The fabulous Columbia River Gorge

The fabulous Columbia River Gorge

Wildflowers at Memaloose State Park

Wildflowers at Memaloose State Park

Where to begin, where to begin. I have to admit the Gorge has me rather stumped. From what I’d heard about the place I figured I would like it before we came, but I just didn’t imagine I would like it this much. Where can you wallow in wildflowers, bike along a cliff, see mind-blowing panoramas, go wine-tasting, reflect on a snow-capped mountain, windsurf and drink a head-sized margarita in one place? I mean it’s almost too much! Ontop of everything we’ve had 5 days of forecasted solid rain which have turned into slight morning drizzles followed by stunning afternoons of full sunshine. This has driven us like mad chickens out of the RV early each day “to beat the rain” only to result in relaxing days of outdoor gorgeousness. Really now! How is one expected to survive such trying circumstances?

So yeah, I am speechless….well almost….

Polly takes in the scene at Memaloose Hills

Polly scans the Memaloose Hills

I’m going to start with a mini-primer on the Columbia River Gorge so you can get your bearings. The Gorge is basically a large canyon, up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) deep in spots that meanders along the banks of the Columbia River that separates Oregon from Washington. The western portion is protected as a National Scenic Area, starting around the confluence of the Deschutes River and ending in Portland, and it packs in a plethora of varying scenery from vast, flat desert-like landscape in the very east (around mile-marker 140) to rolling green hills in the middle (around mile-marker 75) ending in heavily forested cliffs just before the big city. All this wrapped in the pretty little package of the Columbia River with the white glory of Mt. St.Helens & Mt. Adams in the north and Mt. Hood in the south. Got it?

For our visit we decided to plonk ourselves in the middle of the Gorge at mile-marker 73, just east of the very cool city of Hood River (simply awesome little spot). As well as scoring a superb waterfront RV site, we’ve been in the purrrfect spot to pack in the sightseeing, and so we have….well, “to beat the rain” of course. It’s going to take a couple of blog posts to cover it all, but I’ll start you with just a taste:

1/ Wildflowers Galore

MINE, all MINE!!

MINE, all MINE!!

This time of the year the hills east of Hood River are simply bursting with wildflowers, and if you’re into this kind of scenery (who isn’t?) you can explore several popular and some not-so-popular trails that will highlight the best of the best. On OR side the area around McCall point is a rather famous spot, but not dog friendly (pooh!), while on WA side there’s Dog Mountain which is hard-core & utterly gorgeous, but very popular. We decided to go completely off-the-beaten-path and hike an obscure trail in the Memaloose Hills*. A bit of bushwhacking required, but almost guaranteed to be perfectly alone even on the week-end…perfect! We strolled an awesome 3-mile loop simply bursting with color with nothing but the tweeting of birds to keep us company. No matter what you choose if you happen to be in the area this time of year, don’t miss the show!

*To get to Memaloose Hills take exit 69 on I-84 to Mosier. Go through town and drive 3 miles to the signed “Memaloose Overlook” parking area. You’ll see an unmarked trail going into the wildflowers opposite the overlook. FREE! Explore and enjoy!

2/ Mt.Hood & Lost Lake

A perfect reflection on a perfect day at Lost Lake

A perfect reflection on a perfect day at Lost Lake

The Mt.Hood Scenic Drive

The Mt.Hood Scenic Drive

The area south of Hood River is dominated by the imposing and gorgeous Mt.Hood (well, whenever you can see it anyway). From exit 64 you can take Hwy 35 south to Hwy 26 in a huge 105-mile loop back to Portland as part of the Mt.Hood Scenic Byway. It’s reputed to be an ultra-cool drive but, being us, we were looking for something more remote.

That’s when I noticed a spot called Lost Lake on the map….perfect! We tested the weather with our thumbs (yes, rain expected), loaded up doggie and made the 40-minute twisty, turny drive to the lake.

WOW! We were greeted by a mirror of reflections. A perfectly flat, perfectly gorgeous deep blue framed by a clear-sky image of blazing white Mt.Hood. The easy 3-mile stroll around the lake mixed deep forest with babbling brooks and spots for Polly to swim in the water. Oh, and no-one was there. Probably the rain, you know…

*To get to Lost Lake take exit 64 at Hood River and make your way to Dee Hwy (231). Drive south until you hit Lost Lake Road, then follow the signs to the lake. $7 day-use fee.

