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Pacific Northwest> Vines to Volcanoes-The Portland Area

Pacific Northwest

A Karen Brown Recommended Itinerary

Vines to Volcanoes-The Portland Area

Click Here for a List of Hotels, Bed and Breakfasts
and other Places to Stay along this Itinerary

ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN'S GUIDE: Where the Willamette River joins the mighty Columbia and the two head out together in search of the Pacific Ocean, the quietly sophisticated city of Portland flourishes. Ideally located for enjoying some of the Pacific Northwest's most remarkable natural and historic wonders, Portland is less than 80 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, only 65 miles south of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 16 miles west of the arresting beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, minutes away from the heart of the wine country, and about 110 miles from Fort Clatsop National Memorial, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent their first west coast winter in 1805-06. This itinerary introduces you to the many attractions that the city has to offer, then guides you on round trips through lovely countryside to explore the flourishing Yamhill County wine region, the scenic Columbia River Highway and Mount Hood, and the awesome Mount St. Helens.

Recommended Pacing: Plan to spend at least two days and three nights in Portland itself, depending on what you are interested in seeing. We recommend taking at least two (or a luxurious three) days to enjoy the Yamhill County wine country. There are wonderful inns in the area and the surroundings are so lovely; it would be a shame to rush your way through it. If one day is absolutely all you have time for, follow the itinerary through to a visit to Erath Vineyards Winery-as much for the fun of the roads themselves as for the great tastings-then head back to Portland. For the Columbia River and Mount Hood, a minimum of two days and one overnight would enable you to enjoy this scenic loop. However, if a day trip from Portland is all you have time for, concentrate your time in the gorge area, following this itinerary only as far as Cascade Locks and heading back to Portland along the other side of the river. For Mount St. Helens, allow one full day from Portland and back (an eight-hour trip allowed us plenty of time for leisurely visits to three of the visitor centers, plus a stop for lunch at Hoffstadt Bluffs).

PORTLAND

Portland is a very easy city to get around in. There are many inexpensive parking lots in the downtown area, so park your car and venture out on foot. Maps and self-guided tours are available at the Visitor Information and Services Center located in the Pioneer Courthouse Square complex. (701 SW Sixth Ave. Suite 1; open weekdays from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm; 503-275-8355, www.pova.com.) When visiting neighborhoods, you can drive, park, walk, or consider public transportation. A good bus (Tri-Met), light-rail (MAX), and a vintage trolley system work in tandem so that you can use tickets interchangeably, and it's free in the downtown area.

This is a city that goes to great lengths to ensure that nature plays an active part in daily life. Over 200 parks grace the city and an ordinance prohibiting the construction of buildings higher than 40 stories guarantees that the Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges are never obscured by "progress." Take a drive up to Council Crest Park set over 1,000 feet above the city and accessed via Fairmount Blvd, it's a wonderful spot for viewing all five Cascade peaks-weather permitting, of course.

No self-respecting lover of books would consider missing a turn of several hours at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside Street. It takes up an entire city block (in a building that once served as a used-car dealership and car repair shop) and holds a computerized inventory of over one million titles-the largest used and new book selection under one roof in the world. Color-coded maps are available at the front desk for making your way through literally thousands of sections. The Seattle Times has aptly called Powell's "a place of staggering ambition, hidden in the very humble wrapper of a worn-out warehouse." (Open from 9 am to 11 pm every day; 503-228-0540 or 866-201-7601, www.powells.com.)

Take a self-guided tour through the Portland! exhibit at the Oregon History Center located at 1200 SW Park Avenue. It's a marvelous orientation to the area's history, beginning with the 1840s when the first European and American settlers arrived, and continuing to the present day. Notice the "copper" displayed at the exhibit entrance. It was used in the now-famous coin toss of 1845, by which city builders Asa Lovejoy of Boston, Massachusetts and Francis Pettygrove of Portland, Maine decided the name of their new city! (Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm; till 8 pm on Thursday; and Sunday from noon to 5 pm; 503-222-1741, www.ohs.org.)

Art lovers will enjoy the renovated Portland Art Museum at 1219 SW Park Avenue. Founded in 1892, the museum has (over many loving years) amassed a diverse collection numbering over 32,000 works of art. A $45-million renovation and construction project resulted in over 50,000 square feet dedicated to the Centers for Native American Art and Northwest Art. Additional renovation projects account for new permanent galleries, a community education center, a new museum shop, and a café. (Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from noon to 5 pm; 503-226-2811; www.pam.org.)

