Oregon’s varied landscapes entice laid-back beachcombers and hard-core hikers alike. Uncork wine in the Willamette Valley or hit the rapids on the Rogue River.
Central Oregon is the place to go for outdoor adventure. From the depths of the river valleys to the peaks of the mountains, jaw-dropping vistas await around every bend. Whether paddling the Deschutes River, skiing down Mount Bachelor, or relaxing on the Cascade Lakes, the landscapes simply inspire. Charming towns like Bend, Redmond and Sisters keep the adventures going after a busy day in the great outdoors.
Did you know that Bend has an extinct volcano within its city limits? The remaining geological evidence is a cinder cone butte that rises 500 feet above the plains. Trek to the top of Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint on foot or wind your way up the scenic drive for views of the city below and the Cascade peaks on the horizon. Stay at a local campground and explore the stunning lava rock formations, smell the fragrant juniper and ponderosa pines and taste the local craft beer, with ease.
Lots o’ Lava
Beyond Bend, several volcanos lurk in the surrounding mountains. Nestled within Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the Lava Lands formed after a volcanic eruption approximately 7,000 years ago, leaving behind an ocean of jagged lava rock. Because of its striking resemblance to the moon’s surface, the area was even used by NASA as a training ground in the 1960s. Today, you can still play astronauts here at the Lava Lands Visitor Center, an interpretive hub shedding insight on the 56,700 acres of lava flows, sparkling lakes and geological wonders. Embark on the Trail of the Molten Land and Trail of the Whispering Pines to get a closer look at the lava rocks. Summit Lava Butte by foot or shuttle for 360-degree views of the desolate landscape. You can also take a helicopter tour to see the lava fields from a whole new perspective.
Fall for the River
Have a larger than life adventure at the Deschutes River. From its start in the Cascades to its confluence with the Columbia River, the Deschutes dishes out diverse recreational opportunities. Paddlers will find exquisite whitewater, anglers can pull out native trout and plump, wild steelhead, and boaters will find wide, slow patches to explore. To find the Beaver State’s most stunning lakes, take the Cascades Lakes National Scenic Byway for an unforgettable journey. Paddling and fly-fishing opportunities abound, with views of snowcapped peaks reflecting in the alpine pools.
Blueberry Orange Loaves
The tanginess of orange and sweetness of blueberries combine to form a perfect mix of flavors. Recipe by Judy Simons, Oregon Good Sam Assistant State Director.
- ½ cup butter
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp grated orange peel
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ⅔ cup orange juice
- 1 cup blueberries
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, orange peel, baking soda, salt and cloves. Add this mixture to creamed mixture alternately with orange juice. Stir in blueberries and pecans. Pour mixture into 2 greased 8 x 4 loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
Roll Alongside the River
Take a hike along the Deschutes River Trail Loop to enjoy the scenic river from the land. Running 3 miles along the waterway, this path takes trekkers to views of the cascading creek and several waterfalls amid a forested backdrop. Discover a new hiking experience in the Lava River Cave, the longest continuous lava tube in the state. If you aren’t afraid of the dark, grab a lantern and get ready for adventure in a subterranean world.
Peddling and Putting
Pack your mountain bikes, because 1,000 miles of trails crisscross the area. Oregon’s majestic scenery can be enjoyed from its golf courses, too. The Central Oregon Golf Trail connects 30 greens across the region, with scenic fairways amid forests and mountains.
Meet the Three Sisters
When it comes to mountain adventure, Central Oregon triples your fun. The Three Sisters are a trio of volcanic peaks above 10,000 feet found within the Cascade Range. They are also a mecca for climbers and hikers. Experienced trekkers can summit South Sister, the third-tallest peak in Oregon, with no technical climbing skills — just head to Devils Lake Trailhead and take the 5.5-mile steep route to the top. Middle Sister is best tackled in good weather and can be accessed via the Hayden Glacier, located on the north ridge’s east side. North Sister is the hardest to conquer and should only be done by seasoned hikers with appropriate gear.
Supreme Smith Rock
See golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer and more within Smith Rock State Park. The 600-foot cliffs attract climbers like a magnet, and more than 1,500 routes have been established on the stone faces. Hunters should take advantage of the many pheasants, quail, elk and deer that roam in the open grasslands, craggy mountains and national forests around Bend. In the winter, Mount Bachelor is your destination for snow sports — shred down powdery slopes, take a sled dog ride or join a snowshoe tour.
Looking for a little brewpub culture? You can’t do much better than the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, one of the originals. Tours lead to up-close views of the production process, with free samples poured at the end. Central Oregon doesn’t just produce good brews; the region takes pride in its locally grown produce, with dozens of farm-to-table restaurants.
Approached from either Bend or Sisters, the 104,523-acre Mount Jefferson Wilderness encompasses the titular Mount Jefferson, Oregon’s second-tallest peak and the defining feature of the High Cascades region. The mountain is draped with five glaciers: Waldo, Whitewater, Milk Creek, Jefferson Park and Russell. It’s also bejeweled with 150 lakes. The region forms an incredible backdrop for every outdoor adventure imaginable, with more than 163 miles of hiking trails including a 40-mile swathe of the Pacific Crest Scenic Trail.
In the Willamette National Forest, the slopes of Mount Washington (an extinct shield volcano) can be accessed via the Pacific Crest Trail and provides scenic, accessible hikes and an easy summit route for novice hikers. Spliced between Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington, the pinnacle-topped Three Fingered Jack rises for 7,841 feet and is one of the oldest high volcanoes in the Cascades.
John Day Fossil Beds
One of the nation’s most prized fossil collections, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument provides a chronological sweep of plant and animal evolution and ancient ecosystems over a period of 40 million years. A national monument, more than 100 miles of serpentine roads separate the fossil beds, which can take a couple of days to explore in their entirety.
Eugene To Salem
Follow this fun-filled corridor for delicious wines, trails that snake through lush forests and a college football scene that rivals anything else in the United States. Situated in the vast Willamette Valley, the region encapsulates everything that makes Oregon great, from superb cities to excellent outdoor adventure.
Wonders of Western Oregon
This beautiful expanse of Western Oregon is bounded by the Coast Range in the west, Cascades in the east and Calapooya Mountains in the south. The Willamette Valley is characterized by its agricultural fields, rolling lowlands, hilly belts and the Willamette River, which runs through the entire region. The best season to visit is summer, as temperatures hit a toasty 80 degrees. Early fall also is an excellent time to come, as crisp country air makes for great hiking.
South of Portland, the town of Eugene is a college athletics hot spot. Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene draws sports fans with year-round intercollegiate competition — including NCAA football with the Oregon Ducks home team. The excitement reaches a fever pitch when the Ducks take on the Oregon State Beavers, who hail from Corvallis to the north. Eugene also entices culture vultures with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
On Track to Win
Surprisingly, this corner of the world is the place to go to see the nation’s best track and field competitors. Hayward Field, located in Eugene, has a storied history. Currently undergoing a major renovation, it is scheduled to reopen soon and begin setting the scene for new records. After seeing impressive athletes, you’ll be ready to be impressed by wildlife. Get an up-close view of the raptors of the Pacific Northwest with a visit to the Cascades Raptor Center. You’ll find as many as 50 beautiful birds on display; however, these birds weren’t brought here just for show. Instead, the Raptor Center specializes in rehabilitating injured wildlife and provides a home for those that cannot be re-released to the wild.