3/ Fruit Loop & Margaritas


Fruity margaritas!!

As part of our trip to Mt.Hood we drove a good portion of the Fruit Loop. This awesome 35-mile drive takes you past 30 local fruit and wine stops. Yes, believe it or not the area around Hood River is a huge wine & fruit-growing region and if you’re in the area you just can’t miss this! Many of the orchards have U-pick during season too. We’re about 2 weeks early for the stalls, plus most of the stops don’t allow dogs (a select few such as Mt View Orchards and Wy’East do) but we enjoyed the view of brilliant orchards and snagged a stop at Hood River Taqueria on the way. It’s a pooch-friendly Mexican restaurant with large outdoor patio seating that serves ultra-fresh fare and head-sized fruity margaritas. I say that counts as a fruity stop, right?

The Fruit Loop

The Fruit Loop

*To get to the Fruit Loop take exit 64 at Hood River and follow the Fruit Loop Map
(you can download it or pick up a copy at the Hood River Visitor

That’s about all I can handle in one post so you’re just gonna have to wait in tense anticipation for the next installment. In the meantime we’ll be lounging in our waterfront spot, doing a few more hikes and maybe even hitting some Hood River hangouts.

Unless we get rained-out, of course :)

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75 Responses to Columbia River Gorge Part I -> Wildflowers, Lost Lakes & Fruity Loops

  1. Sofia Leo says:

    I grew up in Hood River in the days before the wineries and tourist attractions and this post makes me want to take a trip “home” ASAP! I’ve Been Away and your pictures really make me long to take a vacation and visit all of the fabulous new businesses that have sprung up since the Old Days when the outlook for the town was not so rosy. Thank you for a great post :-)

    • libertatemamo says:

      I must say the city really has reinvented itself. Very nice downtown, lots of breweries, little galleries plus all the growers and wineries, yet it still manages to maintain a pretty laid-back vibe. Hope you get to see it soon!

  2. rwkrecklow says:

    You are having way too much fun!!! Hood River area is a favorite place for us, too. Wish we were there right now!!! Your photos will help us feel better, at least. Thanks for sharing.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s fabulous here. Can’t believe this is our first time visiting. It’s on our “come-back” list for sure now.

  3. Sheila says:

    Gosh! Not many people get to see Mt Hood as you guys did. Love the photo of Polly in the lake. Amazing/Gorgeous/Inspirational

    • libertatemamo says:

      We felt incredibly lucky that we were able to get such a clear day and see such a perfect reflection. Pretty special stuff!

  4. Mark Gehring says:

    Highly recommend a nice short hike through ( literally, in one case ) three waterfalls. Start at Horsetail Falls parking lot, from which you see said falls. Hike up a mile or so to Pony Tail Falls, which is the coolest falls in the Gorge since the trail actually goes behind the falling water ! Hike on up farther, and you are along Oneonta Gorge, a very cool, almost slot-like canyon. Drop down and cross Oneonta creek, then up to the trail on the other side. Turn left, then in another mile or so you get to Triple Falls. I think it totals 4 to 5 miles. I have taken lots and lots of folks on that one, as well as our dog. Also, check out Angel’s Rest. If you really need some exercise, try Mount Defiance, which is 6 miles one way and almost 5000ft elevation gain.

    Today we left Brookings, and drove by your favorite Bullard’s Beach SP on the way home to Portland. Just too much rain in the forecast to make it worthwhile to stay down there. Rained all the way home, often hard at times. Are you guys staying at Memaloose, or moving on yet? We might make it out to Hood River in the next few days to donate my old windsurfing stuff, would still like to stop by and say hi.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the tips! We decided to stay at Memaloose 2 more days (our site is just so nice), but then we’ll head straight for Portland. So we’ll be in Columbia River RV Park by Friday…or so is the current plan.

      • keepinontruckin says:

        In case you weren’t able to explore the western end of The Gorge from Memaloose, the stretch of the old highway at Vista House is due to open 5/24, it’s been closed for construction. Vista House will be open as well. You can expect Multnomah Falls to be very busy on the weekend, but weather is supposed to be improving.