Washington Park can easily occupy the better part of a day if you're inclined to enjoy all it has to offer: an arboretum, a zoo, a forestry center, and much, much more. Two gardens in particular make for rejuvenating contemplative strolls. The enchanting Japanese Garden (611 SW Kingston Avenue; hours vary; 503-223-1321) occupies nearly 6 undulating acres and provides an authentic look at the genius of Japanese landscape masters. Enjoy the Tea Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, and the Zen-inspired Sand and Stone Garden. Also worth the time is the International Rose Test Garden, where more than 8,000 roses representing hundreds of species grow in terraces overlooking the city and Mount Hood. (400 SW Kingston Avenue; open daily from dawn to dusk; 503-823-3636.)

One of our favorite picnic/viewing spots is the lawn area in front of Pittock Mansion (head west up Burnside, turn right on NW Barnes, then follow the signs). Completed in 1914, this fine home was built for Henry Pittock who came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853. Pittock made his fortune through a variety of wise and timely investments and became publisher of the Oregonian. On a good day, the views of Mount Hood and the city from this spot are wonderful. Tours of the mansion are available daily from 11 am to 4 pm but the grounds are free to stroll while the sun is up (503-823-3624).

The Portland Classical Chinese Garden (also called the Garden of Awakening Orchids) occupies an entire city block between NW Third Avenue and NW Everett Street. It's a unique urban garden patterned in a 15th-century Ming style and designed by architects and artisans from the Chinese city of Suzhou. Created to inspire residents living in busy cities, Chinese gardens were meant to offer respite in the center of activity. Today's visitors to this setting will find a garden little changed from what would have greeted them more than 500 years ago in dynastic China. (Open November through March from 10 am to 5 pm and from April through October from 9 am to 6 pm.)

For over one hundred years the city has adopted the rose as a symbol of its continuing growth and renewal. If you're visiting in June, find a schedule of Rose Festival activities, which start with the coronation of the Rose Festival Queen on or around May 31st. Fireworks, parades, boat races, musical performances, and special art exhibits make for a month-long celebration of the city's favorite time of year.

Want to tour Oregon wineries without leaving downtown? Then the place to go is Oregon Wines on Broadway at 515 SW Broadway. It's a charming wine bar where you can sample two dozen or more of the state's finest wines. (Closed Mondays, but usually open into the evening hours on other days.)

Beer aficionados may want to find out how Portland got its title of "Microbrewery Capital of the World." On Saturday afternoons, Brewbus offers a four-hour, behind-the-scenes tour of various breweries in town (www.brewbus.com).

Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park gives you the chance to stroll alongside the Willamette River for an easy mile and a half, with a view of eight Portland bridges if you walk from one end to the other. This park is often the venue for summertime concerts.

Reserve a spot on a Portland Spirit River Cruise from the Salmon Street Springs dock along the waterfront walk. It's a fun, two-hour cruise on a 150-foot yacht. You'll sail up the Willamette and past Ross Island, home to bald eagles, great blue herons, ospreys, and private riverside estates. Choose from sightseeing rides as well as lunch and dinner cruises. (503-224-3900 or 800-224-3901.)

The Pearl District, bounded by W Burnside, NW Lovejoy, NW 8th Avenue, and NW 15th Avenue, is getting a great deal of attention these days. Formerly an industrial area, it has been transformed in the last ten years into a popular spot for upscale lofts, art galleries, boutique shops, great restaurants, and sidewalk cafés. The neighboring Nob Hill District, bordered by NW 15th Avenue, NW 23rd Avenue, W Burnside, and NW Lovejoy, is absolutely charming, especially for its mid-19th-century homes. Wander in and among these neighborhood streets, pausing when something takes your fancy. Make your way down NW 23rd and NW 21st Streets.

Forest Park offers some 50 miles of interconnected trails that wind up and down the slopes of this 5,000-acre wonderland, the largest urban park in North America. Maps are available to give you options. The Wildwood Trail extends for 33 miles from Forest Park to Washington Park.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industryat 1945 SE Water Street offers excellent exhibits in a contemporary building right on the Willamette River. It features the Murdock Planetarium, an Omnimax Theater, and tours of the submarine used in the movie The Hunt for Red October. (Open from 9:30 am to 7 pm, daily, mid-June to Labor Day; and from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, Tuesday to Sunday the rest of the year; 503-797-4000.)