Pushed by a hearty spirit of innovation, microbreweries flourish across the region. Stop by one to see what’s on tap and to learn about the craft behind the beer. When you’re not enjoying suds, head to the Eugene Saturday Market to enjoy a taste of the region. Artisans display their colorful wares and baskets overflow with the locally grown produce this region is known for. Food trucks tempt with an array of treats. With views of the Willamette River and open green spaces, Eugene’s Riverfront Park is a popular gathering spot. Especially beloved is the carousel with an intricately handcrafted parade of animals.
Willamette Valley Water
The Willamette River attracts vacationers to its banks for fishing, boating and paddling. Trout and steelhead flourish in these cool waters. Head to the hills to find one of Oregon’s best trout streams, just east of Eugene. The McKenzie River attracts more than anglers, as paddlers also enjoy the scenery around these rippling waters. The largest lake in the Willamette Valley is Fern Ridge, with 9,000 acres of surface area. The warm coves and inlets are the prime spots for bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish.
Bicyclists will find trails for every level. The Willamette River Trail runs 29 miles between Eugene and Springfield, with views of parks and rivers along the way. To enjoy splendid scenery on foot, head to the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail. This trail takes you over hardened lava flows, past cascading waterfalls, and through stands of old-growth conifers. The sapphire Tamolich Blue Pool is a shocking shade of azure that nicely complements the green of the verdant forests.
With more than 500 wineries, Willamette is a must-visit spot for wine lovers. The unique maritime climate here has transformed the valley into one of the top pinot noir-producing regions in the world. Other varieties made here include pinot gris, pinot blanc, chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Chock-full of luxury inns, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, tasting rooms and fine dining restaurants, Willamette Valley wine country is the answer if you’re yearning for a weekend getaway or weeklong escape. Honeywood Winery, Cubanisimo Vineyards and Orchard Heights Winery are all within the Salem vicinity, while King Estate Winery and Sweet Cheeks Winery are within easy reach from Eugene. Coming from Portland? Stop by popular Northern Willamette Valley wineries in places like Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Gaston and Yamhill. In the Willamette National Forest, to the east of Eugene, the Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River dazzles visitors.
Cruise the Capital
Laid-back Salem is a welcome change from some of the region’s bigger cities. Boasting an easygoing culture and teeming with gorgeous green spaces, museums and historic sites, Salem provides a welcome break from busy city life and invites you to take things at your own pace. Start your visit with a free tour of the Oregon State Capitol and climb up 121 stairs to meet the Oregon Pioneer, an 8.5-ton bronze statue coated in gold leaf.
Home to Terrific Truffles
Find out why truffles are prized among foodies. The lure of the truffle is so large that Eugene spends 10 days celebrating it. Each January, the Oregon Truffle Festival invites visitors to go on organized truffle hunts, sample savory dishes, and learn about this magnificent fungi. Each June, Salem bursts into bloom with the World Beat Festival, which includes over 125 music, dance and theatrical performances, representing 70 countries from around the world. Watch dragon boats whizz by, stroll the vendor area to find handcrafted wares from around the world, or sample an international buffet of foods.
Land of the Oregon Trail
The half-million settlers who made the westward journey along the Oregon Trail in the 1800s faced several hardships. The 2,170-mile journey from Missouri to Oregon is often romanticized, but in reality, the five-month-long expedition was a perilous endeavor. One in 10 travelers from the 1840s to 1860s never made it to their final destination and the rest endured everything from disease and starvation to snakebites. Still, their spirit lives on in Oregon along this stunning corridor. Prepare to experience pioneer history and explore timeless landscapes.
Your Oregon Trail adventure starts in Umatilla. Situated along the Columbia River, this old gold rush town puts wildlife and outdoor activities at your doorstep. Go to the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge to view deer, badgers and burrowing owls and then look out for woodpeckers, bluebirds and sapsuckers in Blue Mountain Scenic Corridor and State Park. The McNary Wildlife Nature Area is another popular wildlife viewing spot thanks to its large populations of migrating birds. Ready for a workout? You can burn some serious calories by hiking, cycling and whitewater rafting in the 1.4 million-acre Umatilla National Forest.
Cowboy Culture Rules
Pendleton reverently preserves the cowboy way of life. Rodeos, country music and traditional crafts continue to be part of everyday life here. You can see for yourself in September at the Pendleton Round-Up, a weeklong festival of steer roping, barrel racing and parades. Blend in with the locals by getting a custom cowboy hat at Mountain Peaks Hat Company and handmade boots from Staplemans Boots and Leather. Stop by Hamley and Co. between fittings to see saddles made using traditional methods and Pendleton Woolen Mills to learn about the city’s famous weaving techniques.
Feel the Frontier Vibe in Pendleton
Relics of the town’s often-turbulent history are found everywhere. Housed in a restored train depot, the Heritage Station Museum retraces Umatilla County’s history using an authentic pioneer homestead, fully restored Union Pacific Railroad caboose and other intriguing artifacts. The Pendleton Underground Tour shows you the city’s seedy side by leading you down tunnels which once hid brothels, gambling dens and bars. You can also learn how pioneers impacted the lives of local tribes at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute and view Native American art at Crow’s Shadow Institute for the Arts.
Going for the Gold
Once a bustling gold rush outpost, Baker City transports you to a bygone era with its preserved Victorian architecture. Wander through the downtown area to find 100 buildings listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and then swing by the luxurious Geiser Grand Hotel to admire its stained-glass ceiling, crystal chandeliers and other extravagant furnishings from the 19th century. Check out more original items from this time period at the Adler House Museum. The Baker Heritage Museum displays one of the most impressive rock and mineral collections in the western United States as well. Baker City also opens the doors to outdoor adventures like hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting thanks to its proximity to the Snake River, Hells Canyon and the Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort.
Oregon Trail Tales
Learn about pioneers at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, less than 10 miles from Baker. Living history exhibits, life-size displays and multimedia presentations bring the Oregon Trail to life and give you an idea of what the treacherous journey was like for pioneers. Walk through a wagon train and then go outside to explore four miles of interpretive trails.
Displays of Determination
Visitors here are in for an immersive experience. Utilizing life-size displays, films and live theater presentations, this Center tells the story of explorers, miners and settlers of the frontier west. The 500-acre site includes remnants of the historic Flagstaff Gold Mine, actual ruts carved by pioneer wagons, and magnificent vistas of the historic route. Several events and programs allow visitors to walk in the shoes of intrepid pioneers. The popular “Wagons Ho! Experience the Oregon Trail” exhibit tests the pioneering skills of participants. Dress up as a settler and see if you’ve got what it takes to pack a prairie schooner with all the supplies and gear needed to make the long trek west.
Cool Your Heels
Feel like taking a break? About 45 minutes southeast of Baker City, Farewell Bend State Recreation Area straddles the Oregon/Idaho border on the banks of the Snake River. Here, the Brownlee Reservoir delivers prime fishing, water skiing, boating and wildlife watching opportunities.
The High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway leads motorists through scenic terrain. Connecting Burns to Fields, this 127-mile stretch of road takes you to a world where sagebrush-filled desert and rolling mountains dominate. Spend the night at The Narrows RV Park near Burns and use it as a base camp for touring the 69-mile Diamond Loop Tour Route.
