: McMenamins Grand Lodge courtesy of Kathleen Nyberg / McMenamins

4 Days in Forest Grove

July 31, 2018

Here in Forest Grove — just 25 miles west of Portland, not far from Willamette Valley wine country — farmland, vineyards and forest beckon you to hike, bike, fish, paddle and stroll. It’s also a hot spot for sipping and tasting: handcrafted wine, beer and cider complement the Pacific Northwest’s only sake-brewing operation. The small-town vibe here makes for a friendly, easy-to-navigate downtown that flanks Pacific University, with a vibrant arts, entertainment, dining and craft beverage scene. Pack your bikes and kayaks — or books and board games. Here’s how to enjoy a relaxing family weekend in Forest Grove.

Valley Art Gallery (Photo credit: NashCo)

Day 1, Thursday: Downtown and heritage districts

It’s easy to explore Forest Grove by foot, bike (on quiet side streets) or car (there’s plenty of free parking). Today’s trip is within seven miles, round trip. Start with a Thai espresso, pastry or toast at Kafé — try the Little Italy, with ricotta and apricot jam. Stroll through Forest Grove’s three heritage districts, where immaculate homes ranging from Queen Anne to Colonial Revival rise from colorful gardens. Cruise the tree-studded campus of Pacific University, whose stately wood and brick buildings date as far back as 1850. Browse shops like the brand new Daniela’s on Main gift boutique and Valley Art Gallery, a local artists’ cooperative offering classes for kids and adults. The Knotty Lamb draws knitters from as far as Seattle for its incredible yarn selection and classes, A Framer’s Touch offers local products as well as custom frames, and Lost Wax captivates vinyl record fans.

Indulge in a hearty Hawaiian plate lunch at Kama’aina, then head 1.5 miles to McMenamins Grand Lodge, an artfully resurrected former Masonic rest home. You did book a massage at Ruby’s Spa, didn’t you? Check out the grounds, the bars and the soaking pool. The kids can catch a movie; it’s also a great time to sample McMenamins’ famous spirits, beer and wine. Follow dinner at their Ironwork Grill with live music or an evening film.

SakéOne (Photo credit: Andréa Johnson)

Day 2, Friday: Local parks, sake tasting and farms

Today’s all about doing whatever makes you happy; there’s so much to choose from. Half a mile north, Lincoln Park has a BMX course, skatepark and two indoor water slides and an outside spray park. You can also meander along the 6-mile Emerald Necklace circuit or spot birds and beavers at Fernhill Wetlands. Or, tackle a portion of the 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a former rail line converted into a forested (and car-less) walking and biking trail, one of the best in the region. You can rent bikes at the trailhead.

To fuel up, start with a tasting and tour at SakeOne (there’s a kid-and-dog-friendly patio) and lunch on Asian fusion at Bites Restaurant. If you prefer a refreshing pint, kick back at Ridgewalker Brewing — a beautifully renovated church with a menu of hearty pub fare and 34 taps of beer, wine, cider, kombucha and cold brew coffee. Hop in the car and crisscross the countryside — you can find wineries, farm stores and U-picks in all directions. Back in town, the King’s Head Pub offers English classics like pasties, welsh rabbit and pork pies along with local craft beers and Guinness in a rabbit warren of cozy rooms and balconies inside a former bank. Dine in the old vault, then while away the evening playing their board games, shuffleboard, darts and pinball machines. Kids are welcome during all hours.

Henry Hagg Lake (Photo credit: Melissa Hay / Washington County Visitor Association)

Day 3, Saturday: Lake fun, golf and wine tasting

Diversity Cafes menu of benedicts and omelets will keep you cranking for your morning at one of the four golf courses in the area, then grab lunch in town and head out to Henry Hagg Lake for afternoon fun on land or water. Dogs on leash are allowed. Enjoy this 1,100 acre lake via kayak, stand-up paddleboard or boat. Bring a fishing line; it’s stocked with fish and flanked with beaches. (Just remember to always wear a personal floatation device, whether you’re wading, swimming or boating. If you don’t have one, you can borrow one for the day at six handy kiosks around the lake.) There’s also 14 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails.

Just two miles north of Hagg Lake, Tree to Tree Aerial Adventure Park is too fun to resist. Zip lines for the whole family, six aerial obstacle courses and an adventure village for the little ones will challenge your strength and balance in the backdrop of the majestic forest canopy. Treat yourself to a little wine tasting on the return trip at Plum Hill Vineyards, Montinore Estate and the historic farmhouse tasting room at David Hill Vineyards & Winery, which still produces pinot noir from some of the first grapes planted in 1965. Dogs are welcome on portions of each property. Back in Forest Grove, dine on Peruvian cuisine at the Yellow Llama. Enjoy traditional fare like empanadas and lomo saltado or inventive twists like Peruvian poutine and tacos. Have a cocktail or a flight of piscos, then pop up the street for live music at Diversity every Saturday night. Urban Decanter is another choice for a hip vibe; wine stewards will help you pair wines with cheese and charcuterie boards, pate and paninis. 

Tillamook Forest Center

Day 4, Sunday: Tillamook Forest outing

Snag a cup of coffee for the road at Telvet Coffee (they’re famous for their Sea Cream Vietnamese iced coffee), and head into the Coast Range. Stop at Coleman’s 9n Shady Rest in Gales Creek for breakfast, just 15 minute out of town, then continue another 25 minutes to the Tillamook Forest Center, where you can climb a 40-foot replica fire lookout tower and traverse a 250-foot suspension footbridge. Learn about the Tillamook Burn — a series of four massive wildfires between 1933 and 1951 — and reforestation via exhibits and a film. Hike easy trails by the visitor center, or grab a guide to longer hikes such as the Wilson River Trail, a 20.6-mile trail with multiple trailheads. Check their hours, which change seasonally. Leashed dogs are welcome and admission is free.

Stop for dinner on the way back at the upscale OutAZABlue in Gales Creek for gourmet dining on their river-view deck or indoors. Need a nightcap? The Gales Creek Tavern is a locals’ favorite, with pizza, jukebox tunes and $1 tacos every Tuesday.


When you go: Find Forest Grove lodging options here. Time your visit with one of the many cultural events at Pacific University, or one of the city’s annual community events. Favorites include the All Northwest Barbershop Quartet Contest (March), North Willamette Vintners Wine Trail Weekend (March), Hawaiian Luau (April), Gales Creek Strawberry Festival (June), Forest Grove UnCorked (August), Historic Home Tour (September), Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival and Corn Roast (September), and the Verboort Sausage Dinner (November).

About The

Annelise Kelly
When she's not exploring the rich culinary offerings near her Portland home, Annelise Kelly likes to hit the road seeking small-town atmosphere, old-growth hikes and hot springs. Food, history, nature and agriculture—especially baby goats—put a smile on her face.

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