Portland – Mt Hood – Crater Lake – Portland
Take this classic Oregon road trip and you’ll see rivers, waterfalls, majestic forests and the bluest lake imaginable. Apart from route suggestions and camping recommendations, we also include tips on where to eat and what to do along the way.
Slow Train: Depart Portland on the Slow, Scenic Route
If you have a week day morning departure, take the scenic route down I-84 through the majestic Columbia River Gorge and definitely check out some waterfalls along the way. Multnomah Falls, for example, is an easy stop and the perfect way to start your Northwest adventure.
Stop in Hood River for Food and Look Around this Charming Town
Head to Hood River and stock up on groceries and/or have lunch at one of several local restaurants. Check out, for example, Pine Street Bakery or Lake Taco (1213 June St). If you want to buy groceries while in the area, try the Farmstand in the Gorge, it sits between Pine Street and Lake Taco.
The options above are off the beaten path. You should also mosey around downtown Hood River where there are lots of shops and restaurants. Local outfitters will gear you up for mountain biking, kiting, surf skiing… you name it… Hood River is an outdoors enthusiast’s paradise! You’ll want to check out all the action in the air and on the water on the Columbia River where colorful sails puncture the blue sky daily. We generally don’t eat at the many new restaurants down by the water – it is starting to look a little bit like California down there – but we will always make an exception for Pfriem’s Tasting Room.
Across the river in White Salmon, there’s a bit of a food revolution underway. On your way there you’ll get to cross over the Hood River Bridge, which is always cool and gives you another perspective on the town. Try Feast, North Shore Cafe, White Salmon Bakery or, for a brew pub experience, Everybody’s Brewing. All will have things you should have in your tummy or tucked away for later in the van.
Fast Train: Head out of Portland on the fast route
If you have an afternoon or weekend departure, don’t delay, take US 26 and go get yourself a camp spot ASAP.
Camping in the Mt Hood Area
Things to do on Mt Hood
With so much to do and see in the Mt Hood area alone, it’s hard to say how many nights you should stay. But as for options, you could: rent a paddle boat at Lost Lake resort and spend a lazy day at this old school resort. Spend the night too, if you’d like. There is great camping at Lost Lake, though it is often reserved well in advance. You could hike trails for days. Pick up trail maps from any ranger station on your way.
You could even do some late spring or early summer skiing at Timberline Lodge. Don’t feel like skiing in the summer? Head to the historic lodge any way to see where the Shining made Jack Nicholson more famous than he already was. And Timberline now has a mountain bike park that we hear is not to be missed. You can put your bike on the ski lift, get a ride to the top, and barrel down.
Time for Crater Lake
Right about now you might be feeling like you didn’t plan for enough time to really see everything. Rest assured, it would be impossible to do and see everything there is to do on Mt Hood. And yet the rest of the state is waiting for you. Time to move on.
When you are ready to head to Crater Lake, you have more choices to make!
Choice 1: You could make a beeline down Highway 26 to 97 to 138 to the deep blue gem and try to score a first-come, first-served campsite at Mazama Campground, which is located 7 miles south of Rim Village near Highway 62 in the forests below and away from the lake. Another campground, Lost Creek, doesn’t take reservations and is available first come first served. You could try there, but you may ultimately end up down at Diamond Lake. (See below.)
Choice 2: Knowing you may end up there anyway, you could avoid the crowds and head to Diamond Lake which is nearby and has several options for camping. The bonus to going to Diamond Lake is there is a bike path that circles the lake with nice views of Mt Theilson.
When you have seen the sights of Crater Lake, head north again on Highway 97. Your options for the return trip include camping at La Pine State Park or camping in the Sisters area. La Pine State Park is a great base for visiting the High Desert Museum, Newberry Crater and what we call “the other crater lake” – Paulina Lake (Note: there is also camping at Paulina Lake).
If you want to explore Sisters, it’s a cute little town with a classic burger joint that makes a fantastic shake called the Snow Cap. Here you could camp along the Metolius River or Three Creeks Lake.
And because all good things must come to an end, it’s now time to take Highway 22 over Santiam Pass to I-5 back to Portland.