If you’re looking to escape the Texas heatwave, head west to Oregon and uncover more than you ever expected. Nestled between the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a fertile haven. Here, pioneering winemakers craft unique blends from cold-weather grapes, food enthusiasts will savor the delicious regional fruit varieties, and nature lovers will find joy in misty waterfalls and rugged trails. In this Pacific Northwest paradise, adventure begins as soon as you get off the plane.

Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Columbia River Gorge: Nature’s Majestic Gateway

At the northern tip of the Willamette Valley lies the Columbia River Gorge, a scenic byway flanked by sheer cliffs and traversed by iron bridges. This awe-inspiring gateway to northern Oregon serves as a natural border with Washington and offers 80 miles of canyon adorned with cascading waterfalls.

Although it’s a slight detour from the direct route to the Willamette Valley, the trip eastward to Multnomah Falls is well worth it. Hike a few miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and, for the more adventurous, experience some of the top kiteboarding and windsurfing spots in the U.S.

Hood River “Fruit Loop”

To truly savor the flavors of Hood River, embark on the Hood River Fruit Loop, a 35-mile self-guided driving tour through the picturesque valley. This charming route boasts 30 on-the-farm fruit stands, wineries, breweries, cideries, and fields of vibrant flowers. It offers the perfect blend of the region’s rich agricultural heritage and modern culinary delights.

As you meander along the Fruit Loop, be sure to visit highlights like Hood River Lavender Farm, Packer’s Orchards, Mt View Orchards, and the Gorge White House Fruit Stand and Winery. Depending on the season, you can delight in picking Elstar and Wolf River apples, Rainier cherries, or marionberries.

First planted with fruit trees in 1855, the valley now flourishes with 14,500 acres of pears, apples, and cherries. The scenic country roads reveal the bounty of farm products grown in this fertile area. This enchanting self-guided tour invites families and friends to create unforgettable memories while exploring Hood River’s abundant agricultural treasures.

Hood River Hotel

For those seeking accommodations in the heart of Hood River, the Hood River Hotel is an ideal choice. This historic hotel, the town’s oldest, places guests within easy reach of the best food, coffee, breweries, and shops the area has to offer. The hotel caters to all types of travelers with its variety of room options, including a 10-bed, hostel-style bunkhouse and spacious suites equipped with full kitchens and downtown views.

A stay at the Hood River Hotel is enriched by its convenient location. Guests can easily explore award-winning restaurants, breweries, galleries, wine tasting venues, and vibrant nightlife, all just a short walk away. Don’t miss the Nordic-inspired brunch at Broder Øst next to the lobby or renting an e-bike from Sol Rides nearby for a fun ride around town.

Willamette Valley

Bring your freshly harvested treasures back to Abbey Road Farm, where owners Daniel and Sandi Wilkens have transformed grain silos into a charming, light-filled bed and breakfast. The cozy lodgings feature a chef who prepares elaborate breakfasts using the farm’s produce every morning, immersing visitors in the natural beauty and bounty of the region.

Driving through McMinnville and Carlton to the Chehalem Mountains, you’ll pass 74% of Oregon’s vineyards, where 88% of the state’s Pinot Noir is produced. While Oregon Pinot Noir is a highlight, don’t miss the chance to try other blends like Trousseau Noir or Riesling. The lush hills of this valley have given rise to renowned wines such as those from Pine Ridge Vineyards and its sister project Archery Summit, as well as innovative cooperative ventures like the James Rahn Wine Company.

James Rahn, a former sommelier turned winemaker, has fostered a collaborative environment among emerging winemakers. Here, experimentation with new techniques is as common as crafting traditional wines. Tasting his unique varieties of Gamay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Gris will transport your taste buds through the diverse terroirs of the northern Willamette Valley.

There are countless other vineyards to explore, so take the time to wander through the vineyards on foot. Be prepared for some of the wettest conditions of any wine region! The ever-changing weather here contributes to the distinct flavor profiles of each vintage.

Check Your Wine Luggage

A trip to the Willamette Valley is just the beginning of a fantastic adventure. With hundreds of tasting rooms scattered across the valley, it’s impossible to sample all the unique local flavors. However, you can take a piece of the experience home. Alaska Airlines allows travelers to check a case of wine for free, making it easy to bring home your favorite bottles. And don’t forget to pack some dried fruit to complement your wine—just remember it has to fit in your carry-on.

Durant Olive Mill

Oregon isn’t just about wine; it’s also a hub for olive cultivation. Paul Durant, who studied engineering at the University of Texas before returning to his family vineyard, introduced olive groves to the estate. Now, nearly 15 years later, Durant’s olive production thrives, producing vibrant oils with unique flavors influenced by their exceptional growing conditions. The groves offer spectacular views extending to the snow-capped peak of Mt. Hood.