What a great question! Here are my ideas for good sunsets near Salem.
- Willamette Valley Vineyards is just south of Salem is on a hill facing west toward the Jory hills and the Coast range. The west facing views at Willamette Valley Vineyards are great any time of day, but when the sun is setting on a clear day it’s really spectacular. Sitting on their patio with a bottle of wine watching the sun set…not a bad way to end the day.
- Minto-Brown Island Park is huge, full of trails and secluded spots, and it borders the Willamette River along the entire western boundary of the park. Take a trail down to the riverbank and you can get some nice sunset views with the colors reflecting on the river.
- Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge is located west of Salem (near Dallas) off of Highway 22. It’s great natural area with several trails, looking westward toward the Coast Range. I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve heard the hike to the Rich Guadnagno Observation Platform gives you nice sunset views from the top of Baskett Butte.
- Van Duzer Vineyard is very close to the Baskett Slough wildlife refuge and a great place to reward yourself with a glass of wine after a hike. Their tasting room is up on top of a hill with beautiful westward views.
Happy sunset watching! I hope you find some great views.
Picking the best hotels, wineries and restaurants in the Willamette Valley is a little bit like picking a favorite child…they’re all so great it’s hard to pick just one. But I’ll do my best!
- For the fanciest hotel near wineries, I’d have to say The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon. It’s a beautiful place to stay, the food is amazing, and they have some great wine touring amenities (personalized concierge service, personal recommendations from staff, Lexuses that guests can borrow for driving around wine country). It’s been named one of the top five luxury hotels in the US, and one of the top 500 hotels in the world. Definitely worth checking out!
- If you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate inn, The Black Walnut Inn in Dundee and Youngberg Hill in McMinnville are both also very lovely and upscale.
- If you’d like a hotel in a small city, where you can walk from the hotel to great restaurants and urban wineries and breweries, I’d suggest Inn at the Fifth in Eugene. I’ve stayed there more than once and had a great experience each time.
- Here are seven wineries that are known for having gorgeous views.
- There were four Willamette Valley wineries that made Wine Spectator’s top 100 list in 2016: Evening Land, Big Table Farm, Bergstrom, and Solena Estate
- A few others that are personal favorites of mine: Brooks Winery in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley–great wines, beautiful views, and a gorgeous but relaxed tasting room that makes you want to linger there all day; Brick House Vineyards, a small producer that’s open by appointment only. When you get an appointment, it’s a private tasting around the “tasting table” in their winery, which is a beautiful old converted horse barn right next to the vineyard.
- Sybaris Bistro, Albany– amazing and creative food, inspired by the seasons, the terroir of the Willamette Valley, and the chef’s creative urges. Top-notch service and wine list as well.
- JORY at The Allison Inn, Newberg–chef Sunny Jin is one of the top-rated chefs in Oregon for good reason. You won’t be disappointed.
- The Joel Palmer House, Dayton–delicious food with a focus on wild-foraged ingredients, especially Oregon’s wild mushrooms. Also a legendary wine cellar with the most extensive Oregon list in the state, and in a beautiful historic building.
- Party Downtown, Eugene — just ate here for the first time last night and had a great meal! I highly recommend the Kitchen’s Choice menu. Let the chefs in the kitchen serve you up a series of their best bites–we tasted close to a dozen different dishes, and each was delightful.
- For more casual stops between wine tasting–Red Hills Market in Dundee, a bistro/market with a cozy neighborhood pub feel and delicious food; or The Horse Radish in Carlton–great sandwiches, great soups, house-made desserts and a mouthwatering cheese plate.
You won’t go wrong with any of these choices. I hope you enjoy your trip!
Willamette Valley, Wine
I can answer this one pretty well, as one of my relatives uses a power chair and we’ve gone many places together over the years. Are you looking for camping sites? Or parks and natural areas? Here are a few ideas:
Sunnyside Park and RiverBend Park are two very pretty campgrounds on mostly flat ground with lots of paved walkways. Sunnyside is right on the shores of Green Peter Reservoir, and RiverBend is on the banks of the South Santiam River. Both are very easy to get around in when using a chair.
Champoeg State Park outside of Newberg is another good option — a variety of camping options (tent, RV, cabin, yurt) in a mostly flat and level area with paved walking trails. Some of them are formally designated ADA-accessible, but all of them would be relatively easy to get around in a chair. It’s in a pretty part of the Willamette Valley, nearby to lots of great wineries, and has some interesting historic sites within the park.
The Oregon Garden is another great place to visit for folks using chairs — it’s an 80-acre botanical garden (bigger than Buchart Gardens in Canada!) — and the entire place is ADA compliant. There’s also an adjacent Oregon Garden Resort which has ADA compliant rooms you can book for the night.
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. 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
For the most concentrated wine tasting area, stay either in the Yamhill Valley (Newberg, Dundee and McMinnville area, where the majority of the Willamette Valley’s wineries can be found) or in Salem (easy access to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA).
My go-to fun, budget-priced hotels in Yamhill Valley:
- McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon, a beautiful historic hotel in downtown McMinnville. However, many of the rooms have a shared bathroom down the hall. They have private bathrooms as well, so if that’s important to you, pay attention when you’re booking.
- Third Street Flats has gorgeous, fully-furnished apartments you can rent in downtown McMinnville. These apartments are only accessible via stairs, so if some in your party have physical limitations, keep that in mind.
- Chehalem Ridge B&B and Wine Country Farm are family-owned bed and breakfasts that are well-located for wine tasting.
- At The Vintages Trailer Resort you can rent a retro Airstream trailer in wine country. These trailers are cute and fully equipped with electricity, heat, air conditioning and other nice amenities.
McMinnville and Newberg also have some good standard chain hotels:
Near Salem, closer to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA:
- The Grand Hotel, Salem, in Salem’s historic downtown, is walking distance to parks and nice restaurants. The Salem area is also close to some of my very favorite wineries, such as Brooks Wines, Left Coast Cellars, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Ankeny Vineyards and Arcane Cellars.
Willamette Valley, Wine
You can definitely photograph dozens of Oregon’s covered bridges in a three-day journey. How many you can hit just depends on how much driving you want to do and how early you want to get up and get started!
Assuming you start on the north end of the Willamette Valley and head south, I suggest sticking to the ones not far off the I-5 travel corridor. Here’s a recommended route for you:
Day 1: Marion, Polk, Benton, and Linn counties (10-13 bridges)
Start with the ones in the Salem vicinity:
- Gallon House Bridge, northeast of Silverton
- Stayton-Jordan Bridge, east of Sublimity
- Ritner Creek Bridge south of Dallas.
Head south to Corvallis:
- Irish Bend Bridge in Corvallis
- Harris Bridge just west of Corvallis (There is a wonderful winery right next to the Harris Bridge! Call ahead and schedule a tasting appointment, or pack a picnic and take a lunch break there.)
Head east to Albany to view five covered bridges clustered in a loop near Scio: (Follow the driving directions.)
This would probably be a pretty full day, but if you have more time and energy, continue east to Cascadia, where you’ll find:
Turn around and head back to Sweet Home:
From there take Highway 228 to Crawfordsville:
At this point, spend the night somewhere (there’s a great bed & breakfast in Brownsville, or a nice hotel and RV resort in Harrisburg)
Day 2: Lane County (11-18 bridges) Lane County has more remaining covered bridges than any other area of the state — probably more than you could see in a day, but there are clusters of them around the Fall Creek/Lowell/Dexter area and near Cottage Grove.
You could start off just south of Eugene:
Then head out toward the cluster near Fall Creek:
Then head for the cluster near Cottage Grove:
- Chambers Railroad
- Mosby Creek
That would put you at 11 bridges for the day. You could head back to Eugene to spend the night, or stay in Cottage Grove. Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove is supposed to be really nice.
Day 3: Douglas/Jackson County (9 bridges)
Just over the county line of Douglas County:
Near Myrtle Creek:
Continuing south into Josephine County:
East of Grants Pass toward Rogue River:
- Antelope Creek
- Lost Creek
If you have time you could also continue south to
I also suggest getting your hands on the map put out by the Covered Bridge Society of Oregon, if you don’t have it already!
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
Outdoor Adventure, Willamette Valley
Dundee and McMinnville are beautiful areas! Most of the countryside directly surrounding Dundee and McMinnville is covered in vineyards, and some vineyards actually have hiking or walking trails. Here are a few to check out:
- Sokol Blosser, just outside Dundee: they have a guided vineyard hike you can sign up for.
- Winter’s Hill Vineyard, Dundee Hills: They’re an official stop on the Willamette Valley Birding Trail, and they have a native oak savannah you can hike through.
- A little further south, Left Coast Cellars and Eola Hills Legacy Estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, and Tyee Wine Cellars in Corvalls all have hiking trails onsite.
- Champoeg State Heritage Area is a low-key, easy hike through a state park with a lot of interesting history.
- Erratic Rock State Natural Site has a trail leads you to a hillside with amazing views over the valley and into the Coast Range, and at the top is a 90-ton boulder that was deposited there by Ice Age floods thousands of years ago.
Willamette Valley, Wine
Fun question! There are a few places in the Willamette Valley that are known as being great for rockhounding.
The areas surrounding the South Santiam River, the Calapooia River, and Quartzville creek (all of these are about an hour southeast of Salem) are popular with rockhounders and folks who pan for gold as well. Also, check out this website and this BLM brochure for the Quartzville Mining Corridor.
Another fun place for rock-lovers is called Holleywood Ranch. It’s located in the hills outside of Sweet Home (again, southeast of Salem, near to the other locations I’m mentioning). It is a piece of private land that happens to have huge deposits of petrified wood and rocks. They’ve opened it up to the public for folks who want to come pay a small fee and dig for their own petrified wood. It’s a fascinating place!
For more information, the Bureau of Land Management provides great resources on rockhounding in Oregon and might be able to help you track down more locations.