All of the outdoorsy flavor, none of the crowds
written by Sheila G. Miller
There aren’t many cities in Oregon more popular among the outdoors set than Hood River. But just across the Columbia River lies White Salmon, a town that’s just as accessible to adventure and full of charm all its own.
Most drivers will access the Washington side of the Gorge via the Bridge of the Gods, a toll bridge with a magical quality. It was made famous as the end of author Cheryl Strayed’s journey in Wild, and its steel body rises high over the Columbia River. On a clear day drivers can see far along the river banks.
Once across the river, White Salmon is almost directly across from Hood River but sits on a bluff above a smaller town called Bingen. For a town of just about 2,300, White Salmon has a variety of restaurants and bars.
The best hotel option in town is the Inn of the White Salmon. For just under $70 a night, there are rooms remodeled in a spare, Scandinavian style that doesn’t skimp on extras—a reading room, hot coffee and tea in the lobby and exceptionally comfortable beds for a good night’s sleep. If you’re traveling with a group, check out the family suite, which has bunk beds built into the wall of a room with a king-size bed.
Everybody’s Brewing should be at the top of any White Salmon visitor’s list. The laid-back pub is like the town’s living room, with session ales that taste great and complement the upscale pub food. While Oregonians aren’t newcomers to the pub food scene, Everybody’s Brewing does a nice job of mixing it up with menu options that go beyond the burger and beer cheese soup. Try the gyro—you won’t regret it. In the summer check out the deck, which can fit fifty people and features a beautiful view of the river and Mt. Hood.
Other options include Henni’s, a surprisingly swanky little restaurant run by a South African chef and specializing in small plates that have an international flavor. Or try out Katina’s Café for breakfast or lunch—the homemade breakfast burritos and scrambles are just the thing before an adventurous day exploring the Gorge.
The main street in town, Jewett Boulevard, has The Book Peddler, a small used bookstore, as well as a few other necessities. The real reason to visit White Salmon, though, is that it serves as the perfect jumping-off point for any number of outdoor opportunities.
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has an adventure for everyone. There are hiking trails, rock climbing spots and mountain biking.
In the summer, of course, there is whitewater rafting on the Klickitat and White Salmon rivers, as well as rock climbing at The Bypass, a small locals spot. Just upstream of White Salmon is the Burdoin Mountain – Coyote Wall – Catherine Creek area, which is a top spot for hiking.
The Guler Ice Caves in nearby Trout Lake will keep you cool, winter or summer. One of the caves near the parking lot has a wooden staircase that will lead you down into the darkness to explore the collapsed lava tubes.
White Salmon is also a good spot to stay before a hike up Mt. St. Helens or a more technical climb up Mt. Adams. Mt. St. Helens is a two-hour drive from White Salmon, while you can reach the trailhead for the south climb of Mt. Adams in about an hour.
In the winter White Salmon is a half-hour’s drive to Mt. Hood for some downhill skiing, but there are also plenty of nearby cross-country skiing options as well.
If you crave more comfort, consider heading west a bit and swing by Skamania Lodge. The lodge, opened in 1993, has more than 250 guest rooms, a spa and an 85-foot fireplace to relax in front of after a day out in the elements. The dining room offers the right mix of Northwest entrees, including beautiful fresh seafood.
And if you’re still up for a small amount of adventure, the resort property has an eighteen-hole golf course as well as a zip line tour that features seven lines and three sky bridges that will send you flying through the forest.