Something Wild Lives Here
Along the way, make sure you stop and explore the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Pack your binoculars because this patch of lakes and wetlands is hailed as one of the best bird-watching spots in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll even see enormous populations of snow geese and waterfowl engulf the sky in darkness during the spring. Further down the path is the Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area. Formed 25,000 years ago from molten lava and liquid rock, these fascinating lava fields house a peculiar assortment of lava tubes, jagged spires and collapsed craters.
Fun in Frenchglen
Travel south on the beautiful High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway to get to Frenchglen. The village has a lengthy history in the cattle industry and was where the once-prosperous French-Glenn Livestock Company began. Visit the Pete French Round Barn to see where wild horses were trained. Visit the 1924 Frenchglen Hotel, which continues to offer rustic accommodations to weary travelers.
Cast a Line, Aim a Gun
Fly-fishing conditions are outstanding in Frenchglen. The nearby Donner und Blitzen River, called the “Blitzen” by locals, teems with wild redband trout, mountain whitefish, longnose dace and mottled sculpin. Hunting is also an option as mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and pronghorn antelope thrive here.
High Up in the Steens
The Steens Mountain Wilderness is home to solitude and outdoor thrills. Lace-up your hiking boots and follow the Little Blitzen Gorge Trail to reach the region’s iconic gorges and waterfalls, or the Pike Creek Canyon Trail to view colorful rock outcroppings. Consider tackling the multiday Steens Mountain Gorges Loop if you want to see everything this wilderness has to offer.
Haven for Heritage
After, dive into the town’s storied past at the Heritage Station Museum, unravel 10,000 years of Native American history at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute and go on the Pendleton Underground Tour to follow a maze of tunnels once used to hide gambling dens, brothels and other illegal activities. If you’re visiting in September, be sure to check out the Pendleton Round-Up, a weeklong festival consisting of rodeos, parades and concerts.
The High Desert Discovery
Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring landscapes traversed by early pioneers by cruising down the High Desert Discovery Scenic Byway. Spanning 127 miles from Burns to Fields, this breathtaking road trip weaves through a diverse array of scenery, charming communities and historic sites. Before embarking on your journey, take some time in Burns to browse Native American art including pottery pieces, jewelry and ceremonial sand paintings at the Oards Indian Art Museum. Although the town was named after Scottish poet Robert Burns, the area is home to the Burns Piute Tribe, who hold a reservation powwow each October.
Not far down the road is the Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area. Famed for its black, desolate terrain, these intriguing lava fields were created 25,000 years ago when molten lava oozed across a dry lakebed. Before this layer solidified, another layer of liquid rock was unleashed, forming some of the country’s most distinctive basalt rock formations. Today, a drive through this amazing backdrop of geological wonders will launch you into a world of lava domes, lava tubes, massive pit craters and craggy spires. Several trails lead hikers to the amazing geological formations.
Travel west across the desert to the community of Lakeview, touted as the “Tallest Town in Oregon” for its elevation of 4,798 feet. Sitting at the foot of the Warner Mountains, Lakeview boasts a slew of natural wonders that make it a sleeper hit among Oregon tourism destinations. Nearby, check out the Crack in the Ground, a fissure formed between cooling lava flows around 1,100 years ago. At two miles long and 70 feet deep, the chasm entices hikers with a trail that runs along it’s bottom. During hot summer days, this hike can be a welcome respite from the heat, as the temperature within the trench can be as much as 20 degrees below the surface temperature. Northwest of town, on the crest of the Warner Mountain Range at 8,222 feet, the Drake Peak Lookout serves up amazing views of the surrounding peaks. Once a forest service lookout, the site is now available to the public.
More geological wonders await visitors at Derrick Cave, a lava tube 30 feet high, 50 feet wide and a quarter mile long. Located near Crack in the Ground, this subterranean chamber is collapsed in two places. One provides the access point and the other serves as a “skylight.” Equally compelling is Devil’s Garden Wilderness study area, which includes two spatter cones known as “the blowouts.” Geological history continues to unfold in the 2,000-year-old Lake Chewaucan Lake Bed. About a mile north of town, the Old Perpetual Geyser erupts 60 feet every 90 seconds. The wonder is found near Hunter’s Hot Springs, whose waters are reputed to have healing properties. Equally compelling is Devil’s Garden Wilderness Volcanic field, with two spatter cones known as “the blowouts.”
Ready for some desert adventure? From Fields, you can join the 143-mile East Steens Tour Route north for a soul-stirring montage of Oregon’s stunning basin country. The Alvord Desert playa is one of the largest playas in Oregon and is ground zero for motorcycling, ATV riding, land sailing, glider flying and camping. Bring your toys and cut loose.
Just off East Steens Road, a mosaic of small lakes provide sanctuary to a variety of wildlife. Bighorn sheep and the speedy pronghorn antelope (capable of cruising at 60 miles per hour) can be spotted. If you need R&R, there are several hot springs located near the town of Crane. Just outside of town lie the Crystal Crane Hot Springs, which offers a hot springs pond and private bathhouses. Rent an event space to hold a one-of-a-kind get-together here.
Located about a 90-minute drive inland from the Oregon Coast, Portland is a compact, easy-to-get-around city that makes a great base for exploring the area’s beautiful natural scenery. That said, this compact city has plenty to offer within its metropolitan area, from a thriving culinary scene to some of the nation’s finest city parks.
Coming Up Roses
Portland embraces its outdoor attractions. Check out the city’s Washington Park, set on a hill overlooking downtown Portland and home to International Rose Test Garden, which features some 10,000 colorful rose bushes. The nearby Japanese Garden is considered the most authentic garden of its kind outside of Japan.
The historic Pittock Mansion makes a popular pit stop, particularly for those interested in seeing beautifully preserved interior design. It’s not far from Washington Park. Don’t leave town without visiting the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a Ming dynasty-style garden housing some 400 plant species.
Wander Along the Willamette
The Willamette River runs right through town, separating the west and east sides, and plenty of operators offer kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding classes right in the river. For summertime swimming, head up to Sauvie Island, a huge island situated in the Columbia River just a short drive north from downtown; you’ll even find proper sandy beaches here, not to mention swimmable (if chilly) waters. For fishing, head up to the Clackamas or Sandy rivers (just make sure to get a permit first); steelhead, trout and chinook salmon are among the most popular species found in the waters here.
Cycling and Hiking
Portland combines big-city pleasures with outdoor fun. The city itself is known as a mecca for bicycle lovers, with lots of well-demarcated bike lanes all around town. For longer trips, the Springwater Corridor connects southeast Portland with the city of Boring and is popular with cyclists (though it gets plenty of hikers and joggers, particularly in the sections closer to town). Hiking is also huge here, with miles upon miles of hiking trails in the city’s enormous Forest Park. The Columbia River Gorge region, just northeast of town, has lots of trails to choose from.
Portland embraces its stereotype as a mecca for forward-thinking culture. Many of the city’s eastside neighborhoods are filled with cool bars, coffee shops, tattoo parlors and record stores, and the indie rock scene the little town has to offer is known around the world. It’s also a haven for book lovers, unsurprising given the many rainy days the city sees, and Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest new-and-used independent bookstore, is headquartered here. Portland is also a haven for outdoorsy folk, with its easy access to beaches, mountains and deserts, not to mention myriad hiking trails right in the city limits.
Portland hosts a slew of fun-filled events. These include the summertime Adult Soapbox Derby in August and the festive SantaCon in December, a pub crawl in which people dress up like Old Saint Nick. Feast Portland in June is another hit for food lovers and showcases some of the city’s most exceptional chefs.
