Willamette Valley Search Results
What a fun question! Here are my top recommendations.
Memorial Park in Wilsonville. This would be a really easy stop for getting on and off I-5 and a great place to get out and stretch your legs. Heading south from Portland, you’d just take exit 283, then head east for 1 mile. Memorial Park is in the middle of the Portland suburb of Wilsonville but the park itself is big (126 acres) with picnic areas, trails, a creek and even some frontage of the Willamette River. I lived near there several years ago and my kids’ favorite thing to do in the summer was walk to this park and play in the splash park on hot sunny days. (It has covered picnic areas for not-so-sunny days too.)
Champoeg State Heritage Area. This one is about 11 miles west of the freeway, but it’s a really lovely state park. It’s not only in a very pretty area alongside the Willamette River, it also has some very cool historic sites you can visit that might be fun for breaking up your journey. If you go during the summer you can stop and get an ice cream cone at the historic Butteville store, the oldest continuously operating retail establishment in Oregon!
Bauman’s Farm & Garden in Gervais. A farm and garden store might not seem like a great place for a picnic, but this one is. Bauman’s Farm is a family-owned farm, nursery with an on-site bakery and farm store. Their bakery is to die for and they have places to sit down. Buy a homemade cookie or donut to go with your picnic, or in the summer buy fresh produce to enjoy. They’re open year-round, and they’re only 5 miles off the freeway.
Willamette Mission State Park is a peaceful state park about 5 miles west of the freeway. It’s mainly a nature preserve with plenty of open area for picnicing and trails you can walk on. Depending on how much time you have, you can also take a ride on the Wheatland Ferry, which takes cars and people back and forth across the Willamette River at a crossing adjacent to the park. Its’s one of a handful of river ferryboats that are still operating in Oregon. You can just ride over and back, either on foot or with your car, for the fun of it (and for a nominal fee) even if you don’t have a pressing matter on the other side. My kids think riding the ferry is fun, but maybe they’re just easily amused!
If you’re into wine tasting, you might also try having your picnic at Arcane Cellars instead of Willamette Mission State Park. Arcane Cellars is just across the river from Willamette Mission State Park and the Wheatland Ferry. It’s family-owned by friendly folks and they make great small-batch Oregon wine. They have a tasting room, a covered patio area and picnic areas for visitors. They also have a very charming winery cat who greeted me when I visited there. If you visit on a weekday that’s in the off season (i.e., not the summer) you will want to check with them to verify that they’ll be open, or make an appointment. Like many small Oregon wineries, they have limited hours during the off season.
I hope you have a pleasant drive and find a good spot for your picnic. Enjoy your visit to the Willamette Valley!
Have you visited the Oregon Coast? It’s beautiful, and from Eugene it’s an easy one hour drive to Florence, which has all kinds of things to do — giant sand dunes to explore, a historic lighthouse, nice beaches, some pretty hikes. Your kids might like going for dune buggy rides or going sandboarding (like snowboarding, but down sand dunes!). You can visit the Sea Lion Caves or go whale watching. Or just walk on the beach, which is one of my favorite things to do when I go to the Coast. Eugene, Cascades & Coast has some great ideas about exploring the region of the coast that’s just west of Eugene.
You could also head the other direction from Eugene — east into the Cascades — and hit a couple of easy but beautiful waterfall hikes. Sahalie & Koosah falls are easy to get to and not very strenuous, but gorgeous. You can hike to both waterfalls from the same trailhead, With all the water we’ve had this winter and spring, the flow over the falls should be spectacular this time of year! Takoda’s Restaurant in the little town of Rainbow is a great place to go for lunch if you head that direction.
You could also head north to the Woodburn Tulip Festival. It’s only open at this time of year, and though the blooming season is often over by late April, this season it has been extended to May 7, so if it’s something that you’re interested in, you should take the chance to do it now! You’ll be able to see acres and acres of gorgeous tulips and get some great photos. (Although be warned, it can be busy on the weekends)
I hope you have a great visit to Eugene this weekend and you get some good exploring in!
That’s a big area but there are a lot of options. It’s good that you say you’re not big city people, because the Willamette Valley is short on big cities but big on quirky smallish cities and towns.
Here are a few broad ideas about things you might like to see and do as you make your way from Portland to Eugene:
Wine/Beer Tasting: The Willamette Valley is particularly known for having wonderful wine, craft beer, and great food. In fact, it was named the #1 wine region in the world this year! If you’d like to do some wine tasting on your way down, I’d recommend taking Highway 99W south from Portland to Eugene. It will take you a little longer than staying on Interstate 5, but you’ll be driving right through the heart of the wine region. A middle of the week trip will be a good time to do wine tasting too, as it won’t be crowded–just make sure you check ahead with smaller wineries, as some may not be open on a weekday, although most are happy to accommodate with an appointment if they know you’ll be stopping by. You can find some wine touring ideas here.
