Day 1: Portland, Mirror Lake and Government Camp
We’ll pick you up at the Portland International Airport, and the adventure begins almost immediately as our van climbs steeply into the Mount Hood National Forest located just 20 miles east of the city of Portland, Oregon, and south of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Mount Hood, a dormant volcano capped by glaciers, is home to ski and hiking trails, evergreen forests, waterfalls and the classic 1930s Timberline Lodge. The Barlow Road, once part of the Oregon Trail, goes around the southern slope near the village of Government Camp. We’ll stop in the Town of Rhododendron to visit the West Barlow Toll Gate on the way to Government Camp. This Toll Gate is a replica of the original gate, which stands between two maple trees planted by Daniel Parker, gatekeeper from 1883 to 1902. The Barlow Road allowed thousands of Oregon Trail emigrants to travel overland to the Willamette Valley rather than risk floating the dangerous Columbia River. The original route passed through the area close to the infamous Laurel Hill, where emigrants had to lower wagons down a series of steep rocky chutes from ropes snubbed to trees, or drag big logs behind them in the hope that they would not careen down the ravines. Before arriving in Government Camp, named for the troops stranded here in the mud and snow of autumn 1849, we’ll stretch our legs on a classic Mirror Lake Hike with lovely views of Mount Hood. Alternatively, we may enjoy a walk at peaceful Enid’s Lake with giant Douglas firs and native Rhododendrons. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll enjoy dinner at a local family-owned restaurant serving classic, hearty European dishes such as Hungarian Goulash. Hikes: Mirror Lake: 2 miles and +700 feet elevation gain or 8 miles and approximately 4000 feet elevation gain; Enid’s Lake: 3+ miles with minimal elevation gain/loss. Overnight: Huckleberry Inn, Government Camp, Oregon.
Day 2: Trillium Lake, Tamanawas Falls Trail and Timberline Lodge
Today we’ll explore further up on beautiful Mount Hood. We’ll start the day with a visit to the Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum, where the unpretentious historic ski town vibe of Government Camp is celebrated. With the backdrop of majestic Mount Hood views we’ll drive on backroads by Trillium Lake on our way to today’s hike at Tamanawas Falls. This trail is on the east slope of Mount Hood and follows the Cold Spring Creek shaded by Douglas firs to lovely lava cliff falls near the eastern base of Mount Hood. While posing for the mandatory photo at the base of the falls you’ll enjoy the cooling spray. After our morning’s hike we’ll drive to beautiful Timberline Lodge constructed high on Mount Hood between 1936 and 1938 by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Some of the skilled stonemasons on the project were Italian immigrants who had also worked on the Historic Columbia River Highway and other roads in Oregon. We’ll have lunch in Timberline Lodge, go on a tour of the building, and enjoy the sight of summer skiers. Dinner tonight will be in a brew pub in Government Camp, and if the weather is nice, we’ll sit outside and toast the setting sun. Hike: Tamanawas Falls: 3.6 miles; 590 feet elevation gain/loss. Overnight: Huckleberry Inn, Government Camp, Oregon.
Day 3: Orchards, Hood River and Bridge of the Gods
We’ll depart from our high mountain perch today and drive down to the Town of Hood River on the southern/Oregon side of the Columbia River. Hood River is in the transition zone between temperate, western Oregon and the dry, high plateau of eastern Oregon, and we’ll experience this as we pass by farms and orchards against the backdrop of Mount Hood. Hood River is known for its wind, and the River is filled with a frenzy of wind surfers and kite sailors. We’ll drive by the Bonneville Lock and Dam, several structures that complete the span of the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington 40 miles each of Portland, and picnic on smoked salmon and (season permitting) amazing cherries purchased from Native American vendors at Cascade Locks. After visiting the Bridge of the Gods, a steel truss bridge built in 1926 and elevated in 1940, where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Columbia River at its lowest point, we’ll enjoy a hike. We would normally walk on the Eagle Creek Trail to High Bridge and back, a trail, whose gentle grade was hacked out of the cliffs in 1915 and 1916, and which passes numerous waterfalls and was built for those accessing the area via the then new Columbia River Highway early in the 20th century. (Note: this trail is closed following the late summer/autumn fire of 2017: if it has not been reopened at the time of your tour, we will go on an alternate hike, most likely on the Washington side of the river.) We’ll check into our hotel, and then head out to explore the scenic streets of downtown Hood River. Hood River has a bustling shopping district featuring shops, outdoor adventure gear operators, antique shops, wineries, art galleries and more than 30 restaurants that have been preserved in an historic district. Before it was a mecca for windsurfers and tourists, Hood River was known for its sea level passage through the Cascade Mountains. Salmon passed through here to reach their spawning grounds, and the (in)famous wind, while pesky to most white residents, helped Native peoples dry their salmon efficiently. Steamboats arrived in 1888 and the construction of the Columbia River Highway in 1915 allowed area farmers to market their fruit. We’ll eat dinner in a charming café within a pleasant walking distance from our hotel. Hike: if the Eagle Creek Trail: 6.6 miles and approximately 1,000 feet elevation gain. Overnight: Hood River Hotel, Hood River, Oregon.