Concerts in the Park
Bring a picnic basket to outdoor celebrations like Cathedral Park Jazz Festival or the Waterfront Blues Festival, while book lovers may want to come in the fall to experience the annual Portland Book Festival (formerly Wordstock) in November.
Portland’s roots stretch back to the 19th century. This is a port city, owing to its strategic location near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. However, the area had already been inhabited for centuries by members of Upper Chinook tribes. Much of the downtown area was destroyed by fire in 1873, so many of the historical buildings you’ll see today, particularly in Portland’s Old Town, dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Travelers wishing to learn more about local history may want to pay a visit to the Oregon Historical Society’s museum or the Oregon Maritime Museum.
The latest edition to Portland’s exquisite gardens, the Lan Su Chinese Garden takes up a whole block in Chinatown. The authentic Ming Dynasty-style garden was designed by landscape architects from Portland’s sister city, Suzhou, China, and includes covered walkways with intricate stonework, open colonnades, pavilions, the man-made Zither Lake and more than 400 species of plants including orchids, water plants, perennials and bamboos.
Until the late ’90s, the city’s gritty, industrial Central Eastside neighborhood was largely ignored. Nowadays, it’s the crucible for Portland’s creative zeal and free-thinking spirit. It’s home to some of the region’s best restaurants, cutting-edge boutiques, galleries and offbeat cafés. One of the best ways to take it all in is to ride the streetcar or take a trip down the Eastbank Esplanade, a pedestrian and bicycle path that runs through the Kerns, Buckman, and Hosford-Abernethy neighborhoods.
Oregon’s Central Coast
The central Oregon Coast is a gorgeous blend of charming towns and wild stretches of coast. Buckle up and prepare for a beautiful ride; the wild landscape along the windswept shores is ever-changing, from the vastness of the Pacific to the denseness of the lush woodlands. Each scenic overlook offers up a different scenic snapshot. Public parks and beaches can be found every few minutes, offering up recreational opportunities of all types. When you’re ready for a taste of the coast, stop to stroll around one of the charming seaside villages, like Yachats and Florence.
Beachcombers can explore this town’s seven miles of plush, sandy beach. Go clam digging, play in tide pools, work on your tan, or catch a dazzling sunset from shore. If you’re in town during June, build a kite and fly it at the Summer Kite Festival. From mid-October to May, local artists participate in Finders Keepers, which involves the placement of thousands of beautifully crafted glass floats on the beach for you to find. You can also check out regular glass-blowing demonstrations and create masterpieces at the Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio year-round.
Lake of the Devil
Ready to play in the water? Outside of Lincoln City, Devil’s Lake is a popular spot for water play, with one of the world’s shortest rivers (the D River, a mere 120 feet long) connecting it to the Pacific. Instead of massive expanses of waters, Oregon’s tiny tide pools just might provide the most interesting way to have fun on the water.
See the world’s largest mammals swim past from the Whale Watching Center near Depoe Bay. While whales can be spotted from the Oregon Coast any time of year, winter is especially magical as thousands of migrating whales pass by on their way to Mexico. This free facility provides prime viewing platforms and educates guests. Depoe Bay is also great for fishing. Nearby reefs support thriving populations of striped perch, rockfish and lingcod, while the offshore waters abound with salmon, albacore tuna and halibut.
It’s a massive cauldron formed by collapsed sea caves. Located about 5 miles south of Depoe Bay lies Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area. The wild waters whirl like a washing machine. Further, into the sea, waves entice surfers to ride on the water.
Newport’s Undersea Wonders
See aquatic wildlife from the perspective of a fish. Head to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. Walk through a clear underwater tunnel, with sharks, stingray and fish swimming overhead. Touch sea anemone and explore tide pools, get an up-close view of an octopus, or watch the sea otters romp.
Sweet and Savory
Attention foodies and wine lovers! Put the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival on your calendar. Held each February, it attracts 25,000 visitors annually to sample food and wines. Yaquina Bay’s South Beach area fills with tents from as many as 150 vendors, representing the best regional vineyards, eateries and artisans. Sample Newport’s signature crab, sip wines from across the West Coast and enjoy the sounds of live music. In May, rhododendrons burst into bloom along the Oregon Coast.
Alluring scenery is part of Newport’s charm. Meander along the waterfront to meet crowds of barking sea lions. The area is also home to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet. Back near the shore, walk around the tide pools teeming with starfish, sea anemones and crustaceans at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.
Savor a hot bowl of seafood goodness. Mo’s Seafood and Chowder famous concoctions have put that restaurant on the map. Or shop at Local Ocean Seafoods, a restaurant and fish market that serves up scrumptious seafood with a stellar view. South of town, the stunning Yaquina Bay Bridge crosses beautiful Yaquina Bay. The bridge’s abundant Art Deco and Modern design motifs are sure to please architecture buffs.
Some of the Oregon coast’s must-see sites are vertical columns of rocks on the beach caused by wave erosion. The largest of the area’s sandstone-supported sea stacks, Elephant Rock — named for its uncanny resemblance to an elephant — is flanked by dark igneous surf-pounded rocks that rise some 20 feet above the ocean. This wild and foreboding setting forms a rich habitat and prime nesting ground for myriad sea bird species including cormorants, brown pelicans, bald eagles, gannets and gulls. Set aside some time to stroll past these amazing giants.
Visitors to this town can drop a line in the Alsea River, which runs from the coastal mountains and enters the Pacific at Alsea Bay. Nab salmon, steelhead, trout and more. Paddlers seeking a calm, inland experience can enjoy the waters of Beaver Creek at Brian Booth State Park, also close by. Known for its tranquility, this park lets visitors experience an Oregon landscape that differs from the wind-swept coast.
Do Drift Creek
Take one of the most popular hikes in the Siuslaw National Forest. The Drift Creek Falls Trail leads hikers through coastal forest of fern, alder and maple. The destination is an impressive 240-foot suspension bridge that spans the dramatic Drift Creek Falls. You can view the cascading 75-foot waterfall (best seen in the spring or fall after seasonal rains) from above (on the bridge) or take the trail to the base of the falls where there’s a picnic table carved from a tree.
Yield for Yachats
You can relax in Yachats, a romantic town nestled on the shore, with the Coast Range peaks forming a dramatic backdrop. Time slows down here, giving you a chance to revel in beachfront strolls, bird-watching, fishing, golfing and winter storm watching. Art galleries, shops and delicious seafood restaurants round out your experience.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area lies two miles to the south. This is the highest overlook accessible by car on the Oregon Coast at over 800 feet above sea level. Part of the Siuslaw National Forest, this area is worth a visit for its postcard-worthy sights — powerful waves colliding with the shore, soaring trees peeking through coastal fog and headlands as far as the eye can see. The Yachats 804 Trail is a popular hiking choice, running almost 2 miles along the rocky shore.
Take a little side trip to Middle Earth on your coastal odyssey. The Hobbit Trail takes hikers through woodlands filled with lichen-covered trees and lush ferns. At one point, you’ll pass through a hobbit-size tunnel before emerging onto a secluded beach. Look closely at the dunes — you might see carved troll-like faces staring back at you.
Welcoming visitors to the Port of Siuslaw, Florence’s Old Town has a quaint vibe. Local galleries, shops and cafes make this a great spot, all while enjoying views of ships in the harbor. For over 100 years, Florence’s Rhododendron Festival has celebrated these spring blossoms each May. This event includes a car show, 5K race, street fair, carnival and the crowning of “Queen Rhododendra.” Venture to Haceta Head Lighthouse for stellar views.
