In the words of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together”. Towards the end of an ambitious two week road trip from LA to Seattle, I blocked off a whole day for a scenic drive to Mt.Hood and back from Portland that promised waterfalls, islands, lakes, Stanley Kubrick, bridges and breweries. It sounds like a no brainer, and it is, but after so much driving up the coast, there was a certain temptation to stay put and explore Portland on foot. Thankfully though, despite an almighty collective hangover from an absurd night at Cascade Brewing, we roused ourselves early doors for a truly memorable and magical day out. Read on for our efficient itinerary.
N.B. I’ve borrowed some photos to go alongside mine, with credit attached where appropriate. Also, keep an eye out for links to site-specific music that we listened to on our road trip.
8am – Much needed coffee in Portland at Fresh Pot round the corner from our Airbnb.
9am – A half hour drive out of the city along the I-84 and then the Historic Columbia River Highway took us to Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, which has great views of Vista House. More importantly, we spotted someone selling “Jerky Raspberries” on the side of the road – at least, that’s what we gathered from the sign.
9.30am – On to Vista House itself at Crown Point, a scenic rest spot for travellers that was built in 1917, and renovated in 2005 after five years of refurbishment.
10am – We ignored TLC and went chasing waterfalls. There are loads to choose from on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge – see a full list here. We started with the beautiful 620ft Multnomah Falls, a very popular tourist destination which is easily reached from the road. You can take a 2.4 mile trail to the top of the falls, plus a further 6 miles to the top of Larch Mountain if you so wish.
10.30am – On the advice of Laura from Travel Portland who we had met with previous day, we hiked a short distance to Upper Horsetail Falls, also known as Ponytail Falls. Before making the plunge over the main Horsetail Falls, the water shoots through a narrow crack and forms a pool, with a trail passing behind. It’s a breathtaking hideaway where one could spend hours relaxing by the water’s edge.
11.30am – No road trip is complete without beer, and the Columbia Gorge seriously delivers with 12 breweries open in the region at the time of writing. Breweries in the Gorge has all the latest info and a handy map & passport. We didn’t make it to all of them, but we did manage to tick off four, starting with Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks. Grab a flight and some food and sit outside with peaceful views of the water. The fairy lit beer garden no doubt comes in to its own at sunset and after dark. Definitely one not to miss.
2pm – After some sunbathing / sprinkler dodging / Geocaching on Thunder Island (reached by a footbridge from Cascade Locks), we got back in the car and crossed over the impressive Bridge of the Gods to the Washington side of the gorge with Disney’s Hercules blasting out of the speakers. The steel truss cantilever bridge was built in 1926. We then drove along a particularly stunning section of the 14 “Lewis & Clark Highway” that keeps you close to the water with a picturesque railroad running alongside. Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” provided the soundtrack.
2.30pm – We skipped Walking Man Brewing & Backwoods Brewing Company, and pushed on to Everybody’s Brewing in the town of White Salmon. The family friendly pub has a wide range of beers, and an awesome terrace out back with views of Mount Hood. An intriguing chocolate sea salt sour went down very nicely.
3.30pm – The Hood River Bridge took us back in to Oregon, and unsurprisingly, the slanted city of Hood River. We dropped in on Pfriem Family Brewers for a barrel-aged beer or two, and poked our heads in to a Logsdon Farmhouse Ales taproom which has since closed. Their farm brewery in nearby Booth Hill is not open to the public, but you can usually find their superior Belgian-inspired beers at Volcanic Bottle Shoppe in Hood River. If you’ve got time, pay a visit to Full Sail Brewing, Big Horse Brewery and Double Mountain Brewery (who also serve up good looking brick oven pizzas).
5pm – Moving on, we drove south on the 35 towards Mt.Hood through the Hood River Valley which is known for its apples, pears and cherries. To see the local produce put to good use, check out Phelps Creek Vineyards, Solera Brewery and Gorge White House, all of which have enviable mountain views. We stopped at the latter for flights of hard cider and moreish cheese sticks. N.B. They have a food cart on site, but it’s not open everyday, so check ahead.
6.30pm – Regaining focus after a decent amount of booze, we drove for an hour, ignoring the likes of Tamanawas Falls and Buzzard Point to get to Trillium Lake. It’s an idyllic body of water in the shadow of Mt.Hood that’s ideal for camping, swimming, boating and fishing. Make sure you set aside some time for it, as you won’t want to leave. That is, unless you are set upon by some nasty flying bugs as our friend Cath was.
7.30pm – With the sun threatening to set, it was time for the final half hour push up the winding Timberline Highway to reach Timberline Lodge on top of Mt.Hood which many people will recognise as the Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It was only used for exterior shots, so don’t expect to find those funky carpets, elevators full of blood and creepy kids on tricycles inside. Naturally, we put on Berlioz’ iconic Symphonie Fantastique to mirror the film’s opening credits as we approached.
8pm – Our trip happened to coincide with a vintage car show, which afforded interesting photos with Mount Jefferson in the distance. Having reached 6,000ft, it was rather chilly outside, so we bundled into Timberline Lodge for some warming clam chowder and coffee with a view. If you’ve got the cash, stay the night for the full experience, and depending on the weather, go skiing! N.B. Mount Hood is a potentially active volcano, just so you know. Some clever chap made this video of what it might look like if it erupted today – click here.
9pm – After the horrors of The Shining, we opted for kazoos and something more ridiculous on the way down. It’s only a 90 minute drive or so back to downtown Portland, starting on the 26. You can do a much shorter trip than ours if you fancy, but you don’t really want to skip out all the beer and waterfalls now do you? If the sun is still around Jonsrud View Point is worth stopping at, and I’ve marked a couple of food and drink spots on the map below if you are in need of sustenance. For a real Keep Portland Weird experience, head to McMenamins Edgefield for a concert, movie or a drink in one of its many bars after dark.
MATT THE TRIPS | WEST COAST ROAD TRIP
More posts from our West Coast USA adventure