Just like the Willamette Valley is big on wines, it’s also known for great craft beer; check out this site for some ideas of Willamette Valley breweries. If you take 99W south, about midway between Portland and Eugene you’ll hit Corvallis, which is a great spot in the microbrew scene.
Evergreen Air & Space Museum: Another spot to visit that’s just off 99W! This is a very cool museum all about the history of air travel and space flight. It’s home to lots of historic aircraft, including the Spruce Goose, built by Howard Huges in the 1940s, made entirely of wood, and still the largest airplane ever constructed.
Covered Bridges tour: Another fun thing to do as you’re making your way south would be to get off the beaten track with a covered bridges tour. One of the nicest loops to drive or bike, which will take you past half a dozen picturesque bridges, is just outside Albany.
Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway: The nation’s very first designated bike touring route runs through the valley. You could rent bikes and ride a portion of the bikeway if the weather’s nice. This has info about bike rentals and touring assistance: http://rideoregonride.com/resources/
Silver Creek Falls: One of the most famous hikes in Oregon, but it shouldn’t be too crowded if you go on a weekday in March. Plus it’s famous for a reason! You get to walk over, under, and behind 10 waterfalls on the Trail of Ten Falls.
McDowell Creek Falls: Another great waterfall hike that’s a little more off the beaten path. And if you go on a weekday in March, you probably will have the entire trail to yourselves. This is a good one to combine with if you do the Covered Brides tour, as it’s in the same area of the valley.
McDonald-Dunn Forest: This is the forest you’ll find me in most weekends. It’s an entire forest managed by Oregon State University for their forestry research, but it’s open to the public for everyone to enjoy. Truly a gem, with trails for hiking and mountain biking that criss-cross throughout it. If you’re driving south on 99W, you’ll literally drive right by it! Even if you just stop and do a quick loop to stretch your legs, it’s worth it.
B&B recommendations: Youngberg Hill or the Black Walnut are both gorgeous inns on the site of working vineyards. Another fun place that isn’t exactly a B&B is The Vintages, a place where can rent a vintage Airstream trailer for the night. The Hanson Country Inn is another good B&B that would be a nice place to stay if you were interested in checking out the Corvallis beer scene.
Public transportation to small towns in the Willamette Valley is somewhat sporadic. Some towns have regular bus service, while others have none at all. Here are some of the best resources for public transportation in the Linn/Benton county area:
Linn-Benton Loop: The Linn-Benton loop will connect you from Corvallis to Albany.
Linn Shuttle: From Albany, you can hop on the Linn Shuttle. This will connect you with several small towns east of Albany: Lebanon, Sweet Home and Foster.
Coast to Valley: This bus service connects Corvallis and Albany to small towns on the way to the Coast, like Toledo and Eddyville.
Also from Albany, you can hop on the Amtrak train, Bolt Bus or Greyhound which will take you north to Salem or south to Eugene.
Once in Salem, you can connect with the Salem/Keizer bus system. This will connect you to many small towns such as Mt. Angel, Silverton, Woodburn, Dallas, Independence, Monmouth, Turner, Mill City and Gates.
If you go south to Eugene, you can connect to Lane County Transit, which will connect you to communities like Junction City, Coburg, Cottage Grove and Veneta.
Sadly, some of the small communities in Linn County are not on any public transit lines that I am aware of. Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, and Scio are all difficult to get to without a car — in these cases a Corvallis or Albany-based taxi service might work.
Cascades West Rideshare is probably your best local transportation info resource. They might even be able to match you up with a local carpool or commuter that would allow you to reach some of these smaller communities.
Good luck with your writing research, and enjoy your travels around the mid-valley!
Lucky for you, it’s very hard to go wrong with any wineries in the Salem area! Here are a few fun ones:
Brooks has a wonderful blend of elegant wines and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s an absolutely gorgeous space with great views of the Cascades and a fun outside area with picnic tables and outdoor games. They even have local beer on tap if there’s someone in your group who likes microbrews more than wine! The only thing they don’t have is a regular food service — they have great cheese plates and they cook up wood-fired pizza on special event days. I would call ahead and check on food availability and perhaps bring a picnic lunch if they will not have food on the day you hope to go.
Just south of Salem, Ankeny is a great boutique winery with views out over a local wildlife refuge. They have a cozy tasting room and a beautiful deck that’s great for relaxing with a glass of wine. They even have a friendly winery dog that likes to come say hello to guests. They have delicious custom wood-fired pizza, salads, and desserts available on the weekends.
Also just south of Salem, Willamette Valley Vineyards is a much more polished and upscale wine tasting experience than the previous two wineries, though still not stuffy or pretentious (you’ll have a hard time finding an Oregon winery that is stuffy or pretentious — they tend to be pretty friendly!). However, they have a large and beautiful facility with views of the Coast Range, and they are also the only winery in the Salem area, and one of the few in Oregon, to offer a full food menu. Their in-house chef makes amazing dishes that are specifically designed to pair with their wines. Definitely worth a visit.
If none of those sound like just what you’re thinking of, visit www.OregonWineCountry.org or www.TravelSalem.com — both of them have lots of information on local wineries and should help you find the perfect spot.
|Willamette Valley, Wine|
When I think of cities in Oregon that are highly walkable for non-drivers, the two local college towns, Corvallis and Eugene, both come to mind immediately. Others are either too large or too small or don’t have amenities like groceries, restaurants, medical facilities and housing all clustered in a central area. Here’s a little bit more about both:
Corvallis: Home to Oregon State University, home of the Beavers, Corvallis is consistently rated highly for being pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly and safe. It’s got a nice downtown, a beautiful riverfront and miles and miles of public pathways and trails. (www.therighttrail.org is a great website devoted just to Corvallis trails and pathways.) One of the things that I think makes Corvallis particularly friendly for a non-driver is that there are grocery stores and small markets scattered in many different areas around town, which means that no matter where you live you don’t have to walk far to get your food and household essentials. Corvallis also has a decent (and free) public bus system with stops throughout town for times when you don’t want to go places on foot. Corvallis has just under 50,000 residents, and it’s a town with a small, homey feel. Definitely give it a visit! You can go to www.visitcorvallis.com for more information.
Eugene: Eugene has all the same great things going for it that Corvallis has — fun downtown, river access, and miles of paths and trails — but it’s a bigger city with a few more amenities, such as a train station, a nearby airport and beautiful performing arts center downtown, The Hult Center. Eugene is also a university town, home to the University of Oregon Ducks. It’s famous for being the birthplace of Nike and a major force in track & field sports, so it should be no surprise that public trails for running and walking are a big deal in Eugene. You can find a good map here. It also has grocery stores and medical facilities that are close to places to live, as well as a good public transit system. One thing that does give Eugene an edge over Corvallis for non-drivers is its easy public transit access to other Oregon cities — the Amtrak station is right downtown, with daily train service up and down the I5 corridor, as well as Greyhound, BoltBus and other bus services. It also has a small airport. In Corvallis, connecting to other cities on public transit usually requires riding a bus to Albany, then getting on a train or bus at the Albany station to Portland or Eugene. You can get more info about Eugene at www.eugenecascadescoast.org.
There are several wineries south of Eugene that border each other — King Estate and Iris Vineyards are backdoor neighbors, and Chateau Lorane is also very close. I have heard anecdotally that you can walk from King Estate to Iris, and last year there was a 5K/10K trail run in the area that took the racers to all three wineries. However, I do not believe that it is an officially designated or marked trail. My suggestion would be to stop in at Iris or King Estate and ask the tasting room staff.
If you’re not looking for a hiking trail, per se, but just a beautiful route, you should definitely check out some of the routes in the Eugene area and South Willamette Valley. You can find maps and directions to guide you on scenic drives or bike rides that go from winery to winery. You could also walk these routes if you choose, but they are on roads, not hiking trails.
If you are really interested in the wine-hiking (aka “wiking!”) experience, here are a few vineyards in the Willamette Valley with hiking trails:
|Willamette Valley, Wine|
You happened to ask a good person — I grew up near Foster Lake and my family used to walk on the shoreline trail every evening! The walking trails at Foster Lake are great, and there are lots of places where you can walk right up to the lake shore and dip your toes in the water. However, they do not extend all the way around the reservoir.
The north shore trail begins at Lewis Creek County Park, which is located off of North River Drive.
On the south shore, the walking trail begins at Shea Point (just off Highway 20, across from the spot where Riggs Hill Road intersects with Highway 20) and extends up to the far edge of the dam.
If you visit the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce website and scroll to the bottom of their list of local trails, you’ll find a good description of both the North Shore and South Shore trails.
If you visit Foster, stop and get a bite at the Point Restaurant. It’s right across from the South Shore trail and has good food plus beautiful lake views. It’s especially known for its homemade pies — yum!
Of course, you’ll be deep in wine country there, and I should encourage you to stop in at one of the bajillion wineries for a drop of pinot — it is definitely worth a stop. As for beer, a couple to put on your list are Golden Valley (McMinnville), one of Oregon’s older breweries and a good one. The long-time brewer there, Mark Vickery, went off and started Grain Station (McMinnville), which should probably be your first stop. Great story, great place — and great beer. Another brewery I love is Heater Allen (also McMinnville), but they focus on lagers so you’ll have to decide whether that fits the bill. (Lagers have finally started to get popular in Oregon, and this brewery is one of the big reasons why.)
A couple other places to note. You might consider driving to Salem to check out Santiam, which is an interesting brewery that does mainly cask ales. It’s unusual and you might find it interesting. There’s also a new brewery in Dundee called Deception — and breweries open so fast in Oregon that I’m falling behind. I still haven’t made it out there. Perhaps you can go and tell me what it’s like.
|Beer, Willamette Valley|
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!