I've been taking out-of-town guests on Gorge tours for quite a few years, and have mapped out a never-fail day trip that can be adapted to include a visit to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Leave Portland as early as possible, take I-84 east to Troutdale and pick up the Old Columbia River Highway (Rte. 30), which rises to the top of the bluffs and takes you to Vista House, a great spot with dramatic eastern views of the first few miles of the Gorge. The volunteers at Vista House are very helpful with touring advice. Clean bathrooms (usually with fresh flowers), too. The road brings you down near river level, passing a number of marked and major waterfalls. Two falls are a gracious plenty. If parking is available at Multnomah Falls, stop there, get a latte, and enjoy the spectacular sight. Farther on, Horsetail Falls is a good bet, usually with easier parking. Back to I-84, which Rte. 30 joins. The next stop should be Bonneville Dam, more for the old and beautiful fish hatchery and sturgeon exhibit than for the dam itself, though the dam's visitor center is good. You experience a short security check (trunk open, etc.) to get to the dam's visitor center. Hood River should be your next stop, and it's a logical place for lunch unless you choose to drive from HR up to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood (about 30-40 minutes). As you drive up toward Mt Hood, Mt Adams on the Washington side rises into view through the rear window of the car. In HR, the best river view and some very good food can be had in the restaurant of the Best Western Hood River, which is right on the Columbia just east of the bridge to Washington. The outside deck with sun shades is a great way to enjoy the scenery and folks trying to learn windsurfing. If you opt for the Timberline excursion, retrace your route back to HR and decide whether to continue east on I-84 to The Dalles. One good reason for doing so is the journey takes you to the dry side of the Cascades with marked changes in the ecosystems along the way. There is a very good Columbia River Interpretive Center just before you reach The Dalles, too. Between HR and Mosier, portions of the old highway are now pedestrian/biking routes with great views and tunnels with portals in the rock. The best place to access the route and tunnels is from Mosier. Either in HR or The Dalles, cross over to Washington on the toll bridge and take Route 14 back toward Portland. This gives you an entirely different (and most say better) view of the Gorge than the one from the interstate highway. If you are game for something special and have the time to extend the trip, continue past The Dalles and take the bridge toward Goldendale, WA. Turn west on Route 14 and visit the wonderful Maryhill Museum. It's too good and too unusual to spoil the fun by telling you what all is there. If you are traveling back in late afternoon or early evening, a great place for a meal is Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, which has good food and a commanding westward view of the Gorge. Few out-of-towners, it seems, are tuned up for hiking but the Gorge has some of the best trails in the US. Trails around the waterfalls can be very jammed, especially prior to Labor Day, but the closest good hike to Portland in the Gorge is the Cape Horn Trail, accessible from Rte 14 going east from Washougal. I recommend hiking up to Pioneer Point, a ledge with a great view or continuing another mile or two to the newly constructed overlook honoring Nancy Russell, founder of Friends of the Gorge. Return via the same route. The loop hike adds significant difficulty and time to the hike, and loop access is blocked much of summer because of nesting peregines. Altitude gain is about 800 feet to reach the overlooks.