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Is May it a good time to hike Crater Lake?

First things first: Winter rules Crater Lake National Park. It can start closing seasonal roads in mid-October and last through June. An average year sees 44 feet of snow dropped on the park. Obviously 2015 hasn’t been an average year. So with that in mind, things can change dramatically but if I were to place a bet… I think it will be open. You might get cold. But the road should be open. Please review current conditions before your visit. Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village (Munson Valley Road) are plowed and open all year. However, snowy and icy road conditions can occur anytime, resulting in temporary road closures.

If you’re looking to camp, I’d recommend Mazama Campground and Lost Creek Campground. Both Campground loops and sites open as snow removal progresses. But keep in mind that snowmelt can last through June and while snow persists, mosquitoes may be numerous. And at Crater Lake… they’re pretty numerous. For more on the current weather at Crater Lake, click here.

As far as hiking trails go, this is where things get fun!

There is so much to see and there are so many trails to hike. Here are a few of the best hikes I’ve been on and my all-time favorite hikes near Crater Lake.

  1. Wizard Island:

This hike is unlike anything else. To get started, check the park tour boat schedule and buy a ticket. You’ll begin your hike down the rim to Cleetwood Cove and then ride the boat to Wizard Island. When you get there, you’ll be invited to hike to the 6,940-foot top of the island… which will show you how it got its name. Afterwards, you’ll ride the boat back to Cleetwood Cove and hike the steepest part of the outing back to your car. Or you could stay, take in the sunset, swim in the clear, icy-blue water or have a picnic on the rocks.

  1. Pacific Crest Trail

Beginning from the west at Seven Lakes trailhead, head toward Devil’s Peak. Or, alternatively, head for the south part of the wilderness and hike the trail up Mount McLoughlin, Southern Oregon’s highest mountain.

  1. Mount Scott

The highest point inside the park is actually Oregon’s 10th highest mountain. Crazy, right?  Fortunately, it’s a relatively easy five-mile round-trip hike that gets lots of use when accessible, which isn’t usually until July through early October.

Other hikes to include:

  1. The Watchman’s Tower
  2. The Pinnacles
  3. Mt. Thielsen

Where is a beautiful place to pop the question?

This is an unusual request, but I’ll do my best! Will you be in the outdoors a lot? Because the most off-the-beaten path locations will probably be outside. On that line of thought, my first idea is Mt. Ashland. Any time of year, the Mt. Ashland access road is accessible, and in spring and summer, it’s possible to hike and picnic up there (or ski in winter). The historic lodge will not be open in the off-season, but if you drive to the end of the parking lot and drive or walk up the dirt road, you can get to a nice trail that leads to the summit (you hike up the back). It’s a beautiful spot for a proposal, and only about a mile hike.

Otherwise, another nice spot is Lithia Park in Ashland. It does get crowded, depending on the weather and day, but if you go to the top of the park (park above the playground and walk up the trail), the upper duck pond area is rarely crowded. In the summer and fall, the stand of trees across the street from the upper duck pond is a nice area, too.

In the Applegate area, any of the wineries on the Applegate Wine Trail are scenic, and often not crowded. It would be easy to take a walk from the tasting area into the vines for a proposal. Hope this helps!

How should we spend 48 hours on the Oregon Coast?

Two days traveling the Oregon Coast means severely limit stopping and spending any time at the many attractions along the 363-mile coastline. Newport or Yachats make a good first overnight stop to explore some of the amazing scenic areas on the Central Oregon Coast. Top scenic attractions to make time for include Devils Punchbowl, Yaquina Head (Newport area) and the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area (just south of Yachats)

I would spend my second night in Bandon after a stop at the three amazing State Parks on Cape Arago southwest of Coos Bay. The beach at Bandon is decorated with dramatic rock formations and is one of the most scenic beaches of any adjacent to an Oregon Coast town. You could rejoin I-5 via OR 42 E from Bandon, but if you choose to travel further south along the coast, make time for visiting the Cape Blanco Lighthouse and the viewpoints along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on April 10th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

When are the wildflowers in full bloom?

