What is it about Haystack Rock that inspires endless gazing from a beachfront balcony? Or the glittering sight of snowy Mt. Hood from the window of a rustic lodge? They’re romantic Oregon icons in every sense of the word. Whether it’s glorious trails for trekking, cozy nooks for relaxing or charming downtowns for dining, here are six of Oregon’s most scenic small towns for a couple’s getaway.
Government Camp, for chilling at the mountain
This verdant outpost, at the western face of Mt. Hood, is made for memories — not just for kids, but grownups too. Skip the kiddie hill and take up a new winter snow sport together at Mt. Hood Skibowl, Summit Ski Area, Timberline Lodge or Mt. Hood Meadows. Skibowl has great on-mountain dining including the lively beer stube, and a visit to the mid-mountain warming hut (especially on a powder day) is a must for the complete experience. Stay at a cozy rental or live it up at Timberline Lodge, where tempting winter deals await. Try going midweek in the winter for fewer crowds, and always check weather and road conditions at the mountain before you head out.
Cannon Beach, for beachy vibes
Salt air and walks on the beach by day, sunsets and bonfires by night. A beach getaway in Cannon Beach is a classic retreat, with all the conveniences of home and then some. Indulge in white tablecloth French-Italian cuisine, such as duck breast with braised greens, foie gras and truffle oil, at Newmans at 988. Or stock up with gourmet fixings for a picnic or night in at Provisions 124 and The Wine Shack. Stay at the oceanfront Stephanie Inn for boutique luxury and stunning views. Or pamper yourself at a 1940’s vintage beach resort with panoramic views for sunset gazing at The Ocean Lodge; the property offers 37 oceanfront suites, no two alike.
Carlton, for wine lovers
From the organic pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay at Omero Cellars (based in Newberg) to the warmer-climate reds at Troon Vineyard (based in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon), Carlton is a showcase for the best of Oregon’s wines. In the heart of the Willamette Valley, this little town claims 40 wineries, 22 wine tasting rooms and an ample dining scene to match. Enjoy a juicy rib-eye and pommes frites at French bistro Cuvée, or a satisfying Carlton Farms smoked ham sandwich at The Horse Radish, which also offers live music Friday and Saturday evenings. Take a bottle back to your room and wood-burning fireplace at the Carlton Inn B&B or the modern Carlton Pinot House, both centrally located for your next vino adventure. Snuggle up in a converted grain silo with sweeping vineyard views at Abbey Road Farm, a bed and breakfast on a working farm with farm-to-table breakfasts and an on-site wine tasting room.
Sisters, for a tasty backcountry adventure
Bundle up for an enchanting time at Hoodoo Ski Area, where you’ll have a blast working up a sweat on a beginner-friendly cross-country ski trail. In the evening, head to downtown Sisters a heavenly brunch at The Cottonwood Cafe and then a nightcap with live music and dessert at The Open Door Wine and Art bistro. Cap your day with a cabin stay at the woodsy Metolius River Lodges or the uber-romantic FivePine Lodge, with various suite options and an on-site spa. Spend the next day at The Suttle Lodge, where you can take an easy stroll on a 3.2-mile trail around Suttle Lake. Unwind at The Boathouse, overlooking the lake, with a Bloody Mary and fresh potato chip-crusted trout fish n’ chips or bowl of steaming chowder.
Joseph, for wild and scenic beauty
If you don’t swoon over the fine art galleries, handmade chocolates and coffee roasters packed into the uncrowded Eastern Oregon town of Joseph, you’ll surely get weak in the knees at the sight of the Eagle Cap Wilderness — Oregon’s largest wilderness area. Wanderlust adventurers will find hundreds of miles of trails here and around Wallowa Lake, in Joseph’s backyard. Some of the drives and hikes are steep and dangerous, so check conditions and know your limits. There are plenty of incredible but gentler vistas to take in — try Chief Joseph Trail at the Wallowa Lake Trailhead, where you’ll walk through an alpine forest with views of the lake, wildlife like mountain goats, mule deer and elk, and a waterfall called BC Falls, which you won’t find on many maps. Settle in at one of the eight year-round cabins at the plush Wallowa Lake Lodge or park yourself in the middle of beautiful downtown Joseph at the boutique Jennings Hotel & Sauna, with its minimalist rooms and hip amenities.
Jacksonville, for arts and culture
Artisan producers, shops and bistros — not to mention some of the region’s best wine tasting — abound in Jacksonville, a Southern Oregon town that’s steeped in historic charm and artsy culture. Explore some of the 20 miles of urban green space at Woodland Trails, right in town, or take a 15-minute drive north to Table Rocks, two mesas with panoramic views, accessible via a 2-hour hike. Later in the day, unwind with a couple’s treatment at Radiant Day Spa, which offers an infrared sauna — a welcome antidote to blustery winter days. Upscale dining options in the walkable downtown include Jacksonville Inn and C St. Bistro, where you might find braised lamb shank or pork belly confit on the seasonally rotating menu, both with extensive wine, beer and cocktail lists. Overnight options include the Magnolia Inn and the TouVelle House Bed and Breakfast.