found right here in Hood River.
- Pfriem – If I could only have one IPA for the rest of my life, it might just be Pfriem’s (seriously, it’s in my fridge right now). Located right on the waterfront in Hood River, the Pfriem brewery is always churning out tasty beers and delicious food.
- Solera – Actually located in Parkdale (20 minutes south of Hood River) is Solera, and I never pass up an opportunity to promote this place. Solera is worth the drive for its back patio and yard with views right out to Mount Hood. The beer is always good, and the food is yummy but there’s a limited menu. Dogs and hula-hoopers welcome.
- Double Mountain – Come for the beer; stay for the pizza. Right in town and just a cozy, relaxed, feel-good space.
- Full Sail – Probably the most well-known of the Hood River breweries, Full Sail has been in the biz since 1987, and in craftbeer years that’s like forever. They’ve also been bottling and distributing their beers since that time and have become a household name across the country. My favorite part about the brewery is you can look into their bottling plant from the street. Plus, their dining room has the best views in town. I like pretty much everything they do, but I’m particularly fond of their Session beer.
Taste Some Local Cider
Not to be outdone by the local wine scene are the equally fabulous cideries in the area! Hood River Valley = apples galore!
Apples have been grown in the Hood River Valley since the mid 1800’s and by the early 1900’s they became and still are the most common fruit grown in the area. And though apples are delicious to eat and bake with, the best thing to do with them is make cider!
Check out these three local cideries to get a taste of this liquid gold.
- Crush Cider Cafe – The Crush tasting room is a little off the beaten path, but they have a ton of ciders to sample (17 to be exact, and 7 beers) which is great for those who like to experiment. The staff is super friendly and knowledgeable and can help answer all your cider-related inquiries.
- Slopeswell – Slopeswell Cider recently partnered with local brewer, Kasey McCullough, to create Working Hands Fermentation. I personally like a dry cider and this place delivers! Hit up their family- and dog-friendly tasting room that you can bring your own food into (I suggest popping across the street to Lake Taco).
- Runcible Cider – Runcible is actually located in Mosier (a mere 10 minute drive east) and the tasting room is only open on Saturdays, but if you can time it right you should make the trek! If you can’t swing a Saturday visit, not to worry because you can find their ciders on tap at many local Hood River establishments!
Get Out on the Water
The Columbia River Gorge is known throughout the country (and the world) as one of the best locations for windsurfing.
The steep cliffs of the Gorge make the perfect wind tunnel for this and other water sports, and the best part is you can enjoy them even as a novice!
Hood River has a few outstanding outfitters in town where you can not only rent gear, but also get lessons the same day! Although the area gained its notoriety through windsurfing, kite surfing and stand up paddleboarding (SUP) have recently surpassed it in popularity.
Kite the Gorge and Cascade Kiteboarding are both located right on the water and offer customized lessons and gear-rental for any skill level. These are spendy options, but if you’re really feeling it, it’s worth it to partner up with these reputable companies that only employ certified kiteboarding instructors.
Standup paddleboarding is exponentially easier to get the hang of than kiteboarding and is a nice, mellow alternative for those who want to get out on the water but aren’t looking to be hurled 12 feet in the air.
Hood River SUP and Kayak offers cheap rentals by the hour and they’re located right on The Hook, a protected cove that’s perfect for beginners and those just looking for a relaxing day on the water.
Even if you’re not going to rent gear to get out there, it’s worth a stroll through Hood River Waterfront Park to see the kitesurfers and paddle boarders up close.
Tackle a Hike or Two
Hood River makes a great home base for hiking along the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding area.
You’ve got tons of options all around you, so find a trail and get to it (also check out my guide to hiking near Hood River for all the information about hiking in the area!)
A 23 minute drive from Hood River and across the Columbia River, Dog Mountain is one of the most iconic destinations in the Gorge.
