Portland Restaurants + Shops

Sandy River & Sugarpine Drive-In: Best Soft Serve in Portland!

October 7, 2020

Last Updated:

One of my favorite summer and fall things to do in the Portland area is to visit the Sandy River. And stopping for treats at Sugarpine Drive-In. I’ve written extensively about floating the Sandy River (and the Clackamas), but today I thought I’d share more about playing at the Sandy River. And eating ice cream! Because this is legit the best soft serve ice cream in Portland! Sugar Pine is located in the parking lot of Glenn Otto park. It’s a Troutdale city park and the “gateway to the Gorge” with the start of the Historic Columbia River Highway. Just before the old bridge over the Sandy River. One of my favorite Portland area day trips! Although it hardly feels like a day trip since it’s only twenty minutes away.

Sandy River and Sugarpine Drive-In ice cream

Sandy River at Glenn Otto Park

This spot can be really busy during the weekends and any day during summer that is over 80 degrees. So as usual, with COVID recommendations, go early or weekdays. It’s also a really beautiful fall spot and anytime spot to get a dose of nature – river, sand, wildlife – without driving for an hour. It’s about twenty minutes from Portland. So even if you stop by for only an hour or two, it feels like you’ve had an adventurous day trip! And with Sugarpine in the parking lot you can take care of lunch or a treat on your way out.

Know Before You Go:

Local adventures have of course changed since COVID. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Bring a mask. You might need it for the trail down to the beach, then there’s usually room to physically distance. And you’re required to wear a mask to pick up your order at Sugarpine Drive-In.
  • Order your food online. What’s really cool is that you can order your food on their website while you’re playing at the water, for a later pickup time. Then you can either go up and eat at a picnic table or bring it down to the water. We’ve also been seeing a lot of people doing trunk picnics recently. More restaurants should adopt this approach to takeout!
  • No dogs at Glenn Otto city park
  • Swim at your own risk. I wrote about this spot on my Portland river float post. There are some strong rapids here. Even in non-summer season, watch your kids closely and teach them about water safety.

You can also access the Sandy River at the following spots:

  • Lewis & Clark State Recreation Site
  • Sandy River Delta (and walking over to Lewis & Clark) Note: you can no longer park on the side of the road between Lewis & Clark & Sandy River Delta).
  • east side of the bridge over the Sandy River, on the Historic Columbia River Highway.
  • Dabney State Park & Oxbow State Park – (both require day use parking fee)

Sugarpine Drive-In & History

Sugar Pine Drive-in got their start in 2018, with a Kickstarter. The campaign was to help offset startup costs and backers could redeem for things like ice cream, merch, and some events. Started by chefs and partners Emily Cafazzo and Ryan Domingo. They opened in July 2018. The building itself was originally a gas station in the 1920’s on the Historic Columbia River Highway. There are some cool pictures of the old service station. And since then, it was most recently a little shop called Jack’s Snacks and Tackle in the mid-2010s.

Cook's Garage on the Historic Columbia River Highway
Photo: Sugarpine


Glenn Otto Community Park – sunrise to sunset. But right now in fall they have a sign up that says closed at 6pm!

Sugar Pine Drive-In – They’re open Thursday through Monday. This wording always throws me off and I feel like saying open everyday except Tuesday/Wednesday is faster to determine if they’re open! Ice cream, please!

Da Pine Grinds – Sugar Pine’s little sister food truck serving up Hawaiian plate lunch and poke bowls. Oh yeah, and POG slushies. Yum!

Sugarpine ice cream tray

Our Sugarpine Favorites Menu Items:

  • softserve & sundaes – kid sizes are the perfect amount for one or share a regular size.
  • Sugarpine salad – add avo and bacon (this one is my favorite!)
  • seasonal BLT – so good!
  • pulled pork sandwich
  • waffle grilled cheese (popular with kiddos)

This is also a spot to tip generously, especially the days I’m only ordering a treat. I really want them to still exist in a post-COVID world! And you can follow them on Instagram to keep up on their latest seasonal menu items. Which will probably make you go more frequently because their pics are drool-worthy!

What’s your favorite spot on the Sandy River?