Winter and summer recreation go together in the Columbia River Gorge like yin and yang. Each has its season, with just enough time in between to change equipment: from skis to sailboards, from snowboards to mountain bikes.

Cooler Weather

In the winter, it's ski time - downhill, cross-country and snowboarding. Here's the rundown in the Mt. Hood area:

  • Timberline Lodge
    Classic Pacific Northwest lodge nestled midway to the summit of Mt. Hood above Government Camp off Oregon Highway 26. National Historic Landmark constructed in 1937, with adjacent day lodge, multiple chairlifts and 3,590 vertical feet of winter terrain from the top of Palmer to the bottom of Victoria Station. 503-622-7979

  • Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort
    Largest night ski area in the United States, also with day skiing, cross-country and snowboarding, multiple chairlifts. Located off Oregon Highway 35 east of the Highway 26 junction. Plenty of summer hiking, too. Portland snow-phone: 503-227-SNOW. Hood River snow-phone: 541-386-SKIS. Vancouver snow-phone: 360-571-3919

  • Cooper Spur Ski Area
    Family-oriented resort on the north side of Mt. Hood overlooking the Hood River Valley. Downhill, cross-country, snowboarding and snowshoeing, rope-tow and T-bar, chairlift. 541-352-7803

  • Summit Ski Area
    Oldest ski area in the Pacific Northwest, and the first on Mt. Hood, established in 1927. Skiing, family tubing, cross-country and more. Located at the east end of Government Camp on Oregon Highway 26. 503-272-0256

  • Mt. Hood Ski Bowl
    Chairlifts and surface tows, dual alpine slide, miniature golf, mountain bike park and more. Located at 87000 East Highway 26 at Government Camp. 503- 272-3206, 503-222-BOWL

Warmer Weather

In the summer, it's windsurfing, rafting, kayaking and biking. Here's the rundown:


They flow in with the strong March winds, jumping, bobbing and spinning on the surface of the Columbia River like colorful, one-winged butterflies. They are windsurfers; their objective, perfect balance between flowing with the natural elements of wind and water and shaping their own course. Just as "Rome was not built in a day," neither is this perfect balance achieved in an afternoon of lessons. However, as another saying goes, "If you don't try, you won't succeed" and the Columbia River Gorge provides opportunities for the beginning as well as experienced boardsailor. Why do those spring winds come in so strong and continue throughout the summer, making the Gorge one of the best windsurfing spots in the continental U.S.? They're caused by temperature and barometric pressure differences between the wet, cooler air in the western Cascade Mountains and the dry, warmer air in the eastern desert. The drier air draws moist thermal air from the Pacific Ocean, creating a vacuum that transforms the Gorge into a wind tunnel. In the late afternoon and evening, the wind direction can switch back, blowing just as strong westerly as it did easterly earlier in the day.

The Columbia River coils through the base of the Cascades and the eastern hills of Oregon and Washington, providing some boardsailing launch sites protected from heavy winds, ideal for families and beginners, while other sites along the open river offer ripping wind currents for more experienced sailors. Knowing the conditions at various sites will help you find the best winds to match your skill level. This can also keep you from wasting a drive to a low-wind or no-wind site. To check wind conditions, call Bart's Best Bet at 541-386-3300 or K105's line at 541-386-1336, ext. 3. There are many launch sites for windsurfing located on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge, here are a few (listed from west to east):

  • Rooster Rock
    Lots of parking, grassy rigging area, picnic tables, restrooms and boat launch. Great place to watch windsurfers. Directions: I-84, to Exit 25. 25 minutes from Portland. $3/day or $25 year Oregon State Parks Fee required.

  • Bob's Beach
    Free parking, porta-potties, changing rooms, grassy rigging and stores nearby. Located in Stevenson, WA.

  • Home Valley
    Free parking, porta-potties, camping, swimming and ballfields. Directions: Hwy 14, milepost 50. 6 miles east of Stevenson, WA.

  • Swell City
    Very limited parking with porta-potties and small rocky beach. Excellent west wind. Directions: Hwy 14, milepost 31. 4 miles west of Hood River Bridge.

  • The Hatchery (Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery)
    Large swells with and excellent west wind but limited parking and rocky beach. Great place to watch windsurfers. Directions: 4 miles west of Hood River Bridge of Hwy 14, Washington.

  • The Hook
    Strong west wind with free parking. Excellent spot for groups of differing abilities. Directions: Exit 63 off I-84, go north to the river then turn left at the end.

  • Hood River Sail Park
    With a large, grassy, sheltered rigging area, picnic tables, showers and other amenities, this site is an excellent choice. Shallow calm water in the Marina offers a good location for beginners. Stronger winds in the middle of the river present a challenging course for advanced sailors. Great place to watch windsurfers. Directions: Located on the Oregon side of the Gorge in Hood River. Take I-84 to Exit 64, turn north and follow the signs to the sail park in Hood River.

