So, Portland isn’t at all what I expected. To be frank, it’s much smaller than I thought it would be. If you are visiting, I would dedicate a day, a day and a half tops to exploring the city. Me, I find the wilderness of Oregon to be much time worthy. After some research, we found a handful of hidden spots in the Mount Hood area, ranging anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours from Portland. Renting a car would be an extra cost, but we wanted to make it happen.
Guys, it was the best decision we made. We were in Portland for three days and spent the entire second day driving around Mount Hood taking in the fall foliage. Cars are cheap to rent at PDX — we spent $109 (including gas, taxes, etc) for three days of rental – a steal! I honestly think we would have gotten a little stir crazy (or maybe just really drunk) if we stayed in the city of Portland for the whole trip.
So, here’s our route and the stops we made along the way. Read on!
Hotel Monaco, where we were staying, is smack downtown and about a 25 minute drive from the Witch Castle, this old stone house hidden in Washington Park. We made that our first stop. The hike down took about 20 minutes, the hike up somehow faster. I’m sure it’s beautiful year-round, but we found it stunning with all the colors of the leaves. It was a great first stop. I made friends with some puppies and their humans.
Next up on our list was Multnomah Falls this is the waterfall you see photos of all over the internets. It’s 611 feet tall and so easy to get to from Portland. The drive there was quick, but the line to the parking lot took at least 25 minutes. I think this is mostly because we went on a Saturday morning that was sandwiched between two rainy days — the locals and tourists alike were eager to get out for a bit. I had no idea what to expect when we arrived. Was the falls deep in the woods? Would we be hiking a lot in and out? Nope — you can basically stumble from the parking lot to the base of the waterfall. It was crowded, but breathtaking. Again, I’m sure it’s pretty year round, but I found Oregon like on her wedding day pretty during October.
We hiked up to the bridge, which gets you up close and personal to the falls. It’s very misty and windy here, so make sure to keep your phone and camera in your bag to avoid water damage. We then noticed a lot of people walking up the trail more and decided to follow. We hiked about another 15 minute up when we stopped and asked a women what was on top — this trail leads to the top of the waterfall. It takes about 45 minutes up to walk (About a mile) and the view was worth it. but, we were on a tight timeline, so we opted to skip it. I personally felt ok with that — the view from the bridge allowed you to see far out around surrounding hills as well as down the falls themselves to the parking lot. If you have more time, I’d suggest walking to the top.
Since it was still October, the roads along Mount Hood haven’t closed down yet for the winter. We planned to drive through the mountain and hills to the Tamolitch Blue Pool about 3 hours away, then take the highway back. A ranger at the falls suggested taking the road to Hood River, then South through the the mountains that way. Sadly, the town of Mount Hood had a LOT of construction happening. We got delayed by at least 45 minutes. By 2pm we were staving, so we stopped d at the New York Sub Shop in Hood River to grab sandwiches and hit the road again. They had other cafes and a really cute downtown. If we had more time, I would have loved to explore it a bit more.
We didn’t hit the mountain area until close to 3pm and had to accept the fact we weren’t going to make it to the pool in time. It was still abut 3 hours away and the sun would set around the time we got there. In hindsight, we should have left our hotel at 8am or even earlier to fit everything in.
Since driving down to the pool wasn’t going to work out this time, we opted to drive the 35 along the base of Mount Hood from Hood River tot he General’s Camp, then back West to Portland. There was so many cute wineries, fruit stands, pumpkin patches and apple orchards along Highway 35 to the mountain. It’s veery charming. We didn’t stop at any, but now I wish we did. Make sure to carve out at least 30 extra minutes to visit one of these cute little places! It would make a great place for a lunch or to gather up fresh snacks for the road.
I loved the drive through the mountains. SO peaceful. The view of Mount Hood sneaks up on you — we turned a corner and suddenly it was there!! Just staring us down. We pulled over to take photos, but a few miles down the road, found the perfect lookout spot of the mountains (below). In the summer, Mount Hood is all about hiking. The winter, all about skiing and other winter sports. I loved how close it was to Portland. Unlike Tahoe, which is at least a 4 hour drive from San Francisco, Mount Hood is about an hour from Portland. I can see why everyone is so outdoorsy!
We spent some time basking in the beauty of Mount Hood before heading back for the second half of the drive down the mountain on Highway 26. This side was the more crowded one since it is the direct road from the mountain to the city. If you go, I’d highly recommend driving the 35 on the North side to take in the charm. We arrived back in Portland around 5:30pm, right before the sun set.
Since it’s so close and Robin still hasn’t been, I’ll be returning to Portland. This time, I think we’ll drive and take 5-7 days to explore the wilderness, before hitting up Portland for a day or two max. Oregon is all about the outdoors. If you are heading to Oregon/Portland, let me know if you have any questions! And feel free to leave more travel tips below. I hope this Mount Hood road trip recap will help you plan your own trip!