First blooms usually start appearing around mid to late April, and continuing until the hot (well, hot for Oregon) weather arrives sometime in early July. To catch a nice selection of wildflowers, I would probably suggest sometime in early to mid May. The exception to this is the higher elevations around Mt. Hood, where the lupine usually hit peak in mid to late June. It’s all dependent on weather conditions, and how long it stays cold. I think the wildflowers in the Columbia River Gorge are really spectacular in the first couple of weeks of May, when the bleeding hearts are blooming, along with a variety of other things.

Can you help me plan a fabulous but reasonably priced girls weekend?

A girls weekend sounds fabulous! You really can’t go wrong in any part of the Willamette Valley if you’re looking for wine, food and fun. Since you specifically asked about something that’s reasonably priced, I’m going to pass along a few ideas for places to stay that I know are a bit off the beaten path and somewhat easier on the budget.

The Grand Hotel in Salem offers a Wine Trail package that is a good deal. I’ve stayed at the Grand and it’s a very comfortable hotel, and it’s an easy drive to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which has absolutely world-class wineries. However, because it’s further from Portland, lodging in this area is a little less expensive — and the wineries may be a little crowded on a weekend (although nothing in Oregon will be crowded compared to wine regions like Napa).

Consider staying at Sweet Cheeks Winery Farmhouse. Since you’re traveling in a group, perhaps a house rental in a vineyard might be fun? Divided out among the members of your group, the price per night is probably lower than booking individual hotel rooms. It’s right next to Sweet Cheeks winery, which is one of my favorite wineries in the South Willamette Valley; lots of other great wineries in this region, including King Estate, which is stunning and has a wonderful winery restaurant which would be great for a special dinner together.

If you’re looking for something budget-friendly in the northern part of the Willamette Valley (Dundee Hills, Carlton, Newberg, McMinnville), which is where many of Oregon’s most famous wineries are, I’d suggest Hotel Oregon. It’s a renovated historic hotel on 3rd Street in downtown McMinnville, and is walking distance to tasting rooms and great restaurants (plus the hotel has a restaurant and four bars onsite!). The rooms in this hotel are European style, which means they are on the smaller side and some of them have shared bathrooms accessed via the hallway (other rooms with private baths are available too). But the rooms are all very nice and decorated with quirky hand-painted murals. I’ve stayed there and had a great time! Plus you really cannot beat the prices at this place for a historic hotel in the heart of Oregon Wine Country.

If you’re still trying to narrow down where to go, check out Oregon Wine Country for info about all of the wineries in the Willamette Valley, including different travel packages and offers.

What is the best way to see Jordan Valley by car?

This is a really great question! I actually took a driving tour through this same area of Oregon at the end of October last fall. So, for starters, I’d say that time is one of the best to go. I don’t think you’d want to go any later than the middle of November (too cold!) and no sooner than August (too hot!).

If you start your road trip near Burns, you can drive through both Malheur and Mud Lakes (they’re not really lakes, more or less dried up lake beds). This area of Oregon is completely different from any other I’ve experienced but it was mesmerizing how big the sky was and how nice the people were. From there, you can continue southeast on the 205 through Frenchglen. I’d recommend staying at the Frenchglen Hotel. It’s a quaint hotel that was built in 1916 by a meat-packing company but now hosts five rooms for guests. Just across the road from the hotel is an awesome wildlife and bird viewing area. I walked around in there for about three hours and didn’t get bored once. Even in late October there were plenty of critters to see and there was a family of bald eagles nesting about 50 yards off the road. It was incredible! After leaving Frenchglen a fun option and short drive to the Pete French Round Barn is really cool. Otherwise, you can drive up to the top of Steens Mountain and look out at the Alvord Desert about 300 feet below you, stretching out for miles.

Other options would be to bypass the mountain road and take a dip in some of the local hot springs. Mickey Hot Springs and the Alvord Hot Springs were great and it only cost $5.00 to check them out and drop my toes in.

If you continue taking HWY 205 SE you’ll find yourself among one of the most jaw=dropping places in Oregon: the Alvord Desert. You can drive over and through it, you can camp in it, you can do just about anything you want to do there. It’s similar to the Salt Flats in Utah but way, way more intensely beautiful. And if you take the Fields-Dieno Road all the way back up to HWY 95 East, you’ll get to the Jordan Valley with some time to spare.

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Can you suggest a trip that allows us to see lots of boats?

