Fruit Loop

Harvest Season along the Fruit Loop By Pat Snider

No, the Fruit Loop is not the name of a candy treat, a Carmen Miranda earring, or a ride at the state fair. It's a 35-mile scenic meander through the fruit orchards, small towns, and back roads of the Hood River Valley. Located about 45 minutes east of Portland by way of the Columbia Gorge, and directly south of the town of Hood River, the area is Oregon's largest fruit growing region. Over thirty percent of the nation's winter pears are harvested here, along with a variety of apples, berries, peaches, and cherries.

Any visit must begin with a stop at Panorama Point, off East Side Road a few miles south of Hood River. Here, the entire valley stretches out below, offering sweeping views of 11,239 ft. Mt Hood and the surrounding acres of orchards, farms, and forests. You'll immediately recognize the scene from the colorful labels of old fruit packing crates.

From here, follow any number of back roads up the east side of the valley, returning on the west side. A Fruit Loop Driving Map, available at the tourist office in Hood River guides you through the valley to over thirty member farms, fruit stands, country markets, and wineries.

In spring, the countryside is awash in fragrance and color as the white and pink blossoms of pear, apple, and cherry trees reach their peak. An annual Blossom Festival held in mid-April honors the occasion. In summer, as the fruits begin to ripen, local stands offer berries, cherries, peaches and fresh baked goods for sale. But autumn is the ideal time to savor the valley's abundance. Besides the delicious apples and pears, a number of events provide entertainment and an opportunity for tasting varieties of fruits rarely seen in supermarkets. With the lure of a 5 foot pumpkin, 4 pound apple pie, and huckleberry flavored gummi bears, no one young or old could resist a visit!

During the entire month of October, the Rasmussen Farm transforms its greenhouse and grounds into a Pumpkin Funland, with storybook characters and farm animals, a Halloween Hut, decorated maze, and pumpkin patch…a perfect place to take the kids. For the adults, there is a cornfield maze, u-pick pumpkins, and pumpkin bowling.

Just up the road, the Kiyokawa Family Orchards celebrate Fiesta Days in mid-October featuring traditional Mexican food, mariachi bands, piñatas, orchard tours, hay wagon rides, and pick-your-own apples. Later in the month, they offer an Heirloom Apple Tasting with the opportunity to sample varieties from the largest selection of apples grown in the valley. Chose your favorites from Pippins, Spitzenbergs, and Winter Bananas and go pick your own.

At the Apple Valley Country Store, chosen by Travelocity as one of Oregon's most popular hidden gems, visitors are tempted with over 50 varieties of jams, jellies, pie fillings and syrups; fresh fruit pies baked from scratch, and country barbeque lunches. Back in the town of Hood River, the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest (mid-October) is a time-honored tradition. Held at the Expo Center, the event includes over one hundred craft and artisan booths, live entertainment, and, of course, plenty of local produce.

There are several vineyards and wineries located on the loop - Hood River Vineyards, Phelps Creek Vineyards, Mt. Hood Winery, and Cathedral Ridge Winery. All are open for wine tastings.

A relaxing way to appreciate the seasonal splendors of the region is an excursion aboard the Mt. Hood Railroad. The 2.5-hour trip begins at the historic depot in Hood River, and winds through forests and orchards up the valley to Odell and a longer 4-hour trip goes all the way to Parkdale. They also operate brunch and dinner excursions, special seasonal excursions, as well as Murder Mystery rides.

Rasmussen Farm
3020 Thomsen Road
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-4622

Kiyokawa Family Orchards
8129 Clear Creek Road
Parkdale, OR 97041
541-352-7115

Apple Valley Country Store
2363 Tucker Road
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-1971

Hood River Vineyards
4693 Westwood Drive
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-3772

Phelps Creek Vineyards
1850 Country Club Road
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-2607

Mt. Hood Winery
3189 Hwy 35
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-8333

Cathedral Ridge Winery
4200 Post Canyon Drive
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-2882

Mt. Hood Railroad
110 Railroad Avenue
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-3556

Hood River County
Chamber Of Commerce
720 E. Port Marina Drive
Hood River, OR 97031
503-386-2000

Photos provided by Oregon.com