Ask Oregon Questions & Answers
It sounds like you have quite the adventure planned! That is so exciting.
I recommend checking out Summer Lake Hot Springs. It’s a little out of the way — about two hours southeast of Bend — but I find it less crowded, beautiful, and very peaceful. On your way over from Portland, I’d also suggest stopping along the way at Timberline Lodge (if you’ve ever seen The Shining, you’ll recognize it right away!). You can get a beer there and sit outside on the patio right at the base of Mt. Hood. There are plenty of camping options along Highway 26 and some lakes to check out as well (Trillium Lake and Timothy Lake are not far off the highway).
Bend has lots of whitewater, mountain biking and hiking trails, and lakes. Things should be accessible by early July.
Oakridge is also known for its world-class mountain biking trails, and there are some hot springs near there as well! Oakridge is located near the Willamette Pass, just south of Eugene. If you hit it right, you’ll find a bounty of huckleberries (in late summer). Also, the McKenzie River trail between Bend and Eugene is a classic mountain bike destination. You can probably find friends in Bend to do a car shuttle with (so you can ride 30 miles in one direction), or you could hire Cog Wild to shuttle you. A little further south is the Umpqua River Trail, another mountain biking classic. The Umpqua Hot Springs are nearby too, as well as Mt. Thielsen and Crater Lake. Mt. Thielsen is a great day hike — you can hike up about 4.5 miles and scramble to the summit if you’re comfortable with the exposure, or you could turn around lower down and still get some incredible views. Crater Lake is a must-do, even if you just drive up to the rim and take a peak at the immense, bluest-blue lake. If you go over to the east side of Rim Drive, you could hike Mt. Scott, another great day hike that should not be too crowded, especially if you get an early start.
As for the Oregon Coast, you really can’t go wrong. I’d suggest driving along Highway 101 and stopping along the way to see whatever piques your interest! There are tons of hiking trails, places to camp, and coastal sights to see. I love hiking up Neahkahnie Mountain from Oswald West State Park & Short Sands Beach, and hiking at Cape Lookout, Cascade Head, and Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Many of the top attractions and viewpoints on the Oregon Coast are wheelchair accessible. Here is a list of some of my favorite Central and South Coast areas that offer wheelchair accessibility:
Depoe Bay Whale Watch Center: This is a facility operated by Oregon State Parks that is one of the best whale watching locations year-round with both indoor and outdoor viewing areas. State Parks personnel are on hand to help visitors spot whales.
Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area: Paved paths offer great views and circle a scenic lighthouse. There’s also a wheelchair accessible intertidal area at Quarry Cove. Seabirds, seals and whales are common sightings.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area: Variety of paved paths offer views from atop the cape and along a scenic stretch of oceanfront at Cook’s Chasm for views of Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well. A nearby paved overlook offers views of Devil’s Churn. The Visitor Center offers a good whale watching viewpoint.
Heceta Head Lighthouse Highway Viewpoints: Just south of Sea Lion Caves are two small highway-side viewpoints that offer wonderfully scenic views of the beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Oregon Dunes Day Use Area: Just south of Florence, this dunes overlook offers access to wheelchair accessible viewing areas of the Oregon Dunes.
Shore Acres State Park: A must-stop with paved trails along a cliffside famous for great wave action, seals, sea lions and whales. The formal gardens of a one-time historic estate can also be toured. Nearby, the Simpson Reef overlook is one of the best places to watch seal lions on the entire Oregon Coast. Nearby Cape Arago State Park also offers paved paths and overlooks good for whale watching.
Coquille Point in Bandon: A beautiful overlook of the many rock formations along Bandon’s beautiful beach and a network of paved paths. The nearby Face Rock viewpoint offers more great views and a short paved pathway.
Battle Rock Park in Port Orford: Beautiful view of coastline to the south.
Arch Rock & Spruce Islands Viewpoint: The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor offers a few nice wheelchair accessible stops, but this is my favorite. A few paved paths (some a little rough) offer great views of a scenic stretch of coastline.
Harris Beach State Park: Paved paths at the day use area of the park offers nice views of the rock strewn shoreline.
What a fun question! Here are my top recommendations.
Memorial Park in Wilsonville. This would be a really easy stop for getting on and off I-5 and a great place to get out and stretch your legs. Heading south from Portland, you’d just take exit 283, then head east for 1 mile. Memorial Park is in the middle of the Portland suburb of Wilsonville but the park itself is big (126 acres) with picnic areas, trails, a creek and even some frontage of the Willamette River. I lived near there several years ago and my kids’ favorite thing to do in the summer was walk to this park and play in the splash park on hot sunny days. (It has covered picnic areas for not-so-sunny days too.)
