A Day in the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Part 2: Hood River, Fruit Loop, and Punchbowl Falls
The second half of our day in the Columbia Gorge, Oregon continued down the highway towards Hood River, Fruit Loop, and Punchbowl Falls. Just an hour outside of Portland, Oregon and just past all of the beautiful waterfalls we’d seen earlier in the day, starts the 35 mile scenic drive known as the Fruit Loop.
After a brief stop in Hood River, we took this laid-back drive through the valley’s orchards, farmlands, and forests of Hood River County. Home to the nation’s largest pear-growing region, it’s the perfect place and one of the few, to be able to experience the growing, producing of eating of not only pears, but many other types of local fruits.
Our favorite stop along the way was a visit to the historic home, The Gorge White House, on a century-old working farm. We walked through the flower fields while taking in double mountain views. We sampled a flight of hard ciders in the flavors of apple, pear, blueberry, and their new limited edition mixed berry in their newly designed beer and cider room. That hard cider was so good; we still wish we had gotten a growler of it to go.
We made other stops along the Fruit Loop to enjoy fruit and jam samples, have some ice cream to cool us down, interact with farm animals, and eat some delicious BBQ for lunch. It was a great way to send a warm afternoon with our friend Anna of the Legendary Adventures of Anna. The Fruit Loop is a great place to spend a day any time from spring through autumn with something different to offer at all times of the year.
On our way back to Portland, we stopped at Eagle Creek Trail Campground in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to visit Punchbowl Falls. Punchbowl Falls ranks up there with Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls, and Crater Lake as some of the most enduring Oregon icons. As evidenced by the name of Punchbowl Falls, the years of water flow have carved out a deep, bowl-shaped pool at the base of the falls creating a circular basin.
None of us had done much research before heading there and weren’t aware that Punchbowl Falls was accessed by a 2 mile hike, only. Needless to say, we were not the best prepared for the 2 mile hike into the falls. If we had, we wouldn’t have been wearing flip flops and would have brought more water for the steep uphill hike to Punchbowl Falls. As well as, flashlights for the hike back.
The Eagle Creek Trail is the most popular trail in the Columbia Gorge. Starting at the trailhead, we began our hike easy enough through the forest on a well-groomed trail surrounded by new-growth, lush ferns, and moss-covered rocks. As we moved along, the trail steadily started to gain elevation. The path turned steep and narrow carved into sheer basalt cliffs with no guardrails. The Eagle Creek Trail hike offered us spectacular viewpoints and waterfalls along the way. Even though cable lines were built into the walls in some sections to provide some stability, the sheer cliffs make the hike not suitable for children or those afraid of heights.
After what felt like more than 2 miles, we were rewarded with spectacular views of both upper and lower Punchbowl Falls. From the top, the water spilled into a blue-green pool set among a large grotto. No matter the trek, it was worth the hike in.
Please note that jumping or diving off of Punchbowl Falls is prohibited and a hefty fine is issued for doing so due to injury and many who have lost their lives.
Have you ever visited Hood River, Fruit Loop, and/or Punchbowl Falls?
All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2013, unless otherwise noted.