Located an hour away from Portland, Hood River is a vibrant port city along the Columbia River home to a multitude of top-rated attractions and destinations, including some of the finest hiking trails, watersport venues, restaurants, and wineries in the Pacific Northwest.
Nestled amidst a stunning backdrop of the soaring Cascade Mountains and with the Columbia River Gorge right in its yard, Hood River boasts a perfect combination of breathtaking scenery and unforgettable outdoor adventures. In addition to its superb recreational opportunities, at the core of Hood River is an exceptional quality of life, where residents get access to excellent health and social services, highly rated schools, and clean air and streets, all in a close-knit small-town atmosphere.
Searching for the best things to do in Hood River? We’ve got you covered. On this page, we’ll take a closer look at the top activities and destinations you can enjoy in and around the area.
THINGS TO DO IN HOOD RIVER
Hood River’s location north of Mount Hood and at the confluence of the Columbia and Hood rivers creates a rich landscape for agriculture, surrounding the city with acres of apple, cherry, and pear orchards. East of Hood River is an area sitting beneath the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. Due to having significantly less precipitation compared to western Oregon, the landscape in this part of the region consists of rolling hills, dry meadows, and grasslands.
These unique geographical features and diverse types of terrain make Hood River a favorite destination for anyone looking forward to enjoying relaxing getaways and thrilling outdoor adventures. With its convenient location east of Portland and about an hour’s drive away from the Portland International Airport, it’s no wonder why it attracts countless outdoor lovers and nature enthusiasts year after year.
Below are some of the best outdoor destinations and things to do in Hood River.
While Dog Mountain Trail is considered one of the most challenging trails near Hood River, it’s definitely one of the most rewarding, especially during the late spring and early summer when the hillsides are covered by thousands of bright yellow balsamroot wildflowers. In fact, the breathtaking views of the dazzling wildflowers attract so many visitors that a permit system is now in place to limit the number of visitors each day. Head to this page to reserve a permit.
Dog Mountain Trail takes visitors on an incredibly scenic trek through lush forested acres that gradually transition into enchanting alpine meadows. There are multiple ways to reach the top, but if you’re up for a challenge, take the longer loop that uses a section of the Augspurger Trail.
The Coyote Wall trail is a quick 15-minute drive away from Hood River, making it one of the most accessible trails in the city. The trail is open year-round and is surrounded by an incredible display of wildflowers in the late spring. Coyote Wall trail is also a favorite for mountain bikers, but there’s more than enough space and visibility that visitors on foot don’t need to worry about sharing the trails with them.
Discovered by hikers in the early 90s, the trail treats visitors to spectacular views from the Coyote Wall, a soaring columnar basalt cliff hundreds of feet high overlooking grassy slopes and acres of oak woodlands.
The Spirit Falls trail is a short out-and-back hike (just around one mile), but there are some parts with steep inclines, so be sure to bring a walking stick or hiking poles to keep you steady as you navigate the trail. You may want to avoid visiting the trail if it’s been raining since it can get very slippery.
Making your way down may feel like a challenge, but the stunning views of the turquoise waterfalls at the end are well worth it!
Located around half an hour away from Hood River, Beacon Rock is a short but spectacular hike along a scenic section of the Columbia River Gorge. Once you hike up to Beacon Rock, you can enjoy a free tour of Bonneville Lock & Dam, where you can learn about the history of the dam’s construction and the development of navigation systems along the Columbia River.
The trail leading to Beacon Rock is more than a century old, making it one of the oldest trails in the region. It winds along the west side of Beacon Rock and through a series of more than 50 switchbacks. Handrails are built along most sections, but remember to proceed with caution. Most sections are exposed, resulting in many gorgeous panoramic views along the way. But make sure to wear a windbreaker and a hat since the wide-open trails can make for harsher conditions.
The highlight of the trail is, of course, Beacon Rock, a massive 848-foot monolith that’s over 57,000 years old. The rock is an ancient remnant of a cinder cone volcano and is one of the tallest monoliths in the country.