There are several choices for good port or fishing towns on the Oregon Coast. On the North Oregon Coast, you could consider Astoria with its working riverfront ranging from fishing boats and international commercial ships to recreational boats and cruise ships. There’s a lovely river walk that allows you to take in the views of boats on the river and in port. The river walk passes a combination of working waterfront businesses and brew pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, along with the amazing Columbia River Maritime Museum that would be a must stop for you. For a luxury stay, you could book a room at the Cannery Pier Hotel that is built on the river pier of a former cannery and you could watch the river traffic from your room. Other options include Victorian bed and breakfasts, downtown boutique hotels or traditional hotels.

On the Central Oregon Coast, I would recommend Newport with its large bay front port on Yaquina Bay. It’s a fun place to walk, offering a unique combination of commercial fish processing along with tourist shops, restaurants and attractions. You’ll find some bay front accommodations and other local attractions are nearby including two historic lighthouses and the world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium. On the bay front, there is a small maritime museum. There are beautiful stretches of beach nearby too! The short day trip to Depoe Bay would allow you to visit the worlds smallest navigable harbor, as well as look for whales at the oceanfront Whale Watch Center.

There are several interesting choices on the South Oregon Coast. I love the character of the small fishing port of Charleston southwest of Coos Bay. Just minutes from the port is a string of three beautiful State Parks on Cape Arago. The Cape Arago Lighthouse can be seen from various viewpoints nearby. Accommodations near Charleston are more limited, but you will find many choices in North Bend and Coos Bay, a major shipping port. I love the town of Bandon for its amazing beach with dramatic rock formations. It has a small port on the Coquille River, but it would make a great base for exploring north to Charleston and south to Port Orford, a small fishing port, but home of the only dry dock port on the West Coast where boats are lifted directly in and out of the ocean’s waters by crane. Bandon makes relaxation time in the evening easy with an Old Town area and riverfront boardwalk where you will find some of the community’s best shopping and dining.

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on March 29th, 2015 - Post Your Answer

Are sites in the Gorge accessible to people with limited mobility?

You will find that there are TONS of accessible sights along the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway, including Multnomah Falls. There is an elevator in the historic lodge there and a wheelchair ramp to the main viewing area. The trail is paved all the way to the bridge, but it might be a little steep for someone with limited mobility.

Other waterfalls easily accessible are Latourell, Wahkeena, and Horsetail Falls. All of those areas are paved, and easily seen within a short distance from the road.

Also, make sure to stop at Vista House at Crown Point. There is a wheelchair ramp into the building, and an elevator inside to access the lower floor.

Should we visit Willamette Valley wineries in April or May?

Both April and May are great times to visit wineries in the Willamette Valley, but if I had to pick I’d lean toward May because it’s Oregon Wine Month and many wineries are offering special events and tastings that they don’t offer at other times of the year.

Depending on your preferences, you may or may not want to come on Memorial Day Weekend. Memorial Day is traditionally the kick-off to the summer season in Oregon Wine Country, and you’ll find lots and lots of special events and fun things going on at almost every vineyard and tasting room in the state.

That said, it may be more crowded that weekend that on other weekends this spring, so it just depends on if you want a fun, vibrant, busy atmosphere, or if you’d rather get a little more personal attention from the wineries you visit. The same holds true a weekday vs. weekend visit. Some of the small boutique wineries in the valley are only open on the weekends, but bigger places are open most days of the week — you’ll want to check websites or call ahead to check on their tasting room hours. On a weekend (especially if it’s sunny) it will be busier at the wineries. If you go on a weekday afternoon, there’s a chance you might be the only guests and will be able to have plenty of time to chat with the winery staff!

Another fun tip: if you’re traveling to Oregon via Alaska Airlines, there is a special program that allows Alaska Airlines passengers to ship Oregon Wine home for free!

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Are there yurts to rent near Crater Lake?

We love Oregon yurts! If you’ll be combining your Crater Lake tour with Oregon coast vacationing, there are a number of great state parks with yurts at your disposal (though reserve far in advance). If not, the closest yurt rentals are at LaPine State park, outside of Bend. However, this park has rustic cabins, not yurts (though you get the same amenities). On the other side of Crater Lake, the closest yurts are at Valley of the Rogue. Each are about 2 hours’ drive from Crater Lake, in different directions.

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