YAMHILL COUNTY WINE TOUR

Note: If you plan to sample the wines of the Willamette Valley along this route, please select or hire a designated driver.

Running from Oregon's northern border at the Columbia River to the Calapooya Mountains just south of Eugene, the Willamette Valley Wine Region in its entirety is about 200 miles long and 60 miles wide. Sheltered between the Coast Range Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, it is a rich patchwork of prairies, grasslands, forests, orchards, and vineyards. Here the growing season is long and the harvest late (end of September, early October), both conditions serving to intensify the varietal flavors of the grapes. Nearly two-thirds of Oregon's wineries reside in the upper half of the Willamette Valley just southwest of Portland in Yamhill County. Known as the "heart of the wine country," this area is blessed with three chains of interlocking hills, all created by millions of years of volcanic activity. It is on the southern and southwestern slopes of these hills that most of the vineyards are planted-ideal spots for grape growing and for Pinot Noirs in particular. Yamhill County is home to dozens of marvelous tasting rooms set in gorgeously picturesque landscapes. We'll take you to some of the best.

From Portland, take I-5 South/Salem to Hwy 99W/Tigard/Newberg (Exit 294). Standard blue winery signs all along Hwy 99W ("The Wine Road") will help you anticipate turns into the vineyards you want to see. Call ahead to confirm hours of operation.

Don't despair at the sight of so many strip malls along the first portion of The Wine Road. We'll get you out of them! About 13 miles after you exit I-5, just north of Newberg's town center and on the right, your first stop is Rex Hill Vineyard. Enter a small, elegant building and take your place at an attractive tasting bar. Enjoy the fireplace, the gift shop, the tiny Oregon Wine Brotherhood Museum, or the lovely terraced gardens and picnic area. Established in 1982, Rex Hill is known first for its Pinot Noirs, but also produces top-quality Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and White Riesling. (30835 North Hwy 99W; open from 11 am to 5 pm, daily with extended summer hours; 503-538-0666.) Note: See Springbrook Hazelnut Farm as a recommended place to stay-you can walk through hazelnut orchards to Rex Hill from the inn. Leaving Rex Hill, turn right on Hwy 99W and continue south for about 5 miles to the town of Dundee. Stop to visit Argyle Winery on your left, which makes its home in a charming, two-story farmhouse built in 1900. Argyle owns 235 acres of prime Willamette Valley vineyard land. It is internationally recognized as a premier producer of New World (methode champenoise) sparkling wines; but also produces Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and an "old vine" dry Riesling you may want to try. (6901 Hwy 99; open from 11 am to 5 pm, daily; 503-538-8520; www.argylewinery.com.)

Right across the street is the handsome Ponzi Wine Bar. In addition to featuring the wines of Ponzi Vineyards, the bar presents wines from local producers that don't have tasting rooms and from those in remote areas of the state. You can buy wines by the glass, bottle, or case. Microbrews on draft, Italian coffee, and a selection of cheeses and fresh breads await you, as does a fine selection of wine-themed books. (100 SW 7th Street; open daily from 11 am to 5 pm; 503-554-1500; www.ponziwines.com.) The excellent Dundee Bistro, also owned by the Ponzi family, is located right next door for those who want a bite to eat.

Leaving Ponzi, continue on 99W and take a right on SW 9th Street and wind your way uphill. Suddenly, the terrain is everything you've been hearing about: the rolling hills, the lovely orchards, rows of vines heavy with fruit. As 9th Street becomes Worden Hill, turn right on Fairview Drive. The road turns to gravel and winds through a forested wilderness to the Torii Mor Winery on your right. This tasting room is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese garden and boasts stellar views of Olson Vineyard, one of Yamhill County's oldest vineyards. Pinot Noir makes up the bulk of the winery's production, but most are hard-to-come-by reserves and single bottlings. (18325 NE Fairview Drive; open from noon to 5 pm; Saturday and Sunday, February to April; Friday to Sunday, May to November; 800-839-5004; www.toriimorwinery.com.)

Leaving Torii Mor, head back to Fairview and turn right out of the drive. Continue past the "Private Road" signage and turn right again at the signs for Lange Winery. Enjoy a glass of wine on the back patio, where spectacular views of the Chehalem and Willamette Valleys will make you forget all your troubles. (18380 NE Buena Vista Drive; open from 11 am to 5 pm, every day except Tuesday; 503-538-6476; www.langewinery.com.)

