Oregon’s Highway 224 cuts deep into the piney woodlands and river country southeast of Portland in the Mt. Hood National Forest, but recent wildfire-impacted conditions forced a closure of the road, cutting off access to scores of campgrounds, hiking trails and access points to the frothy Clackamas River for nearly two years. As of May 2022 that’s changed, and 19 miles of the road are open again, just in time for summer fun.
Most of the recreation sites, campgrounds and trails in the area remain closed while crews work to remove dead trees in danger of falling, and U.S. Forest Service officials say it’ll likely stay that way for the rest of the year. There’s still plenty to see and do, from kayaking to soaking up art.
Here’s an up-to-date Clackamas River page with a map, FAQ and list of businesses that are open, maintained by the Oregon Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service.
In the meantime, consider finding a home base in Estacada, a small town set in the foothills of Mt. Hood and known as the Christmas tree capital of the world. To stretch your legs after the drive, head to Timber Park on Estacada Lake near the River Mill Dam. There you’ll find a 22-hole disc-golf course as well as a kiosk offering maps and information on the public land that’s open for exploring.
Rafting, Hot Springs and Camping
Highway 224 itself, also known as the Clackamas Highway, is best traveled as an out-and-back day drive to Ripplebrook, a campground and store at the confluence with Oak Grove Fork, where all cars must turn around. Because of fires that scorched the area in 2020, Forest Service Road 46 — which continues to the Breitenbush area and south to Detroit Lake — isn’t open. Note that along the route, Breitenbush Hot Springs is open; guests with reservations secure permission (and a gate-lock code) from the wellness retreat to travel the road to the resort.
Several recreational sites along the Upper Clackamas River and Highway 224 have reopened, too, including sites like Promontory Park, Big Eddy Day-Use Area and the Carter Falls Overlook, where you can picnic or access the river. For the best in splashy summer thrills, book a rafting adventure on this section of the river with Blue Sky Rafting, which offers three-hour trips down from Hole in the Wall, a ramp just downstream of the confluence with the Roaring River. Along the way, expect to encounter Class III to Class IV rapids on this American whitewater classic.
If you’re looking for something calmer and more intimate, Clackamas River Outfitters runs trips on the lower Clackamas below Estacada Lake for people interested in using inflatable kayaks, stand-up paddle boards or even pack rafts to bounce through Class II rapids with names like Paradise and the Minefield. They also rent tubes for DIY floating fun.
Art, Shops and Eats in Estacada
Even if you’ve got outdoor recreation on the agenda, be sure to spend some time in the town of Estacada. For starters, you’ll find more than 20 murals around the town that celebrate everything from the early trains of Estacada to pastoral scenes and pioneer life. In summer 2022, a new mural paying homage to the Latino community is slated to be unveiled, with community members having helped paint it.
The Artback, a local arts booster group that turns 30 in 2022 and organizes the mural projects, has an online map of the murals; otherwise, you can swing by The Spiral Gallery artists’ co-op to get a brochure. New QR codes on the murals will take you to sites explaining the stories behind each work.
On the mural walk, stop in at local hangout Harmony, a cafe sporting a colorful example of the town’s artistry. You’ll love the heated seating outdoors on the patio as much as their healthy breakfasts. For a hearty meal on the go, try Timber Town Grub, which serves up green chicken bowls (that’s chicken with green salsa) and sloppy joes. Co-owner Lynn Thompson, a former private chef, adds keto- and diet-friendly meals to the menu, too, such as a faux mac and cheese made with cauliflower.
For shopping, check out the Lennox Jai Boutique for stylish and comfortable women’s wear, where you’ll also find locally made jewelry by Julie Cooper Designs as part of a partnership between the best-friend owners.
Beer, Cider and Disc Golf
Ye shall not go thirsty here, either, not with Bent Shovel Brewing, which recently took over the space of the Viewpoint Restaurant and Lounge. Belly up for Friday-night prime rib and a pint of sour, doppelbock or hazy IPA. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant and eatery sits near the entrance to Milo McIver State Park, where you’ll find a nice campground, as well as disc-golf courses and trails along the Clackamas.
Summer is also a great time to sample apple ciders that have been slowly fermenting since the fall, and the cozy tasting room on the family farm at Stone Circle Cider is the place to do it. The cidery — influenced by English traditions and a cidermaker with British roots — uses a blend of English bittersweet apples with American heirloom apples to create what’s known as a scrumpy-style cider that’s aromatic, crisp and dry. Check the company’s Facebook page for pagan-inspired celebrations on notable days like the solstices and equinoxes, complete with Morris dancers, bonfires and live music.
Find more inspiration in the Estacada Field Guide, with visiting information about downtown shops, nearby farms and even a murals map. Pick up a free copy at The Spiral Gallery, Harmony Baked, Clackamas River Outfitters and Wade Creek Vintage Marketplace.