Sea Lions on the Loose
The Sea Lion Caves attraction has surprised and delighted visitors since 1932. This huge grotto along the Pacific Ocean provides shelter for hundreds of sea lions. Visitors ride an elevator 200 feet down to sea level to observe these massive creatures in their natural habitat.
The hike to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. The Heceta Head Lighthouse is the brightest on the state’s coast and is known as an architectural gem. The trail to the lighthouse ascends a few hundred feet, but it’s worth it for the views down the state’s south coast.
Cool Coastal Adventures
The Oregon shore packs plenty of outdoor adventure. Take a walk along a windy beach and take the time to appreciate the natural beauty. Here, the ocean is too cold for proper swimming, but the magical sound of waves lapping the sands will let you know you are someplace special. If the tide is out, take the opportunity to explore the flora and fauna of the tide pools. Head out for a whale watching excursion to get closer views of these giant mammals.
Locals along this coast say they have the best chowder in the world, and they may be on to something. This region is known as Oregon’s “Chowder Belt.” Warm up with a heaping bowl of clams and potatoes swimming in a creamy broth. If you’re up for catching your entrée, try your hand at crabbing. Almost anyone can nab these crustaceans. Rent some crab rings, and ask a local expert where to go. Before long, you’ll be hauling in heaping piles of Dungeness crab, known for its savory flavor. All you’ll need is some heat and some butter for a delicious meal.
Awesome oysters await your taste buds in this region. In 1852, a schooner became stranded near Yaquina Bay during strong storms. As the crew ventured out, they discovered bountiful oyster beds in the bay. Within a decade, two oyster companies were formed, bringing settlers to the region. To this day, oysters are a staple in restaurants along the coast, allowing visitors to sample this regional delicacy. Shipping oysters out from the coast became a big industry in the 1800s. Towns like Newport grew, with booming marinas along the shore. Today, Newport’s historic Bayfront is a thriving gathering spot, with colorful storefronts just beyond the boardwalk. Aside from tourists, Bayfront also attracts sea lions, whose barks fill the air, never letting you forget you’re close to the sea. Go beachcombing and watch the mischievous mammals in their habitat.
Oregon’s North Coast
Captain William Clark was one of the first Americans to see Oregon’s Pacific Coast in 1805. After traveling almost 5,000 miles with fellow explorer Meriweather Lewis, the pair settled on a camp in an area now known as Astoria. The Lewis and Clark Expedition had taken the men across the northern Plains, over the Rockies and to the Pacific Ocean. There’s little doubt that the party was overjoyed at the sight of the Pacific water.
Magical Mile 0
From Oregon’s northwest corner, start with Mile 0 of Oregon’s legendary Highway 101, and head south for a spellbinding tour of the Oregon Coast. Northern Oregon’s long stretch of Highway 101 is chock-full of epic views and charming seaside towns, stretching from Astoria to Neotsu.
With gorgeous Victorian homes and rolling hills, Astoria has earned the nickname, “Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest.” This was the first permanent settlement west of the Rockies, thanks to its prime location along the Columbia River and the Pacific. High above the city, the Astoria Column rises 600 feet above sea level, paying homage to these settlers. Take a journey on the 1913 Astoria Riverfront Trolley for a tour of the town and a step back in time. Of course, Astoria’s history was shaped by the waterways nearby, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum shares stories of ships and sailors and the forces they encountered in this mighty waterway.
You don’t have to look for history. Visit the reconstructed Fort Clatsop just south of town to see where Lewis and Clark spent a winter. Launch your kayak or canoe from Netul Landing on the Lewis and Clark River, just as the explorers did. Fish the Columbia River for big salmon.
Astoria Sets Sail
The Astoria Regatta in September is one of the city’s premier events. Started in 1894, this event began as a way for the town to welcome the return of local fishermen, with their bounty of freshly caught seafood. Eventually, the event grew into a formal celebration, involving parades, concerts, coronations and a bevy of family fun. The crowning event is the Highwater Boat Parade. Watch from the shores as all kinds of vessels sail by.
Down by the Seaside
For a good, old-fashioned coastal vacation experience, check out the town of Seaside, with one of the most renowned boardwalks on Oregon’s northern coast. Take a stroll on the Seaside Promenade, locally known as the Prom. Watch colorful kites dance in the skies above the waves, while cooling off with a dripping ice cream cone. Here, you’ll find the Lewis and Clark statue, marking the last stop of their expedition. In August, the Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament brings top players to the sands for fantastic competition.
See a Towering Haystack
Cannon Beach has gained a reputation as an artist colony, but it’s also a destination of natural beauty. And after exploring it, you’ll understand why National Geographic named it one of the world’s 100 most beautiful places. Devote a good chunk of time on your itinerary for Haystack Rock on the shore. For centuries, this unusual sea stack has intrigued and inspired visitors. Rising 235 feet above the sandy shore, Haystack Rock is a prime location to explore the region’s wildlife. During low tide, you can make the trek out to the rock for close-up selfies.
Castles in the Sand
Test your building skills at the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest. Dozens of teams of professional sand sculpture artists, amateur groups and families construct remarkable creations in the sand during the fun-filled event.
For many folks, Ecola State Park is a coastal highlight. Take a drive through the lush rainforests, and then emerge to find the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. With a lighthouse in the distance and surfers riding the waves, Ecola is the epitome of coastal Oregon.
Go to Garibaldi
Discover a bustling port, marina and community of 1,000 residents on the northern tip of Tillamook Bay. Garibaldi also is the perfect place to watch the world go by. Stroll the marina and see fishermen haul up Dungeness crab, lingcod and rockfish. Board the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, a historic steam train that chugs along Tillamook Bay. Hop in a kayak and paddle out in search of bald eagles and purple martins. Take a charter to the deep sea for halibut, tuna, sea trout and more.
The Tillamook Creamery, situated in the town of Tillamook, has a grand reputation. The creamery is a popular stop on the northern Oregon Coast, with more than one million people visiting each year to sample the wares, see the production lines and learn about the dairy farms that make these flavorful products possible. Despite the heavy foot traffic, cheese fans should be assured of the painstaking measures that Tillamook goes through to ensure quality. Many of the cheeses are aged for as long as three years. If you are a fan of Monterey Jack cheese, it should be noted that Tillamook Monterey Jack has won the best in its class at the United States Championship Cheese Contest. Just north of town, check out the epic Twin Rocks in Rockaway Beach.
Have Kayak, Will Paddle
The Nehalem River, which crosses through forests and marshlands, is excellent for paddling. The Tillamook Water Trail includes the Nehalem and four other waterways, offering paddling adventures in diverse habitats. Located in Fort Stevens State Park, Coffenbury Lake is a spot that will please anglers and boaters.
Roll Around the Loop
The Three Capes Scenic Loop is a 40-mile journey that begins in downtown Tillamook before leading to scenic overlooks. Pull off at Oceanside or Cape Lookout to gaze at the panoramic views where the ocean meets the sands. Set out for a hike at the Cape Lookout Trail, which gives hikers views of whales swimming by during the migration season.
Wonderful Oregon Waterways
Anglers will find prime salmon grounds along the northern Oregon Coast, including the Tillamook Bay, the Nestucca River and the Nehalem River. Trout, steelhead and more abound in the region’s cool interior waters. Instead of using a rod and reel to capture your dinner, grab a shovel and a bucket. Terrific clamming can be enjoyed in Tillamook Bay and Netarts Bay.
