A few days in Hood River and Portland OR
August 30, 2023 7:50 AM   Subscribe

In mid-October, we're flying into Portland, then driving out to Hood River for a wedding. We'll have a few free days. Friends and past MeFi posts have given us a few ideas but we have a couple of specific questions.

Here's who we are: two adults, two teenagers, fairly athletic but from sea level, so hikes at altitude might be a challenge.
Here's what we know, or think we know:
In Portland, check out Powell's City of Books and Quarterworld arcade, and trails at nearby Forest Park. (Seems vast, any suggestions on good trails?)
In Hood River ... well, wow. Definitely appreciate past posts linking to Oregon Hiker and NW Hiker websites, but it's almost too much.
We've had a couple of recommendations on hikes: Wahclella Falls, Trillium Lake, Mirror Lake, and MeFites seem to love the Cooper Spur hike, but the last may be too much for a couple of us.
So, here's the ask:
- Any other good stuff for nerdy people in Portland?
- Your take on any of the hikes we mentioned?
- Suggestions for hikes that are somewhere between the easy (which too often are flat, clear, paved trails) and moderates (which at least on the websites can be scrambles at altitude)?
- Do we need the Annual Northwest Forest Pass to access many/most of the good trails?
- Affordable and good bike tour companies?
- Any big changes to Portland or the trail scene in the last year?
- The kiddos have never seen the Pacific. If we want to make a run to the ocean, what's a good place to do so without driving forever?
posted by martin q blank to Travel & Transportation around Hood River County, OR (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you’re planning to hike in the gorge I wouldn’t bother with Forest Park, there’s nothing particularly scenic in there, just a whole lot of, you know, forest, and it gets muddy when the rains start. Instead, do a waterfront loop on the Willamette downtown and on the Eastbank Esplanade, I like to go from the Tilikum Crossing to the Steel Bridge and back, and you could also sneak in a ride up the Portland Aerial Tram, it’s just south of the Tilikum.

The closest coastal towns are Seaside and Cannon Beach, about 90 minutes away. CB is a lot prettier, but can get very very crowded on the weekends, even in the off season.

All the hikes you mention are pretty, but you’re right, Cooper Spur is kind of a lot. You could also drive a little east of Hood River and check out the Rowena Crest trail, the views up there are spectacular and it’s more likely to be dry.
posted by outfielder at 8:14 AM on August 30 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In Portland, check out Powell's City of Books and Quarterworld arcade

If you are at Powell's, Ground Kontrol, the other big classic arcade in town is mere blocks away, and Next Level is in Hillsboro, which is a short drive away.

We've had a couple of recommendations on hikes: Wahclella Falls, Trillium Lake, Mirror Lake

Mirror lake is indeed a great hike, but don't do it on a weekend. It can get more crowded than is my liking. If you do hike to mirror lake, and your party is up to it, continuing to the top of Tom, Dick, and Harry mountain is very rewarding.

if you feel like a casual picnic on Mt. Hood, Frog Lake is nice and is close to the trail to Twin Lakes.

Cooper Spur is an incredible experience, but it is challenging and I would not recommend attempting it casually.

Further south is Silver Falls which is fabulous. and if you feel like continuing to Salem. Konditorei is a nice place to get some cake and a snapshot of another era.

The kiddos have never seen the Pacific. If we want to make a run to the ocean, what's a good place to do so without driving forever?

Neskowin is off the beaten path and has a beach with a petrified forest on it, and access to trails.

Regardless of where you go, if you are doing outdoor activities, expect to be wet.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:48 AM on August 30 [5 favorites]

Just got back from a road trip to Oregon beaches. Our favorites were Neskowin beach and Pacific City Beach (which has a giant sand dune that's fun to hike up and then run down). For either of those, it's about a two hour drive to Portland, and halfway there you can stop in McMinnville and see the museum that houses the Spruce Goose.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:55 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think if you're in the Gorge, you gotta check out Multnomah Falls. In October, especially if you can get there on a weekday, it should be pretty un-crowded. There's an easy path up to the bridge, and you can go to the top of the falls if you want more of a hike.

West of Multnomah Falls, there's a ton of smaller waterfalls that each have varying amounts of trails. These are along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is a lovely drive from Troutdale to Multnomah Falls (and beyond). The views from the Vista House at Crown Point are breathtaking.

I can't recommend any specific tour groups, but this site has a few options for you. The Shanghai Tunnels tour is great if you're into that.
posted by hydra77 at 9:27 AM on August 30 [1 favorite]

Ramona Falls is a good but not too hard hike on Hood. I wouldn't worry too much about altitude; most of the places on Hood that you can go are not high enough that you'd be likely to feel the difference. You could also go hang out at Timberline Lodge and get a meal or a drink if you head up to Hood.
posted by knownfossils at 10:53 AM on August 30

I think that Timberline Lodge is pretty amazing and there is the Zigzag Overlook hike which starts there. The lodge was built in the '30s by the WPA and its exterior was used in The Shining.
posted by elmay at 12:55 PM on August 30

Best answer: Altitude shouldn't really be an issue unless you're way up on Mt Hood and doing something super hardcore. Portland is about 50' above sea level, and our highest point in town is 1,073 feet.

