Portland to Hood River Day Trip: A Complete Self-Drive Guide

Every Portland itinerary that you read probably has a trip to Multnomah Falls in it somewhere, including my own. And for good reason. The Columbia River Gorge is a breathtaking place. Most people make it to Multnomah and call it a day, but Hood River, Oregon is another must-visit destination. Set in the hills surrounding the Gorge, Hood River features some of the best outdoor activities, amazing food thanks to the bountiful farm land around it, and a thriving brewery, cider, and coffee scene. In other words, it’s basically paradise if you love the outdoors and craft beer, cider, and coffee. This guide will take you on an unforgettable self guided day trip from Portland to Hood River to experience it for yourself.

Rowena Crest, a must-see part of a trip from Portland to Hood River, Oregon.
The Famous Rowena Crest in Oregon

How to Get Around on This Day Trip from Portland to Hood River

There are basically two options for getting from Portland to Hood River. 

Renting a car is by far the best option, because it will give you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and check out all the amazing restaurants, cafes, and shops you’ll find in this guide. 

However, you can also take a guided tour that includes transportation. It will be more convenient, but it will be more expensive and you’ll have less freedom to explore. Trade offs. 

Rent a Car and Do a Self-Guided Day Trip

If you need to rent a car, check out RentalCars.com, where you can compare offers from all sorts of different companies and get the absolute best price. Do you know what my favorite part is? They have the rating of the rental car agency’s location right there, so I don’t have to go Google if the location I’ll be using has 1 star on Google. 

Parking in Portland is tough if you’re staying Downtown or in the Pearl, which is one of the best places to stay in Portland. You’ll probably have to pay for parking. 

If you’re on the Eastside, near Hawthorne, Belmont, and Division, parking is noticeably easier. 

Not into renting a car? Don’t worry, I’ve got an alternative, though you won’t have the flexibility and freedom to choose your own adventure.

Guided Tours of the Columbia River Gorge

After amazing experiences in both Colombia and Mexico City (read about the awesome cooking class in Mexico City), my new favorite way to find things to do is Airbnb Experiences. They have all sorts of one-of-a-kind activities hosted by friendly local experts, from walking tours to cooking classes. And yes, day trips. 

Between Airbnb Experiences and Viator, you’ll find plenty of guided day tours. 

You can do a guided tour that will take you from Portland to Hood River, and show you some of the best things to do in Hood River like tour the local wineries, and go do some white water rafting and brewery tours – I used to work for a white water rafting company in Washington State, and the White Salmon river is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest!

If you’re interested in the freedom and flexibility that comes with a self-guided tour, this next part is for you

A Complete Self-Drive Itinerary from Portland to Hood River (Day Trip from Portland)

This is an iconic day trip from Portland, and if you have the time in your Portland itinerary, you should try and make it happen. 

I’ve written this as a full day trip from Portland, but you can turn it into a half day by only going as far as Multnomah Falls. That would be a shame, because you’d miss the gem that is Hood River.

I’d plan on getting an early start for this day trip – you’ll want to get to Multnomah Falls before the parking lot gets CRAZY. Which is basically 9am at this point. 

First Stop: Multnomah Falls

Get on the road early – no later than 8:00am – to get to Multnomah Falls before the crowds. It’s a 35 minute drive with no traffic. 

Get to the falls, snag a parking spot, and walk up to the iconic viewpoint and marvel at the sheer natural beauty of the 600+ foot tall waterfall. 

As far as hiking goes, you’ve got a couple of options in the area. Here are three great hikes near Multnomah to get some exercise in. 

  1. Hike to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint 
  2. Longer hike to the upper viewpoint, then back around to Wahkeena Fallsthis is what we chose. 
  3. Hike Angel’s Rest, which will give you sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge, but will take you 15 minutes back towards Portland (do Multnomah first to get parking, then double back!)
Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge on the Way from Portland, OR to Hood River, OR

Next Stop: Rowena Crest Viewpoint

For one of the best, and most Insta-famous, places in the Columbia River Gorge, head to the Rowena Crest viewpoint, where you’ll get a view of the road as it double back, and views across the gorge. 

