Find fresh food, parks, and quiet near the Columbia River Gorge
Let Oregon's Hood River have all the glory ― and the crowds ― while you explore the tiny town of Bingen, Washington, on the other side of the Columbia River Gorge.
Here, tasting rooms and farm-to-table restaurants have sprung up alongside antiques shops and fruit stands. The result feels lively and authentic ― like you're discovering Bingen (pronounced bin-jin) before the boom.
Late summer is the perfect time to pack a picnic with bounty from nearby farms and relax at the water's edge.
From Portland, take I-84 east and exit at the Hood River Bridge. Cross the bridge (75¢ per car) and go 2 miles east on State 14 to Bingen.
Dickey's Fresh Produce Pick up plum jam, huckleberry honey, and more. INFO: 806 W. Steuben St.; 509/493-2636.
Antiques & Oddities Lose yourself in the rows of vintage treasures like salt and pepper shakers and glass milk bottles. INFO: 211 W. Steuben St.; 509/493-4242.
Bingen Point Marina Park Wind your way along the river to a perfect picnic place. INFO: From E. Steuben and Maple Streets, follow signs to the marina on E. Lakeview Blvd.; 509/493-1655.
Gorge Heritage Museum An old church chock-full of artifacts and tales of the area's Klickitat tribe. INFO: Closed Mon-Wed (after Sep, open by appointment only); 202 E. Humboldt St.; 509/493-3228.
North Shore Wine Cellars Sample wines and hard ciders, crushed from eastern Washington fruits, in a funky, friendly space reborn from an auto parts store. INFO: Closed Tue; 221 W. Steuben St.; 509/ 493-3881.
Solstice Wood Fire Café In a building shared with Red Fish Gallery, pair a microbrew with an organic grilled portabella mushroom sandwich, while the kids scribble on the wall-size chalkboard. INFO: $; 415 W. Steuben St.; 509/493-4006.
Viento Roll in ― in hiking boots if you like ― for goat cheese-stuffed fried squash blossoms or an Imperial Stock Ranch burger with twice-cooked fries. It's a down-home bistro with sophisticated local and organic fare. INFO: $$; dinner only; 216 W. Steuben St.; 509/493-0049.
Stroll the flat, 0.5-mile St. Cloud Trail loop, which winds through an orchard of 50-year-old apple trees. The trailhead is off State 14 (near milepost 30) in Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (541/308-1700). A Northwest Forest Day Pass is required, available online ($5).
Stray farther from town to climb Beacon Rock, an ancient volcanic plug named by Lewis and Clark. It's 27 miles west of Bingen off State 14 (near milepost 35) in Beacon State Park (509/427-8265); no permit required. Little wonder the trail (about an hour round-trip) is popular despite its steep switchbacks: The views of Columbia River and Table Mountain are breathtaking.