Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge Day Trip Itinerary

Last Updated on

by Audrey Webster

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

By combining a Mt. Hood day trip with Columbia River Gorge, you’re in for a day filled with beautiful sites and adventure.

Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge are two of the most popular sites around Portland, Oregon where you can choose to stop at local breweries, take hikes, visit waterfalls, and much more. While both destinations do see a lot of traffic, there are lesser-known sites that will make your day unique.

Getting to Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge from Portland

By Car

If you want the freedom to fully customize your day trip to Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, you should opt to drive.

The favored scenic loop tour begins and ends in Portland and passes all the best parts surrounding Mount Hood and the Gorge. Start by taking Interstate 84 toward Hood River. I-84 runs through the Columbia River Gorge directly beside the Columbia River.

To the right is a tall hillside where waterfalls and hikes are located, to the left is the famous Columbia River. The interstate will take you past some of the Gorge’s most renowned sites like Multnomah Falls and the Vista House.

There are plenty of exits along I-84 to pull off for gas or snacks during your journey. Keep in mind that from May of 2022, a permit is required to access this part of the highway. You can purchase tickets online here.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

The drive from Portland to Multnomah Falls takes about 30 minutes. Continue driving for another 15 minutes before arriving at Cascade Locks where the famous Bridge of the Gods resides.

Scattered along I-84 are several hikes to outlooks and waterfalls. Some visitors opt to cross the Bridge of the Gods into Washington State where they can climb Dog Mountain for epic views of the Gorge or see the White Salmon River. Keep in mind that there is usually a line to cross the Bridge of the Gods, but the view while traversing it is epic.

Another 40 minutes of driving beyond Cascade Locks takes visitors to Hood River. Hood River is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. It also boasts several dining and shopping options while overlooking a section of the Columbia River. In the summertime, consider, as well, visiting Hood River Lavender Farm.

After Hood River, head south along Highway 35 toward Mt. Hood. On an average day, the drive from Hood River to Mt. Hood is usually one hour. Keep in mind that on a sunny weekend day there is usually heavy traffic the closer you get to Mt. Hood.

Visiting the area surrounding Mt. Hood is filled with hikes and waterfalls that visitors and locals love exploring. When leaving Mt. Hood, take Highway 26 back to Portland. You’ll pass through Sandy River and Gresham before arriving back in Portland. 

Alternatively, visitors can choose to skip the scenic loop and focus on one area. A day spent around Mount Hood or driving through the Columbia River Gorge is a day well spent.

If you need to rent a car for this trip, check out to find a great deal. Alternatively, you can rent RVs or campervans from Outdoorsy if this day trip is part of a longer West Coast road trip such as from Portland to San Francisco or Portland to Boise.

Driving towards Mount Hood
Driving towards Mount Hood

By Tour

You don’t need a car to experience everything Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge have to offer. If you’d rather spend a day marveling at the sites around Mt. Hood or a day dedicated to exploring the Gorge, consider booking a guided tour through those areas.

One option is this full day tour that includes visits to some of Mt. Hood wineries, waterfalls, and viewpoints, including the historic Timberline Lodge. Alternatively, this group day tour focuses on the natural beauty of Mt Hood and Columbia River Gorge visiting many sites outlined in this itinerary.

Both tour options for your Mount Hood day trip from Portland include knowledgeable guides and hotel transfers.

Lavender flowers near Mt. Hood
Lavender flowers near Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge Day Trip Itinerary

Vista House

As you’re driving through the Gorge, look up to the right and you’ll see a small white structure on the top of the cliff. This is Vista House, a museum at Crown Point that is also a memorial for Oregon pioneers.

Visitors enjoy stopping here because of the stunning views over the Gorge that it provides. The house was built in 1917 and can easily be accessed by bike or car. It was originally built as a place for travelers to rest and reset before continuing their journey down the Columbia River Gorge.

Visitors to the Vista House learn about local history, plant life in the region, and the geology of the Gorge. It’s a perfect first stop. 

Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls

If you’ve been researching for a trip to the Pacific Northwest, you’ve most likely come across Multnomah Falls as an iconic site in the Columbia River Gorge. This two-tier waterfall can be seen from I-84.

Visitors can opt for a hike to the top of the falls or enjoy them from the bridge that spans across the top of the lower tier. At a total of 620 feet tall, with the upper falls at 542 feet and the lower falls at 69 feet, Multnomah Falls is an impressive site any time of year.

Nearby the Multnomah, you’ll find Wahkeena Falls – a 242-foot subtle cascade waterfall. If you want to see another favorite waterfall and are up for a short hike, check out the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop.

In total, the loop is about 9 miles and passes through a beautiful forest. Both falls are hallmarks of the Columbia River Gorge. 

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

Bridge of the Gods

Those familiar with Wild, book or movie, will recognize the Bridge of the Gods. Backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail cross the bridge on their journey from Mexico to Canada. This steel truss cantilever bridge reaches across the Columbia River just east of Cascade Locks.

Crossing the bridge offers lovely views of the Gorge. Visitors should keep in mind that there is a small toll to cross the bridge in both directions.

Around 1100 CE the first natural Bridge of the Gods was created from a landslide between Table Mountain and the wall of the Columbia River Gorge. This was sturdy enough for Native Americans to safely travel across the river. In the 1690s, the original Bridge of the Gods collapsed.

In 1926, the Bridge of the Gods as we know it today was built. Charles Lindbergh was drawn to the bridge in 1927 to daringly fly his plane under it.