Enjoy a relaxing hike leading to the serene shores of the Columbia River in downtown Hood River. The path is right along the edge of the Columbia River, extending east of the Interstate Bridge towards a narrow hook on the west. It takes you across a bridge over the river and connects to the downtown area, before branching into several paths leading towards the sail and kite surfing beaches.
The trail takes roughly an hour and a half to complete and is perfect if you want to enjoy a picnic surrounded by spectacular views of the marina and Waterfront Park.
One of the best things to do in Hood River is windsurfing. In fact, the city is known as the “Windsurfing Capital of the World” for its world-class windsurfing spots scattered across the Columbia River.
The Columbia River Gorge creates ideal conditions for year-round windsurfing. Lining the gorge are rock walls rising 1,400 to over 4,000 feet high above the water, allowing wind to flow through the canyons directly into Hood River.
Top windsurfing spots in and around Hood River include:
- The Hatch –The premier windsurfing spot on the Columbia, The Hatch attracts countless experienced windsurfers and freestyle riders from around the world with its strong winds and gigantic swells. For less advanced windsurfers, this is the perfect spot to witness elite riders in action.
- The Hook – For novice windsurfers, The Hook is the perfect place to learn the ropes. Waters here are shielded from strong winds and currents, and there’s a shallow part along the perimeter ideal for practicing water starts. If you’re a first-time windsurfer, stop by The Hook during the summer if you want to get lessons from local windsurfing shops.
- Rooster Rock – Located around 40 minutes west of Hood River in Corbett, OR, Rooster Rock is a prime windsurfing spot, especially in the fall, when the east eastern winds and currents are at their best and the water temperatures are above the 50s. The current can feel strong since this particular section of the Columbia River is quite narrow, but the long beach and common gale-force winds make this a minor issue.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill and excitement you get when you experience the raw speed and power of a rushing river. While there are several beginner-friendly runs, most whitewater runs in the Hood River area are recommended for experienced rafters, so hiring a professional river rafting guide is encouraged.
Some of the best rafting runs near hood River include:
- Hood River West Fork– November to April is the best time to go rafting on the Hood River West Fork. While it is narrow at the put-in, it builds up gradually to adrenaline-pumping rapids as you go along.
- Deschutes River– One of the most popular rafting rivers in Oregon, the Deschutes River is perfect for novices, families, and seasoned rafters looking forward to an unforgettable whitewater adventure. Rafting on the Deschutes ranges from fun half-day trips to five-day river excursions that cover more than a hundred miles.
- Wind River – Located about 25 miles northwest of Hood River, the Wind River is one of the most exciting and challenging rafting destinations in the country, featuring Class IV and V rapids in some stretches.
- White Salmon River –Head north of Hood River to get access to the mouths of both While Salmon and Little White Salmon, both featuring rafting runs and tours suitable for all experience levels.
There are many providers of guided whitewater tours in the Hood River area. To ensure a safe and enjoyable rafting trip, look into certified professionals with excellent safety records such as:
As the #1 exporter of pears in the country, Hood River is home to an array of farms, orchards, and fields, many offering tours, workshops, and fun activities and events throughout the year.
Visit The Farm Place at Packer Farm for a variety of local fruits and vegetables. Stop by the bakery for orchard fresh fruit, homemade baked goods, fruit milkshakes, and hand-dipped ice cream, and enjoy a picnic at their beautiful picnic area.
The Farm Place organizes a variety of fun family-friendly events throughout the year including the Fall Festival, Sunflower Festival, Sunflowers After Hours, Pie Tasting, Halloween Haunted Corn Maze, Ladybug Release, and more!
Enjoy a relaxing 35-mile drive on scenic country roads winding through Hood River Valley’s farmlands, orchards, and forests. This self-guided tour takes you to the finest wineries, breweries, cideries, bakeries, flower fields, and on-farm fruit stands in the region.
