Experience the wilds of Oregon on this iconic highway.
Oregon is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Besides being an absolutely beautiful corner of the country, it’s filled with plenty to see and do. With endless waterfall hikes, skiing opportunities, campsites, and other activities, to say that a trip here would be “exciting” is an understatement. The Mt. Hood Scenic Byway is a great way to immerse yourself in the Oregon wilderness. Along the way, you’ll visit part of the famed Columbia River Highway, and the lesser-known but totally adorable Fruit Loop. Here are our tips and suggestions for planning the perfect Oregon excursion!
Begin your Oregon tour in the Mount Hood National Forest with a gorgeous hike.
Dive right into the Mount Hood National Forest with a hike along the Salmon River Trail. It’s a 7.8-mile round trip beast of a trail, and it is utterly stunning. You follow the hike along the banks of the rushing Salmon River and then wind your way high above the canyon, through dense temperate rainforests and past waterfalls and over rustic footbridges. Winding switchbacks give way to soaring overlooks highlighting the most incredible scenery in all of Oregon. You don’t have to tackle the whole trail, since the beginning is quite beautiful in and of itself, but if you’re up for a day hike, it’s hard to beat the Salmon River Trail.
Mt. Hood is home to the Mt. Hood Skibowl Adventure Park, which is the perfect place to spend a full day playing for kids and adults alike. With zip lines, treetop ropes courses, mini golf, climbing walls, sky chair rides, and more, it’s got something for everyone. The famed Alpine Slide is a must-do for anyone who has never had the pleasure of experiencing the thrill of speeding down a mountain track at speeds up to 37 MPH. The Adventure Park’s slide is half-a-mile long and drops 350 feet, making it totally adrenaline-rushing.
Tip: Mt. Hood’s Skibowl is actually a great place to ski during the winter, too! They also have cosmic snow tubing, which features icy chutes lit up in mesmerizing color.
The state of Oregon is home to hundreds of waterfalls… around 238 to be exact. Tamanawas Falls near Mount Hood is another stunning cascade that’s worth a visit. The hike out is an easy 3.4-mile trail along the streams and through woodland. Tamanawas Falls is extra cool because if you peek behind the water, you’ll see that it hides a large dry cave that you can go inside. Take a breather and eat lunch behind the waterfall for a fairy-tale-worthy experience before heading back!
3. Ramona Falls
The water at Ramona Falls cascades from the Sandy Driver down a 120-foot stair-stepped basalt cliff, giving it a delicate, lacy look. The grotto is a very fragile ecosystem, so tread lightly and make sure to clean up after yourself, and others along the trail. There aren’t many waterfalls like this around, and as you hike along you can even see the faint remains of a volcanic lava flow from a Mt. Hood eruption hundreds of years ago.
Tip: Leave about 5 hours for the 6.9 mile round-trip hike… there’s a tiny bit of an elevation gain, and you’ll want to leave time to enjoy the waterfall. Oh, and dogs are welcome!
If you start to notice lots of fruit stands off the road, then you’ll know that you’re in the Fruit Loop region of Mount Hood County. Vineyards, you-pick farms, orchards, and more dot the landscape, taking advantage of the ample rainfall and rich, volcanic soil in Oregon. Mt. View Orchards is open from July-November, selling whatever is fresh and in-season. Apples, pears, peaches, cherries, plums, berries, seasonal vegetables, fresh cider, dried fruit, sauces, fruit butters, local honey and more stock the fruit stand, making it a great place to stock up on snacks and enjoy the scenery.
Tip: Say hello to Carlos the Steer!
As you make your way back towards the Columbia River Highway, stop for a bite to eat at The Gorge White House. They have a food cart that serves up farm-fresh eats, including a killer burger and an incredible green chile grilled cheese. It’s also a historic working farm that sells fresh-cut flowers, seasonal fruits and veggies, and house-crafted fruit wine and hard cider.
Tip: Try Bosc pear wine, tart cherry cider, or another local craft beer at their onsite tap/tasting room!
6. Cascade Locks / Portland East KOA
You can stay the night in the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge at the Cascade Locks / Portland East KOA. Rent a bike from the campground and explore the historic town of Cascade Locks (where you can see the 19th-century locks that tamed the wild Columbia River) or the Larch Mountains, and then cozy up at night in a cabin, tent, or your RV. They also have a pool and a hot tub where you can cool off or relax after a long day of hiking!
Back on the Columbia River Highway, you’ll find even more waterfall beauty. Metlako Falls is a punchbowl waterfall on Eagle Creek, and it’s named for the Mazama tribe’s goddess of salmon. This is the first waterfall you’ll reach on the Eagle Creek Trail, about a mile and a half down the path. It’s also the tallest waterfall on the trail, and it’s incredibly impressive.
8. Tunnel Falls
Further along the Eagle Creek Trail, you’ll pass Punchbowl Falls and then reach the most epic waterfall on the trail: Tunnel Falls. 20th century trail-builders blasted a tunnel into the basalt cliff behind the cascade, making a slightly slippery but completely incredible way to get right up close to the waterfall. If you continue even further down the trail, another half-a-mile or so, you can see the two-tiered Twister Falls, which are also totally awesome.
This article appears courtesy of Roadtrippers.