I didn’t hear the words “Fruit Loop Tour” until a good few months into my time in Portland. My boyfriend heard a few locals at his work talking about it and he suggested it would be a great day away from the city. When he told me what it involved, I was so in – it sounded like the most quintessential Portland day trip I could think of.
Think of the Fruit Loop Tour as a scavenger hunt of sorts, a challenge to see the best of the Pacific Northwest wilderness outside of Portland in a day. The tour includes 3 stops in total – the famous Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, and Mt. Hood. Could you think of a fuller and more exciting day trip? No, I didn’t think so.
I believe the original fruit loop tour consisted of 36 short stops at fruit stands, orchards, and wineries around the Hood River area, but it has become something else altogether for some Portland locals. Although that fruit loop tour is still a viable option in the right season, I much preferred the one we heard about. It includes a better variety of scenery and ultimate Pacific Northwest sights that are great to see no matter what time of the year it is.
So, let’s get started. If you’re only in Portland for a short time and you want to explore outside the city at all, tackle this day trip in all of its exhausting glory and you will not be disappointed. I think the trip in total took us about 12 hours, so make sure you have the stamina for it. Also, if you’re a local Portlander and you haven’t done this tour yet – get on it! You may have already been to all of these sights individually, but it’s way different when you see them all in a day and can compare them with each other.
Feel free to mix this guide up and add or take away whatever sights or scenes you’d like to include in your own trip. This is just a basic framework to get you out and exploring the Pacific Northwest.
Stop 1: Columbia River Gorge/Multnomah Falls
Only about an hour’s drive from Portland, Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge as a whole are potentially the most popular escapes from Portland. Multnomah Falls is that waterfall you see in every picturesque postcard and the goal of every traveler to see while they’re in Portland. And even though it’s generally a crowded spot, it’s well worth a trip.
We hiked up the relatively short distance to the top of the 620 foot waterfall during our Fruit Loop Tour to get a glimpse of what it felt like to look down instead of up from that view. If you have the time, and you should only really be spending a few hours in each stop, I’d recommend seeing a couple of other waterfalls while you’re in the area. It is the Pacific Northwest after all.
The waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge are numerous and often quite close together. Many of them don’t have long walks or hikes from the parking area or they’re simply right along the road as you drive by. A couple of my personal favorites are Latourell Falls and Horsetail Falls if you’re short on time.
Of course, the Columbia River Gorge is worth a full day (or many) when you have the time to explore the vast amount of trails hidden within the forest, but for the sake of the Fruit Loop Tour and the many wonders you’ll see in a day, a few hours in the gorge will suffice.
Stop 2: Hood River/Pfriem
Another 40 minutes down the highway and you’ll come to Hood River, your second stop and halfway point on the Fruit Loop. Our tour was the first and only time I’ve visited Hood River, a charming city along the Columbia River that’s both welcoming and attractive. They also hold their own in terms of a local craft beer scene, and it’s generally recommended that you at least make a stop on Pfriem – arguably the most popular brewery in the area.
Although we didn’t make it to Pfriem with this trip, we did have a chance to visit Double Mountain Brewery, which had a whole lot of country music and a very local feel to it right in downtown. They had a tasty Flanders Red ale that I sipped on with lunch. Full Sail is another popular brewery in Hood River, right next to Double Mountain, and worth checking out if time permits.
Hood River is a fun city to walk around and pop your head into all the small boutique shops in town. There is a much slower pace here than Portland, so it came as a welcome retreat from the hustle of our current base. It’s also known for being a great windsurfing location when the weather is nicer, so if you’re into that at all, make sure to keep Hood River in mind!
Stop 3: Mt. Hood/Timberline Lodge
Lastly, the perfect way to end your long journey is at the top of Mt. Hood at the historic Timberline Lodge.
The Timberline Lodge is one of those places that never gets old, the view is always different as well as the vibe whenever I’m up there. We finished off our trip with a fancy dinner at their restaurant, looking out over the ridges of the mountain. It was a stunning place to watch the sun go down and enjoy the brisk fall breeze from the second-floor balcony.
Although the slopes weren’t open yet when we were there towards the end of fall, Timberline is a popular local spot for skiing and snowshoeing in the height of winter.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I would call the ultimate Portland day trip. It may not seem like a lot of stops or a trip that would take 12 hours, but there is SO much to see in this beautiful area of the Pacific Northwest. I think it would be hard to be disappointed with what you find there.
Do you have any great day trip ideas from where you’re living right now? Have you been to any of these spots in the Pacific Northwest?
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