Hood River is known as an outdoor adventurer’s playground–in the summer, folks flock there for the windsurfing; in the winter, for the skiing and snowboarding. However, the Columbia River Gorge town offers something special (albeit not as athletic) in the fall too: fruit picking at the local farms. It’s the perfect excuse to take a frugal fall day trip; for the beautiful scenery, charming shops and restaurants, delicious coffee, and of course, all of that fresh fruit!
The 60-minute drive from Portland to Hood River is lovely, especially this time of year. Once you are out of the city, on I-84 east, after you pass the Sandy River, you are parallel with the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge on the left, and forest on the right. Some of the deciduous trees are dotted with color, and if you look for it, you can catch Multnomah Falls from the road. In fact, if you have time to stretch your legs, the Falls are a great place to stop. You can jump out of the car, breathe in crisp air, take a short walk, snap a picture, and be on your way again to Hood River in under an hour.
There are plenty of great fruit stands and farms to visit in Hood River. If you want to spend your entire day sampling from different farms, you can take the fruit loop, a self-guided tour along a 35-mile loop in the Hood River Valley. If you want to stop by just one place for a couple of hours, Mt. View Orchards is a great, family-friendly place that offers the full fruit picking experience.
The orchards have tasty homemade treats for sale, including pies and donuts; they have a small pumpkin patch with a tiny playground for the kids; they have rows and rows in their orchards for you to pick from; they have fresh-cut samples of all of their fruit; they have local honey and apple butter; and best of all, they have boxes and boxes of apples and pears to choose from, at a great price.
If you haven’t filled up on apples (and/or apple pastries!) Hood River is a great place to spend the dinner hour. There are lots of interesting shops to wander through, and lots of restaurants and coffee shops with charm. One restaurant, Big Horse Brew Pub, offers a bit more than charm–it has a stunning view of the city and the Gorge. While the menu selections are typical (think burgers, salads, salmon, sandwiches) they do have a bit of a unique, local flair: the organic green salad, for instance, is served with crushed Oregon hazelnuts, and a Hood River pear on top. The restaurant also has a broad drink selection, with lots of locally brewed beers to choose from.
You can’t end your day trip without coffee, or head back to Portland un-caffeinated! 10 Speed Coffee Roastery provides the outdoorsy vibe that Hood River is known for (bicycles adorn the walls & it’s attached to a bike shop, hence the name). The cafe’ also provides some excellent coffee, which is not surprising, since it is roasted on site.
The ultimate experience? To head out of town at the sunset hour, with a Hood River latte in hand, the view of the sun dipping into the Gorge during your drive, and an endless supply of apples (for snacking or for later!) in your backseat.