Just south of Netarts, Pacific City is a quaint little town with beautiful, wide beaches flanked by large cliffs and is home to Bob Straub State Park, an excellent spot for beachside bird-watching. Visitors to this area’s pristine shores can hunt for a variety of treasures, including sand dollars, hermit crabs and driftwood. A bike path runs through downtown Pacific City, giving visitors easy access to shopping and dining.
Oregon’s South Coast
Oregon’s Wild South Coast is a land of wild rivers, rugged coastlines and uncrowded beaches. Stretching 130 miles fromb Winchester Bay to the California border, the Beaver State’s southern coast offers all of the beauty found along the northern shores with fewer crowds. Getaway from it all with a journey along Highway 101.
Wonderful Winchester Bay
Winchester Bay hums with outdoor activities catering to everyone from thrill-seekers to bird-watchers. Anglers can expect to catch chinook salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout and largemouth bass, while bird-watchers can spot bald eagles, hawks and more. Nearby, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is an off-road paradise for ATV riders and sandboarding enthusiasts.
Umpqua Lights Up
For unbeatable scenery, hike a mile around Lake Marie and continue to the Umpqua River Lighthouse. Known for the red and white beams that emanate from the structure’s top, this 19th-century lighthouse can be admired from the outside or inside. Tour the 65-foot tower and enjoy whale watching from the Umpqua River Whale Watching Station, near the lighthouse, from November to May.
Cool Times at Coos Bay
The town of Coos Bay tells the history of the Oregon coast’s rise with several historic sites. Here, the Coos River enters the ocean, forming Coos Bay. The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay is the biggest harbor suitable for large ships between San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound, making it the second-busiest maritime commerce center in the state. Today, visitors can explore this thriving port with a visit to the Coos Bay Boardwalk. Eat freshly caught seafood at one of the local dives, or make a stop at the Cranberry Sweets & More candy shop is a must!
Shore Acres: A Feast for the Eyes
Come to Shore Acres State Park for magically manicured environments. Once the estate of a lumber baron, the park now offers 5 acres of flower gardens, a lily pond and a secluded ocean cove for visitors to explore. One of the most distinctive roadside attractions along Highway 101 is Prehistoric Gardens, a real coastal rainforest habitat that’s crawling with life-size replicas of dinosaurs. See Tyrannosaurus rex, a triceratops and more lurking amid giant ferns and towering trees.
Fun on the Fairway
Bring your clubs to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, ranked as one of the nation’s best courses. It might be hard to keep your eye on the ball due to the stunning natural landscape, visible just beyond the fairways and greens. The Pacific Ocean is in view just beyond the tidy greens and the wild, rolling dunes.
Nature’s Beauty in Bandon
Bandon brings visitors face-to-face with every sort of outdoor adventure imaginable. Pull up Dungeness crab and hook salmon, halibut and tuna from the bay. On the beach, go horseback riding or paddle in a kayak out for close-up views of birds, fish and otters. Just across the river is Bullards Beach State Park, a haven for wildlife and home to the Coquille River Lighthouse. Riders of fat bikes — bikes with wide tires and rims for sandy terrain — can take the six-mile ride from Bandon’s South Jetty to China Creek in Bandon State Park. The course entails cruising through sea caves and past sea stacks on the beach.
Cape Blanco Bursts with Views
As the westernmost part of Oregon, Cape Blanco State Park will wow with its spellbinding cliffs, unusual rock formations, woodland backdrops and the iconic lighthouse. Over 8 miles of trails lead you to jaw-dropping ocean vistas. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a colony of sea lions on the offshore rocks below. The 59-foot Cape Blanco Lighthouse sits atop a 200-foot chalky white cliff and is open for visits from April to October.
History buffs and art enthusiasts won’t want to miss Port Orford. This quirky town supports an active artist community with eight galleries displaying an exquisite array of local artwork. Budding historians can dive into Port Orford’s seafaring past at the free museum within Port Orford Heads State Park or the Port Orford Lifeboat Station museum, which houses a restored lifeboat along with various artifacts.
Gold Beach Gourmet
Your adventures in the wilderness are sure to leave you parched. Quench your thirst at Arch Rock Brewing Company, an award-winning microbrewery that’s won five gold medals at beer competitions around the world. Stop by their tasting room and sip their famous pale ale, lager and porter.
Brookings Is Oregon’s Banana Belt
You’ll find some of the best weather and coastal views in Brookings. Nicknamed “Oregon’s Banana Belt,” this part of the Beaver State experiences warmer temperatures than the rest of the state. This phenomenon has transformed Brookings into the biggest producer of Easter lilies in the country. Admire the region’s floral beauty at Azalea Park, a 33-acre space blanketed with native azaleas. The best photo ops can be found along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a linear park comprising 12 ocean-hugging miles of craggy bluffs and secluded shores. Watch as the water swirls around the Natural Bridges.
Looking for more panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean? You can’t do much better than Chetco Point Park. The park sits on a hundred-foot-high plateau that’s surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean. This is a great place to whale watch or simply take in views of the horizon. Drive up the Chetco River to see another photogenic area. Alfred A. Loeb State Park sits on the banks of the waterway upstream, before it empties into the Pacific Ocean.
An intricate tapestry of wild rivers, stark desert, rugged mountains, lush forests and gushing waterfalls, Southern Oregon is a place of magical contrasts. Outdoor enthusiasts will feel like kids in a candy store — from traversing endless hiking trails and paddling through roaring whitewater to discovering underground worlds and exploring the deepest lake in the country, this diverse region promises adventures of epic proportions. But it’s not just outdoorsy stuff here. Theater aficionados can attend an internationally renowned Shakespeare festival, history buffs can meander through old gold rush towns and foodies can sip their way through a wealth of award-winning wineries and microbreweries.
Discover Southern Oregon
Southern Oregon is a large area that comprises numerous cities, towns, valleys, national parks and more. In the southeast corner, you’ll find Klamath Falls, Oregon’s deserts and Lava Beds National Monument, just over the California border. The bustling city of Ashland and the popular ski area of Mount Ashland are located just 63 miles west of Klamath Falls, 285 miles south of Portland, and 295 miles north of Sacramento. Drive half an hour north from Ashland and you’ll wind up in Medford, a popular base for exploring the Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley. Applegate Valley is home to historic Jacksonville and Grants Pass, the perfect place to start your Rogue River expeditions.
Most of this region is connected by Interstate 5. To get to Crater Lake National Park, take Highway 62 if you’re coming from Medford, and Highway 97 to 62 if you’re coming from Klamath Falls. Arriving from the north? Leave Interstate 5 south of Eugene and follow Highway 58 to 97 to 138. Winters at Crater Lake are long and snowy, averaging 43 feet of snow annually at park headquarters. Temperatures max out in the 30s during winter and into the 70s during summer. If you’re coming from May to September, expect warm, sunny days and crisp, cool evenings.
America’s Deepest Lake
Crater Lake is a site you need to see to believe. Over 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed in on itself. This caused a gigantic caldera measuring 6 miles wide. As time passed, the caldera filled with rain and snowmelt, thus creating Crater Lake. With a lake bed at 1,949 feet below the surface, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and continues to dazzle tourists, artists and outdoor adventurers with its sharp blue waters and dazzling Cascade mountain backdrop. In the summer, enjoy hiking and camping in old-growth forests, take your boat out on the lake, or cruise along Rim Drive to see the park’s epic landscapes from the comfort of your car.