Some guides bill this hike as “moderate,” but I think they’re underselling it because this 6.7 mile loop is hard, but the payoff is worth it.
Known for its wildflowers in late spring and early summer, this hike is so popular they had to implement a permit system on the weekends during wildflower season. It’s only $1/person, but you have to get them ahead of time and you’ll need to pay a $5 parking fee per car (or carry a NW Forest Pass).
Thirty minutes south of Hood River is the powerful Tamanawas Falls. This is an easier 3.4 mile hike that can be done nearly year-round, but you’ll need microspikes or snowshoes in the winter.
The first part of the trail parallels Hwy 30 which is kinda annoying because you can hear all the cars, but it soon veers away into the beautiful forest, boulder fields, and then on to the 100 foot falls!
Coyote Wall has long been one of my favorite Gorge hikes because it’s so open and expansive and the wildflowers rival those at Dog Mountain.
The trailhead is only a 17 minute drive from Hood River, and the hike takes you up a steep and steady climb where you’ll have views all around.
Note that this area is also very popular with mountain bikers who come hurtling down the trails, but you’ll see them coming well in advance and I’ve never had a problem sharing the space.
Falls Creek Falls
The trailhead for Falls Creek is a bit farther away than my other recommendations (almost an hour), but I wouldn’t be suggesting it if it weren’t great!
The falls themselves are triple-tiered and stand at 335 feet, making this one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the area. By following this trail you’ll get two great views of the falls, one from the bottom and one from the upper tier. Plus, the whole hike is lovely and not too hard and there’s a cool suspension bridge that goes over the creek.
Bonus: stop by Backwoods Brewery in Carson on your way back to town!
Experience the Waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge
The Gorge is almost synonymous with waterfalls, and if this is your thing there are a few you’ve got to check out.
Depending on how ambitious you are, this can be done as a multi-waterfall-hopping adventure, starting at the falls farthest away from Hood River then make your way east back toward town along the Historic Columbia River Highway.
All three have optional hikes, and while you don’t have to do them all, you’re only looking at about six miles total. However, there’s driving and parking involved, so if you have to skip one I understand.
You’ll start at Latourell Falls which is one of the best short hikes in the Gorge and my son and I do all the time. You can see the 249 foot lower falls right from the parking area, but I actually like the shorter (120 feet) upper falls better which is about a mile up the trail.
The full loop hike is 2.4 miles, but if you just do it as an out-and-back (staying on the easternmost trail) you can shave off about half a mile.
From here, you’re duty bound to see Multnomah Falls. There’s a fairly strenuous one mile hike up to the top, but if you’re looking to save time this is the hike to skip.
Word to the wise: this place is always packed and if you’re visiting in the summer you’ll need to get a timed-use permit.
Your last stop on the waterfall train is a two-for-one special to see Horsetail and Ponytail Falls. The coolest thing about Ponytail Falls is that you can walk behind it! This hike is only half a mile, so don’t skip out on it.
Raft the White Salmon River
Directly across from Hood River is the White Salmon River, and it’s here you’ll find some phenomenal white water rafting. Zoller’s has been taking folks down this crazy river for nearly 50 years, but you can also hook up with Wet Planet or River Drifters.
They’re all fantastic outfitters who will show you a rocking good (and safe) time as you careen down Class III and IV rapids. There’s even a class V waterfall (Husam Falls) option, but I’m not brave enough to tackle that—maybe you are!
Take a Day Trip to Mount Hood
Towering behind Hood River is Mount Hood (source of its namesake river). If you’re staying in the city, heading to the mountain for a day of fun should be on the top of your to-do list.
There are about a million (slight exaggeration) great hikes on and around Hood, and you can read up on 11 of them here.
A perfect day for me would start out hiking McNeil Point or Bald Mountain (tip: go counter clockwise at the loop), or Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain.
Admittedly, these are all on the harder side, but we are talking about climbing mountains here! However, there’s a nice and easy-ish two mile hike that also gets you around the top of majestic Bald Mountain.
