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Where should we hike and mountain bike — and avoid crowds?

It sounds like you have quite the adventure planned! That is so exciting.

I recommend checking out Summer Lake Hot Springs. It’s a little out of the way — about two hours southeast of Bend — but I find it less crowded, beautiful, and very peaceful. On your way over from Portland, I’d also suggest stopping along the way at Timberline Lodge (if you’ve ever seen The Shining, you’ll recognize it right away!). You can get a beer there and sit outside on the patio right at the base of Mt. Hood. There are plenty of camping options along Highway 26 and some lakes to check out as well (Trillium Lake and Timothy Lake are not far off the highway).

Bend has lots of whitewater, mountain biking and hiking trails, and lakes. Things should be accessible by early July.

Oakridge is also known for its world-class mountain biking trails, and there are some hot springs near there as well! Oakridge is located near the Willamette Pass, just south of Eugene. If you hit it right, you’ll find a bounty of huckleberries (in late summer). Also, the McKenzie River trail between Bend and Eugene is a classic mountain bike destination. You can probably find friends in Bend to do a car shuttle with (so you can ride 30 miles in one direction), or you could hire Cog Wild to shuttle you. A little further south is the Umpqua River Trail, another mountain biking classic. The Umpqua Hot Springs are nearby too, as well as Mt. Thielsen and Crater Lake. Mt. Thielsen is a great day hike — you can hike up about 4.5 miles and scramble to the summit if you’re comfortable with the exposure, or you could turn around lower down and still get some incredible views. Crater Lake is a must-do, even if you just drive up to the rim and take a peak at the immense, bluest-blue lake. If you go over to the east side of Rim Drive, you could hike Mt. Scott, another great day hike that should not be too crowded, especially if you get an early start.

As for the Oregon Coast, you really can’t go wrong. I’d suggest driving along Highway 101 and stopping along the way to see whatever piques your interest! There are tons of hiking trails, places to camp, and coastal sights to see. I love hiking up Neahkahnie Mountain from Oswald West State Park & Short Sands Beach, and hiking at Cape Lookout, Cascade Head, and Heceta Head Lighthouse.

Where should we have our backpacking and fly fishing anniversary getaway?

Backpacking and fly fishing sounds like a great way to celebrate your anniversary! My first recommendation would be the Rogue River. There’s a trail that follows along the river for 40+ miles, with camping areas and even lodging you can reserve if you wanted to have a night of luxury. It’s Wild and Scenic River and is absolutely beautiful — as well as a world-class fly fishing river.

My second recommendation would be the Umpqua River. This gorgeous river is also known for amazing fly fishing and beauty. It has about 70 miles of trail along the river. There could be rhododendron in bloom in early June!

The reason I recommend the Rogue over the Umpqua is that it’s a little bit farther south and may have better weather. We’ve had a huge snow year in Oregon, so I’m not sure how long it will take the trail along the Umpqua to melt out (since it’s at a higher elevation). The two rivers are probably equal in terms of fly fishing and scenery. You really can’t go wrong with either one. Both would have plenty of greenery and rugged mountains as well.

What are your favorite Oregon winter adventures?

During winter, there are tons of activities you can do, from skiing or snowboarding, to snowshoeing, hiking and soaking in hot springs! You can camp in the national forests or wilderness areas, or there are some campgrounds open too, depending on where you want to go. There are also some fun places to stay, like a fire lookout or the Tilly Jane A-Frame on Mt. Hood, which would be more rustic and would require reservations in advance. Alternatively, you could book a hotel or vacation rental in one of our mountain towns, like Government Camp, Hood River, Sisters, Bend or Sunriver. We’re having a great winter in Oregon, so if you’re looking for snow, you can find it across the state!

Are most mountainous areas in Oregon, particularly the Cascades, free of snow in June?