Not far from Crater Lake National Park is Klamath Falls, a hub for outdoor recreation. Seasoned hikers will want to tackle the famed 100-mile OC&E Woods Line State Trail, while bird-watchers won’t want to miss seeing herons, hawks, owls and over 350 other bird species in the Klamath Basin, one of the best birding destinations in America.
Hunting and Fishing Haven
The Klamath region is also a bird hunter’s paradise as millions of ducks, geese and swans pass through this area every year. Thanks to loads of wooded areas and high desert, big-game hunters can snag everything from deer and elk to cougar and coyote. It won’t be hard to bag a black bear either as Southern Oregon has the most black bears in the Lower 48. Anglers dreaming of champion-sized trout will find those here too — specifically in Upper Klamath Lake, Lake of the Woods and Odell Lake.
Known as the cultural capital of Southern Oregon, Ashland will impress with its fine attractions, renowned eateries and the internationally acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In need of some physical or mental soothing? Indulge in a rejuvenating soak at Lithia Springs Resort or Jackson Wellsprings. The mineral-rich waters here are said to have healing properties and will leave you feeling relaxed and calm. Check out 100-acre Lithia Park, an urban paradise with emerald lawns, tennis courts, picnic areas and dazzling landscaping. Just steps away from the festival’s theaters, the park follows Ashland Creek through rugged woodlands. Visitors also can explore the park’s Japanese garden and rose garden.
Speaking of wine, Ashland is just a stone’s throw away from a handful of wineries such as Belle Fiore Estate and Winery, Dana Campbell Vineyards, Weisinger Family Winery and Trium Wines. Stop by to sample varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, and take in the breathtaking mountain backdrop while you’re enjoying the fine flavors. Wine buffs who can’t get enough vino will want to go north to Grants Pass, the gateway to the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Boasting 18 wineries, fertile valleys and dramatic hillsides, this wine trail is a feast for both the eyes and taste buds.
Bard on Stage
Theater fans from all over flock to Ashland for the Tony award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Held every year from mid-February to the end of October, this 8½-month festival has been going strong for almost 85 years and offers performances six days a week (the theater takes a break on Mondays). The festival takes place on three stages (Allen Elizabethan Theatre, Angus Bowmer Theatre and the Thomas Theatre), and puts on 11 different plays to almost 400,000 people throughout the course of the season. See some of the world’s top actors recite lines from the Bard.
If you’re more into craft beer, Medford is the destination for you. Savor a pint at top brewing companies like Opposition, Portal, Bricktown and Medford. While you’re here, catch a memorable performance at the Craterian Theater, check out old locomotives at the Medford Railroad Park, or try delicious cheeses and chocolates at the Artisan Corridor located in Central Point.
In the summer, catch dozens of concerts at Jacksonville’s Britt Music and Arts Festival. Held in a naturally formed amphitheater and featuring international artists in the classical, jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass, pop and country realm, this festival entices music lovers with incredible performances, bewitching scenery and a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere.
Preserved Gold Rush Towns
Just 7 miles west of Medford and 15 miles northwest of Ashland is the old mining town of Jacksonville. Gold was unearthed here in 1851, which led to loads of fortune-hungry miners settling in the Rogue Valley. The gold rush transformed Jacksonville into a prosperous town with saloons, gambling halls, supply shops, banks and a variety of businesses established by 1852. Today, many of Jacksonville’s original buildings still stand (there are over 100 on the National Register of Historic Places), allowing you to immerse yourself in a bygone era.
Explore the Victorian-style Cornelius Beekman House, the former estate of one of Jacksonville’s most wealthy families. Take a stroll through the cemetery containing some of the oldest pioneer gravesites in the entire state. Learn more about the town’s history and legends by joining a trolley tour or ghost tour, and stay the night at a historic inn. You can even pretend to be a pioneer for the day by panning for gold in the nearby Applegate River (take Highway 138 outside of Jacksonville). Experience the joy of finding shiny gold and bring your treasure home.
Dive deeper into Oregon’s past at Pottsville Historical Museum. Not far from Merlin, this museum features thousands of items related to the state’s heritage including legislative halls, local logging woods, steam engines, tractors, old mining equipment, and even a stagecoach that ran between Kerby and Crescent City back in the day.
Take to the Water
You’ve come to the right place if you’re searching for heart-stopping action. Flowing through Grants Pass, the Rogue River promises thrilling, world-class rafting with Class I to IV rapids. Book a four-day excursion to battle monster whitewater, or make a day trip and paddle through the spellbinding “Wild and Scenic” section of the river. For the ultimate rush, take a 36-mile jetboat ride through the stunning Hellgate Canyon. The river is also famed for its trophy chinook salmon, king salmon and steelhead trout. Fishing can be done year-round, but anglers say the best months for steelhead fly-fishing are December through March. For chinook salmon, cast your line in April, May or June.
A place where the modern and the historic coalesce within a beautiful setting, Grants Pass is an all-things-to-all-people kind of town. Billed as the region’s white-water rafting capital, the Rogue River (preserved as a National Wild and Scenic River) snakes through town and provides on-the-water adventures for every mood and moment. For an adrenaline rush and spectacular scenery, visitors can take a 36-mile jet boat trip (two hours) through the dramatic Hellgate Canyon.
Zoom over the rugged terrain at high speeds with Rogue Valley ZipLine Adventure. The private park’s progressive zipline tours whisk riders over amazing landscapes with stellar views of Crater Lake, Mt. McLoughlin and Table Rocks. Certified guides help guests through the five-zipline course, which can take more than three hours. Mix it up with the Zip, Dip and Sip Tour for a full day of fun. After ziplining, go rafting through Class I and IV rapids of the Rogue River and finish the day with a tasting at the Del Rio Vineyards and Winery.
Injured wild animals receive the care they need at Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center in Grants Pass. The non-profit establishment has an on-site hospital for mammals, birds and reptiles as well as educational programs for visitors. Take a tour and see the residents — including bears, cougars and wolves — while learning about the area’s fauna.
Get more of your adrenaline going on the Umpqua River. Located between Crater Lake and Roseburg, Umpqua is one of the best whitewater rafting destinations in the nation. The most popular rafted stretches offer countless Class III and a few Class IV rapids scattered in between. Raft or kayak along the North Umpqua to weave through dramatic canyons and thick forests, or take it easier in South Umpqua by fishing and viewing wildlife like bald eagles, black-tailed deer, beavers, otters and more. Back on land, the Timber Trail dishes out thrills for mountain bikers.
For a change of scenery, head underground to the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve. Nestled in the Siskiyou Mountains, this geological wonder is packed with stalactites, stalagmites and other jaw-dropping formations. Take a ranger-led tour to learn about geology, fossils and the bats that live inside the caves. Take a three-hour off-trail caving tour to challenge your spelunking skills.
Trails Above the Caves
On the ground above the cave, six trails snake through the countryside with beautiful views of the Siskiyou Mountains. Most of the trails weave in and out of the boundary of the monument preserve. The Cliff Nature Trail leads hikers over marble outcrops, through fir forests and to panoramic views of the Illinois Valley. Take the Big Tree Trail for a great afternoon hike. This steep climb brings hikers to the widest-girthed Douglas-fir tree in Oregon.
