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What are the best places for easy trail hikes that are not too close to the city?

Thanks for the great question.  I am the Ask Oregon expert on outdoor recreation and the Assistant Manager of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center, and these are my recommendations for easy hikes in Oregon away from the city.  Since Oregon is so rich in variety, I’ve included hike suggestions for northern Oregon, central Oregon to the coast, and southern Oregon as a sort of sampler platter into what the state has to offer.  I assume that by easy you mean, easy to find, well-maintained and signed, and good for hikers of all skill levels from kids to seniors.

To the east of Portland you can find endless options for easy hikes.  One of my favorites is the Eagle Creek Trail where you will pass half a dozen waterfalls like picturesque Punchbowl Falls (4.2 miles roundtrip). From Punchbowl Falls you can keep on hiking, but it will get steeper as you go, around the six-mile mark you will come across Tunnel Falls, a 120 foot waterfall that has a tunnel built through it.  If you feel up for the longer hike and elevation gain, it’s well worth the effort.

Southeast of Eagle Creek, on the other side of Mt Hood, is another great hike (3 miles round trip) that leads to Bagby Hot Springs.  The trail follows along the Collawash River through an old-growth forest of douglas firs and cedars.  This is a great hike for viewing wildflowers in the spring and rich fall colors in October and November.  You can reward yourself with a soak in the rustic hot springs bath house where the tubs are carved out of cedar logs, but be aware, swimsuits are rare.

The first two hikes can be crowded when the weather is nice.  If you want to get away from the crowds, go to the Mount Jefferson Wilderness and Canyon Creek Meadows (4.5 miles to the lower meadow).  This is one of the best easy hikes to high cascades wildflower meadows.  Blue lupine and red paintbrush peak at the end of July.  This trail leads you to a scenic viewpoint of Three Fingered Jack (7.5 miles round trip).  On the way back to the trailhead you will pass beaver ponds and waterfalls.

Central Oregon offers hikes of a different color – reddish brown.  There are tons of great easy hikes away from the city in the central portion of the state.  I am always amazed with the beauty around Smith Rock State Park.  The trails around the park are relatively easy.  Don’t worry though, If you get tired, there are many benches along the way to rest your legs and while you’re resting look up at the rocky cliffs and you’re almost guaranteed to see thrill-seeking rock-climbers defying gravity, Smith Rock is a world renowned climbing destination.

The McKenzie River National Recreation Trail is an all-season favorite of mine.  Stretching 26.2 miles from Clear Lake to McKenzie Bridge, you can find a number of easy hikes along the way.  Sahalie & Koosah Falls are two spectacular waterfalls about half a mile apart.  You can park at either Sahalie Falls or Koosah Falls’ convenient trailheads right off Highway 126 and hike in a loop between the two falls (approximately 2.6 miles).  Continue west on highway 126 and take the turn-off for Trailbridge Reservoir.  From here, follow the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail 1.5 miles to Tamolitch Falls.  Old lava flows have shaped the landscape of the McKenzie River Valley and part of the river flows underground only to re-emerge at Tamolitch Falls.  It’s brilliant blue water will amaze you and beg you to linger before hiking back to your car.

If you continue west on Highway 126 you will reach the Oregon coast.  A great, easy hike along the way is Sweet Creek Falls, just outside of Mapleton.  This 2.2 mile trail passes a dozen small waterfalls and is a favorite among kids who can play in the shallow water when it’s warm and collect fallen leaves in autumn.

To really get away from the city, you have to go to the southeastern corner of the state.  A notable easy hike here is Steens Mountain Summit.  This is the ninth tallest mountain in Oregon and arguably the easiest to climb.  The landscape is unlike any of the previously mentioned hikes.

Oregon’s natural beauty shines on all of these hikes.  Get to know the landscape and what shaped it and you will enjoy each of these hikes even more because every trail tells a story.
Let me know if I can answer anymore questions for you.  Enjoy your hiking!

Answered by Cari Soong on December 10th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

I’d like to get information about bicycling the entire length of the OC&E Woods Line State Trail. I’d like to hear from someone who has actually done it. I’m interested in the best type of bicycle to use, is an off-road touring bike OK (Salsa Fargo, for instance), recommended tire size, water availability (streams, creeks, etc.), location of the trailhead in the Sycan Marsh, and so on. I haven’t been able to get much information from people who have cycled on the trail. Thanks.

I have not been on the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, but I found some people who have.  Most helpful was Zach Gilmour at Hutch’s Bicycles in Klamath Falls (541-850-2453).  He has ridden most of the trail and here is what he says:

Best type of bicycle to use:
It’s soft gravel for nearly all of it (the last seven or eight miles of it closest to Klamath Falls are paved).  For what I’ve ridden on the unpaved portion of that trail, a wide but low knob 29’er tire would do the trick perfectly.”