From Lange, turn left onto Fairview to retrace your steps, but only for a few hundred yards, turning right at the first unmarked road (it's actually still Fairview). Drive slowly and enjoy the quiet. Turn left on Worden Hill Road, then right onto the Erath Vineyards property, where once again you'll be treated to stunning views in all directions from high in these beautiful Dundee Hills. Wonderful cheeses, crackers, and other fine comestibles are available in the homey tasting room. (9409 NE Worden Hill Road; open from 11 am to 5 pm daily; 503-538-3318 or 800-539-9463; www.erath.com.)

Leaving Erath, turn right on Worden Hill, which becomes SW 9th Street. Enjoy the gorgeous orchards and vineyards as you head back to the town of Dundee. Unless you're ready to turn back to Portland, make a right onto Hwy 99W and continue south.

In the town of Lafayette turn right on Mineral Springs Road, following the signs to Anne-Amie Vineyards. This spectacular hilltop winery is designed like a French chateau and offers panoramic views of Yamhill County. Founded in 1972 as Chateau Benoit Winery, the winery now specializes in pinots including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. (6580 NE Mineral Springs Road; open from 10 am to 5 pm daily; 503-864-2991; www.anneamie.com.)

Leaving Anne-Amie Vineyards, turn left to return to 99W and turn right on 99W toward McMinnville. From here, if you've had enough, you can turn right on 47 North to loop back to Portland, or venture bravely past the strip malls and turn left on NE 3rd Street to the historic downtown district of McMinnville. The town has two claims to fame: the UFO sighting of May 10, 1950 (stop in at the pub inside McMenamins Hotel to check out the UFO articles) and the Evergreen Aviation Museum. Just southeast of McMinnville via 99W South, directly off Hwy 18 (watch for the signs), this aviation museum houses an impressive collection of vintage aircraft. The centerpiece of this collection is the Hughes HK-1 Flying Boat, the Spruce Goose, now making its permanent home here. The Spruce Goose, completed in 1947 by famed billionaire/eccentric/aviator Howard Hughes, is the largest airplane ever built, with a wingspan of 320 feet! The entire museum-made largely of glass-was built specifically to house this amazing giant. Also on display beneath the soaring wings of the Goose are several fully restored classic airplanes and jets. See a replica of the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, several WWII-era fighters and trainers (a P-38 Lightning, a P-51D Mustang, a Supermarine Spitfire, a Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10), as well as Korean War-era jets (a MiG-15 Midget). This museum is a must-see for any aviation buff. (3685 NE Three Mile Lane; open from 9 am to 5 pm, daily except holidays.)

Return to 99W South as you leave the McMinnville area and continue for about 5 miles in the direction of Amity. Turn right at Fifth (the Bellevue Highway) then after about 2 miles the road will veer to the right at a sign reading Bellevue/Sheridan. Here's where you have the opportunity to visit a monastery founded by the Swedish Saint Brigit in 1370. It's the only Brigittine (say BRIDGE ih teen) monastery for men left in the world. Guests are welcome, so if you're up for the adventure (and perhaps in the market for some unbelievable homemade fudge), drive straight ahead-rather than veering right-onto Broadmead Road, and continue one additional mile to a sign on your right directing you down a gravel road to the Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation. (If you are not interested in the monastery, just veer right and continue on.) These monks make their own fudge right on these lovely grounds and it's fabulous! Ring the bell, if the door is locked (don't be shy!). One of the monks will greet you, offer you chocolate samples, and direct you to boxes for sale: chocolate cherry nut fudge, pecan praline fudge royale, chocolate amaretto truffles, chocolate butter rum truffles-You won't believe the list! Guests are welcome to visit the unusual chapel. (Brigittine Monks Gourmet Confections, 23300 Walker Lane, Amity; 503-835-8080.)

Leaving the monastery, return to the Bellevue Highway, which dead ends at Highway 18. Take Hwy 18 back to 99W North/McMinnville. As you're heading out of McMinnville, turn left onto 47 North/Carlton. Pass through Carlton and follow the signs for 47/Yamhill/Forest Grove as it zigzags you through town.

