Windsurfing and kiteboarding are huge in the Columbia River Gorge area. Head to pretty, family-friendly Waterfront Park for great views or to try it out for yourself.
Lovers of the grape can visit over a dozen wineries in the region for wine-tasting adventures. The Chamber of Commerce has a Columbia Gorge Wine Map outlining all of them, or check www.columbiagorgewine.com.
Head south of town for great mountain biking. Most of the area's trails are off Hwy 35 and Forest Rd 44 (which branches off Hwy 35 about 20 miles south of Hood River). Good local rides include Post Canyon, Surveyor's Ridge and Nestor Peak.
For white-water rafting, head to the White Salmon, Hood or Klickitat Rivers. Stand-up paddling (SUP) is also popular on the Columbia.
Hood River County Fruit Loop
Covering 35 miles along scenic fertile lands, the Hood River County Fruit Loop takes you by family fruit stands, U-pick orchards, lavender fields, alpaca farms and winery tasting rooms. There are blossoms in spring, berries in summer, and apples and pears in fall – with plenty of festivals and celebrations throughout the seasons (except for winter). It's a good way to sample the area's agricultural bounties while appreciating the local scenery too. For more information and a list of events, check www.hoodriverfruitloop.com.
Windsurfing & Kiteboarding on the Columbia
On hot summer days, the inland desert climate of eastern Oregon attracts cool air from the Pacific coast, creating fierce winds that shoot westward 80 miles through the narrow walls of the Columbia River Gorge. These westerlies, which directly oppose the river's flow, create some of the world's most optimal conditions for windsurfing, which has been popular around Hood River since the 1980s. Kiteboarding, that more edgy cousin of windsurfing, also offers exciting speeds and airy acrobatics. On a good day you can witness hundreds of colorful sails cutting through the water at breathtaking speeds, in daring displays of athleticism and beauty.
Good put-in spots in Washington include Swell City, the Hatchery and Doug's Beach (all for the experienced). In Oregon, Hood River's Event Site is a major put-in location for intermediates and gets crowded; other good spots include Rock Creek and Rowena. Beginners should head to the Hook. Wind conditions change frequently, making some locations better than others on any given day; for current conditions check www.iwindsurf.com.
For beginners, taking a windsurfing or kiteboarding lesson is mandatory. Big Winds is the biggest operator in the area and in downtown Hood River. Hood River Water Play is another good option. Both rent stand-up paddleboards too.
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
Cyclists, walkers, runners and skaters share the pavement along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, a refurbished stretch of the old road between Hood River and Mosier. No cars are permitted on the 4.5-mile section of road, which passes through two old highway tunnels and is popular with families. To reach the trailhead, head east out of downtown, cross Hwy 35, and continue up the hill to the parking area ($5 parking fee).