This time last year my kids and I set off to explore the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic 35 mile loop around the Hood River Valley about one hour east of Portland in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. I’d heard it was a fun region to explore with kids, but I wasn’t prepared for the breathtaking array of autumn reds, yellows, oranges, and greens that lined I-84. While many people visit the Fruit Loop during summertime for the farm stands and U-Pick berries, autumn is my favorite season to visit the region. So, once again, this fall, my kids and I set out to explore the region.
I prepared myself for a depressing drive through a blackened Columbia Gorge after the summer’s forest fires, but instead I was stunned by the breathtaking colors surrounding us. In fact, the views along the Gorge are reason enough for a trip to Hood River. But the beauty doesn’t end there. The sights and stops along the Hood River Fruit Loop make for a perfect autumn adventure. If you’re looking for a breathtaking and belly-filling day trip, make sure to stop by these five businesses:
1. The Gorge White House
The Gorge White House is a lovely Dutch Colonial Revival House and the main attraction of the property. Check out the gift shop and fruit stand, then sample a flight of beer, hard cider, or wine. Order farm fresh cuisine from the outside café and enjoy a picnic lunch while taking in the views on their outdoor patio. U-pick season is just about over, but you might still be lucky enough to grab a handful of dahlias for a great price before the season officially ends.
2. Packer Farm Store and Bakery
Make sure to bring your appetite to this next stop. Packer Farm Store and Bakery is a working family farm that currently sells apples and pears. Inside you’ll find more produce, as well as homemade jams, syrups, and fruit butters. Your kids will love sampling the baked goods made daily on site including giant cookies, fresh fruit pies, empanadas, and a variety of cinnamon rolls (the marionberry cinnamon rolls are AMAZING). Hand dipped ice cream cones and milkshakes, as well as fresh fruit smoothies, fresh squeezed lemonade and apple cider in the fall provide sweet alternatives (or additions) to the baked goods.
3. Draper Girls Country Farm
Pet and feed the donkeys and goats at Draper Girls Country Farm while you bask in the magnificent view of snow-covered Mt. Hood. Next, visit the fruit store where you’ll find a wide variety of fresh fruit. Don’t miss their homemade jams, jellies, syrups, fruit butters, antiques, and more. As of this fall, the Draper girls are also pursuing a new venture: hard cider samples and growlers. But go soon! Draper Girls closes after November and will open again next spring.
4. The Old Trunk Antique Store
This funky antique store and fruit stand offers many interesting items. If you haven’t already stuffed yourself at the other stops along the Hood River Fruit Loop, the soda fountain at the Old Trunk Antique Store serves soft-served ice cream using Tillamook ice cream mixed with fresh fruit, a full menu of espresso drinks, and canned cider.
5. Nella Chestnut Farm
Throughout November, take advantage of one of the few u-pick crops available during autumn: Colossal Chestnuts at Nella Chestnut Farm. Bring the kids out to explore the grounds, visit the chickens, play on the giant tree swing, and enjoy Nella’s beautiful property. Don’t forget to hunt for Colossal Chestnuts (yes, they are big!) Make sure to wear leather gloves and sturdy, close-toed shoes since the chestnuts on the ground are prickly!