  5. Donna K says:

    So glad you are enjoying the gorge. This is one of our favorite areas in Oregon. Too bad you have to head to Portland so soon. There is a great museum in Hood River called WAAAM, the Western Antique Auto and Aeroplane Museum. Sounds boring but it is a kick and every second Saturday of the month, they roll out the old OLD cars and museums goers can go for a free ride around the museum grounds. It’s great fun. Also, in the Dalles, there is a great museum called the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center (indoor/outdoor). Lots of hands on exhibits and info about the Gorge. Enjoy the rest of your time at Memaloose and Portland.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We drove by the WAAAM as we were on the Fruit Loop. It looked interesting, but we didn’t stop this time around. Will have to come back to the area and do it!

  6. Be sure to check out Larch Mountain. On a clear day you can see Mt Hood, Mt St Helen, Mt. Rainier, Mt Adams and Mt Jefferson. If you get hungry, stop by Tad’s Chicken and Dumplings in Troutdale. It sits on the Sandy River. Loved our time in Oregon.

  7. Great posts! My old home stomping grounds! I’ll be up in Portland by Friday but headed over the river to Grandma. Thanks for the tour!

  8. Lauren Brown says:

    Beautiful pictures, Nina! It’s a huge gorge and it has always fascinated me that it was largely formed from periodic ruptures of ice dams in faraway glacial Lake Missoula in Montana, sending enormous torrents down the river. I’ve read that the peak flow was 13 times the Amazon, but was over in a matter of a couple days or so. Apparently happened multiple times. So, if you saw some very large boulders stranded far above the water level of the Columbia River, that’s probably how they got there.

  9. Ralph says:

    I would agree…that after seeing that slice of lime in the margarita…it was a fruity stop. Limes are GOOD for you………!!!

  10. Rowanova says:

    Although I live in the Puget Sound area, at least I can say welcome to the Pacific Northwest. And yes we do have some of the greatest scenery in the country here. And the summers are the best in all of North America-mostly sunny, minimal rain, but not to hot or humid. Enjoy your stay.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Summers here really are something else. And we will be staying at our first ever WA state park next week! Looking forward to it.

      • Rowanova says:

        Glad to here you be sampling the state. What part of the area will you be exploring?

        • libertatemamo says:

          It’s just going to be a quick “taste” this time around. We’ll be staying for a week at Cape Disappointment before starting the rest of our drive south down the 101 in OR to our summer job. So just a quick visit, but it’ll be enough to add WA to our “visited” map and get us motivated to come back for more.

  11. You’re making me homesick. We’re stuck in tornado alley getting repairs. After that, we’re homeward bound to Washington State. Glad you love it there in Oregon!

  12. Janna says:

    Gorgeous photos Nina! One of these days I WILL succeed in getting the DH to Oregon!

  13. Loved your pictures! We can’t wait to get back to that region again next year! Beautiful!

  14. Rick says:

    If you like apple pie you must check out Apple Valley Country Store while in Hood River. I make a yearly drive up there from Eugene just to buy their pies to bring home for the freezer. They are the best ever.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We drove by that store and almost stopped, but didn’t quite. Oh well! I hear they do a pretty good BBQ on the weekends too.

  15. jil mohr says:

    glad you are enjoying one of our favorite areas…and the wildflowers are spectacular…looking forward to seeing more…

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s the perfect season right now. Sure wish I knew more about them (names and such), but I enjoy photographing them nonetheless.

  16. Excellent Adventure, guys…makes me want to return. You are in fantastic country, and doing it in proper fashion by staying inland. The winds off the Pacific don’t warm up till July. Beautiful photos.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I must say we’ve been pretty lucky with the weather so far, but I think we’re about to push that luck very soon. By beginning of June we’ll be on the WA coast, no doubt leak-testing the RV :) hopefully we’ll catch some sun there too.

  17. Rita says:

    Does anyone know if RVSueandcrew have a new blog site? WordPress has her locked out. I thought she might have switched to a different name and using a different blog site.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Not yet that I know of. Something happened overnight, but I’m hoping she gets it back up. If I hear anything I’ll report back.

