Editor’s note: Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, but businesses may ask you to wear a face cover – bring one along and be patient and kind if asked to wear it. It’s also wildfire season – plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
New year, new dreams about exploring Oregon. With all of the pent-up stress and postponed travel plans that mired 2020, the new year is bound to bring some much-needed joy — and a plan to eradicate coronavirus. The Oregon Health Authority confirmed that all Oregonians age 12 and older are eligible to get the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines. That means your dreams about exploring Oregon will soon become a reality.
Make the most of your days at home by adding the following Oregon adventures onto your radar. Whether you’re looking for tasty food and drink, a wellness getaway or an excursion into Oregon’s great outdoors, get excited for life after the pandemic by planning one of these epic adventures across the state.
Oregon Culinary Trips
Southern Oregon for Foodies at Heart
Oregon culinary icon James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” So what better way to truly experience a place than to eat like the locals do?
Southern Oregon is home to wild rivers and fertile valleys, all of which culminate into mouth-watering meals. The Rogue Valley Food Trail and Great Umpqua Food Trail makes it easy to eat your way through the bottom half of the state. Get your fill of the unique terroir of the region’s famous wine country, then head to 112-year-old, family-owned Dunbar Farms in Medford, which sells farm-fresh produce and bread made from stone-milled flour. Grab some handmade jam from Pennington Farms in the Applegate Valley and swing by Rogue Creamery in Central Point for the “world’s best cheese” (literally), and you’ve got yourself the fixins of a great picnic. Pay tribute to the historic Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River (and contribute to its restoration if you have the means). If you’re heading back into Roseburg, pick up a nightcap at Backside Brewing, which has a sizable selection of craft beers to choose from.
Farm to Table in Eastern Oregon
Meeting your food at its source makes for a meaningful experience, especially when that source is the foothills of the breathtaking Blue Mountains. By making your way through the River to Hills Farm Loop, you’ll get to taste field-fresh produce such as Hermiston’s famous juicy watermelons, like those grown at Walchli Farms for five generations. Along the route, you’ll also get to taste a slice of Americana in Oregon’s small towns. Echo, population about 700, is home to two wineries: Echo Ridge Cellars and Sno Road Winery. Along the Whisky & Rocks Farm Loop visitors are guided to tasty eateries and immersive farms but also have the chance to explore some regional landmarks. The idyllic Winn Homestead, built in 1916, once was a dairy farm but now hosts special events and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In Pendleton, you can pair history with your culinary experience at the 18th-century beautifully restored Hamley Steakhouse, complete with two saloons and a wine cellar.
Oregon Wellness Trips
Moment of Zen on the Southern Oregon Coast
The fresh sea air, therapeutic sound of waves and vast ocean views make the Oregon Coast the perfect destination to put things into perspective. With 363 miles of coastline, there are plenty of opportunities to find a secluded spot for quiet reflection, but the Southern Oregon Coast is a far-flung, crowdless excursion that is sure to put you at ease. Once you’re done walking the 4.5 miles of glassy beach at Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon, head 2 miles south to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint to witness the beauty of the towering sea stacks you can see for miles along the shoreline, and try to glimpse some of the area’s resident gray whales. A day trip to see the photo-worthy Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is also worth it — especially since you’re more likely to have the place all to yourself. Or better yet, bring yourself closer to nature by booking a guided boat tour and witnessing these behemoths up close with South Coast Tours. Afterward, melt away your stress by booking a cabin at the WildSpring Guest Habitat in Port Orford, which features a walking labyrinth that’s sure to spark meditation and an open-air hot tub (by appointment only during COVID) that promises sunset views.
Mind and Body Retreat in the Columbia River Gorge
Taking to the water and the mindful practice of yoga are both ways to find calm, so marrying the two activities promises a wellness excursion like no other. Float On SUP Yoga in The Dalles takes participants onto the Columbia River, allowing you to form each intentional pose while balancing atop a stand-up paddleboard. If paddling isn’t your thing, you can sweat the stress away by pedaling one of the region’s many bike trails. Afterward, nourish your body with the fresh fruits and vegan-friendly sandwiches from Farm Stand in the Gorge in Hood River, 28 miles west of The Dalles. Then wash it down with locally made kombucha at nearby One Breath Beverage, or take your pick from any one of the stops along the East Gorge Food Trail. Continue the peaceful day into the evening with a river view amid 7 acres of luscious gardens at the Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa, which looks more like a manor and dates back nearly 100 years.
Oregon Outdoors Trips
Make Memories on the Portland Region’s Classic Hike
Easy to Moderate
Portland’s Forest Park is a treasure trove of trails and offshoots, but the Wildwood Trail zigzags its way the length of the entire park. At about 30 miles long, it is America’s longest forested urban trail, making it the perfect end-to-end path to conquer this year. You can complete this difficult endeavor by running or hiking in one grueling day or broken into segments and completed over several stints, though make sure you do so responsibly. Starting at the Vietnam Memorial, the trail shows off maples, firs, redwoods and moss-covered creeks, and passes by Hoyt Arboretum, Pittock Mansion and the Witch’s Castle. It also traverses the Barbara Walker Crossing, the award-winning pedestrian bridge. No matter which section you end up on, you’re bound to be captivated by the wildflowers in the spring, an explosion of colors in the fall and year-round dense woodland adventure.
Paddle a Water Trail in the Willamette Valley
Moderate to Challenging
One of the state’s major waterways, the Willamette River connects cities and flows through forests and farms, making the 187 miles of river a new adventure to paddle each time you put in. It’s easy to plan with the many access points along the Willamette River Water Trail. Prepare for a day trip kayaking from Harrisburg to Peoria (between Eugene and Corvallis), which promises views of Marys Peak and passes stunning greenways, secluded islands and hidden lakes. Or better yet, plan a multiday canoe trip from Albany to Independence, a stretch of river where you can see wildlife and tributaries such as the Luckiamute and Santiam rivers.
Before setting off on this trip, keep in mind that Water Access Permits are required for boats 10 feet or longer. Prepare by knowing where the obstructions and make sure you understand water safety protocol, including always wearing a lifejacket and sharing the waterway.
Conquer a Mountain in Central Oregon
If you want to both feel a sense of accomplishment and take in an ultimate Insta-worthy view that few people get to access, add summiting a mountain to your 2021 adventure list. The state has plenty to choose from, but one of the most rewarding views is the panorama seen from the peak of South Sister in Central Oregon. Standing 10,358 feet, the mountain is the third tallest in the state, and from the top on a clear day, you can soak in sights of Broken Top, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Washington. The 12.2-mile route to the top is nothing to balk at, so you’ll want to do some training hikes and make sure you’ve packed wisely, including your Ten Essentials, and follow these tips to Take Care Out There. Plan ahead, as the mountain is best climbed from July to September, and the Forest Service in 2021 is requiring a Central Cascade Wilderness permit beginning in May, with information on securing the permit coming soon.