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We’ve never been west of the Rockies! What are the cannot-miss spots in Oregon?

I actually grew up in South Dakota so I definitely want you to have an amazing time. And I am absolutely sure you will!

Highway 101 down the Coast is an amazing drive. I’d highly, highly recommend this over taking I-5 South. There are tide pools, the Goonies House, crabbing, local surf spots, delicious seafood shacks, more tide pools, rocky beaches and caves… ahh. You should definitely check out the coast. It’s unlike the sandy beaches of California and is a lot more “wild.”

My favorite coastal spots are:

  1. Astoria, OR
    • Fort Stevens State Park has a really awesome old shipwreck on the beach and a great campground.
  1. Cannon Beach
    • Haystack Rock is a must-see.
  1. Oswald West State Park aka Short Sands Beach
    • If you want to try your hand at surfing, this is the local favorite.
  1. Tillamook
    • Tour the Tillamook Cheese Factory and taste some amazing ice cream.
  1. Newport
    • Visit Seal Rock, the Historic Bayfront District and Nye Beach.
  1. Florence
    • You’ll want to check out the South Jetty, Honeyman State Park and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area

If you’re heading toward Portland, I recommend:

  1. Angels Rest hike
  2. Eagle Creek hike
  3. Anything in Hood River
  4. Larch Mountain hike
  5. Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain hike
  6. Forrest Park via Wildwood Trail
  7. Mt. Tabor Park
  8. Stumptown coffee
  9. Blue Star Doughnuts
  10. Por Que No?! Taqueria
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Can I pack skydiving, hiking, camping and paragliding into 10 days in Oregon?

Ten days is the perfect amount of time to have the greatest vacation, ever.

If you’re starting in Portland, I’d recommend taking a day to check out the city. It sounds like you and I like all of the same things, so I’m going to give you a hot and fast list of what I would do.

Day 1: Portland

  • Voodoo Doughnuts
  • Stumptown Coffee
  • The International Rose Garden at Washington Park
  • Pittock Mansion

Day 2-3: Skydiving, then the Oregon Coast

  • Check out Skydive Oregon in Molalla. I’ve jumped here before and on a clear day, you can see every volcano on the horizon from Mt. Rainier, to Mt. Hood, St. Helens, Thielsen, Shasta, St. Helens and Bachelor.
  • After your nerves settle, I’d head for the Coast. Lincoln City, to be specific.
  • Check out Devil’s Lake State Park, set up camp and then hit the beach. Lincoln City has great beaches and a lot of fun things to do.
  • You can go glass blowing, paragliding, surfing (get a wet suit- it will be cold-but fun!) and my favorite, hiking!
  • Check out Cascade Head. If you don’t and you see a photo of it at any other point in your life, you’ll seriously regret not going.
  • Camp for a night or two or just stay here the whole time because it’s awesome.

Day 4: More Coast

Just under two hours driving, if you head south on the 101 toward Florence, you’ll find plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of things to keep you occupied. From lighthouses to more paragliding outfitters and surf shops, to Cape Perpetua and the Hobbit Trail to Seal Rock and the Newport Historic Bay District, this drive won’t disappoint. I’d recommend finding a crab shack somewhere along the way to feast more than just your eyes. Yum!

One of my favorite places to camp on the Coast is Honeyman State Park just South of Florence, OR.

Day 5: Southern Oregon

Get some coffee. You might need it by now.

From Florence, I’d head South down the Coast toward Reedsport and then start heading SE toward Roseburg. This little town (Roseburg) is adorable. It’s a great place to check out and a good place to stop for lunch before you continue heading East toward Crater Lake National Park. You’ll drive through Umpqua National Park to get there, which is phenomenal in itself, but also has one of the most beautiful hot springs in the entire state (in my opinion), the Umpqua Hot Springs. From here, you can head south toward Crater Lake, passing Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Lake.

You should definitely stop at the hot springs. And then decide to stay at Diamond Lake campground or drive the extra 12 miles to Crater Lake National Park.

…Honestly, I’d probably check out Diamond Lake first. And, if you’re feeling salty, the hike to the top of Thielsen isn’t bad. It’s long but even if you don’t make it to the top, the views are unbeatable and the air is crisp enough to get you recharged from all the driving.

Day 6: Crater Lake National Park

Okay. This place. Woofta. It’s hard for me to explain in words just how amazing this place is. I actually started crying the first time I saw it. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. I just don’t know. It was beautiful. It was insanely blue. It was huge. And now I tell everyone I can to go visit it and explore the trails and fire lookouts and cliff jumping and camping this place has to offer because I think it seriously changed me. I think I’m going back this weekend.

Day 7:  Maybe stay in Crater Lake another night?

Day 8: Drive North toward Bend. 

Alright, next up, Beertopia, USA. aka Bend, Oregon. Just under a 2 hour drive from Crater Lake National Park and along a windy, emerald green tunnel through Umpqua National Forest, you’ll get to Bend and wonder why you’ve never been here before. You can also stop at the hot springs again if you want! Bend has everything from the Deschutes River running through the middle of town, to more micro breweries and beer than you’ll know what to do with. There’s also Mt. Bachelor, the Cascade Lakes and Smith Rock. If you’re into rock climbing or want an awesome day hike, head to Smith Rock State Park and head up the Misery Ridge trail. It’s about 4 miles round trip but gives you unbeatable views of the area with a handful of (yep, you guessed it) more volcanoes on the horizon.

Not into climbing? Check out Tumalo Falls, the lava fields (and caves) and/or check out downtown Bend.

Day 9: Columbia River Gorge OR Mt. Hood 

This one’s up to you. I love them both and they’re both in the way of you getting back to Portland.

  • If you’re looking for waterfalls, paddle boarding, kite surfing or wineries… I’d head towards Hood River and then drive through the Gorge.
  • If you camp here, check out Eagle Creek Campground.
  • If you’re looking for killer mountain views, a walk through the hotel they filmed The Shining at or pristine alpine lakes, I’d head toward Mt. Hood National Forest.
  • If you camp here, check out Frog Lake, Lost Lake or stay in Government camp and rent a cabin.

Day 10: WHOAH!

What a trip, huh? Sounds like you might be ready for a hot shower and your own bed.

Is May it a good time to hike Crater Lake?

First things first: Winter rules Crater Lake National Park. It can start closing seasonal roads in mid-October and last through June. An average year sees 44 feet of snow dropped on the park. Obviously 2015 hasn’t been an average year. So with that in mind, things can change dramatically but if I were to place a bet… I think it will be open. You might get cold. But the road should be open. Please review current conditions before your visit. Highway 62 and the road to Rim Village (Munson Valley Road) are plowed and open all year. However, snowy and icy road conditions can occur anytime, resulting in temporary road closures.

If you’re looking to camp, I’d recommend Mazama Campground and Lost Creek Campground. Both Campground loops and sites open as snow removal progresses. But keep in mind that snowmelt can last through June and while snow persists, mosquitoes may be numerous. And at Crater Lake… they’re pretty numerous. For more on the current weather at Crater Lake, click here.

As far as hiking trails go, this is where things get fun!

There is so much to see and there are so many trails to hike. Here are a few of the best hikes I’ve been on and my all-time favorite hikes near Crater Lake.

  1. Wizard Island:

This hike is unlike anything else. To get started, check the park tour boat schedule and buy a ticket. You’ll begin your hike down the rim to Cleetwood Cove and then ride the boat to Wizard Island. When you get there, you’ll be invited to hike to the 6,940-foot top of the island… which will show you how it got its name. Afterwards, you’ll ride the boat back to Cleetwood Cove and hike the steepest part of the outing back to your car. Or you could stay, take in the sunset, swim in the clear, icy-blue water or have a picnic on the rocks.

  1. Pacific Crest Trail

Beginning from the west at Seven Lakes trailhead, head toward Devil’s Peak. Or, alternatively, head for the south part of the wilderness and hike the trail up Mount McLoughlin, Southern Oregon’s highest mountain.

  1. Mount Scott

The highest point inside the park is actually Oregon’s 10th highest mountain. Crazy, right?  Fortunately, it’s a relatively easy five-mile round-trip hike that gets lots of use when accessible, which isn’t usually until July through early October.

Other hikes to include:

  1. The Watchman’s Tower
  2. The Pinnacles
  3. Mt. Thielsen

What is the best way to see Jordan Valley by car?

This is a really great question! I actually took a driving tour through this same area of Oregon at the end of October last fall. So, for starters, I’d say that time is one of the best to go. I don’t think you’d want to go any later than the middle of November (too cold!) and no sooner than August (too hot!).