More of a wine drinker? You’ll be glad to know that Ashland is close to the Rogue Valley, a wine-growing region with 180 vineyards. The unique, fertile soil supports about 50 grape varieties which range from warm-weather reds such as cabernet sauvignon to refreshing whites like pinot gris. Sip the popular pear and honeydew viognier at Paschal Winery and take in sweeping views of the Siskiyou Mountains from Irvine & Roberts Vineyards. Your wine tour doesn’t need to end in Rogue Valley. Go north to Grants Pass until you reach Applegate Valley. This area is known for its organic farms, lavender fields and 18 wineries, all easily accessible thanks to the Applegate Valley Wine Trail.
Tour amazing vineyards, sample stellar flavors and enjoy the scenic beauty with a visit to the Beaver State’s vintners. With wineries along the majestic Columbia River Gorge and through the fertile Willamette Valley, you’ll never run out of abundant scenery and small towns to explore. While Oregon might not be the first state that comes to mind when you think of wine producers, the state’s latitude provides the long days of sunshine and crisp nights wine grapes need to mature with perfectly balanced flavors. Find out for yourself at an Oregon tasting room.
Overall, Oregon is home to over 700 wineries producing 70 varieties of grapes, with different regions focused on different variations, including Bordeaux, pinot noir and chardonnay. You’ll find 18 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) running in the valleys between the coastal mountain ranges and the interior ranges and along the Columbia River. Pick a region to explore, or take a grand tour and hit them all. Before exploring, make sure the winery you’re visiting caters to your preference.
Uncork Wine Month
During May, winemakers and tasters descend on Oregon to celebrate the wine industry. Tasting rooms, restaurants, and vineyards roll out the red carpet, welcoming visitors with unique opportunities to experience Oregon’s wines. Local restaurants mark the occasion with special wine flights and concoct divine pairings featuring local wines, while regional wine tastings feature stellar vintages from as many as 40 local vineyards.
Water Fun Instead of Wine Tasting
Several rivers and lakes beckon adventure seekers, tempting visitors to put down the wine glass and pick up the fishing rod or paddle. The Columbia River Gorge is an obvious choice, as the massive river cuts through the Cascade Mountains. Breathtaking waterfalls abound, as do opportunities for paddling and fishing. While boaters can enjoy cruising the wide, flat waters of the main channel, paddlers might find more rollicking adventures in one of the creeks and rivers that cascade down the mountains into the valleys. Anglers can find bass, trout, salmon, steelhead, walleye and more in the Columbia River, its tributaries, and the regional lakes.
Two Wheels or Two Boots
Scenic hiking and biking trails wind through wine country. Hit one of the hundreds of hiking trails. Don’t miss Multnomah Falls, located just 30 minutes outside of Portland. A dramatic wisp of water plunges over 600 feet with two falls. A graceful bridge takes you to an overlook. Look up to see the massive first cascade, and then turn around to peer at the plummet below. Bicyclists will want to hit the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway or the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, both of which cross right through bountiful wine regions. Choose your speed as you coast along country roads.
Getting Away From It All
You’ll find wine-tasting opportunity in the state’s largest city (Portland) as well as in several small towns. Head to Portland if urban action is your desire. Portland has an eclectic character, reflected in its motto, “Keep Portland weird.” Here, you’ll find dynamic nightlife and a hip foodie scene, while places like the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden provide more tranquility.
Tip a Glass in These Towns
For a small town that packs a big viticulture punch, head to McMinnville in the Willamette Valley. The downtown historic district oozes charm, transporting you back to simpler times. Stroll the local shops and galleries or grab a meal in a cozy café. In the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon, Ashland is a gorgeous retreat, offering views of the surrounding mountains and an artsy vibe. Visit during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (held March through October) for a taste of culture.
Head south in the valley and you’ll eventually find yourself in Eugene, the second-largest city in Oregon and home to the University of Oregon. This compact town offers plenty of interesting things to see and do, including the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, which focuses on the anthropological and natural history of the region. The Native Plant Courtyard contains flora that represents each of Oregon’s regions. During the weekend, visit the Eugene Saturday Market, which offers local crafts and food carts, plus plenty of live entertainment.
Can’t get enough of Oregon greenery? Head southeast of Eugene to the 209-acre Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, which is a living tree museum featuring riverside paths through evergreen forests and wildflower meadows on the slopes of Mt. Pisgah. Each fall, the Arboretum hosts the Mushroom Festival, with over 400 varieties of wild fungus starring in the celebration.
Burn off those wine-and-cheese calories on the trail. Eugene is home to the Spencer Butte, a 1.7-mile loop hike that’s at the edge of the city. The steep hike takes you to a summit with stellar views of the surrounding area. For a forested setting, Hendricks Park features a rhododendron garden with some flowers towering over 6 feet.
The Klamath, Cascade and Coastal mountain ranges converge in the beautiful Umpqua Valley. If you look closer though, you’ll realize this isn’t a valley at all. Sprawling 65 miles from north to south, the Umpqua is actually a vast collection of hills and river drainages. Locals refer to it as the “Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua,” which paints a more accurate picture of the area.
Dropping a Line
Ready to take a break from all that tasting? Swap your wine glass for a fishing rod and journey to the fabled waters of the Umpqua River. Made up of the South Umpqua, North Umpqua and Main Umpqua, this river is one of Oregon’s top fly-fishing spots with salmon and steelhead ready for the taking throughout the year. Hikers will want to traverse the North Umpqua Trail, a 79-mile path that snakes along the river’s edge and takes you into the center of the majestic Cascades.
Buzzing With Wineries
In the valley’s north end, Elkton enjoys a concentration of four wineries, producing everything from Riesling to Pinot Noir to Baco Noir. It’s estimated that the area has the highest number of wineries per capita, and visitors are welcome to tour the region to explore the local vintages. It also attracts sport fishing enthusiasts to the banks of the river.
Witness “Colliding Rivers” when you follow the waterway about 48 miles south. The nickname describes the contact point between the north-flowing Little River and a south-flowing segment of the North Umpqua River. The two rivers merge at a nearly head-on angle, resulting in a turbulent confluence of two strong currents. The Colliding Rivers Information Center, housed in the Glide Ranger Station, offers insights into the geological history of the region and the people who have made the area their home.
Reel in Roseburg
Ready for more wine? Travel 11 miles west to Roseburg, home to 25 wineries. Vintners in the area are known for award-winning Baco noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Pick up a wine map at the chamber of commerce and set out on an unforgettable winery tour.
You’ll find 180 wineries along the Rogue River, with most located around Grants Pass, Medford, Ashland and Jacksonville. In Grants Pass, feast on delicious flatbreads with your wine flight at Schmidt Family Vineyards, bring your four-legged friend along to Serra Vineyards, or check out grapes and cattle at Plaisance Ranch, a working ranch dating back to 1858. Medford promises exquisite views of Mount McLoughlin, especially from Agate Ridge Vineyard, while Jacksonville’s Dancin Vineyards was named the 2017 Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest. Popular wineries in the Ashland vicinity include Paschal Winery and Vineyard, Dana Campbell Vineyards and Irvine & Roberts Vineyards. Make sure you leave room in your vehicle for all the bottles you’ll be bringing back.
For More Information
Oregon Tourism Commission
Oregon Coast Visitors Association
Oregon National Historic Trail
Travel Southern Oregon
Oregon Wine Board