  18. wiandflbev says:

    I just tried to view RVSue’s blog and a message comes up saying it’s been suspended. Do you have any word on this from Sue?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh noooooo! I just read a comment about this on another blog. I think it got suspended for some reason. It’s just aweful! I sure hope it comes up again. I’m an avid follower!

      • libertatemamo says:

        I’ve also tried to contact Sue and offer my help to get it back up. Really hope it’s all ok! If I hear anything more I will let you know.

  19. One of the most stunning areas in the country, in our opinion. We spent several months in the Portland area over about three years, and a lot of that time centered on those mountains and that gorge and the Fruit Loop. Glad you are there to follow our path!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I’m really amazed we didn’t visit the Gorge last time we were in Portland, but there you go. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you try it. This is undoubtedly going to become a fav stop for us if we come north again.

  20. placestheygo says:

    Love this area!! Just so much beauty. Enjoy and keep posting lots of pictures!!

  21. Dan says:

    Lucky you in Oregon now. We loved it there. Here is a suggestion if you want to be near Portland .. .. East campground .. Partial hookups, good restrooms, probably booked through the Memorial Day weekend. Easy to stay there and then drive in and check out Portland. Another good Oregon county park.

    Good luck!

    • libertatemamo says:

      That place looks awesome! We’re always looking for good places to stay around Portland so it’s a welcome tip.

      We’re going to “hide away” in a private park this weekend. We always find that easier on the big holidays. But if/when we come back we’ll check out your spot.


  22. jsathe says:

    We will be camp hosting at Tollbridge County Park just south of Hood River from August to October. Love your description of the area since we have not seen the area as yet. Looks like we will be trailing your path in August; from Idaho Falls to Boise to Hood River. Love the way you write. Keep it up.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh my, I think you will love it! Sooooooo much to do and see here. Two months will give you a lovely taste, plus it should be great weather too especially Aug/Sept.

  23. PatrickA51 says:

    This cruel and inhumane punishment first you post a blog about Cheap phones and convince people to buy them. (Which in turn makes them totally white headed! from trying to set-up and activate them.) (Oh by the way a Great big Thank you on the phones….I now have 2 Smart Phones unlimited everything (except battery life…will get into that later) for less cost than 1 dumb phone no text no nothing ! And the most inhumane things is you are posting these great pictures and we are chomping at the bit to get in the RV and go somewhere.

  24. Just wanted to thank you for the time and effort spent maintaining this blog! I know it’s time consuming. My wife and I are in formative stages of considering RV’ing full time and your blog is inspirational. You are in our area now…the Pacific Northwest…and although simply GRAND from now through October, the rest of the year is cold, wet and gray. An RV would allow a change of latitude and some winter sunshine! Meanwhile, we’ll live vicariously through your blog. Thanks again!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I have to admit we’ve never been brave enough to spend a winter here. I LOVE the summers, but come Oct we’re usually on our way south. I think part-time living in the NW in summer and part-time RVing in the SW in winter could be a pretty cool combo.

  25. Tina says:

    Re: RVSue–I’m wondering if her mentions of her Amazon affiliate link with some descriptions of things she likes on Amazon was actually a violation of TOS for a no-cost version of wordpress (which I’m thinking she may have).

    Hope she gets her blog back and doesn’t lose her content! Love following her adventures and seeing where she is.

    On another note…

    You may remember us visiting you in Q (found you out there on the desert and arrived in our “school bus orange” Jeep Rubicon). I also posted quite a bit about our “different than yours” Algodones dental experiences.

    When we saw you we were between rigs–now happy to announce we will be hitting the road this summer in a 45′ Newmar Essex motorhome. Yay! :-) Hoping it will fit in the kind of places you are going, because that’s our style too–but we also needed as much room as possible with our craziness of traveling with FOUR dogs (and not “pocket dogs” either–labrador size dogs–sheesh!)

    Hope to catch up with you again one of these days!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Could be. The free WordPress blogs are very hard to monetize (TOS are pretty tough on it). Hopefully she’ll get back up and running on a private server and all will be well.
      Congrats on your new rig!! Sounds like a fabulous set-up.

  26. pmbweaver says:

    We love, love, love that area.

    Breath-taking photos.

