We visited White Salmon in late September 2022 as part of Big Trip #4.
We chose White Salmon for a one-night stop between Mount Rainier National Park and Bend, OR because it’s across the river from Hood River, OR, a hip and happening town. Just a few days before arriving we discovered that old friends live in White Salmon, so we added a night to our stay. White Salmon and Hood River are both really cool (and really dog-friendly) towns and the area has so many opportunities for outdoor activities. We’ll definitely return!
(In other exciting news, I got my 49th state (J already had Oregon), Bugsy got her 47th state (in the continental US, she only needs Vermont), and the Airstream got its 46th (Bugsy’s visit to Delaware wasn’t in the Airstream). We need to take another New England roadtrip!)
We stayed at Gorge Base Camp, on a bluff over the Columbia River on the White Salmon side. Our original one-night reservation was for a spot overlooking the river, but we had to give that up for a regular pull-through when we extended our stay. The river spots have partial water views through the trees, but are on top of train tracks; we didn’t get much train noise at all at our central, sunny, pull-through site.
Downtown White Salmon is just up the hill from the campground (but not walkable), and Hood River is right across the river. There’s more to do on the Hood River side, and each time you cross the Hood River Bridge you have to pay a couple dollars in tolls. When we visited, there were no taxi or ride-share services available (Hood River has a pedi-cab, but bikes can’t cross the bridge).
The lanes on the bridge are super narrow–9 feet 4.75 inches–and we decided not to cross it with our 8 foot-wide Airstream. We even folded in our mirrors on the F-150 when crossing without the trailer. It only added a few minutes of drive time to cross at a bigger bridge up the river.
Hood River is the larger of the two across-the-river neighbors, built along the banks of the Columbia and up the hill over the river. Its downtown is walkable and full of restaurants, bars, and shops, abutting a wide stretch of park space with walking paths and kitesurfing beaches along the river.
We got our bearings by walking Bugsy along the river for a couple miles. The bridge is a neat backdrop to the river trail, and we were hoping to see kitesurfers, but the wind wasn’t cooperating. Normally the Hood River waterfront is a huge kitesurfing scene thanks to the wind blowing through the Columbia River Gorge. The waterfront is a growing commercial and residential area and an ideal setting for a stroll.
From the river, we drove up the hill to downtown for a walk. The downtown area is super cute, with lots of spots for shopping and eating along the main drag.
Eating and drinking
Down by the river, we enjoyed PFriem Brewing on both days we were in town. The jammy pale and hazy IPA floated our boat, and the pumpkin ale was tasty for a small portion.
Ferment Brewing, PFriem’s neighbor, has a huge outdoor seating area and a pretty indoor space with river views. We stopped by and the tap list didn’t grab us, so we moved on, after admiring the place.
Camp 1805 Distillery is in the same complex as PFriem and Ferment. It has a fun Lewis and Clark theme (L&C first passed through the Columbia River Gorge in late 1805) and outdoor dog-friendly seating in little “cabins.” We sampled specialty cocktails and tuna poke wonton nachos; service was a bit slow but the food and drink and spot overall were very good.
To fuel our waterfront stroll with Bugsy, we caffeinated at Stoked Roasters, very busy the morning we stopped in. It looked like a place you’d want to meet a friend or do some work.
After walking the waterfront and walking the downtown strip, we needed lunch and headed for Freshies Bagels and Juicery. Their bagels are fantastic! We sat outside with Bugsy and had breakfast bagels and fresh juice and it was the perfect brunch.
The dog parking area next to the door was a really cute and useful idea for good dogs (our neurotic dog would never agree to be parked there).
High on J’s to-do list for Hood River was to pick up barbecue from Grasslands Barbecue, a self-described “Tex-ish” food truck parked next to Ferment down by the river. We stopped by to talk strategy with the BBQ-slinger on Saturday: they open at 11:30 (looks like in the winter they’re only open on Saturdays), so to beat the line arrive as close to then as possible. When they sell out of something, it’s gone, so to get his brisket J got in line at 11:45 Sunday. The menu is obviously very meat-heavy, but they do have a smoked portobello sandwich that sounds fab. J ate his brisket over the next several days and thought it was great.
Back at PFriem for a second visit, we ordered the mushroom sandwich and strawberry salad to share as an early dinner. They were both very good.
Since we have friends in White Salmon, we were lucky to have local tour guides to take us to their favorite places! They also helped us put things on our to-do list for next visit.
Our friends happen to be expert river guides and they took us rafting on the White Salmon River! Did I mention how lucky we are? We put in at BZ Corner and took out at Husum Falls (and then watched our friend’s son kayak the falls–“largest commercially run waterfall in the United States”–a few times, holy cow).
The trip was gorgeous (get it, gorge) and exciting and cold and I was happy that the water level was low because the rapids (Class III-III+ when the river’s low) were plenty big for me.
Eating and drinking
Everybody’s Brewing is our friends’ favorite hangout and that’s where we met for dinner and beers. Everything we had was good: lots of IPAs, a couple sours, sweet potato fries, burritos (I think my burrito had sweet potato fries in it! Genius!), and it’s a great space. Our friends go there a lot and we totally see why.
The next morning, before we left town, we met them at another of their usual spots, North Shore Cafe for coffees and breakfast burritos to go. It’s another cool spot in a cool town.
We have so much on our to-do list for White Salmon and Hood River!
Breweries that interested us but we didn’t make it to:
- Full Sail, in Hood River – J noted that their beer list wasn’t that interesting, but the tasting room looked pretty good
- We should try Ferment
- It’s not a brewery, but Cebu Lounge serves cocktails on the waterfront in Hood River, east of the bridge in an area we didn’t explore
Eateries we didn’t make it to:
- White Salmon Bakery is our friends’ favorite breakfast and pizza spot in town, and they were closed for vacation while we were there. Next time!
- In Hood River, our friends’ favorites are Kickstand Coffee and Celilo Restaurant
More places to explore:
- White Salmon’s commercial strip looks adorable
- I think the National Neon Sign Museum nearby in The Dalles sounds really interesting
- Multnomah Falls is supposed to be wonderful, but we were turned off by the fact that it’s the most visited natural recreation site in the PNW. I guess we should see it anyway
- Mt Hood is stunning; look into hikes in Mount Hood National Forest and Mount Hood National Recreation Area
- Hike 2.6-mile Mitchell Point Trail for big gorge views near Hood River; the trailhead is closed until 2023
- Drive up to Rowena Crest, also near Hood River, for gorge and mountain views (it’s compared to Horseshoe Bend in AZ, but Horseshoe Bend is a bend in the river while the bend at Rowena Crest is a road…)