Ask Oregon Questions & Answers
Of course, you’ll be deep in wine country there, and I should encourage you to stop in at one of the bajillion wineries for a drop of pinot — it is definitely worth a stop. As for beer, a couple to put on your list are Golden Valley (McMinnville), one of Oregon’s older breweries and a good one. The long-time brewer there, Mark Vickery, went off and started Grain Station (McMinnville), which should probably be your first stop. Great story, great place — and great beer. Another brewery I love is Heater Allen (also McMinnville), but they focus on lagers so you’ll have to decide whether that fits the bill. (Lagers have finally started to get popular in Oregon, and this brewery is one of the big reasons why.)
A couple other places to note. You might consider driving to Salem to check out Santiam, which is an interesting brewery that does mainly cask ales. It’s unusual and you might find it interesting. There’s also a new brewery in Dundee called Deception — and breweries open so fast in Oregon that I’m falling behind. I still haven’t made it out there. Perhaps you can go and tell me what it’s like.
|Beer, Willamette Valley|
You’re in luck. There are great rafting and water sports options around here. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway offers many lakes for flatwater kayaking and boating. The Deschutes River offers kayaking and slow-rafting right in town, or sign up for a white water raft trip with Sun Country Tours, on the river southwest of town. Also in town, try out the new Bend Whitewater Park, with standing waves and awesome floating, surfing and kayaking options.
No doubt, you’ll work up an appetite. Some of my favorite places to eat nearby are Jackson’s Corner, Spork, Hola!, Brother Jon’s, the Lot, Zydeco and Bend Brewing Co.
Yes, there are plenty of mellow stretches of the Rogue River near Gold Beach that would be suitable for inner tubes. You will need to be careful of the jet boat tours that leave Gold Beach and go up the Rogue River.
In Southern Oregon you can find wonderful redwood groves by driving out the Redwood Highway (Highway 199) from Grants Pass to the Oregon Coast. Along the way you can access short hiking trails into the redwoods at several locations, as well as find redwoods along the Oregon Coast once you reach that point. From Crescent City, you’ll want to drive north a few miles back into Oregon. My favorite spot is the Redwood Nature Trail in Brookings. This trail is actually a trail network of multiple loops that wind upslope of the Chetco River. You see multiple redwoods and other pines, as well as a clear, cold creek. Be sure to pay attention to which turns you take in order to find your way back to the start, as it’s not as well marked as we would like.
Directions: from Highway 101, turn east at Constitution Way to North Bank Chetco Road. Go 7.5 miles to Alfred Loeb State Park. The trailhead is half a mile past the entrance.
The Hells Canyon Scenic Byway is a great drive for visitors! You get some great stops with amazing views. Did you know that Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America?
The road itself is nice and well kept. I have a lot of folks come through with large vehicles and RVs. Parking at some of the view points could be tricky, but I wouldn’t be too worried. Road 39, by Halfway, is gravel and can have some small washboards during some parts of the year.
If you are needing more information on this, I recommend contacting the Wallowa Chamber of Commerce.
The best beaches for razor clamming on the Oregon Coast are about 90 minutes from Portland in the Seaside area and north toward Fort Stevens State Park. You’ll want to check with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding licensing, limits and shellfish safety closures. The razor clam season is closed on these beaches between July 15 and September 30 to protect juvenile clams.
There is also a variety of bay clamming on the North Oregon Coast, most notably on Tillamook Bay, Nehalem Bay and Netarts Bay. Nehalem Bay is also a good spots for crabbing and local marinas offer rental gear and boats or you can crab off the docks, then have your catch cooked fresh just steps from where you caught it.
I happen to love local cheese, so I love that you are asking this question!
I am not aware of anyone offering a pre-set cheese tour of the valley. However, I would suggest you contact Black Tie Tours; they are based in the Dundee area and offer mainly wine tours but are very open to customization. The owner, Stefan Czarnecki, is very familiar with the food and drink scene in the Willamette Valley and I think would be able to set up a nice cheese-focused tour for your group!
Embrace Oregon Tours is another Willamette Valley based tour company that I’ve had good experiences with and might be interested in setting up a custom tour for you.
If you end up wanting to do a more self-guided tour, here are some places I’d highly recommend including in your visit:
I hope you have a delicious trip!