It’s about 50 minutes from Multnomah, and you’ll double back to Hood River after this stop. It’s a spectacular view, and it’s worth the extra driving to take it in. 

Last Stop: Hood River

Continue driving 35 minutes east along the Gorge to Hood River, a lovely small town that is known as the adventure capital of the Columbia River Gorge. 

There are so many things to do in Hood River – from adventure sports, to getting out on the water, or exploring the farms in the surrounding areas. 

For the afternoon in Hood River, you’ll choose your own adventure. Here are some ideas for things to do in Hood River. 

Explore the thriving brewery scene in Hood River. There are tons of local breweries that have set up shop in Hood River, you won’t be able to try them all on this day trip. Satisfy that beer craving with a stop at two of the best breweries in town – Pfriem Brewing, a locally-owned brewery specializing in Belgian beers, and Full Sail Brewing, a pioneer in the craft beer scene since the 1980’s where you can take a brewery tour. Both options have cider and wine available for my gluten free friends (pssst – don’t miss my gluten free Portland guide).

Not into beer? Try some local cider instead! If you don’t already know, I love cider. I have Celiac Disease, which means beer is largely off the table (except for Ground Breaker Brewing in Portland, along with a few other dedicated gluten free breweries). Hood River has a booming cider scene thanks to the bounty of apples grown on heirloom orchards in the surrounding area. In town, check out Foxtail Cider and Crush Cider Cafe, though you’ll basically find cider everywhere in town. Outside of town, you can visit one of the many cider orchards and breweries, like Foxtail’s Farm (the location in town is a taproom), River Cider (5 minutes out of town towards Portland), and Runcible Cider (on the way back from Rowena Crest)

Catch the Farmer’s Market. If you’re in town on a Saturday, catch the Hood River Farmers Market, where you’ll find farm fresh produce from the bountiful surrounding areas. 

Drive the Fruit Loop. No, not my favorite breakfast cereal growing up (sadly), the loop that takes you through the lush land to the south of Hood River, which is chock full of farms and orchards that you can visit. Here’s a guide. Don’t miss Hood River Lavender Farm and Draper Girls Country Farm

Wander down Oak Street. The main drag in Hood River is full of shops, cafes, restaurants, breweries, and more. Don’t miss Arome, where you can find every spice under the sun, and the Clear Creek Distillery tasting room, where you can taste brandy made from locally-grown fruits like pears, apples, and cherries. 

Grab an afternoon pick-me-up. Hood River’s coffee scene is also top of the line, and you’ll find the best coffee (and atmosphere) in town at Ground, a local institution. 10 minutes outside of the main strip on foot, you’ll find Kickstand Coffee, which serves great coffee, and has gluten free food options for lunch.  

Go Whitewater Rafting on the White Salmon River. I used to work for a rafting company in the Pacific Northwest, and the White Salmon, with its class III and IV rapids, is one of the best in the region. You’ll meet across the gorge from Hood River and meet Portland Rafting Company for a 3.5 hour whitewater adventure. They’ll provide everything you need – equipment, snacks, and exceptional guides. Highly recommended. Click here to check prices, reviews, and availability. 

Close out your Portland day trip to the Columbia River Gorge with the drive back to Portland, which will take you just over an hour without traffic. 

Final Thoughts on a Day Trip from Portland to Hood River, Oregon

This self-guided drive is one of the best day trips from Portland, Oregon, hands down. The breathtaking natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge combined with the amazing things to do in Hood River should be at the top of your list when you’re planning your Portland trip.

If you have a car, do yourself a favor and set aside a full day on your Portland itinerary to explore this magnificent part of Oregon. 

If you’re headed to Portland, don’t miss my guide to the best things to do in Portland. And you’ll want to pick the best place to stay in Portland for your style and budget using my full guide. 

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