Water availability (streams, creeks, etc.): “As far as water stops goes, it’s pretty bleak out there for any kind of civilized water. The trail runs very close to and crosses Sprague River and Five Mile creek at several locations. You would be best off bringing water filtration.”

Location of the trailhead in the Sycan Marsh: For the location of the Sycan Marsh trailhead I actually did a bit of digging around. Nobody I knew has ever been out there so I called the park ranger responsible for that area. The closest access to Sycan Marsh is from Horse Glade trailhead. Apparently there is a gap in the trail that was put in to deter motorized vehicles from driving on it between those two locations (there are endangered species in the marsh). To his knowledge it should be accessible to bikes and hikers still.  You should be able to access the Horse Glade trailhead off of Ivory Pine road and turning on road 27″

and so on: “We get people from time to time asking about this section of trail but I have yet to hear of anybody that has traveled it. The park ranger even admitted a degree of ignorance to specifics of things out there. It seems to be a very remote area. If you do make the trip, I would really like to hear about it!”  I do have first-hand knowledge of many of the dirt roads and ATV trails in the land just south west of Sprague River. If travels bring you through there I should probably be more helpful.

I also found this journal on  It has some good info, but is a little dated… 2008I hope this helps you plan your trip.  I can’t say enough about how helpful the folks were at Hutch’s with my questions and they can also help you if you have more specific questions or need supplies before your ride.


Answered by Cari Soong on December 9th, 2012 - Post Your Answer
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I will be visiting Southern Oregon in March. Is this a good time to go mushroom foraging?

Hi Emily,

I gather that you’re after morels, which are this region’s signature springtime mushrooms. The actual season depends largely on elevation. If we get some warm weather in February (50s), which is not uncommon, there can be early flushes of mushrooms in March, particularly in areas burned over by forest fire the previous year. The picking starts to accelerate in April at lower elevations, around 1,000 to 2,000 feet, but the main crop comes in May out of the region’s mountains.

You could get lucky if you have a proven spot in mind. Otherwise, speaking from experience, you can spend a lot of time wandering around in the woods, getting poison oak for your pains and coming home empty-handed. Then you’ll walk past a bark-mulched planter bed in the city and see the mushrooms among the shrubbery!

Just make sure wherever you go, you obtain a permit from whatever agency manages the land you’ll be picking on, which can take a bit of figuring out. It’s usually Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service.

Here’s a story I wrote for the Mail Tribune newspaper about shrooming that has some more tips.


Sarah Lemon

Answered by Sarah Lemon on December 7th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

What are some ideas for how our family could spend an afternoon in the Newberg area?

If I could choose just a few things for you do in an afternoon near Newberg, they would be as follows:

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum:  This is a great place and if you have wanted to see the Spruce Goose, it’s here!  You could certainly spend a lot longer than an afternoon here, but it can be toured and enjoyed in just a few hours if that’s all you have.

Downtown McMinnville:  A great place for everything you are looking for!  The rooftop restaurant at the McMenamins Hotel Oregon would be a great place for lunch and then let the shopping begin!  Downtown McMinnville is filled with shops and sites and delicious places to find good food!  You could certainly spend hours just enjoying it!

You can also enjoy visiting Sleigh Bells between McMinnville and Newberg:  I love this place!  It is a huge gift shop and I am sure it is filled to the brim with Halloween and Fall items right now.  Sleigh Bells is also a working Christmas Tree farm so take the tour if you go!  Last time I was there, they were serving tea and I know they had some homemade goodies such as fudge for sale.  There’s a lot to see there!

Answered by Debbie Lusk on November 19th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

We want to see lighthouses on the Oregon Coast in November. Are there RV campgrounds open year-round?

Temperatures are typically mild along the Oregon Coast in November, so only on rare occasions do you need to worry about ice or frost on our roads. This is the rainy season on the coast and it can rain hard and be windy, but the Oregon Coast is spectacular anytime of year and many people come specifically to experience the weather and stormy seas.

There are several State Parks that offer year round RV campsites including Cape Lookout State Park (close to Cape Meares Lighthouse), Beverly Beach State Park (near Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay Lighthouses), Sunset Bay State Park (near Cape Arago Lighthouse), Umpqua Lighthouse State Park (near Umpqua River Lighthouse), Bullards Beach State Park (near Coquille River Lighthouse) and Cape Blanco State Park (near Cape Blanco Lighthouse). There are also many private RV parks that remain open year-round.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse north of Florence is undergoing an extensive renovation and it is currently completely covered, but Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park nearby is also open year round for RVs.

Visit the Oregon State Parks website to look into the RV facilities.

Hope this is helpful and happy exploring!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on November 19th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

We are travelling along I-84 from Pendleton, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah. Are there any State Parks that are close to (or along) that stretch of I-84? –Zig

Hi Zig,

Between Pendleton and the Oregon-Idaho border, there are 4 state parks close to I-84.

