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Where can I photograph the most covered bridges in 3 days?

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.)

  • Gilkey
  • Hannah
  • Hoffman
  • Larwood
  • Shimanek

This would probably be a pretty full day, but if you have more time and energy, continue east to Cascadia, where you’ll find:

  • Short Bridge

Turn around and head back to Sweet Home:

  • Weddle Bridge

From there take Highway 228 to Crawfordsville:

  • Crawfordsville Bridge

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:

  • Coyote Creek

Then head out toward the cluster near Fall Creek:

  • Pengra
  • Unity
  • Lowell
  • Parvin

Then head for the cluster near Cottage Grove:

  • Centennial
  • Chambers Railroad
  • Currin
  • Stewart
  • Mosby Creek
  • Dorena

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:

  • Pass Creek

Further south:

  • Rochester

Near Myrtle Creek:

  • Horse Creek
  • Neal Lane

Continuing south into Josephine County:

  • Grave Creek

East of Grants Pass toward Rogue River:

  • Wimer

Near Medford:

  • Antelope Creek
  • Lost Creek

If you have time you could also continue south to

  • McKee

 

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!

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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What are your favorite U-pick berry farms around Salem?

Berry picking is one of my favorite things to do in the summer! Greens Bridge Garden in Jefferson, a little south of Salem, is one of our family’s favorite U-pick farms. They have a really large variety of fruits and berries to pick, and they have a nice little farmstand store as well.

In addition to Greens Bridge, there are a number of other U-pick farms:

U-PICK BERRIES

- Green Bridge Gardens

- Fordyce Farm

French Prairie Gardens

Boones Ferry Berry Farm

Harpole’s Produce

Haven Hill Farm

Where can we hike somewhere close to McMinnville or Dundee?

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.
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Where are the best places for rock hounds near Salem?

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.

Can you help me plan a fabulous but reasonably priced girls weekend?

A girls weekend sounds fabulous! You really can’t go wrong in any part of the Willamette Valley if you’re looking for wine, food and fun. Since you specifically asked about something that’s reasonably priced, I’m going to pass along a few ideas for places to stay that I know are a bit off the beaten path and somewhat easier on the budget.

The Grand Hotel in Salem offers a Wine Trail package that is a good deal. I’ve stayed at the Grand and it’s a very comfortable hotel, and it’s an easy drive to the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, which has absolutely world-class wineries. However, because it’s further from Portland, lodging in this area is a little less expensive — and the wineries may be a little crowded on a weekend (although nothing in Oregon will be crowded compared to wine regions like Napa).

Consider staying at Sweet Cheeks Winery Farmhouse. Since you’re traveling in a group, perhaps a house rental in a vineyard might be fun? Divided out among the members of your group, the price per night is probably lower than booking individual hotel rooms. It’s right next to Sweet Cheeks winery, which is one of my favorite wineries in the South Willamette Valley; lots of other great wineries in this region, including King Estate, which is stunning and has a wonderful winery restaurant which would be great for a special dinner together.

If you’re looking for something budget-friendly in the northern part of the Willamette Valley (Dundee Hills, Carlton, Newberg, McMinnville), which is where many of Oregon’s most famous wineries are, I’d suggest Hotel Oregon. It’s a renovated historic hotel on 3rd Street in downtown McMinnville, and is walking distance to tasting rooms and great restaurants (plus the hotel has a restaurant and four bars onsite!). The rooms in this hotel are European style, which means they are on the smaller side and some of them have shared bathrooms accessed via the hallway (other rooms with private baths are available too). But the rooms are all very nice and decorated with quirky hand-painted murals. I’ve stayed there and had a great time! Plus you really cannot beat the prices at this place for a historic hotel in the heart of Oregon Wine Country.

If you’re still trying to narrow down where to go, check out Oregon Wine Country for info about all of the wineries in the Willamette Valley, including different travel packages and offers.

Should we visit Willamette Valley wineries in April or May?

Both April and May are great times to visit wineries in the Willamette Valley, but if I had to pick I’d lean toward May because it’s Oregon Wine Month and many wineries are offering special events and tastings that they don’t offer at other times of the year.

Depending on your preferences, you may or may not want to come on Memorial Day Weekend. Memorial Day is traditionally the kick-off to the summer season in Oregon Wine Country, and you’ll find lots and lots of special events and fun things going on at almost every vineyard and tasting room in the state.

That said, it may be more crowded that weekend that on other weekends this spring, so it just depends on if you want a fun, vibrant, busy atmosphere, or if you’d rather get a little more personal attention from the wineries you visit. The same holds true a weekday vs. weekend visit. Some of the small boutique wineries in the valley are only open on the weekends, but bigger places are open most days of the week — you’ll want to check websites or call ahead to check on their tasting room hours. On a weekend (especially if it’s sunny) it will be busier at the wineries. If you go on a weekday afternoon, there’s a chance you might be the only guests and will be able to have plenty of time to chat with the winery staff!

Another fun tip: if you’re traveling to Oregon via Alaska Airlines, there is a special program that allows Alaska Airlines passengers to ship Oregon Wine home for free!

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When and where can I go hunting for Oregon truffles?

I actually just attended the Oregon Truffle Festival last month, which is an amazing event if you want to learn more about truffle hunting when it comes around again next January. I learned a little bit about truffle-hunting, but you’ll probably have to seek out a true pro for expert advice. Here’s what I can tell you:

*Oregon white truffles grow underneath Douglas fir trees. They like stands of trees that are between 15-30 years old. I am not aware of a white Douglas fir variety (though I’m not a botanist!) There is a tree known as the white fir, but that is a different species. White fir: http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_abco.pdf; Douglas fir: http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_psme.pdf

*They can be anywhere near the root system of the tree, so yes, they can be farther out from the tree. They can be anywhere from an inch under the soil to much deeper.

*They are in season now although it may be tapering off. They are ripe in the winter months and tend to be at their peak around January.

*As far as where to hunt them around Cottage Grove, I’d contact your local forest service office to find out about public lands where you can hunt them. You have to be careful about hunting them on private land—make sure you have permission from the land owner before you go out. Some private land owners have contracts with professional truffle hunters and lease the foraging rights on their land.

Cottage Grove Ranger District: 541-767-5000. Also, truffle hunting now requires a permit, so talk to your ranger about that as well.

Here is a great video that will give you a visual and a ton of good information about what Oregon truffle-hunting looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zkv0KKJbYg

The gentleman featured in the video is Jack Czarnecki, owner of Oregon Truffle Oil and an expert on Oregon truffles.

Another good resource if you want to learn is to go out on a foray with a professional hunter, like Kris Jacobsen of Umami Truffle Dogs in Eugene. (http://umamitruffledogs.com/) The other benefit hiring a truffle guide to take you out is that many of them use a dog to hunt. When you hunt with a dog, vs. raking, you are guaranteed to find ripe truffles, because the ripe ones give off the aroma that attracts animals. (Unripe truffles may ripen over time if stored in a container in the fridge, but ripe truffles have the true truffle aroma and are immediately ready for use).

I was lucky enough to go out on a truffle hunt at the truffle festival this year, and it was a really neat experience. Good luck to you—I hope you find some!

We want to go wine tasting in the North Willamette Valley. Where should we stay and where should we eat?

The towns I love for wine tasting are Newberg, McMinnville and Dundee. All three are driving distance of each other in Yamhill County.

In Newberg there are lots of great B&B’s and vacation rentals. Here are a few favorites:
dreamgiversinn.com/ 
lepuy-inn.com/ 
lobenhaus.com/
distinctivedestination.net/lionsgateinn/

For dinner, The Painted Lady is seriously top notch. Recipe- A Neighborhood Kitchen is also very nice. Downtown Newberg has many tasting rooms all located within walking distance of each other. You can see a map here:  newbergdowntown.org/wine-tasting/ 

In McMinnville, walk the downtown area where you can shop, taste wine and eat at wonderful restaurants. Here you can stay at the Mattey House which is a B&B located in a beautiful 1892 Queen Anne Victorian Home on 10 acres.  Or perhaps you would prefer Youngberg Hill Vineyards and Inn, a 22 year old organic vineyard and tasting room with deluxe accommodations. There is also a classic European style B & B called The Steiger Haus that is located in downtown McMinnville. There are many options for meals in this town but a few of my favorites are: Community Plate (lunch only), Nick’s Italian Café and Bistro Maison. Here is a guide to downtown McMinville:  downtownmcminnville.com/explore

If you make a stop in Dundee, The Dundee Manor is a nice place to stay, as is the Black Walnut Inn.  While in town, you can even visit Herbert Hoover’s (America’s 31st president) boyhood home.  There is no shortage of good restaurants in the area. Thistle, Tina’s and the Dundee Bistro are all great choices. Red Hills Market is good for casual dining.

Answered by Janel Bennett on January 31st, 2014 - Post Your Answer

What are the must-see places in Salem?

Salem is a good city to stay in because it is a central location to all sorts of places to visit in Oregon.  It is also the capital so if you want, you can visit our state’s capital building located in downtown Salem.  Inside the building are murals painted depicting our state history.  Outside are sculptures on the grounds and one on top of the building that is covered in gold leaf and represents Oregon’s first settlers.  In 1984, school children raised the $38,000 to cover the statue in the gold leaf holding a penny drive!

If area history interests you, the Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill might be another good stop for you.  The site houses the 1889 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, the best preserved Victorian-era factory in the American West, with exhibits that change throughout the year.  The current show is “Threads to New Worlds: A Collection of Fiber Arts”.   There are also four buildings dating from the 1840s and 1850s that are restored and furnished in period that you can tour.

The Bush House Museum is another nice spot to visit.  This Italianate mansion was built in 1878  by pioneer businessman Asahel Bush II and is set in a 100-acre park.  You can take a guided tour of the home Wednesday-Sunday at 1, 2, 3 & 4 pm.  I suggest walking around the park for a bit after you tour the house.  The Bush Barn Art Center is located nearby.  It features three galleries and a gift gallery exhibiting the works of artists from the Pacific Northwest. Also nearby is the Historic Deepwood Estate.  It is a 1894 Queen Anne Victorian Home situated on approximately 4 acres of manicured gardens and nature trails.  If you plan on touring all of these locations, you can buy a pass here- https://www.boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=188645 that will get you into these places and also the Hallie Ford Museum of Art for $20.

There are also lots of great places to visit just outside of Salem.  I don’t know if you plan on driving around a bit but you are 25 miles from Silver Falls State Park, the largest state park in Oregon.  More about the park here- http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=151

Willamette Valley Vineyards is also located just outside of Salem and is an award winning winery and tourist destination.  The tasting room is open to the public from 11 am until 6 pm daily.  They also provide complimentary winery tours and tastings every day promptly at 2 pm.  They ask that you call ahead to confirm availability.
1-800-344-9463  http://wvv.com/visit/tasting_room/

Check out Travel Oregon’s suggestions on planning a getaway to Salem.

Answered by Janel Bennett on January 2nd, 2014 - Post Your Answer
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