Oregon Trail pioneers who first arrived in Lebanon were drawn to the fertile farmlands here between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range. The historic Santiam Wagon Road operated from the 1860s until the 1930s — a historically important freight route between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon. Now a town of nearly 16,000 people, this friendly burg is perhaps best known for its 100-plus-year-old June strawberry festival. Year-round, Lebanon attracts visitors with its small-town charm and access to the wooded Willamette National Forest and the scenic Santiam River, which flows right through town.
Explore the downtown core along the Santiam Highway, which also doubles as Main Street. Along this north-south thoroughfare, you’ll find a selection of independently owned shops and cafes. A visit to Pastega Coffee Roasters, which specializes in small-batch roasting of high-quality coffee beans (all fair trade or direct trade certified), will likely change the way you think about coffee forever. Try the kegs of cold brew, the espresso concentrate and the nitro coffee that pours like a porter.
Craft-beer lovers delight in the offerings at Conversion Brewing. Founded by Matt Cowart (a landscaper turned brewer) and Scott Bruslind (who formerly serviced breweries with lab services), Conversion Brewing is a family-friendly pub with a full menu of wood-fired pizzas, salads and tasty appetizers to go along with a respectable menu of saisons, Belgian ales and IPAs. Don’t miss the house-made sodas, like lemon bliss and root beer. For more great craft beer and good pub grub, check out the Growler Cafe, serving soups, salads and savory sandwiches along with a fine list of Oregon beers from breweries around the state.
Locally grown fruits and vegetables, including those famous strawberries, can be found at the Lebanon Downtown Farmers’ Market, held Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-May through mid-October. The bustling market also includes a range of specialty items like chestnuts, fresh fish and honey.
Lebanon has options aplenty for outdoor recreation. Boaters put in at Gill’s Landing boat dock, also a great spot for fishing and swimming along with walking trails through the town’s River Park. Nearby Cheadle Lake Park offers 4 miles of mellow double-track trail around the lake for mountain bikers. The nearby Willamette National Forest has access to hiking trails for all ability levels, including various trailheads along the Santiam Wagon Road like Fish Lake, Mountain House and the McKenzie River Trail.
For an engine-powered outing, check out Santiam Excursion Trains, which travel a 17-mile section of track with scenic views of surrounding forests, farms and the Santiam River. Look for seasonal rides like the Ugly X-mas Sweater Express and the Kids Rockin New Years Eve Party.
Extend Your Stay: Book a room at the Boulder Falls Inn, a Premier Best Western property with comfortable rooms, a heated outdoor pool and colorful gardens. The on-site 1847 Bar and Grill serves a Pacific Northwest-leaning menu.