Vista House, built in 1916, on Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. (Photo credit: Larry Geddis)

The Mt. Hood Loop Day Trip is an excellent way to experience the rugged wilderness, verdant farmland and charming small towns that lie just outside of the vibrant metropolis of Portland.

Portland
Start your day in downtown Portland at Electric Avenue on the Portland State University campus. While you’re charging up, choose from a host of delicious downtown breakfast spots like Tasty n Alder, Blue Star Donuts or Kenny and Zuke’s. Fill up your to-go mug at Public Domain Coffee, The Fresh Pot or The Stark Café at the Ace Hotelbefore you hit the road.

Historic Columbia River Highway
From downtown Portland, head east in I-84. At Troutdale (milepost 17), you’ll enter the Columbia River Gorge, and it won’t take long to understand why congress voted in 1986 to turn the next 85 miles into a National Scenic Area. As you drive along, take in the soaring basalt cliffs and deep gorge walls created by the raging waters of the Missoula Floods 15,000 years ago.

Leave I-84 at Corbett, exit 22, to travel the Historic Columbia River Highway. The brainchild of early 20th century entrepreneur Samuel Hill, the highway was built between 1913 and 1922 to connect Portland and The Dalles. From the Corbett exit, the route passes historic features like the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, the Crown Point Vista House, Shepperd’s Dell Bridge and several of the Gorge’s signature waterfalls. If you feel like stretching your legs, hike the lush forests to Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls or Horsetail Falls, or stop at Multnomah Falls and tip your head back to take in the 620-foot cascade.

Cascade Locks
Just past Multnomah Falls, return to I-84 and head into the town of Cascade Locks (pop. 1,153), about 10 miles further on. If you are looking to charge your vehicle, you can stop at the City of Cascade Locks Public Parking Lot. Take time to check out Soderberg Studio and Bronzeworks, the first woman-owned bronze foundery in the U.S. In town you can see the artist’s “Sacagawea, Pompi, and Seaman” sculpture, which was commission by the Port of Cascade Locks. For more great local art, check out Lorang Fine Art & Gorge-ous Gifts. A short walk through town yields views of the magnificent Bridge of the Gods, which spans the Columbia River, as well as the picturesque Cascade Locks Marine Park, where you can take the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler paddleboat out into the river. In summer, watch international sailing races of all types from the park. Proximity to Oregon’s northernmost section of the Pacific Crest Trail is another option for getting into the woods here. If you need a snack, stop in at Cascade Locks Ale House for pizza or East Wind Drive-In for a towering soft serve ice cream cone.

Hood River
Twenty miles further down I-84 will bring you to the town of Hood River (pop. 7,214).  Founded as a fruit packing town in the 19th century, Hood River remains a top producer of tree fruit, with pear, apple and cherry orchards as well as small family farms in a verdant valley between the Columbia River and Mt. Hood.

If you need to power up your car, stop downtown at the Hood River charging station. It’s located near Full Sail Brewing Co., one of Oregon’s first microbreweries, founded in 1987. Take the free brewery tour and enjoy a flight of tasters. You might be inspired to visit some of the watering holes newer to the scene, like Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom, the Pint Shack and Pfriem Family Brewers. You’ll find a tasty lunch at any of the above.

The compact downtown blocks offer themselves up for great browsing — cafes, boutiques and sporting goods stores abound. For a closer look at the kiteboarding and windsurfing that make the town famous, head down to the Hood River Event Site. You can watch the wind junkies rig their gear and catch big air. On a windless day, you might see folks paddling SUP boards around the water. Sports equipment rental and lessons are available from local schools and shops like Big Winds. In winter, you can rent snow sports gear from Doug’s Sports or 2nd Wind Sports and head up to one of the four ski areas on Mt. Hood. If you are staying overnight, check into the historic Hood River Hotel downtown or the romantic Columbia Cliff Villas.

Government Camp
Head south on Highway 35 from Hood River toward Mt. Hood, and you’ll find yourself on the Hood River County Fruit Loop. Along the way, take a quick side trip out to Panorama Point for double mountain views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.  Stop in at The Gorge White House for wine tasting, fresh cut flowers and U-pick berries, at Draper Girls Country Farm for the freshest fruits of the season, or dozens of other spots along the loop.

In Government Camp, you can take in the magnificence of Mt. Hood in many ways. Visit historic Timberline Lodge, which celebrated 75 years in 2012. The grand wooden structure, a Works Progress Administration project, preserves the artistic styles of the 1930s and the richness of local forests from which its beams, floors and walls were harvested. Get a cocktail or hot chocolate and sit next to the grand fireplace with its towering rock chimney. You can watch skiers swoosh down Palmer Glacier year-round (though more runs are available in the winter.) In warmer weather, take one of the hiking trails from the lodge and climb up into the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Nearby Mt. Hood Skibowl offers more recreation options with the biggest night-skiing terrain in U.S. as well as Cosmic Tubing with lasers, black lights and music during winter months. In summer, check out the Mt. Hood Adventure Park at Skibowl with mountain biking, disc golf, go-karts and an 800-foot zipline. You can also power up the car here at the electric vehicle charging station located at SkiBowl West. Have dinner in the romantic Cascade Dining Room at Timberline Lodge and watch the alpine glow kiss the peak of Mt. Hood. Or stop in Government Camp at the Glacier Haus Bistro, a family-owned restaurant serving up European comfort food like jagerschnitzel and goulash.

Return to Portland
Head west on Highway 26 to travel back to Portland. If you find yourself in need of a charge, stop in Welches at the Barlow Trail Roadhouse. And as you wind way around the west side of the mountain toward the City of Roses, make a list of all you’ll see and do on your next Mt. Hood Loop day trip.

Editor’s note: Check out our other Oregon’s Electric Byways Road Trips for more EV itineraries around the state.

About the Author: Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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