  • Rowena
    $3/day or $25/year parking fee required. Porta-potties, picnic tables and water available. Great place to watch windsurfers. Directions: Exit 76 off I-84, go north, cross tracks, turn right 3/4 mile to the end.

  • Doug's Beach
    A legendary spot for Gorge windsurfers, Doug's offers large swells with medium to strong winds- not for the faint of heart. Be careful crossing the railroad tracks. Directions: From the Hood River Bridge, follow Washington's Highway 14 east past Lyle and watch for the parking area just west of Murdock. For more information about windsurfing in the Gorge or for a list of outfitters and instructional services, call one of the area chambers of commerce.

Rafting & Kayaking

The exhilaration you feel while shooting over the churning rapids is punctuated by the icy water from the wave's reach. You slice through a slower-moving aquamarine pool for a chance to catch your breath. Looking around, you are overwhelmed with the color green- soft, green moss clinging to rocks near the river's edge, lush green ferns spread along the forest floor, tall green trees shooting straight up to the sky. Quickly, you plot your path through the next series of rapids, riding the falls when you can and using the eddies to your advantage.

Rafters, kayakers and canoers come year-round to ride the White Salmon and enjoy its dramatic wilderness. Although the White Salmon River is a short "river run" from launch near BZ Corners to Northwestern Lake, it is jam-packed with rapids which make for a thrilling ride down one of several National Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Columbia Gorge. Conditions range from Class I to IV.

Beginning at the flank of Washington's glacial Mt. Adams, the White Salmon's waters move south, carving through wildflower meadows, verdant forests and sheer-walled canyons until it pours into the Columbia at Underwood. The upper river has a progression of class two, three, and four rapids, such as "Corkscrew" and "Stepping Stairs." For the more advanced whitewater enthusiasts, "Husum Falls," a class five, offers a challenging course when water levels are appropriate.

The White Salmon is cold, so a wetsuit and booties are recommended. If not, make sure you have a towel and dry clothes, at least dry socks, for a more comfortable ride home. To find BZ Corners, take Highway 14 toward Bingen on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, and turn north on Highway 141, continuing through White Salmon toward Trout Lake. BZ Corners is about 20 minutes north of White Salmon.

Other Wild Rivers in the Area:

The Columbia River Gorge contains a variety of rivers suitable for intermediate to world-class paddling. The Klickitat, Deschutes, and John Day rivers offer whitewater sports, as well as fishing and camping. For more information on whitewater sports and a list of rafting companies, contact the Mt. Adams Chamber Commerce at 509-493-3630 or the Maupin Chamber of Commerce at 541-395-2599

Mountain Biking

Try these local routes:

  • Surveyor's Ridge
    Spectacular 17-mile route with views of Mt. Hood and Hood River Valley. Located on Mt. Hood National Forest Road 44 near Sherwood Campground off Oregon Highway 35 south of Hood River.

  • Bennett Pass
    Good downhill rush. Begins four miles above starting point for Surveyor's Ridge.

  • Old Columbia River Highway
    Gentle, paved route east of Hood River leading to Mosier Tunnels.

  • Bonneville Dam
    Trailhead at Bonneville Dam to Eagle Creek and then to Ruckle Creek.

  • Deschutes River State Park
    Located 13 miles east of The Dalles on Highway 30, off Interstate 84 from the Celilo exit. Campground available on the Deschutes.

  • Rowena Crest
    Beautiful views of the Gorge between Mosier and The Dalles along the Columbia River Highway. Exit Interstate 84 at Mosier and head east.

  • Weldon Wagon Road
    Downhill ride into the White Salmon River Valley from the Snowden plateau in Klickitat County. From White Salmon, follow Snowden Road for about six miles, turn left at the Cherry Lake Fire Station, left on Sanburn Road, and park at the end of Sanburn Road.

  • Fisher Hill
    Steep but scenic route above the Klickitat River Canyon. From Lyle on Washington Highway 14, follow Highway 142 north along the Klickitat River, then left at the bridge to Fisher Hill Road. Park by the bridge.

Tour Biking

A newly-opened route in the Columbia Gorge offers a level, paved road and great views: the Mosier Twin Tunnels, now an Oregon State Park, are accessible between Hood River and Mosier. Trailheads are located at both ends of the park and may be reached by following Old Highway 30 from either community.

  • Rowena Crest
    Beautiful views of the Gorge between Mosier and The Dalles along the Columbia River Highway. Exit Interstate 84 at Mosier and head east.

Text Provided By The Dalles Chronicle