Once in Gaston, turn left on Olson Road to Elk Cove Vineyards, whose beautiful setting is alone worth the trip. Here, winemaker Adam Campbell produces single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Dijon-clone Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and highly popular dessert wines. (27751 NW Olson Road; open from 11 am to 5 pm daily; 503-985-7760.) Leaving Elk Cove, resume your former course on 47 North. The road will make a left turn. Just follow signs to Hwy 8; further on 8, take east City Center/Portland all the way back to the city.

SCENIC COLUMBIA RIVER HIGHWAY AND MOUNT HOOD LOOP

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area stretches about 80 miles from Troutdale (just 20 minutes east of Portland) to the Deschutes River east of The Dalles, and one of the best ways to see it is from the Historic Columbia River Highway (old US 30). This highway was constructed between 1913 and 1922 in a European style to conform to the contours of the land and take full advantage of the spectacular scenery. It is accessible today in two short stretches (one of 22 miles from Troutdale to Ainsworth State Park, the other a 16-mile stretch from Mosier to The Dalles, with a 35-mile section along the main interstate in between). We'll concentrate on the first 22-mile stretch before taking you on a loop around Mount Hood and back to Portland. Plan to linger in this magnificent part of the state as we guide you past waterfalls, through lush state parks, to dramatic vistas from cliffs dropping 700 to 2,000 feet into the river. Consider packing a picnic lunch so you can stop where you like, to soak in the surroundings.

From Portland, take I-84 east to our first stop off Exit 17: Troutdale. Exit and drive along the frontage road to Graham Road (follow signs for Troutdale and Columbia River Highway), where you'll turn right. Take your first left on Columbia River Highway and drive directly into town, where a short stretch of galleries, shops, and museums beckons you to stop and browse. Troutdale, which traces its origins to the arrival of the railroad in 1882, started as a thriving agricultural community and has since grown to become home to some 9,000 residents. A visitor center, on the main road here, is a good place to inquire about trails in nearby Sandy River Canyon and Beaver Creek Canyon, or to find out more about activities in the area generally. An imposing bronze likeness of Nez Perce Chief Joseph graces a small plaza. One favorite stop in Troutdale is McMenamins Edgefield, a 38-acre estate originally built in 1911 as the Multnomah County Poor Farm and now on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors come to relive history through tours of the renovated buildings and grounds. It's quite a complex, if a bit commercialized. You'll find a brewery and beer garden, a winery and tasting room, a golf course, a movie theater crafted from a 1930's boiler room, restaurants, a gift shop, herb and vegetable gardens, and hostel-like accommodations. To get to it, turn right off of Graham Road (which you took from Exit 17), then right onto Columbia River Highway, rather than left into downtown Troutdale. The road veers left to become NE Halsey and Edgefield is on your left.

Once you've had as much or as little of Edgefield as suits your fancy, head back into and through the town of Troutdale, cross the Sandy River Bridge, and veer right to begin the Columbia River Highway. Climb uphill to the town of Springdale. Stop at Mom’s Garden Bakery (the big blue house on the right) for Patty Meyers' amazing homemade fruit Danish, brioche, and other goodies. Continue on to Corbett and your first astounding view of the gorge at the Portland Women’s Forum State Park at Chanticleer Point. Everything is well marked. This is the former site of the Chanticleer Inn, where the highway's visionaries met in 1913 to plan its construction. Samuel C. Lancaster, design engineer of the highway, picked the next spot, Crown Point State Historic Site, expressly for its potential as a prime observation point. He hired Edgar Lazarus to design Vista House (1918), a gray sandstone octagon building, offering stellar views from the observatory deck at the top of a narrow staircase. (Open daily from 8:30 am to 6 pm, April to mid-October.) While the Vista House itself could stand some upgrade attention, you won't mind once you're gazing at the Columbia some 700 feet below.

Back in the car, you'll now head into a mossy wonderland of rain forest and have, within a very few miles, your choice of footpaths to waterfalls. The first is Latourell Falls, offering the shortest distance from the road to the falls; next is Shepperd's Dell, which can only be viewed once you pull over and step onto a bridge. We recommend driving to Bridal Veil Falls and venturing the short ⅔-mile trail to the falls if you've got sturdy footwear and don't mind the sometimes steep and often rugged terrain. Back in the 1880s, this beautiful spot was home to the Bridal Veil Lumber Company, who produced boxes for everything from apples to WWII ammunition to cheese and operated until 1980. Keep your eye out for an easier ¼-mile path to the cliff for stunning views of the gorge. Only the noisy I-84 detracts from this otherwise beautiful spot.