Heading west to east, they are:

You might also consider stopping near Baker City at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center open 9-4 daily until December.

Happy trails,

Answered by Lynne Curry on November 10th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

Where is the best place to observe the whales is December? –Jane

There are many great places to view migrating Gray Whales in December all along the Oregon Coast. On the North Oregon Coast, I would recommend Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, the Highway 101 viewpoints from Neahkahnie Mountain near Manzanita or Cape Meares State Park west of Tillamook. On the Central Oregon Coast, I recommend Depoe Bay, Yaquina Head near Newport or the Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center near Yachats. On the South Oregon Coast, try Shore Acres State Park near Charleston, the Face Rock Viewpoint in Bandon or Harris Beach State Park in Brookings.

The winter Gray Whale migration typically peaks in late December and December 26-30, a statewide program called “Whale Watching Spoken Here” positions volunteers at these locations and others to help visitors spot the migrating mammoths.

You can find more information on the program HERE along with a list of all of the locations which can be good for spotting whales anytime between mid-December and mid-January.

Happy whale watching!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on November 9th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

We have a day and night to get from Portland to Eugene, what could we see on our way? –Linda

Hi Linda,

I am the AskOR Willamette Valley expert and I am happy to give you a few suggestions for enjoying our gorgeous region!  First of all, for lodging, I would check out if you are thinking you might enjoy a night in a B & B along your route.  If you would like to wine taste or if you are in to seeing some of the most beautiful country in the world, take hwy 99W out of Portland south all the way to Eugene.

On your route, enjoy our small towns and villages and know that in each and every one of them you’ll find something good to drink and delicious local food to enjoy.  You’ll be going right by the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum near McMinnville:  If you have ever wanted to see the Spruce Goose, this is its home!

Traveling further south along this route, you will come across my favorite place for local beer and food in Amity, OR at The Blue Goat Cafe:  Save room for dessert because it’s really good!

A great place to stay if you want an in between Portland and Eugene place is Corvallis.  A vibrant bustling town home to Oregon State University.  Take the campus tour if you’d like or take a hike!  My most favorite Oregon hiking trails are nearby.  The Mc Donald Dunn Forest:  I hike here a few times a month and there’s always something new to see.  You can do just a few miles or take a longer route as you choose.  My reward for working hard on these trails is a bite to eat at either Block 15 or American Dream Pizza on 2nd Ave. both in downtown Corvallis.

You can choose to skip over to Albany from here on hwy 20 right out of downtown Corvallis and enjoy their darling downtown area before heading again south on to Eugene again via hwy 99.  A few tidbits about Albany… they happen to boast the most in number and varied styles of historic homes and buildings in the entire state of Oregon!  Worth a stop for some photos of the gorgeous vintage abodes and a trip to the Albany Carousel Museum and studio is awesome:  A few places to dine if you choose to eat in Albany:

Well… this is my short list.  I am happy to provide you with more info but this could keep you busy far longer than a day and a night.  Hope you enjoy your planning and your trip.  Thanks for your question!

Answered by Debbie Lusk on November 8th, 2012 - Post Your Answer

Is March too early for a fly fishing trip? When does the season start? -Doug

There are some serious fly fishers who will fish in March but I would say later in the spring it gets even better.

Many of the rivers that get salmon and steelhead runs do not open until the third week of May to protect the young salmon and steelhead that are migrating to sea.  Most lakes open during the third week of April or are open year-round.

Check out regulations here:

Answered by David Johnson, Ask Oregon Fishing Expert on November 1st, 2012 - Post Your Answer

What are good spots on the Oregon Coast for beachcombing? I’m looking for agates. -Sandi

There are many beaches along Oregon’s 363 mile coastline where you will find agates. On the North Oregon Coast, I would recommend beaches south of Cannon Beach such as Arcadia Beach or Short Sand Beach (Oswald West State Park). Further south, Oceanside is known for agates where at low tide you can pass through a tunnel at Maxwell Point to find gravel beds great for agate hunters.

On the Central Oregon Coast, the stretch of beach between Otter Rock and Newport are famous for agates, including the appropriately named Agate Beach. Further south you will find some good agate beaches between Yachats and Florence. Consider the beach access areas adjacent to small creeks such as Agate Point just south of Yachats, Neptune Beach or Stonefield Beach.

On the South Oregon coast, consider Seven Devils Wayside south of Coos Bay, the beaches near Cape Blanco State Park and beaches both north and south of Gold Beach.

The quieter seasons of the year are often the best for agate hunters. Not only is there less competition for the prized stones, but off season storms often pull sand off the beach and waves dislodge agates from the shoreline revealing them to beachcombers. Look for areas of gravel deposits, then look closer to find the polished translucent quartz stones along with polished jasper and sometimes petrified wood and fossils.

Happy agate hunting!

Answered by Gary Hayes, Ask Oregon Coast Expert on November 1st, 2012 - Post Your Answer
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