After a good hike you’ll of course need to refuel your body with beer and food. One great spot that I’ve already mentioned is Solera in Parkdale, but there are also solid options in the cute, ski-bum town of Government Camp.
Try the Glacier House, Mt. Hood Brewing Co., or venture a bit further down US-26 to the Skyway Bar & Grill in ZigZag.
Where to Eat in Hood River
As promised, here are more of my favorite places to eat in Hood River.
- Farm Stand in the Gorge – This place is actually a grocery store, but they have a little cafe where you can get fast and delicious breakfast and lunch all made from scratch with local, organic produce. A total locals spot.
- El Cuate – It’s always the unassuming restaurants stuck in the side of a strip mall that seem to have the best food ever. El Cuate started as a food truck and has since opened a brick-and-mortar store and they continue to impress. House-made tortillas make for a bomb burrito, but don’t discount Lola’s Chicken Sandwich.
- Mesquitery – This place has been a fixture in town since 1988 and to stick around that long means you’ve got to be good. It’s a steakhouse at its core, so if you like a good piece of meat cooked right, this is your spot!
- Lilo’s Hawaiian BBQ – Lilo’s has been open for eight years now, but where was I??? The answer, sadly, was that I was not in the right part of town. This place is also stuck in a strip mall and doesn’t look like much, but once you smell the slow-roasted and smoked meats coming from the gigantic grill out front, you’ll know you’ve stumbled upon something wonderful. Get the Kalua Pig with macaroni salad.
- New York City Sub Shop – Another local favorite that’s been around since 1989. The subs are big, delicious, fast, and they’re right next door to the Crush Cider Café so you can pair your Manhattan sub with a flight of local ciders!
How Much Time in Hood River?
Because it’s only an hour away from Portland, Hood River makes for an ideal day or weekend trip. And if you’re lucky enough to live so close, you can slowly tick off your Hood River bucket list through a succession of day trips from Portland.
The Best Time to Visit Hood River
There’s never a bad time to visit Hood River, and I’ve been there in all seasons.
Late spring and summer are always nice because you’ll have a gazillion outdoor activities to choose from. That said, fall is the best time to do the Fruit Loop in my opinion because that’s when all the apples are ripe!
The city will see some snow in the winter, but it’s usually not too bad. However, if you’re looking for a homebase for winter shenanigans on the mountain, be sure to carry chains for driving back and forth on the 35.
I actually love Hood River in the winter because the city is bustling with life and they make it super cute in the Christmas season!
Getting From Portland to Hood River
The most direct route from Portland is to simply jump on I-84 and drive for an hour till you get to Hood River.
However, if you’ve planned a hike on the Washington side of the Gorge you may decide to take WA-14 which is a lovely drive, if a bit windier. In this case you’ll need to cross back over the river on the Hood River Bridge which will set you back $2 in tolls.
Alternatively, if you want some mountain fun beforehand, you’ll come into town on OR-35 N.
Where to Stay in Hood River
I’m always jealous when my friends do a weekend getaway from Portland to Hood River even though I know I can do this literally anytime I want. Here are three great options for all you go-getters out there.
- The Society Hotel in Bingen – Across the river on the Washington side is the tranquil oasis that is the Society Hotel. All rooms come with access to their spa and bathhouse, and this alone is enough to sell me.
- Hood River Hotel – The best feature of the Hood River Hotel—aside from its swanky decor—is that it’s right in town, making it easy to get everywhere by foot. This place has been open since 1912 and you can feel the history when you walk in. Plus, they have private rooms and bunkhouse style accommodations to fit any budget.
- Ruby June Inn in White Salmon – This quaint inn features five adorable rooms that all come with private baths (and one even has a jacuzzi tub!). It’s kinda like a B&B because you’ll get a fabulous locally-sourced breakfast every day, but you won’t feel like you’re tip-toeing around some old lady’s home.