Ask Oregon Questions & Answers
Oregon is a great place for teenagers (and you!) You definitely won’t need camping stuff, but if you could pack a pair of sturdy shoes to hike in, you might be happy you did! There are plenty of hikes in the area that are just under an hour drive to get to. And there are plenty of places to hike within Portland as well!
My top recommendations:
None of these hikes are too strenuous and you won’t need camping gear for them.
Places to hike in Portland are:
The Newport area is great for kids. In addition to Ripley’s, there is also Undersea Gardens and Wax Works wax museum on the historic bayfront and the fabulous Oregon Coast Aquarium on the north side of the bay. The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is a great place for all ages. It’s a good place to spot harbor seals, observe bird life and it has a vibrant tidepool area accessed by stairway, so plan your visit for a low tide.
On the way to or from Newport you could include Seaside on your itinerary. It is the Coast’s most family friendly city with many family attractions. Your nine-year-old would likely be most interested in the large arcade (Funland), bumper cars, perhaps the indoor carousel and, for sure, the many candy stores. You can feed seals at the small and classic Seaside Aquarium, a much different experience than the elaborate Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. You could then enjoy a scenic drive along the coast to Newport.
If you have the time, you could also consider traveling further down the Coast to Sea Lion Caves in Florence. Newport to Florence is a beautifully scenic drive.
Dundee and McMinnville are beautiful areas! Most of the countryside directly surrounding Dundee and McMinnville is covered in vineyards, and some vineyards actually have hiking or walking trails. Here are a few to check out:
|Willamette Valley, Wine|
There really isn’t a bad place to camp in the Mt. Hood National Forest. For starters, you should bookmark this complete list of campgrounds in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
If you don’t like crowds, the Lost Creek Campground off Lolo Pass Road would be a good option for you. It’s near many hiking trails, such as the ever popular Ramona Falls. Another option is the Green Canyon Campground on the Salmon River. It does get pretty busy, but there are lots of spots you can hike in to next to the river and camp, and some beautiful trails in the area.
While wildly popular, and usually crowded on a sunny weekend, our favorite spot to camp is one of the many campgrounds around Timothy Lake.
|Mt Hood & Columbia Gorge|
I actually grew up in South Dakota so I definitely want you to have an amazing time. And I am absolutely sure you will!
Highway 101 down the Coast is an amazing drive. I’d highly, highly recommend this over taking I-5 South. There are tide pools, the Goonies House, crabbing, local surf spots, delicious seafood shacks, more tide pools, rocky beaches and caves… ahh. You should definitely check out the coast. It’s unlike the sandy beaches of California and is a lot more “wild.”
My favorite coastal spots are:
If you’re heading toward Portland, I recommend:
|Coast, Outdoor Adventure, Portland|
You’ll be in Southern Oregon during one of our prettiest months! Without knowing what type of activities you enjoy, or who will be in your party, I’d recommend a combination of art, dining and outdoor pursuits in the area. A good home base is Ashland, where you can take in a Shakespearean play with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, dine at one of our many farm-to-table restaurants, and take a stroll along Creek street on a weekend to see the work of local artisans. I recommend eating at Sesame, Brickroom and Liquid Assets during your stay.
From Ashland, you can take a day trip to float the Rogue River with Noah’s Rafting, or set out on your own to raft the section of the Upper Rogue from Shady Cove (we like working with Rapid Pleasure, because they’ll give you a shuttle service to the put-in point along with your raft rental). If you’d rather hike, try Pilot Rock if you’re not afraid of heights, or the trails at Mt. Ashland Ski Area. You can also take a day trip to Crater Lake National Park…a must see.
In nearby Medford, the weekly farmer’s market is lovely in the Lithia Commons, and Rogue Creamery always has fresh, award-winning cheese in Central Point. In historic Jacksonville, try the Applegate Wine Trail, or take a day to swim at Applegate Lake. A walk along the downtown area of this tiny town is worth the effort, too!
Further north, the Umpqua area near Roseburg offers waterfalls, river swimming, and hiking along the North and South Umpqua, though the water will still be running a bit fast for most swimmers. From Grants Pass to the coast on the Redwoods Highway, you can stop at Oregon Caves National Historic Site and be on the coast at Brookings within a few hours.
