The types of things you can do in spring are about as diverse as the refreshing but unpredictable weather. From the first wild trillium bloom in March, the world begins to brighten from rain and snow into clearer skies, flowering trees and rushing waterfalls. Outdoor sports range from skiing and snowboarding to hiking and biking. It’s also the prime time to head to the Coast to watch migrating whales. This is when the state’s festivals begin heating up too. You can sport your favorite T-shirt, but wear an insulated raincoat and expect to be dazzled as the Beaver State bursts with colors.
Spring is one of the most scenic times of year to visit Portland and Hood River, thanks in great part to the pink explosion of cherry blossoms. In Portland, you’ll see them blossom along Tom McCall Waterfront Park in late March through early April. On weekends, enjoy the flowering trees, then peruse the adjacent Portland Saturday Market. In the Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland, the waterfront city of Hood River celebrates the cotton-candy boughs with the month-long Hood River Valley Blossom Time festivities in April, an ideal month to drive the Hood River County Fruit Loop.
Hit the Snowy Slopes
Winter may be over, but the ski season in Oregon sure isn’t. Ski, snowboard, snowshoe and tube slopes across the state from the extra-long seasons on high-elevation Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor to the smaller outfits like Anthony Lakes in Eastern Oregon or Mt. Ashland in the south.
Watch For Whales
Whales pass along the Oregon Coast year-round, but one of the peak times is from late February to May, when gray whales migrate to their Alaska feeding grounds. While you may spot them from almost anywhere along the Coast, Depoe Bay is known as the state’s whale-watching capital; it’s home to the Oregon State Parks’ Whale Watching Center and several charter-boat tour companies. Time your visit to the official Spring Whale Watch Week (March 24-31, 2018), when volunteers man some two dozen sites up and down the Coast.
Wildflowers pop up everywhere in spring, which means wildflower hikes. For a family-friendly wildflower hike from the end of March through June, strap on some boots and head up Mt. Pisgah just a few miles south of Eugene. Chose from a walk in Buford Park (find trail maps here) to reach the 1,531-foot summit with views over the Willamette Valley and the Cascade Mountain foothills, or stroll through Mount Pisgah Arboretum with easier, organized trails, labeled species and many events throughout the year.
Waterfalls are a big deal all over Oregon, and they flow mightily in spring. Southern Oregon’s Rogue and Umpqua rivers flow through lesser-known cascade country, with falls that are more off the beaten path than those you find in Northwestern Oregon. Hike to 293-foot-tall Watson Falls, trek through primeval-feeling cedar forests to Fall Creek Falls, warm your bones in Umpqua Hot Springs and so much more.
The crisp spring air is also the perfect time to get outside for some road riding, and few places are as traffic-free and full of sunshine at this time of year as Eastern Oregon. You could do it yourself on a Scenic Bikeway such as the Painted Hills, or hook up for guided trips with a local via TREO Bike Tours. It’s also a great time to go off-road for some mountain biking; Baker City-based Range Tour & Shuttle Co. guides a variety of excursions throughout the area.
Bursts of blooms and hopes of sunshine mean plenty of fun events.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest: Flowering bulbs are the true harbinger of an Oregon spring, and you’ll find the biggest concentration of them — 40 acres in total — at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest in Woodburn, about 35 miles south of Portland. Activities include wine tasting, wagon rides and a tulip market. The festival runs from the end of March to the end of April.
Portland Dining Month: It’s usually still wintry in March, which makes it the perfect time to get cozy in a restaurant. There’s an event for that: Portland Dining Month celebrates the city’s world-class culinary scene. Restaurants around the city serve up special prix fixe menus for around $30 per person.
Ashland Independent Film Festival: In Southern Oregon, five days and nights in the middle of April can be spent enjoying the Ashland Independent Film Festival, featuring around 90 documentary, feature and short films from filmmakers around the world. Some 7,000 cinephiles tend to make it to this small-town staple.
Migratory Bird Festival: The Harney County Migratory Bird Festival in Burns in early April celebrates the arrival of thousands of migratory birds to the Harney Basin. Activities include talks by bird-guide authors, wine tastings, an art show, archaeology walks and, of course, lots of exploration of this magnificent natural area.
Northwest Cherry Festival: Warming up even more, take a trip through the scenic Columbia River Gorge at the end of April to The Dalles for the Northwest Cherry Festival. Sample the region’s delicious cherries, catch a classic car show, run a 10K race, or just sit back and enjoy the Gorge’s largest annual parade.
Oregon Wine Month: May is dubbed Oregon Wine Month for good reason; all around the state, boutique and family-run wineries uncork prized bottles for special releases, tastings, classes and a wide range of other wine-centric events.
Yachats Original Arts and Crafts Fair: If whale watching hasn’t drawn you to the Oregon Coast at the end of May, the Yachats Original Arts and Crafts Fair might. For two days, you’ll find around 80 Pacific Northwest artists selling their wares, including paintings, pottery, furniture, jewelry and foods.
Portland Rose Festival: The Portland Rose Festival, Portland’s biggest event of the year, begins with fireworks at the end of May and continues through June with city fairs, runs, parades, a dragon-boat race and much, much more.
Pride NW: Marking the end of spring and the beginning of summer, Portland’s Pride NW festival in June celebrates the LGBTQ community and commemorates decades of queer-liberation activism. It adds as much to the rainbow as the season’s flowers with a lively and fun parade through downtown. A handful of other pride events occur around the state.
Need to Know
Spring weather can range from below freezing to the mid-seventies, so check the forecast and be prepared. Use TripCheck.com for road conditions and closures. Carry chains if you’re headed to the mountains or Eastern Oregon. No matter where you’re going, bring warm and waterproof clothes.