Next you come to two-tiered, 620-foot Multnomah Falls and the Multnomah Falls Lodge (1925). Likely to be crowded in summer months, it's still worth at least pulling over to see it from your car. The adventurous can take a ½-mile trail up from the lodge to a bridge that crosses the lower cascade, then continue to the top via switchbacks. The lodge itself is beautiful, now housing an information center, a gift shop, and a restaurant. (Hours vary; 503-695-2376.)

From Multnomah Falls, you'll have to join I-84 again. Take Exit 40 to the Bonneville Dam, built by the federal government for $70 million between 1933 and 1936 at the urging of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It's an impressive piece of engineering, to be sure. The five-story Bradford Island Visitor Center (open daily from 9 am to 5 pm) features exhibits discussing the purpose and building of the dam; as well as films about the Columbia River, fish migration, and current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' projects. If you've never seen a fish ladder, this is a good place to experience it: through an underwater window you can watch salmon and other fish bypass the dam as they follow nature's migratory course unimpeded.

Back on I-84, take Exit 44, Cascade Locks/Stevenson/Hwy 30. Docked at the Port of Cascade Locks is the historic Sternwheeler Columbia Gorge Steamer. Although, riverboat trips are offered only seasonally, this is an entertaining way to explore the river. (800-643-1354, www.cascadelocks.net) From the waterfront, follow the signs to the Bridge of the Gods and cross over to the state of Washington. Take 14 east for a few hundred yards, then turn left on Rock Creek Drive. Turn left again onto the Skamania Lodge property and consider having lunch (informal, cafeteria-style) in the huge dining room with windows for walls and great views (509-427-7700). If you're ready to return to Portland, take Hwy 14 all the way back for a different and dramatic view of the gorge's high basalt cliffs, meandering your way through tall forests of trees and past several trailheads and scenic pullouts, including the beautiful Cape Horn lookout. This side of the river is considerably less crowded.

If you're up for more, however, cross the Bridge of the Gods again to return to the Oregon side and take I-84 east to Exit 64. Head south on 35, and turn left on Old Columbia River Drive. Follow signs to the Columbia River Highway State Trail (Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead). This section of the Columbia River Highway stretches between Hood River and Mosier farther east. Once accessible to vehicles, it has since been transformed into a unique, public footpath running just over 4½ miles. You can walk or bicycle or roller skate as much, or as little, of it as you like. It's relatively easy, well-paved, and graced by two "in-line" or "twin" tunnels, the Mosier Twin Tunnels, originally constructed in 1919 and 1920 to make it possible for the highway to pass through a steep basalt bluff. The West Tunnel is only 81 feet in length; the East Tunnel is 288 feet. Windows cut into the rock allow for terrific gorge views. This is a one-of-a-kind trail! Keep in mind that the Mosier Tunnels are closer to the Mosier end of the trail. If you prefer a short walk (about 2 miles round) to the tunnels and back, you can drive to that end of the trailhead instead (take Exit 69/Mosier, turn right at the end of the off ramp, then take your first left on Rock Creek Road and follow signs to the trailhead). It's a great walk through lava beds and forest, all overlooking the gorge. Notice the signatures carved into the north wall of the East Tunnel, where in 1921 a handful of people found themselves snowbound for several cold November days.

Make a visit to Hood River, a casual and friendly community of windsurfers and breweries, and one of Oregon's major apple- and pear-growing regions. Consider a Mount Hood Railraod excursion, departing from the Hood River Depot and offering a four-hour, scenic round trip through the gently beautiful Hood River Valley, with a stop in quaint Parkdale. The railroad, dating back to 1906, was once used to serve local farmers, transporting fruit from area orchards to the city. Choose from morning, afternoon, and evening rides; some including brunch or dinner as an option. (110 Railroad Avenue; hours vary; 541-386-3556.) Carousel enthusiasts may enjoy the unique and comprehensive collection at The International Museum of Carousel Art. (304 Oak Street; open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 4 pm; 541-387-4622.) There is also a good selection of restaurants in Hood River.