If enter Oregon at Brookings, you may want to make Harris Beach State Park your first stop, especially if you are there during low tide. Harris Beach is one of Oregon’s seven Marine Gardens that are protected intertidal areas. There are also interesting rock formations and this is a good marine life and bird-watching area. In any case, you will want to save some time for exploring the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a 12-mile stretch of coast beginning just north of Brookings. There are several great stops. The easiest ones with great scenic bang for the buck include Whaleshead Beach, Natural Bridges and the Arch Rock Viewpoint. If you have time for a short hike, there may be none better than Thunder Rock Cove made a little longer by continuing to Secret Beach.
The drive north to Port Orford is scenic and you will be tempted to stop, but my favorite stops for photography include the Otter Point State Recreation Site just north of Gold Beach and the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. I would take at least a full day in the Bandon area. The beach at Bandon is one of the best for photography with dramatic rocky spires and other rock formations along the shoreline and just offshore. Seals are frequently seen below Coquille Point at Elephant Rock. The Coquille River Lighthouse is just north of town and is worth a visit. North of Bandon, you can follow the Bandon to Charleston Tour Route to Cape Arago – a must stop for photographers. You’ll find it hard to pull yourself away from the amazing views along the paved walkways and hiking trails at Shore Acres State Park. The short hike from Shore Acres to Simpson Reef is one of my favorites. Simpson Reef is one of the best places on the Oregon Coast to observe seals and sea lions. Bring your longest lens for amazing shots. You can also drive to Simpson Reef and then the end of the Cape at Cape Arago State Park for more great views. If it’s low tide, the South Cove is a remarkable tidepool area.
The Oregon Dunes is the next amazing natural area as you travel north. Much of the easily accessed areas are set aside for ATVs, so as a photographer, I prefer places like the Oregon Dunes Day Use Overlook (with dune access) and Honeyman State Park for shooting. The best dunes photography I’ve enjoyed requires hiking the John Dellenback Dunes Trail near the Eel Lake Campground,
I’d reserve another full day for the Heceta Head Lighthouse, Cape Perpetua and Yachats area. There are highway viewpoints of the Heceta Head Lighthouse just past Sea Lion Caves, but it is worth the half-mile hike up to the beautiful lighthouse from the State Park. You could spend days within the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, but not to miss are Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well at Cooks Chasm and Devils Churn just to the north. These are best a mid-to-high tides for the most exciting ocean action, but this is great tidepool area too. On cloudy or overcast days, the rainforest trails make a nice option.
As you continue north, I like to check out Seal Rock State Recreation Site. There are scenic overlooks and the beach can be quite interesting especially at low tide. I would save a majority of my time on this leg of your journey for the natural areas near Newport. The Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site offer good views of the beautiful Yaquina Bay Bridge and Oregon’s only wooden lighthouse. Just north of town is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, great for scenic photography including a pretty lighthouse and marine life and bird watching. If you can plan your visit for low tide, a stairway leads to another of Oregon’s Marine Gardens, a great place to photograph purple sea urchins. Just north of Newport is the Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area, another must stop. You’ll also want to check out the view from the Cape Foulweather lookout.
If you have time, follow the Three Capes Scenic Route turning off at Pacific City for views of Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout, though the easiest stop for lots of scenic opportunity is Cape Meares with its lighthouse. For the rest of the North Oregon Coast, I would reserve most of my time for the area near Cannon Beach. There’s an amazing viewpoint as you travel north of Manzanita and the highway climbs the edge of Neahkahnie Mountain. Potential stops as you continue include Short Sand Beach, a short walk away in Oswald West State Park and Hug Point – a must stop if its low tide where a picturesque waterfall flows onto the beach just around the point north of the parking area. Cannon Beach itself is home to Haystack Rock, great for tidepools or for framing as a foreground at sunset, along with the rocky spires known as The Needles nearby. Watch the grassy flanks of Haystack Rock for Tufted Puffins. It’s one of the best places to see the colorful birds in the Northwest. Ecola State Park would be my other don’t miss stop. The main viewpoint is fabulous and the Indian Beach area is also amazing.
Lastly, you probably won’t want to miss photographing the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale in Fort Steven State Park as you approach Astoria.
Fun question! There are a few places in the Willamette Valley that are known as being great for rockhounding.
The areas surrounding the South Santiam River, the Calapooia River, and Quartzville creek (all of these are about an hour southeast of Salem) are popular with rockhounders and folks who pan for gold as well. Also, check out this website and this BLM brochure for the Quartzville Mining Corridor.
