9 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Hood River, OR

Written by Lana Law
Updated Dec 24, 2023
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Author Lana Law is an avid outdoors person and enjoys the hikes, waterfalls, and scenery along the Columbia River Gorge near Hood River.

Set along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is a vibrant small town with a strong outdoor scene. The main attraction is the beauty of the surrounding area. Spectacular waterfalls line the gorge, basalt cliffs run high above the blue water of the Columbia River, and Mt. Hood hovers in the background. Add to this the pastoral scene created by orchards and rolling fields, and this is an incredible area for sightseeing and outdoor recreation.

A stop along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway
A stop along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

If you are looking for things to do, you'll find no shortage of options. Take a train trip through the countryside; hit the hiking trails along the Columbia River Gorge; enjoy the river full-heartedly, either by kiteboarding or windsurfing; take a drive along a scenic route; and in winter, head to Mt. Hood for skiing and other snow sports.

Discover more about the town and the best places to visit in the area with our list of top attractions in Hood River.

See also: Where to Stay in Hood River

1. Gaze up at Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: An easily accessible, spectacular 620-foot-high waterfall with a perfectly placed viewing bridge.

One of the most stunning sights in the Hood River area and the most beautiful waterfalls in Oregon is the picture-perfect Multnomah Falls, just west of Hood River, along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. If you have time to see only one waterfall, this is the one. Tumbling 620 feet, these spectacular falls are framed midway by narrow, tree-covered rock walls, and spanned by the Benson Bridge.

The falls are conveniently located just off the highway and they require no hiking to see. For an awe-inspiring view of the falls and of the Columbia Valley, take the trail up to the Benson Bridge and upper viewing area.

At the base of the falls is the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge with a restaurant, gift shop, and an espresso stand and snack bar. This is also a good place to buy an ice-cream treat.

2. Drive the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway

Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway
Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: History, tunnels, hiking trails, and beautiful views along a leisurely stretch of highway

To fully appreciate the scenery of the Columbia River Gorge, take a leisurely drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway and stop off at some of the spectacular sites along the way. This two-lane National Historic Landmark, first opened between 1916 and 1923, runs for 70 miles from Troutdale to The Dalles, along the Columbia River.

The striking cliff walls and dramatic waterfalls, along with some high viewing points, are the main highlights of this drive. Two of the key attractions, where you'll want to stop off for a closer look, are the 1918 Vista House on Crown Point, offering fabulous views over the Gorge, and the 620-foot Multnomah Falls. Other impressive falls along here include Latourell, Shepperd's Dell, Bridal Veil, and Wahkeena.

Off the highway are numerous hiking trails and the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, for pedestrians and bicycles. Some of the areas along here allow access to the river, where you can get right down to the water and see the high banks on the opposite shore.

Allow yourself considerable time, at least a few hours or even a half-day to do this drive. It's a slow drive, and you'll also want to stop and see the sights.

3. See the View from Vista House on Crown Point

View from Vista House on Crown Point
View from Vista House on Crown Point | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: Incredible views up and down the Columbia River Gorge from an early 20th-century historical building

Sitting atop a basalt clifftop, the 1918 octagonal-shaped Vista House and surrounding grounds offer outstanding views stretching out over the Columbia River Gorge in both directions. Located along the Historic Columbia River Highway, this is one of the finest and most accessible viewpoints in the area.

The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors can go inside for a look around. The best views are from the upper observation deck, but the vista is awesome from everywhere up here, even the parking area.

Address: 40700 Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett, Oregon

4. Explore Mount Hood

Mount Hood
Mount Hood | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: An outdoor enthusiast's paradise of hiking, biking, and exploring; home to Oregon's best downhill ski resorts

The snowcapped peak of Mount Hood looming large on the horizon adds to the beauty of the area, but also provides a winter and summer playground for outdoor adventures. You can find plenty of things to do around Mount Hood, from scenic drives to multi-day hikes, depending on what level of activity you're looking for.

In summer, the area offers opportunities for hiking, biking, and camping. You can also rent a cabin through the Forest Service. Timberline Lodge even offers summer skiing.

In winter, skiers hit the slopes of Mt. Hood, home to six different ski and snow-sport areas, some of which are on the list of best ski resorts in Oregon. The four major ski resorts on the mountain are Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood Ski Bowl, and Copper Spur. The Summit Ski Area is targeted towards beginners and families, and snow Bunny Sliding Area Sno Park, operated by Summit Ski Area, offers space for sledding and other activities.

5. Go Kiteboarding and Windsurfing on the Columbia River.

Kiteboarding on the Columbia River
Kiteboarding on the Columbia River | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: Strong, consistent wind and floating features to test even the best kiteboarders

Hood River is one of the best places to visit for kiteboarding and windsurfing in the United States. Consistent winds whistle up the Columbia River Gorge and provide great conditions for wind sports from May to September.

This is also a great place to learn kiteboarding. Quality schools, including Oregon Kiteboarding, offer features you won't find with lessons at some kiteboarding destinations, including two-way Bluetooth helmet instructions, and Jet Ski assistance.

The kiting here is for those with a decent handle on the sport. The river water is cold, the current is tricky, and the wind can be gusty and strong, so bring your full quiver of kites and a wetsuit. Unlike kiting in the ocean, you'll also have to keep an eye out for the occasional barge heading up or down the river.

Ramps for kiteboarders in Hood River
Ramps for kiteboarders in Hood River | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

The launch areas tend to be sandy and wide and a great place to start from. Just back from the water, you'll find a wide-open space perfect for hanging out as you wait for your legs to rest up before getting back out on the water. Parking is a breeze with a large lot mere steps from the water.

