Insider's Guide to the Gorge
Where to Stay in the Gorge
Adventure begins (and ends) at these five hotels, inns, and B&Bs.
Stevenson; skamania.com; from $125
If you make the 45-minute drive from Portland to Skamania Lodge with the windows down, you might smell the lodge before you see it. The unmistakable scent of a wood-burning fireplace (in this case a massive, two-story number in the great room) greets you as soon as you approach the 254-room hotel. Built in 1993, Skamania Lodge gives other nods to the county’s rich timber industry: generous wood detailing and massive timbers abound in the recently remodeled great room, bar, and dining areas. And the dense, trail-filled Gifford Pinchot National Forest awaits right outside. Or stretch your legs instead on the lodge’s 18-hole golf course, before settling in front of the great room’s three-story window for a sunset show of fading pinks and oranges falling across the Gorge’s southern walls.
INN OF THE WHITE SALMON
White Salmon; innofthewhitesalmon.com; from $129 for a private room
Five years ago, the Dierck family took over this 75-year-old White Salmon fixture and set about gracefully transforming it into a boutique hotel fit for the 21st century. Formerly drab, Victorian-style rooms now feature warmly hued paint in place of wallpaper and built-in, reclaimed–Doug fir bed frames where brass behemoths once dwelled. An eight-bed “Alpine Hostel Room” offers a place to rest your head for just $25, while the cozy library and sunny back patio and garden provide plenty of places to compare adventures with your neighbors. Your reservation also nets you a voucher for breakfast at 10-Speed Coffee Roasters or Katina’s café—and a place to work it off with a free class at Yoga Samadhi.
Hood River; sakuraridge.com; from $185
Escape Hood River’s hustle and bustle at this Hood River Valley sanctuary, five miles southwest of town. (Trust us, when you get to Sakura, Hood River will seem like a harried metropolis.) In fact, the only crowds you’ll see on Sakura Ridge’s 72 acres of farmland are chickens scratching the ground around the rustic five-room lodge. Pear and apple orchards color the landscape, gently sloping away from your quarters, where each room comes with its own deck and Adirondack chairs—splendid seats for savoring your farm-fresh breakfast beneath a hulking Mount Hood.
HISTORIC BALCH HOTEL
Dufur; balchhotel.com; from $95
Within sniffing distance of the eastern Gorge’s myriad wildflower-strewn hikes (and syrah-strewn wineries), the Historic Balch Hotel anchors the tiny former railway town of Dufur, just as it did when it was originally built in 1907. Owners Samantha and Jeff Irwin purchased the property in 2006, restoring the hotel as an elegant western den replete with velvety parlor couches and leather armchairs, brass-and-glass chandeliers, and even the hotel’s old iron safe. True to its roots, there are no phones or TVs, and not all rooms have private baths. But everyone has access to the hotel Wi-Fi and warm chocolate chip cookies upon arrival.
COLUMBIA CLIFF VILLAS
Hood River; columbiacliffvillas.com; from $195
Developer Steve Tessmer spared no expense when building Columbia Cliff Villas, a vacation community next to the historic Columbia River Hotel: doors are carved from thick slabs of cherry, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances decorate the kitchens, double-paned windows muffle passing trains, and local artists’ original work hangs on the walls. The Villas’ 37 rooms can be booked individually or as larger suites. Opt for a river-view room and you’ll get a front-row seat to windsurfers at the Hatchery and, potentially, a fly-by from those other impressive Gorge wind riders: bald eagles.