I'd also skip Forest Park and urban hikes in Portland since you are going to Hood River and the Gorge. Forest Park is great when you are trying to get some woodsy time in-town, but I'd focus on city things here in Portland. (And if you do go to Forest Park, hike the Wildwood Trail.)

Are your teens into thrift shops at all? There's a bustling thrift store scene along SE Hawthorne Ave, along with a bunch of shops and restaurants. Portland has some great neighborhoods, so if you can get out of downtown (like where Powell's is) and into one of the neighborhood commercial districts, you'll get a better feel for what it's like here.

Yes, for sure bring a raincoat. Downpours are uncommon but drizzle is almost guaranteed depending on what time of the month you're here.

Multnomah Falls is between Portland and Hood River. There's a lung-busting relatively short hike you can do up to the top. It's pretty neat and you get some great views.

To get out to the coast: you can take a nice drive to Astoria along the Columbia River and then go south to Cannon Beach, then back to Portland. Or reserve directions. Cannon Beach has some big chunky rocks on the beach and is pretty cool. The town is more upscale tourist. Astoria is more of a regular small town that happens to be in a spectacular setting. Walk or drive up to the Astoria Column for some pretty amazing views. You'll be adding quite a bit of driving for this trip. Plan to spend a day doing it, though you could probably get back to Portland for dinner if you didn't want to linger.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:20 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]

The main drag in Hood River is a nice 2 or 3 blocks, but I have fond eating memories of hopping in the car, driving up the hill to The Pine Street Bakery.

I doubt the farmer's market will still be running then, but it's one of my small-town-America favorites.
posted by morspin at 3:53 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did Trillum Lake with my partner just few weeks ago, it was gorgeous! I'm out of shape and pretty low-stamina these days, and the 2-mile lake trail was perfect for me: it was flat with no challenging terrain (just had to navigate around some trail work being done, but those were just short detours onto a less-well-worn path), but long enough that it felt like a worthwhile endeavor. We sat by the lake and had a picnic afterward. I wasn't able to get into the water because of a fresh tattoo, but lots of people were swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking--there's a board and kayak rental place right there.

We did need some sort of pass, which was $5 at the Mt. Hood Visitor Center (vs. $10 if you buy on-site at the actual parks) and it was good for pretty much everywhere in the area we might have wanted to park and do a day hike.

We had a surprisingly excellent breakfast at Dragonfly Cafe in Welches, which is where we stayed. Definitely recommended if you're passing through at food time.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:25 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: hey, thanks everyone! sorely tempted to "best answer" all of your replies but I'd probably violate some sort of secret MeFi etiquette rule. I saw a previous Portland post where the poster came back and reported what they did; I'll try to remember to do the same. Again, thanks!
posted by martin q blank at 7:11 PM on August 30

Best answer: Agree on Multnomah Falls and Trillium Lake - which doesn't even have to be a hike if you just want to get a sunset pic.
Beacon Rock Trail is another good option.
Mount Hood Railbikes aren't actual bikes but was kind of fun/unique, if a little touristy and slow.
See if the kids are interested in any of the Mt. Hood Skibowl activities if available - the ski lift and alpine slide were fun as part of a summer wedding, but not sure about October timing.
Would you want to drive out for a day at Mt St Helens? There is also lava tube Ape Cave nearby.
In Portland, lots of parks/gardens (International Rose Test Gardens in Washington Park, Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, The Grotto) and food (Vietnamese, ice cream, coffee, tea) - see more research/links here near end.
Agree on Astoria (fly a glider from the Column) and Cannon Beach (Haystack Rock is iconic) for coastal stops - Lewis and Clark National Historical Park also in the area - if you do want to make the extra drive.
posted by eyeball at 7:24 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed visiting Floating World Comics for their large selection of independent and small-press comics.

Movie Madness has a well-curated selection of physical media, with highly-specialized categories.

The Pittock Mansion is a superb house to visit, with a terrific view of the city.
posted by JDC8 at 6:28 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the hiking, but a great little getaway to the ocean is to Rockaway Beach. It's about a 2 hour drive from Portland. The town of Rockaway is a neat little town with cool little shops and several good restaurants, and the beach itself is wide and long and open, so even if it's a super nice day you'll never feel crowded on the beach if you want to dip your toes in the (cold!) water.

As a bonus, the drive down from where Hwy 26 turns into 101 down the beach gives you some glorious views of the ocean and the beach from on high.
posted by pdb at 12:13 PM on August 31 [1 favorite]

Here are some October-y things to do!

The many farms of Sauvie Island so many pumpkins to see
https://spiritofhalloweentown.com/ will be in full swing
posted by fillsthepews at 2:14 PM on September 1 [1 favorite]

« Older Good places to work remotely in Downtown Annapolis...   |   Mother problems Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments