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Should we visit Crater Lake or the Painted Hills?

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.

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What are the perfect hikes for our family vacation?

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

  • Waterfalls to check out include:
    • Multnomah Falls – Sure, it’s super touristy, but it’s also second tallest year-round waterfall in the U.S. and will drop your jaw)
    • Oneonta Falls – This is a slot canyon that includes a hidden waterfall. The trail is right off the side of the scenic highway and includes a scramble over a log jam. If you can get there mid-week, you’ll have it all to yourselves. The water is cold, but on a hot day, does it matter? The waterfall at the end will make you think you’re in Jurassic Park.
    • Angels Rest Hike – This five-mile round-trip hike is well known for sunrise dawn patrol runs, mid-afternoon hikes and of course a great place to watch the sunset over the Columbia Gorge.
    • Larch Mountain Hike – This hike can be broken up into multiple distances, the longest of which being close to 16 miles, the shortest, .5 miles. On a clear day, you’ll see up to 7 volcanos from the summit.
  • From the Gorge, head to Hood River
    • In Hood River, you can rent mountain bikes, SUPs, trail run or drive the Fruit Loop, a scenic loop that takes you to various farm fruit stands (including a u-pick lavender farm)!
    • Check out Doppio Cafe for some great coffee, gluten free options, and other tasty snacks. If you’re realllly hungry, check out Solstice on the waterfront. Insider tip: the pizza is delicious!
  • From Hood River, head up the back side of Mt. Hood
    • Stop 1. Tamanawas Falls — a short (4mile roundtrip) hike to yep, you guessed it, another waterfall tucked away in the wilderness. You can get pretty close to this one if you’re careful.
    • Stop 2. Ramona Falls — this waterfall looks like something out of Avatar or Fern Gully. And the hike is only 7 miles round trip. Take the back way toward the waterfall for killer views.
    • Stop 3. Tom Dick and Harry Mountain via Mirror Lake — my all-time favorite. But also, everyone else’s. Parking is along the highway and the trail starts as soon as you cross the log bridge and dip into the forest. Hike 2 miles up to Mirror Lake for a snack then head up the hill another mile or so to expansive views of Mt. Hood. You won’t regret it.
  • From Mt. Hood head back to Portland. Grab some coffee. A snack. Whatever you like. Then take off for the Oregon Coast.

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:

  • Haystack Rock
  • Oswald West State Park — Short Sands Beach
  • Hug Point (sea caves + waterfalls!)
  • Neahkahnie Mountain (hike up and overlook Manzanita Beach)
  • Cape Falcon lookout
  • Cape Lookout State Park + hike
  • The Oregon Coast Trail

Is it true Oregon is pet-friendly? Can I hike in most state and local parks with my dog?

You heard correctly, the PNW is a very dog-friendly place. You can hike in any State Park with your dog as long as you keep them on a leash and clean up after them. And if you’re looking for a few different, non-state park hikes, checkout Oregon Hikers Field Guide. In each description of every hike, it’ll tell you whether or not it’s dog-friendly. And if you’re still looking, check out the book, Best Hikes for Dogs in Oregon.

What are the best mountain bike areas in Oregon?

There are SO many places in Oregon to mountain bike, but I’ll try to narrow them down to the BEST. Are you ready?

Top 5 recommendations:

  1. McKenzie River Trail
  2. Oakridge — Alpine Trail
  3. Sandy Ridge Trail
  4. Surveyors Ridge
  5. Tiddlywinks

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Oakridge — Tire Mountain or Waldo Lake
  2. Tyler’s Traverse
  3. North Umpqua Trail
  4. Black Rock
  5. Post Canyon

Google any of these and your mind might explode. There are just so many awesome places to go. In fact, if you haven’t been to Oakridge, I just went and it blew my mind. There are mountain bike trails, waterfalls, hot springs, and a proper English pub called the Local 180.

Let me know if you have any questions or need to find a place to rent a mountain bike. The Mountain Shop in NE Portland is probably your best bet for a quality ride.

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Where can we fish for trout or catfish near Roseburg?

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly stocks reservoirs and lakes with trout. You can find the schedule of trout stocking for your area online.

However, a good bet for catching catfish would be to head over to the Coast and fish in Siltcoos Lake.

Answered by David Johnson, Ask Oregon Fishing Expert on February 29th, 2016 - Post Your Answer
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Can our family fit hiking, dog sledding and skiing into a 6-day trip near Portland?

If you have a rental car, everything you’ll want to do will be easy! There are a ton of great, kid and adult friendly hikes around the area that I’m sure you’ll love.

If you’re looking for vistas and mountain views:

  • Tom Dick and Harry Mountain via Mirror Lake
  • Angels Rest
  • Zig Zag Mountain via Burnt Lake
  • McNeil Point
  • Bald Mountain via Top Spur Trailhead

If you’re looking for forested tree tunnels and waterfalls:

  • Multnomah Falls (a must-see)
  • Wahkeenah Falls Loop hike
  • Devils Rest
  • Salmonberry River Trail
  • Ramona Falls
  • Latourell Falls
  • …basically all of the waterfalls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway

If you’re looking for places to ski:

  • Mt. Hood Meadows
  • Timberline (at Mt. Hood)
  • Mt. Bachelor (right outside of Bend, about three hours away)

There’s also dog-sledding at Mt. Bachelor! It could make a good day/overnight trip to ski at Mt. Bachelor and then do a dog-sled tour in the backcountry.

My favorite hikes if you head towards Bend:

  • Tumalo Falls
  • Misery Ridge

Also, would you like to soak in some natural hot springs?

  • Near Mt. Hood – Bagby Hot Springs
  • Near Bend – Umpqua Hot Springs

If you need any rentals or gear for any of the adventures you’ll go on, I’d highly, highly recommend stopping into the Mountain Shop in Portland. They’re the oldest (and greatest, in my opinion) gear shop in the country.

Have the best time in Oregon!

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What outdoorsy things can my dog and I do together in Portland?

October is my favorite month and dogs are my favorite humans — so you’re in good hands.

When I first moved to Portland I picked up this book and it’s changed my life. And my dog’s. But really, most of the trails in and around Portland are dog-friendly as long as your dog remains on a leash. All of the hikes in the Gorge allow dogs (on-leash) and everywhere near Mt. Hood allows dogs — so long as you’re not trying to forge the Elliot Glacier washout. Because that would be dangerous for everyone involved.

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I want to propose to my girlfriend during our 6 days camping around Oregon — where should I pop the question?

First of all, congratulations! When I opened this email, I got goosebumps and butterflies and my heart started racing and I immediately had a million ideas in my mind of where you should go.

But first. I’m going to give you my top 5 favorite places in each of those three locations. And then I’m going to give you a list of wineries to look at, too.

Here is an ambitious itinerary that is also doable without feeling like you’re constantly on the go:

Day 1: Crater Lake

Campground: Lost Creek Campground

You can stay here without feeling like you’re in a box of sardines. It’s my favorite campsite in the area and doesn’t have a lot of people. Also, the Pacific Crest Trail is accessible here and you can take a short walk/hike to the Pinnacles in the area. It’s not far from the rim of the lake, but it’s not overlooking the lake. It’s also a first-come, first-serve campground, so if you can snag a spot, this would be an ideal place to pop the question.

Another option for a campsite would be Diamond Lake. It’s just 12 miles north of the rim and there are significantly LESS people there. So after a day of exploring Crater Lake it might be nice to settle down near another ridiculously beautiful lake with an epic view of Mt. Thielsen.

One thing to keep in mind: Sometimes the rim road is closed to cars and only accessible by bike. Keep that in mind and maybe double check the weekend you’re planning on coming out.

Day 2: Hot Springs

A must-see attraction is the Umpqua Hot Springs. You’ve gotta do it.

You can still get your hike to Tokatee Falls in, and you should, because it’s awesome. But make sure you spare an hour or two to check out these natural hot springs! This wouldn’t be the worst place to propose.

Day 3: Bend

I love Bend. Everyone loves Bend. It’s true. You’ll love it, too, I promise.

By then, a shower and fireplace will probably be welcomed and there’s also so much more to do there! If you haven’t proposed yet, check out Tumalo Falls, it might be what you’re looking for. Crux Fermentation Project, McMenimans, and Rogue Brewery are all really great places to celebrate as well. Honestly, Bend has more beer than anywhere else you’ll ever go in your life. Except maybe Germany. But that’s up for debate. You could rent bikes and ride along the Deschutes River Trail or go for a run along it. You could also hike Pilot Butte, take a scenic drive along the Cascade Lakes Scenic byway (it’ll drop your jaw), there are lava lands outside of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Mt. Bachelor is pretty incredible, too.

Day 4: Smith Rock

Mmmm, Smith Rock. One of my all-time favorite places.

So, you can’t actually ‘hike’ Monkey Face. But you CAN see it from the hike called ‘Misery Ridge.’ It’s not that bad of a hike. I was able to do it two weeks after having ACL surgery last spring. This hike offers the best views, the best elevation gain and the best bang for your buck in the area if you’re going to hike. You get to experience everything Smith Rock has to offer.

If you decide that you want to climb, I’d suggest Five Gallon Buckets. It’s a popular route but it’s easy and is the best route for gym-climbers to get comfortable climbing outside. If you want to climb Monkey Face, I’d suggest getting here early an expecting a bit of a wait before roping in for this multi-pitch. It takes awhile, but it’s worth it.

If you’re looking for campsites in this area, there’s the climber’s bivvy. But it might be filled with loud climbers scrounging for leftovers. Skulls Hollow is another site that’s not too far from Smith Rock but I would highly, highly recommend camping at Haystack Reservoir. If you can get a spot by the water, you get an excellent view of Mt. Jefferson and sometimes, when the sky is clear enough, the stars reflect onto the water and it is the most amazing thing.

Day 5: Hood River

Alright, Hood River is cool. I wish I could tell you it was worth skipping but if you did skip it, I’d be offended I think. And I think you’d regret it. On your way from Bend to Hood River, there’s a hike called Tamanawas Falls. The pull-off is on the left-hand side of the road. It’s four miles round trip and is easy, fun and the payoff is totally worth it. When you’re done doing that… there’s an awesome little coffee shop in Hood River called Doppio’s. There are sandwiches, soup and some of the best coffee, ever.

If you’re still thinking about mountain biking, check out Discover Bicycles. They rent bikes for $60/day and give you helmets, maps, directions, etc. Everything you could ever need or hope for. Check out Surveyor’s Ridge for the mountain bike ride. It’s relatively easy and follows a ribbon of single track through the trees, down valleys and opens up to incredible views of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

But if you don’t want to mountain bike… take a drive along the Fruit Loop! Depending on the time of year, there are U-pick flower fields, u-pick fruit and vegetable fields and (!) wineries. Mt. Hood Winery is a great place to stop with a great view of the north side of Hood. You should be able to see Mt. Adams from here, as well.

At this point, you’ll probably be exhausted. You’ll probably be love drunk. And you’ll probably be looking for houses to rent or buy and planning on moving to Oregon.

But you should actually start driving toward Portland. Because you’re almost out of time. Get some more coffee.

You’re going to pass the Columbia River Gorge, on your left. Once you hit Cascade Locks, take the exit to get onto the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. This road will pull you past handfuls of waterfalls and lush, natural rainforest. There will be plenty of places to pull over, get out, hike up to and take a ton of pictures in front of some really awesome falls. My favorite is Elowah Falls. It’s a short hike in, but whoah. It’s worth it.

Multnomah Falls is by far the busiest area of the Gorge, but once you see it, you’ll know why. (It’s also the waterfall from Twilight, just a heads up). This waterfall comes with it’s own parking area and lodge. There are a handful of other falls to see along the way, too, so save your neck muscles and don’t spend too much time looking up.

I’d suggest staying somewhere in Portland this night. Especially if you’re going to fly back the next day. But if not, take your time! There are plenty of places to see and things to do and you might want to try stopping at every waterfall. Who knows?!