Champoeg State Heritage Area. This one is about 11 miles west of the freeway, but it’s a really lovely state park. It’s not only in a very pretty area alongside the Willamette River, it also has some very cool historic sites you can visit that might be fun for breaking up your journey. If you go during the summer you can stop and get an ice cream cone at the historic Butteville store, the oldest continuously operating retail establishment in Oregon!
Bauman’s Farm & Garden in Gervais. A farm and garden store might not seem like a great place for a picnic, but this one is. Bauman’s Farm is a family-owned farm, nursery with an on-site bakery and farm store. Their bakery is to die for and they have places to sit down. Buy a homemade cookie or donut to go with your picnic, or in the summer buy fresh produce to enjoy. They’re open year-round, and they’re only 5 miles off the freeway.
Willamette Mission State Park is a peaceful state park about 5 miles west of the freeway. It’s mainly a nature preserve with plenty of open area for picnicing and trails you can walk on. Depending on how much time you have, you can also take a ride on the Wheatland Ferry, which takes cars and people back and forth across the Willamette River at a crossing adjacent to the park. Its’s one of a handful of river ferryboats that are still operating in Oregon. You can just ride over and back, either on foot or with your car, for the fun of it (and for a nominal fee) even if you don’t have a pressing matter on the other side. My kids think riding the ferry is fun, but maybe they’re just easily amused!
If you’re into wine tasting, you might also try having your picnic at Arcane Cellars instead of Willamette Mission State Park. Arcane Cellars is just across the river from Willamette Mission State Park and the Wheatland Ferry. It’s family-owned by friendly folks and they make great small-batch Oregon wine. They have a tasting room, a covered patio area and picnic areas for visitors. They also have a very charming winery cat who greeted me when I visited there. If you visit on a weekday that’s in the off season (i.e., not the summer) you will want to check with them to verify that they’ll be open, or make an appointment. Like many small Oregon wineries, they have limited hours during the off season.
I hope you have a pleasant drive and find a good spot for your picnic. Enjoy your visit to the Willamette Valley!
Head to the ocean off the North and Central Coast for wild salmon. Or cast a line at one of the many rivers in northwest Oregon stocked with hatchery chinook. Daily limits are enforced.
Keep in mind that in 2017 chinook fishing is prohibited in parts of the South Coast. Due to a low forecast for chinook salmon returning to the Klamath River, ocean chinook fishing is closed for the season from Humbug Mountain (south of Port Orford) to northern California. This ensures healthy chinook numbers for years to come. And the closure doesn’t apply to coastal rivers and streams, such as the Umpqua River.
Consult ODFW for seasons and limits for specific locations. For more information about 2017 Oregon fishing regulations, see here: http://www.eregulations.com/oregon/fishing/
Driving a loop through the Gorge and up over Mt. Hood is actually a perfect, popular and picturesque day trip from Portland. The total drive time is approximately three hours, so you’ll have time to for multiple stops.
Keep in mind that the Gorge waterfall corridor around Multnomah Falls is extremely popular, especially on a weekend. But, here are some tips to help you beat those crowds and be rewarded with waterfalls and mountain views.
Wake up early and explore the Gorge waterfalls first. I’d recommend a quick drive by-type visit so you can save time. Then head to Hood River for an early lunch. From Hood River, drive south on Hwy 35 for a scenic drive to the Tamanawas Falls trailhead (the website mentions an impassable landslide, but it’s been cleared). You will see some other visitors here, but no crowd control needed. The beautiful 5-mile round-trip hike climbs slightly along a bouncy little creek to an impressive 100-foot waterfall with plenty of picture potential. You can even duck in behind the waterfall and enjoy a snack. Afterwards, continue up Hwy 35 to for close-up Mt. Hood views. Stop anywhere along the way for photos. Finally, jump onto Hwy 26 and stop by at Timberline Lodge for sweeping cascade panoramas, or continue on Hwy 26 for the last hour’s drive back to Portland.
Alternatively, you can skip driving and join a shuttle for guided tours of the area. Happy trails!
|Mt Hood & Columbia Gorge|
Thanks for your question! In Southern Oregon, May is an excellent month for hiking, as it’s not too hot yet, but most trails have dried out from spring rain showers. One of my favorites is the Rogue River Trail. This epic trail is 40 miles, following the Wild and Scenic section of the river, but can be an out-and-back of much less, of course. If it’s already warm, opt for the opposite bank of the river, where the Rainie Falls Trail offers more shade. This 3.5-mile hike is perfect for an afternoon activity.