That’s a great question. Depending on the amount of snow we get this winter and how warm the spring is, much of the Oregon Cascades can still be under snow in June. It’s the time of year, however, when trails do start to open up and there will definitely be some trails free of snow. Late June is also a perfect time to start looking for wildflowers! The short answer to your question is that the lower elevation trails will be snow-free and the high alpine (say, above 6,000′) will most likely still be under snow. Also, trails on south-facing terrain will be less likely to have snow than trails north-facing terrain that see more shade and cooler temperatures. The Columbia River Gorge will offer some great snow-free hiking during June, and there are some incredible views of waterfalls and mountains to be found on many of those trails. The trails around Mt. Hood will be a little bit more dependent on the pace of the snowmelt.

With only three days to visit, should we ski Mt. Bachelor or Mt. Hood?

It sounds like you already have an idea of some of the best things to do in Oregon (skiing!), and you really can’t go wrong with either option, but I can offer some more details that might help you decide.

March tends to be the best month for skiing in the Cascades! We usually get quite a bit of snow in February and March. You’ll want to make sure to factor this into your travel plans and be prepared for snow conditions if you drive to Sisters or even up to Mt. Hood via Hwy 26. Bend is about three hours from the Portland area in good conditions, but it is a gorgeous drive over the mountains. Sisters, Bend, and Sunriver are all great options in terms of small towns with shops, good restaurants and breweries, though Bend and Sisters have a little bit more to offer simply due to their larger size. Bend and Sunriver are closer to Mt. Bachelor, which is convenient especially if the weather is inclement. I love exploring the little shops in both Bend and Sisters and I would be happy to recommend places to eat or drink if you’re interested.

If you opt for Mt. Hood, you certainly won’t have to drive as far and it would be easy to ski one day and check out the Columbia River Gorge for another day or two. Sandy and Government Camp are cute small towns, and Government Camp has some yummy food options and also the feeling of being in a real mountain town. For small shops to check out, I’d suggest Hood River. It’s a great town at the base of Mt. Hood and right on the Columbia River. There are plenty of quaint shops, cafés, breweries and restaurants, and there’s a nice path for walking along the river. It’s also close to both Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area and many of the best Columbia River Gorge hiking trails.

If I were you, with three days to spend after flying into PDX, I would probably head for Hood River and ski Mt. Hood Meadows, then check out Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge. I think you could do the most from there. However, like I said, you really can’t go wrong with either option!

What are the best fall camping spots near Portland?

Everything within 3 hours of Portland right now (October) is going to be gorgeous. So I’ve put together a few lists for you.

The Coast:

  • Cape Lookout State Park
  • Nehalem Bay State Park
  • Fort Stevens State Park
  • Lincoln City (~4ish hours)

Mount Hood:

  • Devil’s Peak Fire Tower
  • Trillium Lake
  • Timberline Trail
  • Timothy Lake

Columbia River Gorge:

  • Surveyor’s Ridge Campground
  • Eagle Creek

Keep in mind that the weather has a tendency to change quickly, so make sure to double check before you take off… and bring a rain shell.

Also a good thing to keep in mind is that you can camp for free in any National Forest area (i.e. Mt. Hood) as long as you adhere to Leave No Trace principles and are fine with hiking at least 100 yards off trail and away from running water.

If you’re looking for campsites, specifically, you can get out recreation.gov and type any location into the search bar.

Answered by Kristen Mohror on October 6th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

Where can I hike to a view of all the mountains?

Off the top of my head, I believe the trail you’re referring to is the Larch Mountain trail in the Gorge. From the top on a clear day you can see Mt. Shasta, the Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.

Larch Mountain has 3 trailheads. The first is at Multnomah Falls. The second is about half way up the road, where the gate usually is locked during the winter season, or (!) you can just drive up to the landing .25 miles from the top. My personal preference is starting from the bottom and earning the view, but if you’re in a hurry to catch a sweet sunset with friends, I’d just drive up.

Another one you might be thinking of is Mount Defiance. But the views there aren’t nearly as epic from the summit.

Answered by Kristen Mohror on September 22nd, 2016 - Post Your Answer
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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.

Answered by Kristen Mohror on July 11th, 2016 - Post Your Answer
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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
Answered by Kristen Mohror on June 27th, 2016 - Post Your Answer

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.

Answered by Kristen Mohror on May 11th, 2016 - Post Your Answer
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