If you start your road trip near Burns, you can drive through both Malheur and Mud Lakes (they’re not really lakes, more or less dried up lake beds). This area of Oregon is completely different from any other I’ve experienced but it was mesmerizing how big the sky was and how nice the people were. From there, you can continue southeast on the 205 through Frenchglen. I’d recommend staying at the Frenchglen Hotel. It’s a quaint hotel that was built in 1916 by a meat-packing company but now hosts five rooms for guests. Just across the road from the hotel is an awesome wildlife and bird viewing area. I walked around in there for about three hours and didn’t get bored once. Even in late October there were plenty of critters to see and there was a family of bald eagles nesting about 50 yards off the road. It was incredible! After leaving Frenchglen a fun option and short drive to the Pete French Round Barn is really cool. Otherwise, you can drive up to the top of Steens Mountain and look out at the Alvord Desert about 300 feet below you, stretching out for miles.

Other options would be to bypass the mountain road and take a dip in some of the local hot springs. Mickey Hot Springs and the Alvord Hot Springs were great and it only cost $5.00 to check them out and drop my toes in.

If you continue taking HWY 205 SE you’ll find yourself among one of the most jaw=dropping places in Oregon: the Alvord Desert. You can drive over and through it, you can camp in it, you can do just about anything you want to do there. It’s similar to the Salt Flats in Utah but way, way more intensely beautiful. And if you take the Fields-Dieno Road all the way back up to HWY 95 East, you’ll get to the Jordan Valley with some time to spare.

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Where I can snowshoe with my pooch?

I’m glad you brought this question up, because I was a little hesitant to bring my dog along with me to Bend last weekend. Fortunately, U.S. Forest Service regulations allow dogs, leashed or unleashed, on the south side of Century Drive, en route to Mt. Bachelor. I’d highly recommend Wanoga and Edison Sno-Parks.

There’s also a dog park on the far right side of the parking lot at Mt. Bachelor. I’m not sure if this is affiliated with either of the sno-parks, but there are plenty of dogs playing and running around in this area, so if you’re up for skiing at Bachelor, a lunch break at the dog park isn’t so bad.

Wanoga Sno-Park is great, too. And it’s probably the only groomed, dog-friendly sno-park in Oregon.

Edison Sno-Park sits in the shadow of Mt. Bachelor. The mountain acts as a pretty great wind block but the trails aren’t groomed. When the snow is good, I’d recommend this area, but when it’s icy it can get a little treacherous.

I came across this site for you to look at, too. In case you have any more questions, feel free to email me back and I can help you find some more dog-friendly activities.
http://centraloregonmagazine.com/dog-friendly-ski-snowshoe-trails/

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Are there family-friendly places in Oregon to go zip lining?

The first few options for zip-lining that come to mind are Tree to Tree, Rogue Valley Zipline, and High Life Adventures, depending on which part of Oregon you’re traveling in.

Another recommendation that is family and kid-friendly is Camp Dakota Adventures. They offer 6 different zip lines as well as a Challenge Course for you and your family to navigate your way through the tress, over barriers and between ropes.

If you have any more questions, I’m happy to help, so please let me know!

Thanks a lot,

Kristen

What are some good drives to see waterfalls that are just a short hike from the road?

Thanks for the question!  There are some very easy-to-follow routes for waterfall lovers.  I recommend you either order a free copy of the Oregon Scenic Byways magazine or view it online as it really outlines the routes with beautiful pictures.  As far as the time of year, there will be more water at other times of the year (winter, spring) however in August there is still more than plenty of water for the waterfalls.

From North to South

I-84 and the Columbia River Gorge: This is the iconic waterfall route in Oregon that includes Multnomah Falls (the states tallest).  The waterfalls in this area are breathtaking and also easy to access from the road.  They tend to be more crowded given the proximity to Portland.

Silver Falls: Given the short distance of the Columbia River Gorge, I suggest visiting the falls and then backtracking.  If you love farm land, make your way south through Mollala and Silverton to Silver Falls State Park.  This might be one of the best places to visit for waterfalls and hiking.  It’s just beautiful here.

Highway 126 – Florence to Sisters: Sweet Creek Falls is one of my favorite waterfall hikes is near Florence and the Oregon Coast.  The numerous falls parallel the trail and in the summer months the water is warm enough to wade into.  If you continue inland along Hwy 126 you pass Eugene and head into the McKenzie River Valley.  About an hour and a half drive from Eugene, you will arrive at Sahalie and Koosah Falls, two beautiful falls that are along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.  You can park at either waterfall and hike in a loop to see both.

