For oenophiles who love to hike (or hikers who appreciate good vino), the area surrounding Portland, Ore., is a travel treasure trove.
Oregon’s fertile soil and temperate climate make it ideal for producing wine, while the state’s other natural resources also make it a hiker’s paradise. With mountains, waterfalls, lush forests and coastal views — not to mention grapes ranging from pinot noir to pinot gris to chardonnay — there’s a trail and a grape to suit every taste.
This travelogue uses Portland as a base and ventures east to Hood River/Mount Hood, west to the Oregon coast and south into the heart of the Willamette Valley. We’ll highlight the attractions and locations that were part of Tread Tread Light Adventure Travel’s 2015 Hike ’n’ Wine Tour. Visit Tread Light on Facebook to see photos from the 2015 tour.
Portland points of interest
From Oregon Zoo and Washington Park to Hoyt Arboretum and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, there’s no shortage of things to do in Portland. Following are some of our favorite points of interest in the city.
Portland Japanese Garden
This garden is a must-see while in Portland. Relax, get zen and enjoy this thoughtful landscape that beautifully incorporates the natural elements of plants, stones and water. Highly respected for its authenticity, the site covers 5.5 acres and includes five distinct garden areas. You’ll enjoy strolling the gardens, stopping to reflect and taking photos along the way. And for hard-core hikers, the climb up the hill to the entrance will get your blood pumping.
After descending down the trail and into Forest Park, you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re in the middle of a major metropolitan area. The Upper Macleay Trail leads you to the stunning Pittock Mansion, former home of Portland businessman Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana. The hike affords lovely views of the forest, and the mansion is a great place to stop for a picnic and enjoy the view. The historic home is also open for public tours.
Portland Saturday Market
From inexpensive trinkets to high-end art, you’ll find shopping galore — and lots of food vendors — at this weekly event in Portland. It’s a great place to people watch and stretch your legs, before or after a day or week of hiking.
In the interest of helping “Keep Portland Weird,” we suggest a stop at Voodoo Doughnut. Arrive early, as the line queues down the street and around the block. It’s more a novelty than anything else, but it’s fun. Besides, it’s a Portland institution you should visit at least once in a lifetime.
Powell’s City of Books
If you count a love of books among your passions in life, add this stop to your Portland itinerary. Whether you have a book in mind to purchase or just plan to browse, allow plenty of time to explore the many floors and rooms of this Portland treasure.
On to Hood River
The Columbia River Gorge offers lots of opportunities for hiking and wine tasting. Drive time from Portland to Hood River is about an hour, but there are stops you may want to make along the way. Regardless of the order in which you experience these stops, here are our top picks in the area.
Hood River Fruit Loop
This self-guided driving loop covers 35 scenic miles and includes stops at wineries, fruit stands and lavender farms. There’s no need to hit every stop. Grab a map and plot an area and locations that appeal to you. Along the way, you’ll see stunning scenery and amazing views of Mount Hood. Wineries on the loop include Cathedral Ridge, Hood Crest, Marchesi, Wy’East and Gorge White House. Our other favorites include Packer Orchard, Lavender Valley and Hood River Lavender Farm.
Hikes in the area
Whether it’s on the drive from Portland into Hood River or beyond this quaint little town on Mount Hood, the hiking opportunities are boundless. Our top picks include Punchbowl Falls and the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike en route from Portland, and the West Zigzag Trail at Mount Hood.
The Punchbowl hike offers a place for a refreshing dip at the end of the hike while the loop at Multnomah is a challenging course with numerous waterfalls and photo ops along the way. At the end of the Multnomah hike, take a stroll through the gift shop or enjoy some ice cream, hot cocoa (depending on the weather and time of year) or an adult beverage at the visitor center/restaurant.
For the Zigzag Trail, be sure to pack sunscreen and lip balm with SPF. The trail affords little shade but stunning vistas of the surrounding area. The trail connects with many others for a great 8.4-mile loop that includes portions of the Devil’s Tie and Burnt Lake trails.
Downtown Hood River
After a day of hiking, it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy some good food and wine. Brian's Pourhouse, Celilo and The Mesquitery are excellent dining choices, but you’ll find lots of other options. Tasting rooms in town include Cascade Cliffs, The Pines and others, but our favorite is the tongue-in-cheek Naked Winery. If you want to sample a variety of wines in a laid-back atmosphere, this is the place. While some tasting rooms may present a snooty air, there’s no attitude here — just good wine and good fun. (And lots of Goldfish crackers and chocolate chips for munching.)
Portland to the Oregon coast
Our usual itinerary takes us back to Portland at this point and then farther west along the coast before we turn south and back east into the heart of Willamette Valley and Yamhill County. This portion of the trip includes hiking on the coast, a lighthouse tour and a cheese factory stop. Here are the highlights:
Tillamook Cheese Factory
The Tillamook County Creamery Association was formed in 1909 in an effort to bring together all the cheesemakers in the county and establish a quality standard for their product. In 1947, the creameries expanded to produce ice cream. Today, about 1 million visitors pass through the current factory, which was built in 1949. A tour of the factory is interesting and a nice way to stretch your legs after the drive from Portland. Plus you can sample lots of fabulous cheese, grab an ice cream cone and pick up some awesome snacks to take on your next hike.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
The 5.4-mile out and back hike here is moderate and affords great views of the ocean, beach and surrounding cliffs. Be sure to check tide charts and note that portions of the original trail were destroyed by storms years ago and require some stints on the roadway to complete the trail. In addition, there’s also the short hike to the lighthouse — which is worth the wait for a tour if there’s a line — and another quick jaunt that leads to the Octopus Tree.
This is my favorite hike in the area and one of my favorite hikes ever. The lush vegetation is an attractive backdrop for your walk, as are the views of the beach and ocean below as you climb to an elevation gain of just over 900 feet. The true reward, though, is the lone bench at the vista point once you reach the pinnacle. Pack a snack and relax here before beginning your descent. Careful, though, as the trail does follow the edge of a cliff.
McMinnville, Yamhill County and Dundee Hills
About two hours from Tillamook (by way of Cape Lookout) is the quaint town of McMinnville, Ore. This walkable hamlet has several tasting rooms, a number of restaurants and a variety of shops. It also serves as the ideal base camp for exploring the many wineries in the area.
Some tasting rooms we’ve visited in McMinnville include Terra Vina, R Stuart and Naked Winery. Our other favorite stops in McMinnville include The Crescent Café (fresh, locally sourced dishes that never disappoint) and Hotel Oregon, a fun and quirky hotel under the McMenamins umbrella (which includes several hotels in Portland, too).
Nearby towns include Carlton, Yamhill, Newberg, Dayton and Dundee. Wineries of note in Dundee include Torii Mor, Argyle, Four Graces, Cathedral Ridge, Erath and Zerba. In Carlton, stop by Troon, Anne Amie, Laurel Ridge and Seven of Hearts. We’ve also sampled the grapes at Penner Ash and Rex Hill in Newberg.
In addition to great wines, you’ll find other gems along the way. We heartily recommend the Republic of Jam in Carlton. Stop in and sample some locally sourced homemade jam. And if you’re looking for a fun place to grab lunch or shop for gifts and souvenirs, check out Red Hills Market in Dundee.
There are plenty of other wineries, hiking trails, restaurants, shops and other points of interest to capture your attention in this part of the country. We invite you to consider these, explore and find a few of your own favorites.
Recreational vacations can satisfy a variety of passions, but a vacation that fulfills a pair of passionate pursuits can make for a memorable adventure — one that you may even want to repeat.