The Fruit Loop
Before windsurfing took center stage, the Hood River Valley was known as one of Oregon's top fruit-growing regions, and today the valley is still full of apple and pear orchards. From blossom time (Apr) to harvest season (Sept-Oct), the valley offers quiet country roads to explore. Along the way, you'll find numerous farm stands, wineries, museums, and interesting shops that reflect the valley's rural heritage. Pick up a brochure called Hood River County Fruit Loop Guide to Local Farm Stands at the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce visitor center.
Be sure to start your tour of the Hood River Valley by stopping at Panorama Point, off of Ore. 35 just south of town (follow the signs). This hilltop park provides a splendid view of the valley's orchards, with Mount Hood looming in the distance.
In the fall, fruit stands pop up along the roads around the valley. Rasmussen Farms, 3020 Thomsen Rd. (tel. 800/548-2243 or 541/386-4622; www.rasmussenfarms.com), is one of the biggest and best farm stands in the valley and is off Ore. 35 about 6 miles south of Hood River. Also not to be missed is the nearby Apple Valley Country Store, 2363 Tucker Rd. (tel. 541/386-1971; www.applevalleystore.com), where you can stock up on homemade jams and jellies and maybe buy one of the store's legendary 4-pound apple pies. You'll find the store west of Rasmussen's on the opposite side of the valley. Also in the valley are numerous orchards and farms where you can pick your own fruit. Keep an eye out for U-PICK signs. Between June and August, you can also cut lavender at a couple of area farms. Lavender Valley, 3925 Portland Dr. (tel. 541/386-1906; www.lavendervalley.com), has 4 acres of lavender and is just north of the Apple Valley Country Store. Hood River Lavender, 3801 Straight Hill Rd. (tel. 888/528-3276 or 541/354-9917; www.lavenderfarms.net), with views of Mounts Hood and Adams, is toward the middle of the valley just south of the community of Odell.
The little hamlet of Parkdale, at the south end of the Fruit Loop, is home to the fascinating little Hutson Museum, 4967 Baseline Dr. (tel. 541/352-6808), which houses lapidary, archaeology, and anthropology collections, of which the rock collection and exhibits of Native American artifacts are a highlight. Museum days and hours vary with the seasons, so call ahead. Also in Parkdale, you'll find the Elliot Glacier Public House, 4945 Baseline Dr. (tel. 541/352-1022; www.elliotglacierpublichouse.com), a brewpub with a great view of Mount Hood from the picnic tables out back.
Any time between April and late December, but especially during fruit-blossom time, the Mount Hood Railroad (tel. 800/872-4661 or 541/386-3556; www.mthoodrr.com) offers a great way to see the Hood River Valley. Trains operated by this scenic railroad company depart from the historic 1911 Hood River depot on 2- and 4-hour excursions. The 2-hour excursions go to Odell, and the 4-hour excursions wind their way up the valley to Parkdale, where you can get a snack at a cafe or visit the Hutson Museum. For the 2-hour excursion, fares are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $15 for children 2 to 12; fares on the 4-hour excursions are $30 for adults, $26 for seniors, and $18 for children. The schedule varies with the season (July-Aug it's Tues-Sun). There are also regularly scheduled dinner and brunch trains and other specialty excursion trains. Reservations are recommended.
The Hood River Valley is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in Oregon. Because this region is much hotter than the Willamette Valley in the summer, different varieties of grapes are grown. Stop in at a Hood River winery and you'll be tasting not only pinot noir and pinot gris, but also merlot, Syrah, zinfandel, Viognier, and other Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.
If you're wine touring in the Hood River valley, be sure to stop by The Gorge White House, 2265 U.S. 35 (tel. 541/386-2828; www.thegorgewhitehouse.com), a beautifully restored old farmhouse that now serves as a tasting room for many area wineries. If you're short on time and want to taste wines from several wineries, this is the place to head. Note that the White House is closed from November to March.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.