Ahh, spring in Oregon is in the air. It’s that time when soft pink cherry blossoms, purple and white lupines, red and yellow tulips, and hot pink rhododendrons dazzle against bright blue skies. (OK, sometimes it’s still drizzly and gray but don’t worry, blue skies are usually just around the corner.) Spring is when you might find yourself on the slopes with an epic amount of powder, as the snow forecast looks for 2019. It’s when rainbow-hued produce sprouts again at farmers markets across Oregon, when dozens of bird species and thousands of gray whales make their spring migration, and when the thaw of winter gives way to spring chinook in Oregon’s pristine waterways. You can do almost anything in Oregon in the spring. Just don’t wear a swimsuit to the Coast. (It’s not quite the tropics.) Here’s our checklist to living your best life in Oregon this spring.
Find your favorite bloom
If it wasn’t obvious, Oregon goes ga-ga for fresh blooms. Just check your Instagram feed in March or April and you’ll see a dizzying array of daisies, daffodils and tulips — and we haven’t even gotten to rose, lavender or sunflower season yet. So go on a wildflower hike, bring a picnic and take time to slow down and enjoy the experience. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert hiker or reach any summit; there’s plenty to see without a strenuous trek. Oregon’s sublime spring offers ample opportunity to cure your flower fever at a festival. Rain or shine, thousands flock to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (March 23-April 29, 2019) for a classic photo opp in the tulip beds; and May and June bring the Portland Rose Festival, a citywide celebration of tradition and Portland’s namesake bloom (make sure to visit Portland’s International Rose Test Garden starting in early June). May is a lovely time for flowers on the Coast, with the Rhododendron Festival in Florence and the Azalea Festival at Brookings Harbor on the South Coast. Year-round, the Rogerson Clematis Garden in West Linn is known to house the most comprehensive collection of clematis within a public garden in North America. Also called “Queen of the Vine,” the lovely creeping clematis comes in an array of sizes, shapes and colors, and the garden’s winding paths make for a tranquil visit.
Pop into a spring festival
While there are festivals in Oregon year-round, springtime festivals are especially exciting, as many fair-weather adventurers emerge from their winter’s sleep and look for ways to play outside again. Outdoor festivals, farms and vineyards are a fabulous way to get that spring back in your step and experience someplace new: Catch the Northwest Cherry Festival in The Dalles, (April 26-28, 2019); the best of all things crafty at the Yachats Original Arts & Crafts Fair (March 23-24, 2019), jazz, music, art and wine at FlorenceFest (April 27, 2019), or lots and lots of fresh coastal oysters at the Charleston Oyster Feed (April 27, 2019). At the mountain, get your fill of powder at the annual Snow Beach Festival at Mt. Hood Skibowl (March 23, 2019). In Eastern Oregon, bird lovers may find their flock at one of the many spring bird festivals in Oregon, including the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival (April 11-14, 2019; registration required). ‘Tis the season to also enjoy a world-class performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and fill your belly at A Taste of Ashland culinary festival (April 27-28, 2019). In Bend, the annual spring relay Pole Pedal Paddle is the ultimate race for those all-around adventurers, with six legs that include alpine skiing or snowboarding, cross country skiing, biking, running, canoeing (or kayaking or stand up paddle boarding) and sprinting to the finish.
Check off those bucket-list adventures
We can’t help but answer the call of the wild in the springtime. If it’s wild, we want to glimpse it, revel in it, make it an annual tradition and definitely get some great photos of it. Spring Whale Watch Week happens at dozens of locations along the Coast in late March. Head south to get a taste of the world-class wines of Southern Oregon’s Rogue, Umpqua and Applegate valleys, where you can trek through the Klamath Basin, and spend the night at a farm stay just outside of Ashland at Willow-Witt Ranch. For snow enthusiasts, Oregon’s family-friendly mountain resorts across the state offer discounts and deals on spring skiing and snowboarding as conditions allow. Sometimes it’s great to have an expert show you the way. Spring is a perfect time to sign up for a guided tour — from rock climbing and snowshoeing to charter boat fishing, caving,stand-up paddleboarding and fat-biking along the rugged Coast. Road biking and mountain biking adventures await, too: Beginners may explore all or part the 36-mile Covered Bridge Scenic Bikeway near Cottage Grove, which is flat and paved, and rolls through six scenic bridges on many low-traffic roads. Take a test ride on one of Oregon’s newest Scenic Bikeways, such as the 37-mile Crooked River Canyon (which starts in Prineville and winds through Central Oregon’s epic landscapes) and the 33-mile Sherar’s Falls (which starts in Maupin and rolls into the arid Tygh Valley). The new Whiskey Run Mountain Bike Trail near Bandon zips through the coastal forest with lots of terrain for riders of all skill levels.
Oregon’s springtime weather is a funny, fickle beast; it can vary dramatically, from 50- and 60-degree Farenheit days on the Coast to cooler temperatures in the evenings and at higher elevations. It can be rainy or quite sunny, with brilliant pops of blue sky. It tends to be drier in the eastern part of the Gorge, Eastern Oregon, Central Oregon and the South Coast. But Oregon’s rain is the lifeblood of the landscape; the reason gardens and trees are so spectacularly green, and the reason we feel those happy hormones when we spy a bud in bloom.
The milder weather brings out the masses, so before you head out for adventure between March and June, consider traveling car-free to avoid traffic and parking hassles, especially to popular attractions such as Multnomah Falls. Better yet, pick a lesser-visited destination or head out on a weekday or earlier or later in the day. In the Columbia River Gorge, this mindful practice is known as Ready, Set, Gorge! In Bend, you can take the pledge to Visit Like a Local, and even take part in a volunteer event to leave the community better than you found it.
Wherever you go in Oregon’s natural areas, visitors should practice Leave No Trace principles so the landscape remains pristine and the wildlife stays healthy. Pack out all garbage (including organic waste such as apple cores and pistachio shells); stay on trails (no bushwacking allowed); be considerate of all users (cyclists, walkers, runners and furry friends); and come prepared for the weather and conditions (carry a daypack with your 10 essentials, including water, maps, rain gear and layers — lots of them). Find more favorite spring trips here, and before you head out, check for latest weather and road conditions.