If you've ever wanted to try jumps and other obstacles, a slider park is set up just offshore. Other kiting spots are located throughout the gorge area, check with local kite shops for the inside intel.

If you're not a kiter, it's still worth strolling down to the river to watch this sport in action. The colorful kites set against a blue sky and the gorge scenery make for Insta-ready photos.

6. Hit the Hiking Trails

Wahclella Falls
Wahclella Falls | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: Some of Oregon's best trails offer waterfall, mountain, and forest scenery

Hiking around Hood River offers access to a mix of scenery, from hikes along the Columbia River Gorge, leading to waterfalls or high lookout points, to mountain scenery around nearby Mount Hood. In spring, the wildflowers provide vibrant color to the meadows, and in fall, the yellow and orange foliage offers a completely different look to the landscape.

The most popular hikes throughout the hiking season are to the spectacular waterfalls, including Wahclella Falls, Dry Creek Falls, and Tamanawas Falls. Some hikes leave right from campgrounds along the Gorge.

Hiking trail near White Salmon, WA
Hiking trail near White Salmon, WA | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

You can also cross over to White Salmon, Washington to enjoy views in a different direction over the river and back to Mount Hood. These provide a completely different perspective. Popular hikes on this side of the river are Coyote Wall Loop; Old Ranch and Little Maui Trail Loop; and a number of other trails and old roads that can be connected, like Bitterroot Trail and Desert Parsley Trail, to form loops.

7. Drive the Fruit Loop

Store on the Fruit Loop
Store on the Fruit Loop | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: The freshest fruits, vegetables, preserves, and a scenic drive.

One of the most popular tourist drives in the area, after the Historic Columbia River Highway, is the Fruit Loop. Running for 35 miles through rolling hills of orchards and forests, this route takes you to stops in small towns at local establishments selling locally produced goods, from fruits and vegetables to jams, syrups, and crafts.

This area is an important pear-growing area in the US, but you'll also find berries, apples, apricots, lavender, tomatoes, corn, squash, and more, depending on the time of year. The visitor centers offer trail maps of the Fruit Loop, with 29 numbered stops.

8. Ride the Rails on the Mount Hood Railroad

Mount Hood Railroad
Mount Hood Railroad | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: A historical train, local scenery, and a picnic lunch

The Mount Hood Railroad offers a scenic four-hour excursion from Hood River to Parkdale and back, and operates from spring until fall. The route runs through rolling hills of woods and orchards, and a picnic lunch is served in Parkdale for an extra fee.

Special themed excursions are also available, including the Western Train Robbery, and the seasonal Train to Christmas Town. Three levels of service are on offer: standard; first class; and Diamond, which comes with seating in the upper area of a Sky Dome car.

Address: 110 Railroad Street, Hood River, Oregon

9. Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum
Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum | Photo Copyright: Lana Law

Highlights: Unique and rare planes along with 130 automobiles

The WAAAM showcases an extensive collection of antique airplanes and automobiles, and even more impressive is the fact that they are still in operating condition. The facility has more than 3.5 acres of indoor hangar area for its displays. Most of the planes are small crafts that were used originally for recreational purposes. The more than 130 automobiles on display range from 1900 to 1960s models.

On the second Saturday of each month, they open their hanger doors and put pieces of their collection into action, firing up planes, cars, or motorcycles. If you stop by, you may see some of their historic planes flying over.

Address: 1600 Air Museum Road, Hood River, Oregon

Where to Stay in Hood River for Sightseeing

Hood River is relatively small and easy to get around. Since the main attraction here is the Columbia River, the best hotels are those with views over the river. Prices vary wildly by season, with rates rising dramatically during the summer months.

Luxury Hotels:

  • Overlooking the Columbia River, the Columbia Cliff Villas Hotel offers large, beautifully decorated suites with fireplaces, huge bathrooms, balconies, and outstanding views over the river. This pine-treed property is perched on a cliff on the western edge of Hood River.
  • For romance and old-world charm, check out the neighboring property, Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa. This historic hotel, built in the early 1920s, offers beautifully manicured grounds, which feature a waterfall and incredible views over the river, and individually decorated rooms.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The best mid-range hotel in Hood River is the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn, located on the waterfront close to downtown. The views over the river are outstanding from the rooms, the dining area (indoor and outdoor), and the heated outdoor pool and hot tub.
  • Within walking distance of downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites Hood River is a newer property, with large suites. Some rooms offer river views.

Budget Hotels:

  • The Westcliff Lodge, west of town and overlooking the Columbia River, is a popular budget hotel, offering large, comfortable rooms and suites with beautiful views.

Map of Attractions & Things to Do in Hood River, OR

Best Time to Visit Hood River

The best time to visit Hood River is during the months of July and August. The summer has the best weather, with temperatures in the high 20s Celsius, and it's also dry. It's a great time for hiking, biking, kayaking, and kiteboarding. You'll also have the bonus of the warmest water in the lakes and rivers.

June is for foodies, as all the orchards come into full ripeness, and fruit can be picked right off the trees along the Fruit Loop. April is the prime blooming season in the orchards.

September is a pleasant month, with warm daytime temperatures holding on for the first few weeks. The back half of September until mid-October has more moderate temperatures and cool nights but with the added bonus of the fall foliage color change.

Winter sees the town get pretty sleepy, as the temperatures drop below freezing and the clouds close in; however, nearby ski hills provide ample opportunity for outdoor activity.