What do you get when you take Portland’s amazing food and beverage culture, and combine it with the majestic natural backdrop of the Pacific Northwest? The Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge Region.
One to two hours by car from PDX airport depending on the destination, the endlessly scenic area is home to America’s longest ski season, countless breweries and wineries, expansive museums and amazing driving roads. If you’re planning a visit, here are DARPAN’s favourite places to hit up.
Standing at 3,426 metres, Mt. Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon (OR), and a big draw for winter sports enthusiasts, hikers, climbers and sightseers alike. At the base is the town of Government Camp, and nearby is Mt. Hood Village comprised of a handful of communities including Brightwood, Welches and Rhododendron.
Situated near the base of Mt. Hood, one might not expect to find a cozy restaurant serving up Japanese cuisine and an authentic saké menu showcasing local and imported varieties. There’s a long list of rolls, but for a more substantial meal try either the savoury yakisoba ($10, stir fried noodles with cabbage, green onions, Kewpie mayo and pickled ginger) or the fried rice version, yakimeshi ($12, shiitake and wood ear mushrooms, nori and a runny fried egg). Both have a choice of protein: organic tofu, chicken or pork.
A flight of three sakés is an ideal accessory to the meal. Starting at $6, another great way to go is asking the barkeep to put together a custom set. For example, a cedar aged offering from Nara Prefecture, premium single malt from Ibaraki, and one brewed using Mt. Rokkō infused water from Hyōgo.
Dragonfly Café and Bakery
Begin your day on a tasty note and grab one of the biggest and softest cinnamon buns found anywhere on the west coast. Freshly baked every morning at this friendly neighbourhood café in Welches, OR, a bun and cup of signature Mt. Hood Roasters coffee will run you the exact tax-free amount of $6.50 USD. In addition, several other breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner, options are available.
Mt. Hood Outfitters Nature adventure seekers need look no further than Mt. Hood Outfitters. Providing guided tours and equipment rentals year-round — think snowmobiling, snowshoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, white water rafting, mountain biking — one particularly enjoyable service they offer is cross-country skiing tours. For $65 per person, the fee bundles skis, boots, poles and the company of a guide who will give as much instruction as needed to get you up and running. East Skibowl trails are located just down the hill from the store affording a vigorous workout and spectacular views.
Mt. Hood Oregon Resort Secluded yet easy to get to, the establishment referred to simply as “The Resort” is tucked away among evergreen trees and has the feel of both a lodge and premium hotel. The units are accessed via outside and there are a variety of suites guests may select depending on individual preferences. Parking is complimentary and should hunger pangs hit, venture over to Altitude restaurant next to the lobby. Afterwards, play a round of golf at the on-site course.
Bunsenbrewer Heading southeast on the way to the Village, in a place called Sandy, lies what else? A science-themed brewery, of course. The many different in-house and guest taps being served up are detailed in chalk on the “Beeriodic Table,” (Bill Nye the Science Rye IPA is a must-order), and the décor is made to resemble part laboratory, part man cave with pinball machines, arcade and board games and even a Nintendo 64 retro gaming setup in the corner.
Columbia River Gorge
This canyon of the mighty Columbia River is 1,200 metres deep and stretches for over 80 miles, acting as a border between Washington State and Oregon. Go for a drive along the winding Highway 30 and it will soon become clear why it’s designated as a National Scenic Area. Nestled along the riverbanks are The Dalles, a historic city pioneers once frequented while traversing the famed Oregon Trail, and Hood River, a port bearing the reputation of windsurfing capital of the world.
Cousins Restaurant & Saloon
“Howdy, cousin!” is a popular customer greeting at the family-friendly, country-themed diner slash inn. The rustic décor inside and out is instantly instagrammable, and the menu is chock-full of comfort foods such as a three-cheese French Onion Soup ($3.99 cup/$4.99 bowl) and the roast tom turkey complete with all the fixin’s ($11.99 “Lite” size/$14.99 regular).
Kainos Coffee & Pizza
An odd pairing you might say, but where else can you order a hand-tossed prosciutto arugula pizza ($14) cooked in a wood-fired brick oven, and a cup of coconut milk ginger steamer ($3.50) at the same time? Started up by a couple of childhood friends hailing from The Dalles, Kainos has a second location in Portland. A portion of profits goes towards LifeChild Asia Foundation that helps connect orphaned Filipino children and supportive families.
Mt. Hood Winery
Locally owned and operated, Mt. Hood Winery sits on 20 acres of estate vineyards and specializes in Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Winning the Oregon Winery of the Year award in 2016, patrons are welcome in the tasting room March through November where a sampling of five wines costs $15, waived if two bottles are purchased. Looking for a recommendation? The Summit Red is an excellent table wine consisting of a mix of several varietals.
Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM)
Love classic flying machines and vehicles? Then WAAAM simply cannot be missed. The non-profit organization opened 12 years ago with a modest private collection of 74 pieces, which has grown to over 325 planes, cars, motorcycles and tractors proudly and immaculately displayed in three massive hangers. Perhaps the most amazing thing is virtually all the aircraft are still in working condition.
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
A trip to the Discovery Center is the perfect way to learn more about the region, like how the gorge was originally created and the culture of the Indigenous peoples who first inhabited the land.
One side of the property is dedicated to ecology and the other to history, the latter featuring a neat recreation of city life a hundred years ago. Budget 60 to 90 minutes to wander the 48,200 square-feet facility that includes short educational films and a live Birds of Prey exhibit.
The Dalles Inn Right in the heart of downtown, don’t let the modest exterior of the Dalles Inn fool you. The remodelled rooms are clean, modern and quiet and guests get a lot for their money — for example the main building houses a 24-hour fitness centre, seasonal outdoor pool and a dining area where a continental breakfast is served every morning. Boutiques, eateries and coffee shops are just steps away.
Photos:Mai Kanamori, courtesy of organizations featured - Facebook, iStock