Always dreamed of zip-lining through the forest, riding horseback along the dunes or paddling down a pristine river like a boss? Maybe this is the year to skip those New Year’s resolutions you won’t keep and make a bucket list of Oregon adventures instead. Here are some exhilarating ideas to get you psyched for adventure all year long. (Conveniently, Jan. 29, 2019 is National Plan For Vacation Day.)
Hike the length of Wildwood Trail at Forest Park. You’ve walked the dog or run along a stretch of Portland’s most famous trail here and there, but have you covered all 30.2 lush, wooded miles? Local clubs and events are devoted to this ambitious but entirely do-able feat — a rewarding way to experience the nation’s largest urban nature preserve. Check trail maps and conditions before you go, or download the Forest Park app.
Go sledding at a sno-park. If your kids are hankering for the white fluffy stuff, keep your eye on snowfall and road conditions at TripCheck.com and surprise them with a trip to one of Mt. Hood’s nearly two dozen sno-parks (aka winter recreation parking areas). Lessons, gear rentals, how-to tips and full activity lists make it easy enough; all you have to do is get out there. Some welcome dogs, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers; some only allow certain types of snow toys; some are more accessible than others, so choose your spot wisely.
Visit a prehistoric landscape. While you can visit year-round, winter’s moisture brings the color to life in the stratified Painted Hills, one of Oregon’s biggest geologic wonders. Note that the remote towns here in this dramatic landscape are sparsely populated, so be prepared with essentials and check road conditions before heading out. Find trip inspiration along the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway and know that Oregon is home to an endless number of cool season adventures like this.
Backcountry snowshoe in the Cascades. What better way to catch your winter bliss than snowshoeing in the wilderness, then retiring to your cozy lodge? Forty miles west of Klamath Falls in the Southern Oregon Cascades, you can book a room at Lake of the Woods Mountain Lodge and Resort, with stunning views of the crystal-clear Lake of the Woods and majestic Mount McLaughlin. Nearby, explore the Fremont-Winema National Forest by snowshoe, skis or snowmobile, with 165 miles of signed and groomed trails in the Great Meadow on the lake’s north shore.
Go fat biking on the Coast. Whether you’re a hardcore cyclist or an occasional upright cruiser, fat biking on the Coast is a treat for the senses, with rocky headlands, agates, seabirds, tide pools and lighthouses in the distance. You can find a route and distance for your skill level on the North Coast, Central Coast and South Coast, and all the gear and bikes at local rental shops. Remember to avoid snowy plover nesting areas (a threatened sea bird) when on the coastline and leave Oregon’s natural areas cleaner than you found them.
Soar above the forest with Crater Lake Zipline. Oregon’s longest zipline carries visitors high above the tree canopy in Southern Oregon with unmatched views of Upper Klamath Lake, Mt. McLoughlin, Pelican Butte and the rim of Crater Lake. The zipline ($105 per person, age 10 and up, open April through October) is one of the best ways to see Crater Lake in its snowy, magical off-season.
Rise over the valley in a hot air balloon. The Willamette Valley is a glorious patchwork of vibrant colors, forests, rivers and rolling terrain — and the best way to see it is from up in the air. Vista Balloon Adventures, based in Newberg, offers a few different scenic flights over the Willamette Valley. There’s a 3-hour tour followed by a catered brunch, as well as a Triangle Wine Country tour with lunch, snacks and personal introductions to the winemakers. Flights start at $220 per person for up to three adults; kids 12 and under are $145.
Tackle those trails on Mt. Hood. Want to start hiking? Resolve to hit the trail more often this year, or explore new spots? Want to up your mileage or elevation game? Start with this Mt. Hood hikers’ bucket list and see if the wildflower meadows of ZigZag Canyon, green-pooled Salmon River or 100-foot cascade of Tamanawas Falls Trail calls your name.
Raft the Wild and Scenic Rogue. It’s rugged, remote, wild and beautiful. It’s serene while also perfect for adrenaline junkies. The Wild and Scenic Rogue River is one of Oregon’s top spots for summer rafting, and Morrison’s Rogue Wilderness Adventures satisfies the wild child in all of us. Look into their guided fishing and hiking excursions and their lovely lodge stays along the river nearby Grants Pass for total hassle-free relaxation. Other outfitters such as Indigo Creek Outfitters, Noah’s Rafting & Fishing, Orange Torpedo Trips and Northwest Rafting Company offer multi-day rafting trips on the Rogue.
Camp, stargaze and make a difference. Trail restoration and river cleanups aren’t glamorous work, but there’s nothing as rewarding as a hard day’s work with a huge celebration to follow. Bend-based Discover Your Forest holds two epic events in the summer to invite outdoor enthusiasts to camp out, sip a beer and build a trail. Stars Over Newberry (mid-August) is a family-friendly party at the top of Lava Butte, full of stargazing, live music, local craft beverages and an auction for forest conservation efforts. Campout for Public Lands (mid-September) is a 21-and-over party with food, beer, live music and a service project to beautify the Deschutes Forest.
Ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway. Open late May through October, this tram offers a spectacular 15-minute ride up the 3,700-foot vertical ascent of Mt. Howard, part of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. See the rugged peaks, the azure blue waters of Wallowa Lake and the tiny communities of Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine and Wallowa from your comfy gondola. At the top, get out for a bite eat at the Summit Grill, 4,000 feet up. Leave time to stretch your legs along the 2.5 miles of groomed trails at the top of the tramway, where you can check out the rare alpine flowers and plants and soak up the spectacular view.
Sip along a Hood River Valley wine bike tour. Is it a bike ride with wine, or a wine tasting with bikes? Either way, the pairing of both activities is an ingenious one, and all you have to do is show up. The woman-run team at MountNbarreL, which launched in 2015, does the rest. They’ll have your hybrid cruiser bikes and helmets ready and lead you on a private tour — through quiet, lesser-used farm roads, orchards and trails — to three Hood River wine tasting rooms, as well as an organic U-pick spot. Grab your besties and be ready for serious fun.
Dig for thunder eggs. Quick — can you guess Oregon’s state rock? It’s the beautiful thunder egg, found in several Central and Eastern Oregon locations, if you know where to look. Richardson’s Rock Ranch in Madras makes it easy, with all the equipment you need for seven different agate beds for you to dig around in, with various difficulty levels. Fall is a great time to visit, after the dry heat of summer. Make sure to call ahead (800-433-2680) before you visit since digs are weather-dependent; roads may be closed due to rain. While you’re in the region, explore other quirky adventures in Central Oregon.
Join in a harvest grape stomp. Things get delightfully messy at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner each fall as kids and grownups alike go barefoot in a half barrel and stomp grapes to their heart’s content. Their annual Harvest Grape Stomp has been going on for 26 years, and it’s a competitive affair: The team that collects the most grape juice gets a paid trip to the world grape stomping championships. Other wineries throughout Oregon hold grape stomps as well as special tastings, lawn games, live music and other festivities in the fall to celebrate harvest time.
Trot your horse in the sand. It’s something out of a dream, to ride horseback along the the breathtaking Oregon Coast, surrounded by the ocean and sand dunes and pristine forested land. C&M Stables has been leading these adventures since 1981, making it easy for visitors — no matter what their skill or comfort with horseback riding — to get out there and experience the coast from this surprising vantage point. Rates start at $55 per person for groups of three or more on an hour-long dune trail ride, kids 6 and up allowed. Rates and child age requirements vary for other rides. We’re already plotting our sunset ride.
Enjoy a farm getaway. Why stay in a hotel when you can rise with the roosters, eat freshly laid eggs for breakfast, help corral (and play with) the lambs and rest under a blanket of stars? Oregon is home to several one-of-a-kind farm-stay experiences, including the beloved Willow-Witt Ranch in the hills outside of Ashland. Use it as a home base for exploring the region or get to know the owners, who’ve lived here for 30-plus years, teaching visitors about the local ecology and sharing their devotion to protecting public lands.