If you’re traveling through Oregon this fall and looking for a drive that’s as colorful as it is delicious, don’t miss the 35-mile Fruit Loop (Highway 35) around Mount Hood! The Fruit Loop begins in the city of Hood River, just an hour east of Portland (Oregon’s largest city) on Interstate 84. The scenic route, back dropped by 11,245-foot snow-capped Mount Hood, winds through orchards, vineyards, farmland, and friendly communities. Stop often at the roadside farm stands along the way and sample fresh apples, pears, nuts, baked goods, wines, and more. This time of year you’ll also find cider, corn mazes, u-pick pumpkin patches, and might even meet an adorable alpaca!
Oregon’s Hood River Valley is small, and so are most farms. Many are run by families in their third or fourth generation of farming. They tend 2.4 million fruit trees on 13,800 acres, accounting for nearly one-third of the fruit-tree acreage in Oregon. More than two-thirds of the state’s pears are grown in the valley. The Hood River Valley is one of the few places in the nation that offers the complete experience of growing, producing, and then enjoying fruit and wine.
Fruit has been the valley’s predominant industry since farmers started planting orchards more than 150 years ago, but the Fruit Loop itself dates back only to 1993 when the first map was printed. The mission of the first map was to promote the products and farms found along the Fruit Loop and encourage tourism. It worked. Today, over 125,000 Fruit Loop maps are printed each year, and travelers can also download it from the website. Highway 35 is open year round, depending on the weather, so you can visit any time. If you prefer spring, keep in mind that the lovely fruit tree blossoms are at their peak in mid-April. Fall foliage begins turning in September and continues through November.
If you’re a train buff, you might also want to tour part of the scenic Hood River Valley aboard the century old Mount Hood Railroad. The historic excursion train leaves from Hood River and travels through scenic forests, meadows, and numerous fruit orchards to the town of Odell or Parkdale. A live narration along the way covers local history and key points of interest.
Hood River County Fruit Loop 541-386-7697 or http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com
Download map of Fruit Loop http://www.hoodriverfruitloop.com/things/locations.html
Mount Hood Railroad 1-800-872-4661 or http://www.mthoodrr.com
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com