East of Portland the Columbia River Gorge cuts through the snowy peaks of the Cascades for 75 miles, an important corridor between east and west for thousands of years. Scoured into a wide U-shape by huge Ice Age-era floods, the gorge is a nationally protected scenic area (fs.usda.gov/crgnsa), where waterfalls tumble down sheer cliffs, and fir and maple trees turn fabulous shades of gold and red in the autumn.
Dominating the horizon south of the Columbia River and the town of Hood River, Mount Hood (11,240ft) is a mesmerizing dormant volcano and the tallest peak in Oregon, sprinkled with eleven active glaciers. The Mount Hood Scenic Loop – a combination of highways 35 and 26 – links the mountain and the Columbia Gorge while passing numerous orchards along the way, which in the spring and summer offer great opportunities to sample fresh fruit, juice and desserts (see hoodriverfruitloop.com). One of the other joys of the area is to explore the mountain via trails radiating out from its slopes, most of them protected within the Mount Hood National Forest; ranger centres can supply more information. Note that there are no trails to the summit of Mount Hood; only experienced mountaineers should tackle the technical climb to the top (free permits required).
Near the intersection of highways 35 and 26, a turnoff leads to the grand, New Deal-era Timberline Lodge, which Stephen King fans might recognize as the exterior set for the hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.