I hope you guys have the best trip. I’m so excited for you!

What are some good day trips from Portland where I can go hiking in the mountains?

4-5 days in Oregon might not be enough for your mountain-seeking soul, but we’ll work with what we’ve got. From Portland, your options are endless. If you just want to see a mountain, you can hike up to Pittock Mansion through Forest Park and you’ll be able to see Mt. St. Helens, the tip of Mt. Adams, and a very prominent Mt. Hood.

But if you want to get closer, you can drive a short 45-minutes toward Mt. Hood on Highway 35. My favorite hikes with breathtaking views of Mt. Hood include:

  1. Zig-Zag Mountain via Burnt Lake Trail
  2. Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain
  3. Horseshoe Ridge Hike from Cast Creek Trailhead
  4. Bald Mountain from Top Spur Trailhead
  5. McNeil Point from Top Spur Trailhead
  6. Owl Point from Vista Ridge
  7. Zig-Zag Overlook from Timberline Lodge
  8. Timberline Lodge (by itself, it’s a great place to check out and there are plenty of trails around it)
  9. Eliot Moraine Hike (awesome glacier views)
  10. Bald Butte Hike from Oak Ridge Trailhead (hike to a former fire lookout site)

If it’s alpine lakes and waterfalls you’re interested in finding, here are my favorites:

  1. Timothy Lake
  2. Ramona Falls
  3. Tamanawas Falls
  4. Umbrella Falls Loop
  5. Twin Lakes Hike
  6. Little Zig-Zag Falls
  7. Frog Lake Buttes Loop Hike (loop from a scenic viewpoint down to a lake and back up to another lake)
  8. Boulder Lakes Hike
  9. Lookout Mountain Loop Hike
  10. Paradise Park from Ramona Falls (Challenging!)

…and that’s just the Mt. Hood side.

If you wanted to take a day hike through the Columbia River Gorge (45 minutes from downtown Portland), I’d recommend:

  1. Multnomah Falls (very popular)
  2. Eagle Creek Falls
  3. Munra Point
  4. Angels Rest
  5. Larch Mountain (my all-time favorite)
  6. Oneata Falls (bring a dry-bag, the water is cold)
  7. Rock of Ages Loop Hike
  8. Elowah Falls Hike
  9. Tunnel Falls Hike from Eagle Creek Trailhead
  10. Dry Creek Falls from Bridge of the God Trailhead in Cascade Locks

If you have any questions about any of these, I’m happy to help.

I hope you have the best trip to Oregon!

Thanks a lot,

Kristen

Are there lakes we can kayak in the Eugene and Roseburg area?

I love kayaking — and it’s a great vacation idea! Here are a few spots in that area you might try:

  • Fern Ridge Reservoir is a really big lake just a few miles west of Eugene with nice park areas on the shore and plenty of room for kayaking.
  • Willamette River is not a lake, but the Willamette is very popular for canoeing and kayaking. A few years ago, Canoeroots Magazine called it the “canoe trip of a lifetime.” It’s mostly peaceful flatwater paddling with lots of places to watch wildlife. Check out this site for info on kayaking the Willamette and a map about river conditions and any water hazards or alerts to be aware of in each section of the river.
  • Waldo Lake is a bit of a trek up into the mountains, and if you don’t mind a drive into the Cascades, Waldo Lake is one of the prettiest, purest natural lakes in the state.
  • Loon Lake is a drive the other direction — into the Coast Range to the west of Eugene and Roseburg. But it’s one of my favorite lakes to visit, especially if you have any kids along (it has a really nice beach and kids play area).

You can rent equipment from several places:

  • Northwest Canoe in Alton Baker Park, which is right on the Willamette in Eugene
  • Skookum Marine, which offers canoe/kayak rentals on the banks of Fern Ridge Reservoir
  • Oregon Paddle Sports is a local place in Eugene where you can rent any kayaks or gear you might need, and the staff there will also be able to give you all kinds of expert recommendations on local paddle spots
  • Clear Lake, another lake that is a little farther north, is extremely beautiful and you can rent rowboats and kayaks on the lake shore
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