Head to this page for a printable copy of the Fruit Loop Map.
In case you want to take a break from exploring the great outdoors, Hood River features many top-rated museums covering a wide variety of subjects, from local history, wildlife, airplanes and automobiles, and many more.
One of Oregon’s most popular attractions, Vista House was built in 1917 originally as a comfort station for pioneers making their way down the Columbia River Gorge. Today, the beautiful octagonal house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a museum and viewpoint commemorating Oregon’s pioneers.
Referred to as the crown jewel of Oregon Parks, Vista House offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. Its location along the Historic Columbia River Highway makes it one of the most accessible viewpoints in the area, which is why it draws countless visitors every year.
There’s more to Vista House than the spectacular scenery, however. Visitors can also discover the fascinating stories behind the building and the gorge. Within the museum are eight pillars, each with a panel explaining a key event in the house’s history.
Spread across two acres, the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) is home to hundreds of vintage aircraft and automobiles, including one of the largest collections of operational antique planes and cars in the country.
In addition to its impressive display of aircraft and automobiles, WAAAM features an extensive array of motorcycles, tractors, military jeeps, and engines as well. Drop by on the second Saturday of every month if you want to see some of their airplanes and vehicles in action.
Located about ten minutes away from downtown Hood River, The History Museum of Hood River County features a wide variety of exhibits and programs covering the area’s early settlers, logging, agriculture, Native American culture, and more. For families, one of the museum’s highlights is the Exploration Space, a section filled with interactive displays and fun activities for kids.
The museum also offers a 90-minute walking tour of downtown Hood River, which gives visitors an in-depth look at the history of the frontier and the stories behind the many notable buildings and points of interest in Hood River’s historic downtown.
Hood River might be a small city, but it certainly has its fair share of terrific dining destinations that are guaranteed to satisfy your cravings. Whether you’re planning a brunch get-together with friends, celebrating a special occasion, or just out for a quick bite, Hood River’s restaurants are sure to please.
Be sure to check out some of these top-rated restaurants in Hood River:
- Boda’s Kitchen
- Celilo Restaurant & Bar
- Crush Cider Cafe
- Grasslands Barbecue
- Solstice Wood Fire Pizza
- pFriem Family Brewers
- Lake Taco
- Pine Street Bakery
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN HOOD RIVER
When you live in Hood River, there’s always something to celebrate! Every year, locals and visitors look forward to an exciting lineup of signature events such as:
- Hood River Cider Fest (Spring) –Sample more than 40 ciders on tap crafted by the top cider makers from Oregon and Washington. In addition to more than 20 cideries, the daylong event also features an array of local craft and food vendors and a kids’ play area with yard games.
- Hood River Valley Harvest Fest (Fall)– All of the finest farms and orchards in Hood River Valley come together at the Annual Harvest Fest, filling stands with impressive displays of pears, apples, squash, flowers, herbs, and other artisanal goods.
- Hood River Hops Fest (Fall) – Get a taste of outstanding fresh-hopped beer creations from over 30 of the best breweries in Hood River County at the annual Hood River Hops Fest.
For upcoming events in Hood River, check out this page.
LIVING IN HOOD RIVER
A varied selection of stylish and well-built properties is available for those interested in relocating to Hood River. Real estate options in the area include a wide variety of single-family residences, from comfortable bungalows and cottages to sprawling contemporary ranch homes highlighted by breathtaking views of the Columbia River.
Take a look at some of the finest properties available in Hood River here.
WORK WITH THE JDRE TEAM TO FIND YOUR DREAM HOME IN HOOD RIVER TODAY!
The JDRE Team is ready to go above and beyond to help you find the perfect home in Hood River that matches your lifestyle.
As one of the top real estate teams serving the Columbia River Gorge, we are known for providing unparalleled customer service backed by our experience, contemporary marketing strategies, deep local knowledge, and passion for what we do.