Bend: Highway 126 east links up with Highway 20 which heads into Central Oregon and leads you towards Bend.  There are some beautiful falls in Bend, including Tumalo Falls.  From here you can head south along Highway 97 to Highway 138 west.  Highway 138 offers access to the north entrance of Crater Lake (this entrance is only open in the summer months) and parallels the wild and scenic North Umpqua River.  One of the highlights of the waterfalls on this route is Toketee Falls.  There isn’t much of a hike to get to this waterfall, but there are other waterfalls along Highway 138 with some more hiking.  If you want to hike here, I recommend seeing the falls and then cross the road to hike along the North Umpqua Trail (just watch out for poison oak, which is extremely thick in this area).

I hope this helps you plan a great trip.  Let me know if I can offer any more suggestions.

Answered by Cari Soong on March 5th, 2014 - Post Your Answer

What are some good family-friendly lake resorts where we can go kayaking?

There are some really cool places to visit where you can enjoy a vacation rental with access to kayaking.

Twin Lakes Resort is a paddler’s dream as no motorized boats are allowed. It is in a rather remote area between the Willamette Valley and Bend. The drive is beautiful along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Not really known for wine and more renowned for its craft beer, Bend is relatively close and a fun town for all ages. If you are more adventurous you can explore the Deschutes Paddle Trail.

Crescent Lake Resort is a beautiful lake near many other lakes that can be explored by kayak. Cabins line the lake. Explore nearby Waldo Lake- one of Oregon’s purest lakes where motorized boats are banned.

Cove Palisades State Park has some really cool cabins along the water. Like Twin Lakes Resort it is in a rather remote area.

Loon Lake Lodge is located along the beautiful Oregon Coast near Reedsport on Loon Lake where you can enjoy kayaking. You can pass through two different wine regions to get here- Southern Oregon (known for Cabernet and Syrah) and the South Willamette Valley (known for its Pinot varieties).

There are more, but these seem to me to be the most family friendly, with great kayaking opportunities. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Answered by Cari Soong on December 20th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

Where can I take my family rafting, fishing and hiking near Eugene?

Thanks for the question.  I suggest a trip east on Highway 126 from Eugene.  You can raft on the McKenzie River.  There are numerous guided trips.  I highly recommend Helfrich Outfitters and if you want to begin and end at Belknap Hot Springs Resort check out High Country Expeditions.  To get a great view of the Cascades take the scenic drive up Highway 242 a few miles from Belknap Hot Springs to the Dee Wright Observatory at the highest point of the road.  You can climb to the top of the observatory and view 360 degrees of the Cascades with a cool compass of sorts, that helps you figure out which peak is what.

You can fish in numerous spots along the McKenzie.  Some popular places are at Leaburg Dam and along the shore.  One of my favorite places to fish is at Clear Lake at the headwaters to the McKenzie River.  You can rent a row boat and drop a line in and troll while you take in beautiful scenery atop strikingly clear water.  (Here’s a tip if you do- use corn as your bait, with a very light weight sinker). In Eugene, you can also find some decent fishing near Autzen Stadium in the Alton Baker Canal and in Junction City at the Junction City Pond.

Check out www.eugenecascadescoast.org for more ideas on a trip in this area or stop in at the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center in Springfield for more ideas and maps.

I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any more questions.

Answered by Cari Soong on November 24th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

Where are some good spots for a scenic Oregon camping and fishing trip?

Thanks for the question! As you can imagine there are a ton of great places to camp and fish in Oregon. The following is a list of my favorites based on region.

Coast: Gold Beach or Loon Lake near Reedsport. There are some really cool coastal campgrounds in both locations. Tugman State Park and Umpqua Lighthouse both offer yurt rentals on site and are close to fishing sites. Lobster Creek Campground is a small site with access to both river fishing on the Rogue and proximity to saltwater fishing.

Central Oregon: Is home to numerous lakes with fishing and camping. Waldo Lake, Crescent Lake and Odell Lake near Oakridge, Elk Lake near Bend, Detroit Lake, and Lake Billy Chinook.

Southern Oregon: Summer Lake (Ana Reservoir) and Klamath Lake

These are just a few of the places in the state that you can fish and camp, but some of my favorites.

Let me know if I can help with any more questions. Fish on!

Answered by Cari Soong on October 2nd, 2013 - Post Your Answer
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