Another fun place for rock-lovers is called Holleywood Ranch. It’s located in the hills outside of Sweet Home (again, southeast of Salem, near to the other locations I’m mentioning). It is a piece of private land that happens to have huge deposits of petrified wood and rocks. They’ve opened it up to the public for folks who want to come pay a small fee and dig for their own petrified wood. It’s a fascinating place!
For more information, the Bureau of Land Management provides great resources on rockhounding in Oregon and might be able to help you track down more locations.
Ten days is the perfect amount of time to have the greatest vacation, ever.
If you’re starting in Portland, I’d recommend taking a day to check out the city. It sounds like you and I like all of the same things, so I’m going to give you a hot and fast list of what I would do.
Day 1: Portland
Day 2-3: Skydiving, then the Oregon Coast
Day 4: More Coast
Just under two hours driving, if you head south on the 101 toward Florence, you’ll find plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of things to keep you occupied. From lighthouses to more paragliding outfitters and surf shops, to Cape Perpetua and the Hobbit Trail to Seal Rock and the Newport Historic Bay District, this drive won’t disappoint. I’d recommend finding a crab shack somewhere along the way to feast more than just your eyes. Yum!
One of my favorite places to camp on the Coast is Honeyman State Park just South of Florence, OR.
Day 5: Southern Oregon
Get some coffee. You might need it by now.
From Florence, I’d head South down the Coast toward Reedsport and then start heading SE toward Roseburg. This little town (Roseburg) is adorable. It’s a great place to check out and a good place to stop for lunch before you continue heading East toward Crater Lake National Park. You’ll drive through Umpqua National Park to get there, which is phenomenal in itself, but also has one of the most beautiful hot springs in the entire state (in my opinion), the Umpqua Hot Springs. From here, you can head south toward Crater Lake, passing Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Lake.
…Honestly, I’d probably check out Diamond Lake first. And, if you’re feeling salty, the hike to the top of Thielsen isn’t bad. It’s long but even if you don’t make it to the top, the views are unbeatable and the air is crisp enough to get you recharged from all the driving.
Day 6: Crater Lake National Park
Okay. This place. Woofta. It’s hard for me to explain in words just how amazing this place is. I actually started crying the first time I saw it. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I just don’t know. It was beautiful. It was insanely blue. It was huge. And now I tell everyone I can to go visit it and explore the trails and fire lookouts and cliff jumping and camping this place has to offer because I think it seriously changed me. I think I’m going back this weekend.
Day 7: Maybe stay in Crater Lake another night?
Day 8: Drive North toward Bend.
Alright, next up, Beertopia, USA. aka Bend, Oregon. Just under a 2 hour drive from Crater Lake National Park and along a windy, emerald green tunnel through Umpqua National Forest, you’ll get to Bend and wonder why you’ve never been here before. You can also stop at the hot springs again if you want! Bend has everything from the Deschutes River running through the middle of town, to more micro breweries and beer than you’ll know what to do with. There’s also Mt. Bachelor, the Cascade Lakes and Smith Rock. If you’re into rock climbing or want an awesome day hike, head to Smith Rock State Park and head up the Misery Ridge trail. It’s about 4 miles round trip but gives you unbeatable views of the area with a handful of (yep, you guessed it) more volcanoes on the horizon.
Day 9: Columbia River Gorge OR Mt. Hood
This one’s up to you. I love them both and they’re both in the way of you getting back to Portland.
Day 10: WHOAH!
What a trip, huh? Sounds like you might be ready for a hot shower and your own bed.
Glad you’re making the trip up! Crater Lake is absolutely worth the visit in the off-season. Some winters, it’s still covered in snow in March and April, but this year, it’s very manageable. The closest true town to Crater Lake is Prospect, Oregon, which has lodging options. We love the Prospect Historic Hotel for an B&B option, or nearby in Union Creek, the Union Creek Resort offers rustic cabins in a wooded setting. Either way, be sure to stop by Beckie’s Cafe for homemade berry pie!
There are also options to stay at Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake Lodge is the quintessential lodge experience, and in the off-season, you may even get a reservation (it fills up fast in summer). Nearby, the cabins at Mazama offer additional lodging, but bear in mind that this area of the park does not have lake views, and may not be open.
Otherwise, another good option for you is staying in Ashland and commuting up to the park for the day (about a two-hour drive, with nice stops for hikes around Union Creek). Ashland has wonderful dining and shopping, and a fun, vibrant arts scene. I’d be happy to recommend lodging here if you’d be interested.