If you are staying in the Hood River/Mount Hood area, there's a wonderful scenic mini-loop we highly recommend. Affectionately called the "Fruit Loop" by locals, it follows Hwy 35 South from Exit 64/Hood River, heads west at Mount Hood through Parkdale, and picks up the Dee Hwy, or Hwy 281, back northward to I-84, just west of Hood River. When you are ready to resume our tour, head south on Hwy 35 from Hood River to begin the Mount Hood Loop Highway, which circles the eastern shoulder of Mount Hood and passes through lovely fruit orchards, flower farms, and, eventually, the mountainous wilderness of the Cascades at Barlow Pass (4,157 feet), part of the original Oregon Trail. Allow time to pull off the road at spots that speak to you. In season, gather fruit at one of many "U-Pick" fruit farms along the route.

Mount Hood is Oregon's highest peak at 11,235 feet. Thirty or so miles past the town of Mount Hood, turn right off Hwy 35 (which you'll notice has become Hwy 26) to the famed Timberline Lodge (1936-37), a National Historic Landmark and masterpiece of mountain lodge architecture. Constructed of enormous local timbers and native stone, the lodge is a rugged example of the handmade American Arts and Crafts movement of the '30s. It caters to skiers and provides a grandly rustic Cascade Dining Room. (Open year round; 503-622-7979.) One of the state's premier hiking trails is the 40-mile Timberline Trail, which loops around Mount Hood and provides unparalleled views of the Cascade Mountains, the Willamette Valley, and meadows of wildflowers. August and September are the best months for walking. For information on how to get the most out of the trail in short excursions, call the Hood River Ranger District at 541-352-6002 or inquire in the lodge.

Retrace your steps back to Hwy 26, and continue westward to Portland to complete this round trip.

MOUNT ST. HELENS NATIONAL VOLCANIC MONUMENT DAY TRIP

Only 40,000 years old, Mount St. Helens is the baby of the southern Cascade volcano family in an area where all the peaks are seismically active. On May 18, 1980, following two months of small earthquakes and relatively mild eruptions, one particular trembler loosened much of the north flank of this mountain. An avalanche ensued, after which a huge blast cloud roared out of the crater, outracing the avalanche as it reached speeds of up to 600 mph. A hot, stone-filled wind knocked down immense forests in its path, creating a litter of fallen trees in a "blowdown zone" still visible today. This initial destruction took only five minutes; but for nine hours afterward, a column of ash spewed 15 miles high from the crater, obscuring eastern Washington. Melted glaciers created mudflows and severe flooding, 57 people were suddenly dead or missing, and Mount St. Helens had dropped in elevation by 1,300 feet. This is something you should see.

From Portland, take I-5 north 50 miles to Exit 49/Hwy 504. Known as the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, 504 was constructed between 1992 and 1995. It's about 48 miles long and guides you, more or less, alongside the path of destruction, all the way to the volcano itself. The blowdown zone is perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring sights, where trees still lie scattered like giant toothpicks. Your first stop, however, is about 5 miles east of the freeway exit. Not the giant blue building just off the freeway called the Cinedome (misguidedly called the Visitor Center), but rather a park building further down the road called the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center. It provides an excellent introduction to the area, with many marvelous exhibits and a slide presentation. We recommend you pay for the pass that gives you unrestricted access to all the centers along the route to the volcano. From the Visitor Center, continue along 504 and stop at any, or all, of the additional visitor centers you might be interested in. The Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center concentrates on the life cycle of area forests and features an impressive elk-viewing area with great views, while the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center focuses on the recovery of the surroundings and the new lakes that were formed by the eruption. Rangers give brief lectures on related topics. The "must see" is the Johnston Ridge Observatory, only 5 miles from the volcano. Named for a geologist who lost his life in the final blast, the observatory offers an amazing view of Mount St. Helens and a 15-minute film called A Message from the Mountain, which will stop you in your tracks.

For a closer look at the volcano, you can take a helicopter tour to the crater or walk along several trails, one of the more dramatic ones beginning at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

When you are ready to return to Portland, simply retrace your steps as there is no loop available.


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[ icon ] Bradford Island Visitor Center
Bonneville, Oregon, United States
Tourist Offices
[ icon ] Visitor Center
Portland, Oregon, United States
Tourist Offices

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[ icon ] Amity
Oregon, United States
[ icon ] Hood River
Oregon, United States
[ icon ] Springdale
Oregon, United States
[ icon ] Troutdale
Oregon, United States
[ icon ] Portland
Oregon, United States

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[ icon ] Celilo Restaurant & Bar
Hood River, Oregon, United States
Eclectic & International Cuisine
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