We’re in awe of the amount of natural beauty surrounding Oregon’s Mt. Hood. After spending a week in the area, this is certain to become a return destination for us. With barely over an hour in the air from Vancouver to Portland’s PDX, Mt. Hood is equal parts accessible and beautiful.
Hiking is a huge draw. We did get some trails in but set our focus on lake and river kayaking. Summer’s just arrived and the wildflowers are bursting with colour.
WHERE TO PADDLE
Clackamas River Outfitters rent kayaks and stand-up paddle boards plus offer guided tours. We booked a two-hour twilight tour with this growing small business. They’ve recently added a second location for guided trips and rentals at Promontory Park Resort and Marina as well as whitewater rafting trips.
CRO is set up to bring kayaks and SUPs down to Timber Park’s boat launch area next to River Mill Dam (a 1911 hydroelectric dam listed on the National Register of Historic Places) close to downtown Estacada.
The water is smooth as glass on the evening of our tour. We glide along in easy-going, stable plastic kayaks, which co-owner Tanley Dickson believes are great for those new to the sport. She’s one half of the team behind CRO (along with Luke Spencer). Both are outdoor enthusiasts who share a passion for the water.
A momma Merganser and her five chicks, a couple of small waterfalls, Green and Blue Herons, egrets, and the lovely Estacada historical bridge (dating to 1936) are but a few of the highlights we take in. The area is still relatively unknown to visitors, but we notice a few others head in for a paddle while we’re in the area. Fishing is also popular.
After a casual walk around man-made Trillium Lake, we knew the second best way to enjoy this gorgeous scenery is via kayak. Mt. Hood Adventure to the rescue! Greg “Chopper” Moreno’s been running kayak tours for over a dozen years and knows his flora and fauna alike.
Ask him about tree lines, hikes up Mt. Hood or area history, and he’s got answers — and great tips to share. He’ll not only show you the lake in all its glory but can rent you and your group SUPs and kayaks.
Mt. Hood Adventure is the only area outfitter holding a permit allowing direct delivery of kayaks (and canoes) to the lake’s launch area.
Located near Government Camp in the shadow of Mt. Hood, Trillium Lake is a year-round destination for outdoor lovers. Summer sees families out for a day of stand-up paddling, kayaking or fishing while winter is great for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
The area surrounding Trillium Lake forms the last leg of Oregon Trail — Barlow Road, a historic road built in 1846 that served as the last overland segment of the Oregon Trail, allowing covered wagons to cross the Cascade Range to reach the Willamette Valley.
eNRG Kayaking is one of the top paddling schools in the Northwest. They buy, sell and rent canoes, kayaks, rafts and SUPs.
The Oregon City-based company’s owned by extreme kayak champion and whitewater enthusiast Sam Drevo. His team includes river rescue experts, American Canoe Association (ACA) instructor trainers and certified instructors.
We went on their historic 90-minute kayak tour on Willamette River, home to dozens of bird and mammal species (we saw a pair of turkey vultures on nearby rocks; swallows skimmed and dipped into the water within inches of our kayaks). Willamette Falls also has the distinction of being at the end of the Oregon Trail; the river contains remnants of the Industrial Revolution, easily spotted along both sides of the water.
Along the way, our guide George took us into the 1868 Willamette Falls locks, the only wooden multitiered water locks in North America, built in 1873 and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci drawings. In 1974, the locks were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
eNRG has a very well-equipped shop with waterproof gear to borrow for less-than-stellar weather conditions. Staying dry on the river during seasonal rain showers makes life a lot more pleasant!
Drevo believes that Willamette River contains some of the best paddling in the region. They’ve been in business for 15 years too, so we imagine Drevo’s pretty much conquered all the best paddling spots in the state.
California sea lions will travel 125 miles to get to Chinook salmon at Willamette Falls. Not only are the falls known for world-famous autumn salmon runs but 1,000 lb. white sturgeons call this river home as well.
During our time on the water, we’re constantly on the look out for jumping fish.
Willamette Falls could be seeing an Olympic-caliber whitewater park in the near future if Drevo can muster enough community support. Check out the Willamette Falls Whitewater Park website for info.
On July 5, 2013, he helped organize the Guinness World Record for most people in a floating line of tubers (620!) achieved by Human Access Project. Judging by the newspaper clipping inside the shop, this was a pretty sweet goal to achieve.
WHERE TO DINE
Post-kayak tour or SUP adventure, nearby Oregon City has several good spots for lunch (and dinner).
5 Spice Seafood and Wine Bar, 315 First Street, Lake Oswego
Mesa Fresca, 724 Main Street, Oregon City
Weinhard Grill, 812 Main Street, Oregon City
WHERE TO SLEEP
If you aim to enjoy the Willamette Falls area, Fairfield Inn and Suites in Portland South/Lake Oswego offers a comfortable rest just nine miles south of downtown Portland.
We spent two nights here while exploring Lake Oswego and Oregon City. There’s an indoor pool and jacuzzi, workout room and high-speed wifi to get work done while on the road. Our executive suite contained a lovely sitting area with a few lamps, work desk with ergonomic chair, lots of tech outlets and a small stereo system.
In addition to airco, the screened windows can be opened. Other amenities include complimentary breakfast, newspapers, afternoon freshly-baked cookies and a small sundries area for stocking up on snacks and essentials.
Find Fairfield Inn & Suites at 6100 South West Meadows Road in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
We’d also like to give a big shout out to Roam Mobility — we use their prepaid SIM card service each time we head south of the border (they also offer plans for Mexico-bound travellers). You simply choose from their various talk, text and data plans, select the days you’ll need service, pay online and receive a dedicated US phone number (with voice messaging).
They’ve recently added an option for international travellers coming to the US and Mexico (via worldwide delivery). Roam currently has a weekly “top up to win” contest where weekly draws for prizes are awarded to customers who top up their Roam SIM card.
A big shout-out to Mt. Hood Territory for arranging our adventures. Opinions, as always, are our own.