Hood River sits at the confluence of the Columbia and Hood rivers, and is in the middle of the massive Columbia River Gorge, which has been carved to a depth of 4,000 feet in places. The town is also within spitting distance of Mount Hood, the 11,250-foot volcanic behemoth. All this together provides appropriate water-, land- and sky-scapes for mountain biking, kitesurfing, skiing, windsurfing, kayaking and, of course, trail running.
Says Oregonian trail all-star Max King of Bend, “The nice thing is there are just a ton of trails close to town. All of the Gorge’s trails are awesome, and you can access the Mount Hood National Forest trails as well.”
Brian Shortt, owner of local running store Shortt Supply, notes that there are “two mountains, three national forests, five rivers and 40-plus annual running events within a 60-minute drive of Hood River.”
Post Canyon Trails / For difficult running on steep, forested singletrack, try this trail network, located just beyond Hood River’s western border. Max King says “you have to hit” these trails. The trail system is quoted at 15 miles but there’s much more real estate as the network is always evolving. Be on constant lookout for mountain bikers.
Mount Defiance Trail / Beginning at Starvation Creek Rest Area west of Hood River, this trail covers 4.5 miles and ascends nearly 5,000 feet one way to the 4,960-foot Mount Defiance summit. Along the way, at around 4,100 feet, views of the Cascade Range will take your breath away. Hook up with the Mitchell Point and Starvation Ridge trails to make an 8.7-mile loop, or return the way you came.
Surveyor’s Ridge Trail / On a clear day, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and many more mountains are visible from this 16.4-mile multi-use trail that starts about 15 miles south of Hood River. Use the Dog River and Oak Ridge trails to make a 24-ish-mile loop that includes most of the Surveyor’s Ridge Trail, with more than 5,000 feet of climb.
Gorge Waterfalls 100K and 50K / Taking place on consecutive weekends in April, these races afford stunning views as runners navigate winding and often technical singletrack in the Columbia River Gorge. The 100K offers up a staunch 12,000 feet of climbing and the 50K about half that.
Mt. Hood 50 Mile & 50K / Run almost entirely on the Pacific Crest Trail, these July events both begin a short drive south of Hood River in the shadow of Mount Hood. The mostly non-technical trail has relatively good footing and the courses are well stocked with aid stations, making them optimal races for those getting started in ultramarathons.
Post Canyon 50K & Half-Marathon. This event’s website prompts runners to “dance upon … diverse and amazing terrain.” With multiple re-routes due to local tree harvests over the years, these tough August races offer something new each edition.
Get There / Interstate 84 meanders about 60 miles east along the Columbia River Gorge from Portland. You’ll want a vehicle to access the trails and forests surrounding Hood River.
Play Tourist / Hood River is an outdoor-sports mecca—try windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking or skiing when you need a break from the trails. Wine and beer enthusiasts can try some of the many vineyards and breweries that pepper the countryside.
Take Note / Hold onto your hat! There’s a reason why wind- and kitesurfing are so popular here. Strong winds whistle through the Columbia River Gorge year-round, and the strongest gusts blow from May through September.
This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.