If you’ve been watching your Instagram feed change from fall colors to spring tulips to a sparkling ocean dotted by sea stacks, it must mean one thing: summer is coming. Summer in Oregon is more than just a change of season — it’s a state of mind, a dreamy state of bliss as we head out to our beloved hiking trails, tide pools, waterfalls, campgrounds, lakes and rivers and 363 miles of unspoiled Coast. Here’s a checklist to get started enjoying the summer in true Beaver State style.
Take a Hike
Yes, everyone wants to play outside in the summer — until we get to our favorite spot and discover everyone else had the same idea. So where to go to beat the crowds? If you really want to impress your friends with that mysteriously epic Instagram shot, look to discover someplace new. You may have the beach or trail to yourself as you explore these South Coast hikes, which lead through old-growth forest switchbacks and offer sweeping ocean views. Or head further east in the Columbia River Gorge (west of Cascade Locks and east of Hood River) to find a new favorite among these Gorge trails that are in various stages of recovery after the Eagle Creek wildfire. When you see a friendly volunteer trailhead ambassador from Friends of the Columbia Gorge at several of these sites ready to offer handy tips, say hello!
As Oregon’s trails and outdoor spaces have become much busier in recent years, several destinations including the Central Cascades are now requiring advance-purchase permits to visit. Read up on how to plan those outdoor adventures, knowing that the earlier you start, the better.
All it takes is one encounter with stinging nettle on your ankles to realize that proper closed-toe footwear is a must for hiking. It’s also wise to carry a day pack filled with your Ten Essentials — a first aid kit, navigation device (or printed map), snacks, hydration, extra layers and any other supplies we wouldn’t want to be caught without. Whether you’re a novice or experienced adventurer, take a few minutes to check out the excellent tips at Ready, Set, GOrge! The site focuses on trip-planning for the Columbia River Gorge but its principles are relevant no matter where you travel in Oregon.
Ride Your Bike
Oregon is known as a home for year-round bike commuters, who cheerfully cycle through rain, sleet and snow to get to work. The rest of us? Come summertime, we dust off our bikes, squeeze into our bike shorts and look for any excuse to ride. Always wanted to try mountain biking? Check out the beautiful Whiskey Run Mountain Bike Trail just north of Bandon, suitable for all skill levels. Take a joy ride through arches and sea stacks on the South Coast’s fat-bike routes out of Bandon. Or gear up to explore one of the state’s officially designated Scenic Bikeways. Oregon has 17 stunning routes, which can be tackled in segments. The 36-mile Twin Bridges Scenic Bikeway starts in Bend and winds its way through the town of Tumalo, with views of the Cascade Mountains, canyons, high desert and Deschutes River. On bike paths, be respectful of all users — whether on foot, scooter, unicycle or another contraption you might only find in Oregon.
Book Your Campsite
Whether you’ve had your camping trip planned for months or you like to wing it, summer camping is a rite of passage in Oregon. Just think: Sleeping on the ground, waking up at the crack of dawn to birds chirping, and letting your kids get covered in four days of dirt sounds delightful, right? Seriously, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in Oregon’s pristine wilderness and spend quality time with family, friends and pets. You can choose your own level of comfort — in a tent, cabin, yurt, van, RV, camper van, teepee, treehouse or glamping-style. Here’s how to book a last-minute camping trip and navigate the maze of Oregon State Park sites, fire lookouts and federally managed sites — so get on it!
Wherever you go, be prepared with ample provisions, such as extra snacks and water. Also, remember to fill up that gas tank if you’re heading to a remote area. While in the wilderness, especially, help prevent human-caused wildfires by thinking before you light a match and following local campfire guidelines as you make those s’mores. Check out Keep Oregon Green for more tips.
Choose Your Road Trip
Hooray for road trips! You’re ready to spend a carefree couple of days or even a week cruising Oregon’s Scenic Byways. The hardest part will definitely be which one to choose. The East Steens Tour Route in southeastern Oregon is a bucket-list trip for the ages, especially if you like secluded hot springs, cowboy ranches, a sun-baked desert that resembles a Martian landscape and the snow-capped Steens Mountain blooming with mid-summer wildflowers. Southern Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway is also at its peak for summer travel, if you have a hankering for mountains and Wild and Scenic rivers and that sort of thing. In case you’re playing river bingo, this byway takes you through two for the price of one — the North Umpqua and Upper Rogue. Get out on the water and explore these pristine treasures.
A few things to consider before you set out: Think about visiting mid-week. Local attractions, restaurants and lodging will be less crowded; you can take advantage of those special midweek events; and you’ll also make your office friends very jealous. Most importantly, make your Oregon road-trip playlist to keep that vacation vibe going — if you need inspiration, you can start with ours.