An afternoon doesn’t give you much time, so I’ll limit this list. Were you to be staying longer, this list could grow quite a bit.
Deschutes in downtown Portland (actually the Pearl, but that’s not important) is definitely one of the best places to consider. You may well know Deschutes, but it’s really worth visiting the local location here. They have a small brewery on site, and they have something like 22 taps, most of which serve beers you’ll never see outside the pub. Deschutes has always had, from top to bottom, one of the best taplists in the country. Great variety of styles, all excellent quality. If you’re looking to eat, they do nice food, too.
The other big brewery to consider is Breakside. It is a little bit remote in the city (out to the north of downtown), but no brewery is making better, more interesting beer in Portland. Like Deschutes, they do a lot of different styles, so you’ll definitely find something there of interest no matter what your tastes. But they do specialize in IPAs, and they’re at the forefront of the modern palate (lots of juicy, fruity flavors). They’re one of the most influential breweries in Oregon right now. They also have a great menu.
There are a bunch of other excellent breweries, and you could spend a week trying to go to them all. Other good choices are: Ex Novo (nice selection of different styles), Upright and The Commons (farmhouse beers), Cascade (sours), Hair of the Dog (big, boozy beers), Ecliptic (standard ales, by the original brewer at Deschutes), Hopworks (standard ales), Lucky Lab on Hawthorne (somewhat average standard ales, fantastic location), Occidental and Zoiglhaus (German beer styles), Widmer (huge selection of beers you can’t get elsewhere).
I’ve fielded quite a few difficult questions, but this might take the cake. My initial response is, “why not both?”
If you have time for both, obviously it’s a no-brainer.
If not, there is no ultramarine blue that comes close to Crater Lake. I wish I was kidding when I say this but the first time I saw Crater Lake in person, I cried. Seriously. It is so beautiful. And it’s history is so interesting. Can you imagine: a mountain, taller than Mt. Hood, standing in it’s place? Can you imagine it erupting, spewing lava and ash and smoke and debris and then just sitting empty for hundreds of years? Yeah. Me neither.
But also, can you imagine a giant hole in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rich soil and a resilient ecosystem slowly coming back to life, one saved raindrop at a time? You probably can’t. At least I couldn’t anyway, until I saw it for myself.
I vote Crater Lake. The water is cold, crisp and refreshing if you’re up for cliff jumping. The views are jaw-dropping if you’re into sunset or killer views, or both. The hiking is rewarding if you’re up for old fire lookout vista picnics. The food is decent, I’d bring a few snacks. But Crater Lake wine is something you won’t want to leave without trying.
Novice tip for you: fill up your gas tank before you get to the park. There are no stations and people run out ALL THE TIME. Don’t be one of them.
|Outdoor Adventure, Southern Oregon|
My choices would be Cannon Beach, Newport, Yachats, Bandon and Gold Beach for the following reasons:
Cannon Beach is a good base for nearby attractions like Haystack Rock, Ecola State Park, Oswald West State Park, Hug Point and towns like Seaside, Astoria and Manzanita. Follow the Three Capes Scenic Route (Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and cape Kiwanda) as you drive south to Newport.
Newport has many local attractions like Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, the historic bay front, Oregon Coast Aquarium and easy day trips to Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock, Cape Foulweather (Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint) and the town of Depoe Bay. Visit Seal Rock State Recreation Site as you drive south to Yachats.
Yachats is not far from Newport, but it offers the best access to the many attractions of the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area including hiking trails, Devil’s Churn, Spouting Horn, Thor’s Well and panoramic views from the top of the Cape. Heceta Head Lighthouse makes an easy day trip. Explore the town of Florence and the Oregon Dunes as you drive south to Bandon.
Bandon offers a spectacular beach with interesting rock formations, a nice Old Town area and the Coquille River Lighthouse. The three State Parks on Cape Arago make a great day trip from Bandon if you don’t have time to visit them as you travel between Yachats and Bandon. The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is an easy day trip to the south of Bandon. Explore the town of Port Orford, Port Orford Heads State Park and Battle Rock Park as you travel south to Gold Beach.
Gold Beach is a great base for exploring the wild and scenic Rogue River, the stunning Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor to the south and other great stops include Meyers Beach and Cape Sebastian. Otter Point State Recreation Site is a nice short trip north of Gold Beach.