For more shade, consider hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, where it runs just south of Ashland. From Mt. Ashland’s parking lot (at the ski resort), it’s easy to access the trail, and take it about three miles to the Grouse Gap shelter. You’ll enjoy great views of Mt. Shasta, too!
We also like hiking in the direction of Crater Lake, by Prospect. The Upper Rogue Trail is a good bet on Highway 62, or you can go bouldering at Mill Creek and Avenue of the Boulders. In the late spring, the falls are really rushing! If you go all the way to Crater Lake, head toward Roseburg near the north entrance, and enjoy the ‘waterfalls highway’…there are many stops with short hikes to scenic waterfalls.
If you want to go to the west side of Southern Oregon, you can hike amid the redwoods along the Chetco River near Brookings.
May and June is typically the birthing and pupping time for Steller sea lions. During this time, the sea lions usually seek offshore rocks, islands and reefs like those at Cape Arago and are less likely to be inside the Sea Lion Caves. You might see nursing pups on the rocky shelf, below the southern viewpoint at Sea Lion Caves. California sea lions are also abundant on the Oregon Coast, but nearly all of these are males. For maximum sea lion activity, winter is the best time to visit Sea Lion Caves. As breeding season approached in spring, the sea lions leave the cave and remain in rookeries and outdoor haul out areas along the Coast until stormy weather in fall has them seek shelter within the cave.
Shore Acres State Park in Coos Bay and Yaquina Head in Newport are great areas for viewpoints that overlook Pacific harbor seal birthing and pupping areas in March and April. It is much more common to see nursing seals and seal pups than sea lions who prefer more isolated haul outs like those at Simpson Reef off Cape Arago.
Backpacking and fly fishing sounds like a great way to celebrate your anniversary! My first recommendation would be the Rogue River. There’s a trail that follows along the river for 40+ miles, with camping areas and even lodging you can reserve if you wanted to have a night of luxury. It’s Wild and Scenic River and is absolutely beautiful — as well as a world-class fly fishing river.
My second recommendation would be the Umpqua River. This gorgeous river is also known for amazing fly fishing and beauty. It has about 70 miles of trail along the river. There could be rhododendron in bloom in early June!
The reason I recommend the Rogue over the Umpqua is that it’s a little bit farther south and may have better weather. We’ve had a huge snow year in Oregon, so I’m not sure how long it will take the trail along the Umpqua to melt out (since it’s at a higher elevation). The two rivers are probably equal in terms of fly fishing and scenery. You really can’t go wrong with either one. Both would have plenty of greenery and rugged mountains as well.
Have you visited the Oregon Coast? It’s beautiful, and from Eugene it’s an easy one hour drive to Florence, which has all kinds of things to do — giant sand dunes to explore, a historic lighthouse, nice beaches, some pretty hikes. Your kids might like going for dune buggy rides or going sandboarding (like snowboarding, but down sand dunes!). You can visit the Sea Lion Caves or go whale watching. Or just walk on the beach, which is one of my favorite things to do when I go to the Coast. Eugene, Cascades & Coast has some great ideas about exploring the region of the coast that’s just west of Eugene.
You could also head the other direction from Eugene — east into the Cascades — and hit a couple of easy but beautiful waterfall hikes. Sahalie & Koosah falls are easy to get to and not very strenuous, but gorgeous. You can hike to both waterfalls from the same trailhead, With all the water we’ve had this winter and spring, the flow over the falls should be spectacular this time of year! Takoda’s Restaurant in the little town of Rainbow is a great place to go for lunch if you head that direction.
You could also head north to the Woodburn Tulip Festival. It’s only open at this time of year, and though the blooming season is often over by late April, this season it has been extended to May 7, so if it’s something that you’re interested in, you should take the chance to do it now! You’ll be able to see acres and acres of gorgeous tulips and get some great photos. (Although be warned, it can be busy on the weekends)
I hope you have a great visit to Eugene this weekend and you get some good exploring in!
On the Oregon Coast, Oswald West State Park between Manzanita and Cannon Beach has some nice old-growth trees. The closest rivers with good fishing are the Necanicum River to the north and the Nehalem and North Fork Nehalem rivers to the south.
In Greater Portland, Oxbow Park along the Sandy River has old-growth trees and has a lot of good fishing access.