Ask Oregon Questions & Answers
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.
For gold panning, the Rogue River is a great place. We’ve seen many people panning for gold along the lower Rogue around Grave Creek (just past the little town of Galice…take the Merlin Exit of I-5 north of Grants Pass). You can pan on any public land stretch of river, and 1/4 a mile up any tributary. Further south, what’s known as the Gold Nugget site is on the Rogue by Gold Hill in Highway 234. People also pan in the Applegate River (take Highway 138 outside of Jacksonville). This BLM pdf gives you more specific information.
My top pick would be the Eugene area for cycling to wineries. You’ll find a higher concentration of wineries in the Dundee/Newberg area, but the roads are more highly trafficked with very minimal shoulders, and not as good for cyclists. In the Eugene area there are a couple of different routes that will take you to several wineries within 15-20 miles.
The Territorial Wine Trail is the name for the main Eugene-area wine tasting route. You could do either the north section or the south, but the whole thing might be pretty ambitious on bikes.
If you look at the map for the north section, you’ll see it lists five different wineries. If you’re looking for only 15-20 miles, I’d suggest leaving off Domaine Meriwether and Novelle, and instead starting off with Pfeiffer Vineyard. Then head to Brigadoon and Benton-Lane. Another nearby winery you could add in that’s not shown on that map is High Pass Winery, just a couple miles from Pfeiffer. (High Pass is small, and only open on weekends, so you’d have to leave it off if you’re planning a weekday ride). All of these wineries are smallish, family-owned, and in a very pretty area.
The south section takes you to some beautiful wineries as well. As with the northern route, I’d suggest paring down the wineries a little bit to make it easier for cycling. I’d say start at Sweet Cheeks Winery, then head to Sarver (right across the street!). From there, a pretty 6-mile ride south to Iris Vineyards. After Iris, it’s about 2 miles further south to King Estate. This route offers more of a contrast of different types of wineries–King Estate is larger, while the others offer a smaller, more intimate experience. They’re all lovely, and King Estate also has an amazing restaurant on-site. The perfect place to reward yourself after a ride!
Another option: book a winery ride with The Bike Concierge, a bike tourism service based in the northern Willamette Valley. They offer a guided winery ride that includes several wineries, including Villa Catalana Cellars, one of the most beautiful wineries I’ve ever visited! They will also help you do a cycle route in any area you have in mind–they can drop you and your bikes off at one end and pick you up at the other, so you don’t have to plan for your return route. I’ve ridden with them before and they’re extremely nice people with tons of cycling expertise. They’ll give you as much or as little support as you need.
|Willamette Valley, Wine|
Relatively speaking, a quiet beach in Cannon Beach during the summer is a bit of on oxymoron. However, Crescent Beach, just north of Cannon Beach, is much more secluded than other Cannon Beach area beaches because it is a hike-in location from Ecola State Park. Generally speaking, the further you get away from Haystack Rock to the north or south, the less populated the beaches will be. Ecola Creek and limited parking isolates the north end beach from the biggest crowds. The beach stretches much further to the south and becomes much less crowded between Silver Point and the Arcadia Beach parking area.
I wish my parents were as cool as you are when I was a kid! So it depends when your vacation will start but if it’s this summer, which I’m assuming it is… here’s a quick list of places you can check out within your six-day trip:
From Portland, Head to the Columbia River Gorge
Your easiest coastal options from Portland are Tillamook (left) or Seaside/Astoria (right) as the road splits. If you’re a Goonies fan, you might want to lean right and head toward Astoria. Stop at Ft. Stevens State Park and check out the Peter Iredale Shipwreck on the beach before heading into Astoria for some fresh seafood. If you can find the Goonies House, it’s worth a peek.
If you decide to head towards Cannon Beach or Tillamook, stop at Ecola State Park and hike down to Indian Beach. This is a great place to watch surfers shred some seriously cold water. But it’s also a picturesque rocky, wild, Oregon beach. Watch out for the wild elk that like to roam the area. They’re friendly, just big.
Tillamook is known for it’s cheese and ice cream. So if you have chance to swing into the factory and get in line for the massive scoops of ice cream, it might be worth your time. You can also sample the squeaky cheese upstairs.
If you continue heading south, check out the Arch Cape or the Tillamook Bay Ocean Spit, a seven-mile roundtrip hike that remains flat and tours you alongside the freshwater bay and then wraps you back around to the ocean. Seashells are abundant and there are plenty of photo opportunities, trails to explore, and interested things to see. Once, I found seven starfish attached to the rocks on the jetty at the half-way point.
From here, if you can swing it, there’s a cool place called The Jetty Fishery. It’s a crabbing outfitter that allows you to rent boats and try your hand at catching dinner. The staff is amazing, hilarious, and also very knowledgeable. If you’ve never crabbed before, no worries, they’ll show you exactly what to do. And (!) when you bring back a bucket full of Oregon Dungeness crab, they’ll cook it up for you as you relax by the fire pit. How cool is that?
There’s so much more to see and do along the Coast! All of the following are within driving distance from Cannon Beach and are great places to check out: