Editor’s note: Call businesses before you visit to make sure they’re open, and know that most wineries require a reservation before you visit, to prevent overcrowding. Stay posted on what Oregon’s phased reopening means for you, and follow these steps for social distancing outdoors. Here’s what to know about Oregon’s outdoors right now.
Just a short drive from Portland, the Willamette Valley welcomes you with miles of country roads that lead to nearly 600 wineries and seven distinct American Viticultural Areas: Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, Van Duzer Corridor and Yamhill-Carlton. And where there’s wine, you’ll find celebrated farm-to-table food and drink, adding a bit of indulgence to your road-tripping experience.
If you’re not a wine connoisseur, fear not. Besides the incomparable scenery, the valley is home to plenty of outdoor recreation, gardens, art, waterfalls, and heritage and culture. This RV itinerary is designed to give you a little bit of everything. The highlighted wineries offer on-site tasting rooms open to the public and ample parking for RVs with easy turnarounds. However, it’s always a good idea to consult the satellite view on Google Maps in advance to ensure that the parking configuration will suit your particular rig. And of course, make sure to identify someone in your party to be the designated driver, if wine tasting is on your agenda.
Day 1: Alpacas and Vintage Trailers
Driving from Portland, exit Interstate 5 near Tualatin and head southwest toward Sherwood. Stop at Ponzi Vineyards, which is celebrating 50 years of winemaking in the Willamette Valley. As you head into the college town of Newberg, you’ll see Rex Hill on your right. If you have some extra time, venture north to family-run and LIVE-certified Adelsheim Vineyard and dog-friendly and alpaca-raising Claygate Estate Vineyard.
You can round out your day by stopping in Dayton at Durant at Red Ridge Farms for wine and freshly made olive oil, as well as Stoller Family Estate and Sokol Blosser Winery, both offering wine paired with culinary experiences that should be booked in advance.
Also in Dayton, you’ll find the Willamette Wine Country RV Park. Nestled on the banks of the Yamhill River, the park has 191 sites with full hookups. But for RV enthusiasts, the biggest draw may be The Vintages Trailer Resort, a small section of the park where retro RVs — think 1953 Vagabond or 1963 Airstream Overlander — have been lovingly restored and are available to rent. Spend the evening strolling by these classics, and be sure to have your camera handy for photos.
Day 2: Wine and Waves
Grab yourself a breakfast burrito and a to-go latte at Juanita’s Cafe y Nieveria in Dayton — you’ll need the caffeine — and head north where more RV-friendly wineries await. In Carlton, visit Abbey Road Farm, complete with farm animals to pet, and Anne Amie Vineyards, where there’s a hammock with your name on it. In Yamhill, Gran Moraine, Saffron Fields Vineyard and WillaKenzie Estate are all within a convenient 10-minute drive of each other. As you round back to the south, stop in at biodynamic Maysara Winery and organically farmed Youngberg Hill in McMinnville.
Mix it up with a bit of history and fun at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville. Home to Howard Hughes’ famed Spruce Goose, the museum has an impressive collection of nearly 100 aviation and space vehicles, and it neighbors the indoor Wings and Waves Waterpark, a favorite for kids of all ages. Look for the hangar with a Boeing 747 on the roof. (The waterpark is currently being refurbished, expected to reopen in summer 2020.)
Next to the museum and water park, Olde Stone Village RV park offers sites with full hookups. The park has a seasonal pool, tennis court, basketball court and playground. Alternatively, these vineyards offer free no-hookup overnight camping to Harvest Hosts members: Chris James Cellars and Laurel Ridge in Carlton; and Arcane Cellars, north of Salem near Wheatland. Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum allows dry camping in its parking lot for Harvest Hosts members, too.
Day 3: History and Waterfalls
Outside of McMinnville, make your way back toward I-5 to dive into the rich Latinx culture in Woodburn, where small shops on Front Street — known as “Little Mexico” — sell everything from churros and elote to fresh fruit and fish tacos with handmade tortillas. From Woodburn, head about 20 minutes south to smell the roses (and hundreds of other botanical species) at The Oregon Garden in the charming historic town of Silverton. The 80-acre garden features more than 20 specialty areas including its Children’s Garden, with its animal-shaped topiaries, hobbit house, treehouse and dinosaur dig. It’s the perfect place for the kids to run off some energy before getting back on the road.
From the garden, it’s just a 20-minute drive east to Silver Falls State Park and spectacular South Falls, a 177-foot curtain of water that you actually can walk behind — as long as you don’t mind getting a little wet. It’s part of the Trail of Ten Falls, one of the best hikes in Oregon. Count the waterfalls as you make the moderate 7.2-mile loop with an overall elevation gain of 800 feet. The entire hike takes about three hours, or you can opt to do just a section of the trail. Before you set out, make sure to have your 10 Essentials and consult the Take Care Out There guidelines.
The campground at this state park has 52 sites with electric hookups. After your adventure-filled day, relax by the campfire as you listen to the wind blow through the dense forest of Douglas firs.
Day 4: Wine Pairings and Carousel Rides
Treat yourself to the full wine-country experience at Willamette Valley Vineyards, conveniently located just off I-5 south of Salem (park your rig in the overflow lot). Founder Jim Bernau is the granddaddy of Oregon pinot noir, and the tasting room here offers an idyllic experience with its cozy fireplaces, spacious courtyard and patio, and paired tasting menu.
Head 10 minutes southwest to Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge for tranquil hiking trails and bird-watching, and settle in to explore the history and culture of Albany with a self-guided walking tour of the downtown area on the banks of the Willamette River. Surprise the crew with a stop at The Historic Carousel & Museum with its elaborately carved animals and nostalgic carnival vibe. Dining and drink options abound downtown — order takeout from Calapooia Brewing or Sybaris Bistro for some of the region’s best farm-to-table fare.
Three miles east, pull the rig into Knox Butte RV Park with 80 full-hookup sites as well as laundry, cable, Wi-Fi and spaces for your pet to roam.
Day 5: Pizza and a Paddle
Considered one of the top bicycle-friendly cities in the United States, Corvallis is a fabulous place to get outside, whether it’s by bike on any of the paved trails or on foot, exploring the public murals around town. Peak Sports is a great place to gear up with bike rentals or other outdoor equipment. Corvallis’ craft-beer scene is dynamite; check out the downtown riverfront area and head to Block 15 Brewing Company or Sky High Brewing for a burger and one-of-a-kind brew on the patio, or either of two locations of American Dream Pizza for their famously fresh pies.
Continue your journey south along I-5 to Eugene, where the downtown mural walk is a must-do, featuring a diverse array of artists from all over the world. Boat, fish or bird-watch at Fern Ridge Reservoir, and rent a stand-up paddleboard for a river adventure at the city’s largest park, Alton Baker Park. SUP2UOregon is a great spot for rentals on the Willamette.
Cap your day — and your epic Willamette Valley road trip — at Deerwood RV Park in Eugene or the Village Green in Cottage Grove. Deerwood, 10 minutes outside of downtown Eugene, offers full-hookup spots on 10 acres of countryside with ponds, lawns and ancient trees. Village Green requires rigs to be year 2000 or newer, and offers full hookups with access to laundry, 14 acres of gardens and live music at the lounge.