A day trip to Columbia River Gorge isn’t complete without a visit to the Bridge of the Gods.

Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods

Hood River Breweries

Hood River is well-known for its breweries and outdoor activities. Double Mountain, Full Sail, and pFriem are three major breweries whose craft beers you can find in stores all over Oregon and Washington.

Visiting these breweries is a favorite activity for locals and visitors. Many of the Hood River breweries lie along the Columbia River and provide excellent views of the Gorge. During the summer, visitors can catch a glimpse of kiteboarders gliding through the water surface and views of Mount Hood towering in the distance.

Hood River has grown to become a top-notch destination for beer connoisseurs. They produce world-class brews and boast the awards to prove it. 

Cooper Spur Trail

Beginning at Cloud Cap Trailhead, the trail to Cooper Spur is one of the most stunning around Mt. Hood. However, hikers should keep in mind that this climb is not for the faint of heart.

The hike clocks in around 7 miles with 2,680 elevation gain. Cooper Spur is the highest point on the mountain that can be reached by trail. The route also passes an old stone structure, one of many that were built alongside sections of the Timberline Trail.

There are several trails to reach Cooper Spur summit, varying in difficulty and length. Make sure you do your research and choose the hike that best suits your interests and fitness level.

Mount Hood Meadows

Whether you’re visiting during the winter or summer, Mount Hood Meadows offers lovely views and outdoor activities. During the summer, the area is covered in lush greenery, colorful wildflowers, and flowing streams. A visit in early-mid summer grants visitors with views of Mount Hood dotted with snow patches.

Visitors can hike in the area or simply picnic at Meadows to enjoy the view. Winter transforms Meadows into one of the area’s favorite ski and snowboarding resorts. On a clear day, those visiting in winter earn stunning views of Mt. Hood while sliding down its mountainside.

As the largest ski resort on Mount Hood, Meadows is a must-stop for those looking for winter outdoor activity during their visit, but it’s a good stop on your Mt. Hood itinerary any time of year. 

Mt. Hood Skibowl

Mt. Hood Skibowl is located in Government Camp, just west of Meadows, and along Highway 26 that visitors will take back to Portland. Similar to Meadows, visitors can enjoy this site all year round. The summer reveals a giant slide carved into the hillside that visitors can slide down after purchasing a ticket.

During the winter, Skibowl is known for its after-dark skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. These hills are less intimidating than the ones at Meadows, making them ideal if you’re traveling with small children.

Government Camp is a perfect stop during a day trip to Mt. Hood, offering several lodging and dining options for a lunch or dinner stop after enjoying Skibowl.

Skiing in Mt Hood
Skiing in Mt Hood

Have more time? 

If you have a little more time to spare, consider these additional stops for unique Pacific Northwest experiences. 

Cascade Streamwatch

Most of us are used to seeing streams from aboveground, but what might they offer if you would see them from underwater?

Located in the Wildwood Recreation Area, the Cascade Streamwatch takes visitors into a structure built partially underwater, allowing them to witness the ecosystem at work. There are multiple short loop trails in the area, with an average distance of 4.5 miles.

This is an easy trail for all levels of hikers and available all year round. Guests should keep an eye out for Coho salmon, especially during the migration season and enjoy the beautiful scenery surrounding the Salmon River. 

Tamanawas Falls

Not far from the Cooper Spur Trailhead is another trailhead leading to Tamanawas Falls. This dramatic waterfall cascades into a rocky basin and over a steep cavern which lends to its impressive stature. It’s one of the most photographed waterfalls around Mt. Hood during both winter and summer.

The winter months often halt the flow of water, leaving small amounts of water and large icicles hanging over the edge of the falls. The hike to the falls is an easy 3.5 miles. Visitors might opt to snowshoe during the winter. It’s a good option for a short afternoon hike near Mt. Hood. 

Mt. View Orchards

Mt. View Orchards is one of the best places for apples and pears near Mt. Hood. On a cloudless day, visitors can clearly see Mount Hood in the backdrop of rows and rows of apple and pear trees. Mt. View makes their own beer and hard cider. They also have a winery and regularly host weddings.

The orchard reaches 50 acres and is located near Parkdale, Oregon. It’s been family-owned for more than 50 years, producing top-notch fruit for local communities. Mt. View is open to the public seven days a week July to October. 

Apple orchards near Hood River
Apple orchards near Hood River

Where to Stay in Portland

The Society Hotel – Situated just outside of Old Town Portland, this chic hotel is perfect for those after a central place to stay in the Rose City. There are plenty of modern rooms, an on-site restaurant and an excellent daily breakfast.

Kimpton Riverplace Hotel – Situated overlooking the Willamette River, this luxe hotel is perfect for visitors looking for an upscale stay. There’s a great restaurant, breakfast daily, private parking and they are even pet-friendly.

Private Rental – There are plenty of private rentals – such as this quaint, centrally located house – that can suit all kinds of visitors no matter what you’re after. It’s a great option if you want the comforts of home rather than a hotel.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Portland!

View of Portland, Oregon
View of Portland, Oregon

There are countless places to explore along the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood, even if you’re only able to visit within the confines of a day. There is something for everyone to enjoy, anything from hiking to apple picking.

Are you planning to visit the Columbia River Gorge or Mt. Hood? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

Like It? Pin It!
Avatar photo

Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

Leave a Comment