Day 4: Historic Columbia River Trail, Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center and the Catherine Creek Trail
After breakfast at Bette’s Place, a landmark for over 40 years and famous for its ginormous cinnamon rolls (can you finish it?), we’ll travel to the eastern end of the Historic Columbia River Trail, where part of the original Route 30 has been preserved as a multi-purpose walking and bicycling trail. We’ll channel the motorists who once crept along curves and traveled through tunnels high above the Columbia River – but we’ll be experiencing this history on foot and at an even statelier pace. We’ll then drive through the small fruit town of Mosier, Oregon (population 433 according to the 2010 census) and along a part of Historic Route 30 (cars allowed on this section) past the Tom McCall Nature Conservancy Preserve, a magnificent plateau overlooking the Columbia River Gorge that is graced by spectacular wildflowers in the spring. Our destination will be the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center, whose architectural beauty, setting and interesting natural history exhibits are wonderful. We’ll cross the river to the Washington side and will return via the Lewis & Clark Trail (Route 14), the first highway that traveled through the Columbia River Gorge, that was surveyed as a wagon road in 1905. Time permitting, we'll go for a walk on the Catherine Creek Trail with beautiful views, amazing wildflowers in the spring, oak woodlands and open grasslands, before returning to Hood River. Once again, we’ll walk to dinner from our downtown hotel, tonight in a brew pub with views of the Columbia River. Hike: 3-6 miles depending upon the option taken, minimal elevation gain/loss. Overnight: Hood River Hotel, Hood River, Oregon.
Day 5: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Falls Creek Falls Hike and Mount St. Helen’s Visitor Center
Today we’ll venture across the Columbia River into Washington State and head toward Mount St Helens through the forested Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We’ll stop at a remote and interesting fish hatchery, and also visit the site of the historic Government Mineral Springs, ruins of an old resort hotel that was built in 1910 and burned in 1935. We’ll then hike the unimaginatively named but spectacular Falls Creek Falls Trail. The trail hugs the creek for the first mile, and takes you through old growth trees for the second mile. As we near the end of the trail, we’ll break out onto a rocky cliff area with a view of the upper falls. The trail ends with an impressive view of the middle and lower tier of this 220-foot, three tiered waterfall. We’ll then continue our backcountry drive past the north shore of three beautiful lakes, one of them supposedly frequented by Big Foot, affectionately known as Sasquatch, with views of Mount Adams. We’ll emerge from the Forest for the last stretch to our eco lodge, with a stop at the Mount St. Helen’s Visitor Center just east of Castle Rock Washington. Dinner tonight is at the lodge. Hike: Falls Creek Falls; 3.4 miles, 600” elevation gain/loss, Overnight: Eco Park Resort, Toutle, Washington.
Day 6: Johnston Observatory and Mount St. Helens Ridge Hike
After breakfast at the lodge, we’ll drive east toward Mount St Helen’s, still fascinating all these years after the 1980 eruption. We’ll visit the Johnston Observatory in the heart of the blast zone. The observatory hosts interpretive displays that tell the biological, geological, and human story of Mount St. Helen’s. We’ll have a chance to watch award-winning films, listen to ranger talks and observe the landscape. We’ll then go on an out and back hike on the Boundary Trail with extraordinary views of the volcano for the entire distance to Harry’s Ridge above Spirit Lake. Evidence of the eruption remains on this beautiful hike, despite the recovery. Dinner tonight is at a local favorite restaurant with river views. Hike: Boundary Trail: 5-8 miles, approximately 500’ elevation gain/loss. Overnight: Eco Park Resort, Toutle, Washington.
Day 7: Beacon Rocks Hike, Historic Route 30, Multhnoma Falls, and Portland
Today we’ll return to Portland, stopping first along the way to hike Beacon Rocks on the Washington side of the Columbia River. Beacon Rocks State Park is an 848 foot basalt volcanic plug next to the Columbia River. The Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived here and first measured the tides on the river, indicating they were nearing the ocean. The Rock was purchased by Henry Biddle in 1915 for $1, and during the next three years he constructed a trail with 51 switchbacks, handrails and bridges. We’ll enjoy this trail and the incredible river views it affords. We’ll cross the river and drive the last stretch into Portland on Historic Route 30 from Cascade Locks to Troutdale past Multhnoma Falls, stopping at a fun landmark restaurant on the way for an al fresco lunch under the trees. Dinner will be in a chic brewery restaurant. Hike: Beacon Rocks: 2 miles, 848’ elevation gain/loss. Overnight: a hotel in Portland, Oregon.
Day 8: Depart from Portland or Extend Your Adventures
We’ll transfer to the Portland International Airport and say good-bye to this special place. As time allows, we’ll visit the Portland Arboretum beforehand, and go a walking tour of Portland. Some may wish to extend their stay in Portland, or continue their travels on Portland’s beautiful Atlantic coast.