Main Image Credit – Tammi Packer, Packer Orchards
Pack the kids, bring your face masks, camera and venture to the Gorge to pick apples, pears and pumpkins. There’s nothing tastier than picking and eating food straight from the source. The farms in the Hood River Valley have been growing some of the most delectable fruit in the world for more than a century. It began in the 1850s when pioneers Nathaniel and Mary Coe planted the first apple tree and since then farmer’s have plowed the volcanic rich soil and perfected their crops.
Kiyokawa Orchards in Parkdale is a favorite u-pick apple farm because they have 120 different varieties of apples, 24 different types of Asian pears, 14 varieties of cherries, 8 different types of peaches, 4 varieties of blueberries, and a number of other fruits you may not have heard of like kiwi berries and pluerries, a cross between a cherry and a plum.
Open for u-pick until the beginning of November (and then transitions into a self-serve farm stand), the Kiyokawa family has created a Disneyland-type experience, where u-pickers grab a wagon and pick fruit straight from the low trees. You’ll be wowed not only by the unique and delicious flavors, but also by the double mountain views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. Pre-covid, the farm hosted numerous fun family celebrations and that will resume once we conquer this virus, but in the meantime, they have organized a safe u-pick experience.
Mt. View Orchards also has stellar views and is another favorite u-pick farm perfect for families. They have plenty of green space for meandering and discovering their 30 different varieties of apples. Bring a vase or jar for the dollar per stem dahlia flowers. They also have pumpkins for you to take home and recently started fermenting their own wine, hard cider and beer.
If you want organic fruit, head to Hood River U-pick Organic. They have only two varieties of apples, Honey Crisp and Galas, but they delight in making memories, and offer a popular petting zoo with pigs, goats and more. Bring a picnic or blanket tables and hang out in the orchard.
Don’t forget about the pumpkins. Even though Covid has altered Halloween 2020, you can still carve pumpkins and sport a costume. Packer Orchards goes all out with an enormous pumpkin patch, corn maze and other Halloween fun. Weekends are busy (they are open Thursday to Sunday) so make sure to check their website and book a reservation. Most important, the farm bakes 16 different types of delicious cookies. Try their newest flavor, a carmel apple cookie.
After all the fruit picking and if you still have time for more family fun, take a stroll on the Hood River waterfront or enjoy a hike amidst the fall colors. Pick up a copy of our Kidding Around the Gorge Book available at Powell’s bookstore or at one of the many stores in the Gorge.
For directions and more farms, download a Hood River Fruit Loop map.
A writer and mediator, Ruth’s been kidding around the Gorge since 2001. While hiking to see the petroglyphs, she met Lisa Kosglow, Olympic snowboarder, and founder of Let’s Get Out, a jammed packed adventure camp based in the Gorge. The two teamed together to write the third edition of Kidding Around the Gorge. For more about Ruth, see www.ruthberkowitz.com