Family adventures in the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood areas
March 15, 2017 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Five days in Portland in early May with the extended family and an 11-month-old. Looking for outdoorsy things to do in the Gorge and Mt. Hood areas.

We are flying back to Oregon, place of my birth, with my husband and (will be then) 11-month-old. My sister, her husband, and their nine-year-old live there already. Our parents will be driving in from Idaho -- they're older, but very active.

When I was growing up in the Salem area, we drove and camped a lot and I got to see pretty much the whole state, minus the area around Portland. I went to college in Portland, but didn't explore much. So I want to focus on the Gorge and Mt. Hood for this trip. I'm open to other outdoorsy stuff in the Portland area, but thought we'd get the best bang for our buck going east. Correct me if I'm wrong!

We fly in late Thursday evening and leave early Tuesday morning, so I figure we stay in a Portland hotel Thursday and Monday nights. That leaves three nights we can stay elsewhere: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Stuff we’re interested in:
- Hiking. The baby and I frequently go on up to 2 hour/3 mile hikes together here at home, so I think we're good for a few hours of hiking each day. Moderate difficulty is okay. I'm comfortable going out in the rain as long as the trail isn't too muddy and slippery. The less in-shape members of our party will probably stay home. I'm looking for specific trail recommendations if you have them. Nothing too crowded on the weekend.
- Looking at mountain lakes. I understand there's a lot of them to see on Mt. Hood, but it may still be too snowy to drive there in early May? My dad and brother-in-law can drive in the snow like pros, but nobody else in our group can.
- Scenic drives, with stops to look at waterfalls or whatever. Our party is too big to fit in one vehicle, so this may not be the best idea.
- Good food and family-friendly breweries.
- Just hanging out and looking at the baby. (It's the first time everybody will have met him.)

I'm thinking we Airbnb a big house for everyone in the Hood River/Parkdale area and use it as a home base for hiking and driving. We could also stay in Portland, if we can access what I'm interested in within a few hours of driving each day. My sister’s house (in the NE/Gresham area) would be home base there, but we’d be sleeping in a hotel nearby.

We need to be mindful of the baby’s needs. I think he’ll need time to just sit and play every day. He needs an afternoon nap, but he can do it on a hike or in the car. It's also a hassle to keep him fed, because he’s mostly formula fed. We breastfeed (but there's not enough there to sustain him on) and feed some solids. We can give him solid snacks and breastfeed during the day, but need access to a kitchen to prepare formula bottles in at least the morning and the evening.

So where should we stay and what should we do each day? Any tips for dealing with the baby on a trip like this? Our 2-3 day weekend trips have gone really well, but this is our first plane flight and the longest we've stayed away from home with this action-packed of a schedule.
posted by liet to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There will definitely still be snow in the upper elevations and the gorge plateau area. I've been snowed on up there on memorial day weekend. But lower elevations and farther east should be mostly or complete clear. Lakes in the Mt Hood area will range from pretty snowy to completely unreachable (my personal forecast).

Some possible things to see, not in any order, but range from very family friendly to somewhat family friendly
* Maryhill Museum
* Stonehenge Replica near Maryhill Museum
* Multnomah Falls
* Bonneville Fish Ladders
* Bonneville Fish Hatchery
* Historic Highway Drive
* Crown Point
* Picnic at the waterfront park in HR and watch kite boarders and windsurfers

My gorge brewery ranking:
* Thunder Island Brewing
* Double Mountain Brewery (Go on a weekday, always crowded)
* Pfriem Brewery
* Big Horse Brewing
* Full Sail (has regular tours)

Lots of wineries in the area too, but I can't really speak to them.
posted by TomFoolery at 12:35 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

So for hiking in this area, I have found this website to be really helpful: Northwest Hiker. It ranks hikes by difficulty, and also will let you know what parking passes you will need there, and also what your reward will be (i.e. is there a beautiful waterfall at the end, etc).

The Hood River Fruit Loop is also pretty fun. Basically, it's a bunch of farm stands, lavender farms, alpaca farms, wineries, cideries that you can visit and eat, drink, pick fruit, and pet farm animals. The website is helpful to let you know what will be open during the time of year you visit. There are also a bunch of wineries over in the Hood River valley that aren't necessarily on the fruit loop, but there are signs for them all over or you can just google what's near you when you arrive. I can't recommend any one in particular...I've only tasted at a handful or so and they've all been good and fun to visit. There's also some horse farms out here that do rides if you are into that sort of thing. I did one along the river one time and it was really fun and beautiful.

I agree with TomFoolery about the snow - it's hard to say how much there will still be in May. Otherwise I'd suggest something like Trillium Lake up on Hood.
posted by FireFountain at 12:55 PM on March 15

To open with the obvious items (you could stay in either Portland or Hood River for these. The distances are small):
- the scenic drive through the gorge & visiting all the waterfalls. On a weekday even Multnomah Falls isn't that crowded.
- Watching the kiteboarding people in Hood River (from wherever is warm enough)
- Scenic drive up through orchards from Hood River to picnic in Parkdale (alternately - the extremely slow but congenial tourist train might be more friendly for a group too big to fit in one car)
posted by janell at 1:03 PM on March 15

Beacon Rock. Hike up it.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:11 PM on March 15

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