A trip to Hood River Lavender Farm
A day of perfect weather – sunny, not too warm, and not too windy. A good day to open up the sunroof and turn on the tunes. A drive up the Gorge from Portland or Vancouver is always a pleasure, but even more so when you can open up the car windows and let the wind blow your troubles away. There is something about a day trip to help ease the mind. Hood River is about the perfect distance away from the Portland/Vancouver metro area – you can get there in under 2 hours, depending on whether you take the scenic route or not. I always prefer the scenic route.
Head east on I-84, hopping off at the Troutdale exit. Head up hill just past the outlet mall and turn left at the light to take you in to the quaint downtown main street of Troutdale. If you have time, stop for a good wander through some of the nice stores there, or grab a coffee for the road. Continue east and the road will take you on a nice curvy road following the Sandy River under a canopy of trees. Stop for an ice cream at the Sugarpine Drive-in along the way, or visit the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Museum located just outside of town. The road will take you past the old historic school at Springdale and through the small town of Corbett as you head further uphill.
There are two places you’ll want to stop for views of the Gorge. First on your left will be the Portland Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint, a small viewpoint but with a great view. Further along you’ll hit the one everyone talks about, Vista Point. And what a vista it is! The scenic spot was opened in 1918, about the same time the Columbia River Scenic Highway was built. The old round building is a visitor’s center and has restrooms, and old stained glass windows in an art deco style. It can be pretty windy up there, but when I visited in July it was perfectly calm. Continue heading east towards Hood River following the curving old highway. You’ll pass several waterfalls on the narrow road with small parking lot areas. This isn’t an area to drive quickly. You’ll want to keep it slow and watch for people walking across the road with their faces looking up at the waterfalls instead of looking towards oncoming traffic – especially once you reach Multnomah Falls. It is a major tourist attraction for good reason, and can be pretty packed in summer. A good alternative is to stop at Wahkeena Falls, the Yakima word for “Most Beautiful”. Horsetail Falls is not as tall, but feels more powerful than the gentle Wahkeena. The Gorge has many waterfalls to see – each with its own personality.
A nice stop is also at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. Many love to stop and visit to see the famous Herman the Sturgeon. Herman is a very old and very large sturgeon fish that has lived most of its life in captivity. It is a pleasant place to visit – especially with kids who love the ponds filled with rainbow trout and some of Herman’s friends. It has a park-like atmosphere, there is no charge to visit, and it has a very nice gift shop too.
Continuing east, you’ll soon be arriving in Hood River. Head south on Hwy 35 and you’ll soon be passing orchards with views of Mt. Hood at every turn. This is a good route in spring when the apple, pear, and cherry trees are in bloom. You’ll be wanting to stop every quarter mile for another photo! But today I headed straight to Hood River Lavender Farm which was in full bloom in early July. The lavender attracts plenty of bees – which is a good thing, but can be a bit much for those who are allergic, but there are also plenty of chairs placed away from the lavender where you can sit and still enjoy the views without being worried. If you have no worries, dive right in to the well manicured rows of perfectly domed lavender plants. The fragrance is amazing! Their gift shop offers a wide variety of lotions and potions created from their lavender and even featured local favorite Ruby Jewel lavender and lemon ice cream sandwiches. They have a herd of goats next to the fields who enjoy a spectacular view. From the lavender fields, you have a lovely view of Mt. Adams but can just see the tip of Mt. Hood hiding behind the hills. Next door to the lavender fields is Stave and Stone Winery, which if you have time to stop for a wine tasting, has the most amazing view of Mt. Adams from inside!
Leaving the lavender fields, we stopped at Panorama Point County Park – a lookout point just off to the right as you head downhill on Hwy 35 towards downtown. It is well worth a stop, with terrific views of Mount Hood. There is so much to do in Hood River, we’ll have to save more for the next blog post!