  27. We love Oregon…lived there over 30 years. Have you driven the scenic, old Columbia Gorge Hwy? Must do it in a car as RVs are too wide. You can hike to multiple, spectacular waterfalls along the route. Just park at a turnout and go for it. Also, a stop at Oneonta Gorge is worth it to read about the local flora. In summer, locals like to hike up Oneonta Gorge in the water to a small waterfall and swimmin’ hole. Could be a bit dicey in Oneonta gorge if they had a rough winter. Logjams and boulders can block the way.

    I don’t know your schedule, but did you get a chance to go to Silver Falls State Park east of Silverton. You can hike a trail that takes in 11 waterfalls in about eight miles. Oh, and the Oregon Garden is also in Silverton. Great stop!

    I could go on and on!!

    • libertatemamo says:

      We’re planning to do that drive tomorrow. We were FINALLY rained out yesterday (I was kinda asking for it with this post haha), so we did some indoor activities instead. But tomorrow looks like it may be clearer so we’ll see if we can do the drive.

  28. Tina says:

    By the way, we lived in Sisters for years and are in fact still legal residents of Oregon. You have been to Central Oregon, right? Bend? Sisters? So many gorgeous places on that side of the Cascades too!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, we went to Bend our 1st year in Oregon. Lovely spot and we enjoyed quite a bit of hiking & volcanic history there.

  29. Still here in Phil but cant help commenting that you finally made it to the gorgeous gorge one of our favorite places. I knew you would love it there as much as we did. Our one week stay there was not enough and while you are rained out we had fire and smoke.
    Be sure to take the scenic drives around the gorge on WA and OR, hiway30 E and W and to Mt Adams and more. Oh I am just thrilled and happy that i can see the gorge again in springtime.
    Looking forward to more.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I’ve referred back to your posts on the area quite a few times. You guys really managed to CRAM in the activity while you were here. One week is really not much time, but you seemed to see it all? I’m impressed!

  30. Amanda says:

    Well I am convinced. The Columbia River Gorge has just made it’s way to the top of our “must visit” list. Those wildflowers, that lake, and that margarita!!! Can’t wait to hear more…

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh you guys would love it. Tim would go nuts w/ the breweries and Phineas would be basking in all the water.

  31. Gunta says:

    Welcome back to OR…. down here it’s cloudy and dreary at the moment with scattered showers. Bring a bit of that sunshine south with you… but not TOO much?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh we GOT that rain…oh yes we did. Hopefully it’s just a quick few days so we can get back to that sun.

  32. LuAnn says:

    Since we cannot be in OR this year, your pictures and those of Gunta are the next best thing. Looking forward to hearing all about your adventures this summer. Love the galleries you are posting.

  33. Doug says:

    Any boondocking opportunities in the Columbia Gorge area that you happened to spot, by any chance?

  34. […] You are just east of the lovely town of Hood River with easy access to windsurfing, day-hiking, the “Fruit Loop” and the road to Mt.Hood. You’re also only ~35 miles from the waterfalls. Plus if you get a waterfront site you are […]

  35. Helen & Rob says:

    Great article on the Gorge. Memaloose is one of our favorite campgrounds. #31, 32 & 33. The town of Cascade Locks is very sweet and a national venue for sailing. Over 70 days per year of sailing events!

  36. Michael says:

    There is not more that I can add to these comments. I spent the first 45 years of my life in the middle of the Columbia River Gorge, little town called Stevenson, across from Cascade Locks. When you return, go north of Carson, WA through the Gifford Pinchot Forest and over to Mt. St. Helens. Very scenic and is now paved most of the way. Next time you get in the area, drive the Washington side from Cascade Locks to Vancouver. Some dramatic scenery and a chance to stop at Bonneville Dam and Beacon Rock. While you are on the coast – check out the US Coast Guard Station at Cape Disappointment. it is home to the National Motor Life Boat School.
    I am just getting caught up on your blog. Sorry I missed the window of making some sight seeing suggestions.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for all the tips! The WA section of the Columbia River Gorge is definitely on our wish list.

  37. […] SUMMER-> By the end of spring we’ll end up right around the Columbia River Gorge, OR where we’ll visit some new spots before heading to our June job at Cape Disappointment, […]

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