It’s finally here, folks! The summer sun and autumn leaves have given way to winter in Oregon, and we want to show you how to make the most of the season.
Insider tip: Winter is the lesser-known, loved-by-locals season when you can experience different kinds of weather all over the state. Yes, you’ll definitely need to pack layers – but it also means fewer crowds at top attractions such as Crater Lake, Smith Rock and Multnomah Falls. It means (mostly) peace and serenity outside as you venture out to watch whales, birds and other wildlife at the Coast and beyond. Layer up and head out on a quiet trail, find a new gallery to explore or escape to a cozy cabin with warm beverages at the ready. Winter in Oregon is waiting for you — so use this checklist to help make it your best winter ever.
Plan your adventure
Winter adventures abound in Oregon. When you’re ready to play outside you can channel your inner 10-year-old and go sledding or tubing, lace up your ice skates, or make it a party in the snow with cosmic tubing — guaranteed to happen even with the addition of a new snow-making machine — and other activities at Oregon ski areas. In Central Oregon, you can snowboard, surf and skate all in the same day.
If you need to chase the sun rays, find sun and snow in Southern Oregon and rejuvenating escapes in the unspoiled beauty of Oregon’s South Coast, known as the state’s Banana Belt for its milder climate.
When you want to stay indoors, you might catch a new exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, take a gallery tour of the Gorge, sample your way through the state’s famous brewpubs, or catch holiday lights, beach agates and seafood at a winter festival on the Coast.
Wherever you go, make sure to use Leave No Trace practices, such as picking up your trash and taking it with you if you can’t find a garbage can. No one wants to find your broken sled or candy wrappers in the spring snowmelt; that’s just wrong. Explore winter trip ideas in Southern Oregon, Central Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Oregon Coast, Willamette Valley, Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge, and Portland Region.
Oregonians know that winter weather here can change in a minute, so always check road conditions on TripCheck.com before you go. If you know how to drive in the snow (you know who you are), make sure to carry chains and know how to use them. Or, invest in snow tires for the season. See the Oregon Department of Transportation’s tips and handy videos on everything related to winter driving. (Don’t be that person caught on the TV news sliding down an icy hill.)
Whether you’re heading to a winery or hiking trail, it’s always a good idea to call ahead to your destination to confirm accessibility and condition — avoid hiking when conditions are icy. Know that even if a trail or road is technically open, it may not be maintained, so check with the U.S. Forest Service ranger district or look for alerts on the Oregon State Parks and Recreation website if you’re not sure.
Winter is a great time to consider leaving the car at home and traveling by shuttle, train, ride share, public transit or another mode. Find car-free trip ideas to Mt. Hood, Oregon’s North Coast and Central Coast, Bend, Willamette Valley wine country and the Columbia River Gorge (with exception of the Columbia Gorge Express, which reopens for the season in the spring.)
If you are driving, load up a full tank of gas, printed maps (available at Oregon’s Visitor Centers) and extra water, snacks and supplies (such as medication) in case of a weather-related emergency.
When it comes to winter clothing in Oregon, it’s just like a good cake: layers. Fleece, wool and Gore-Tex are your friend, and don’t forget your hats, gloves and weather-proof shoes. Check out shops such as REI (seven locations in Oregon), Next Adventure (in Portland) and other local outdoor retailers.
And know your limits when you head outdoors. Book a guided trip or tour if you want to be well taken care of or if you’re a beginner.
Book your cozy lodging
Part of the allure of Oregon’s winter season is finding yourself in another place — another state of mind, really — if only for a few nights. Oregon’s lodging options are endless, ranging from rustic to luxury and everywhere in between. You bring everyone together (literally) at Portland’s Tiny House Hotel, Mt. Hood Tiny House Village or Sheltered Nook tiny homes in Tillamook. You can ski right out of bed in an alpine hut in the Wallowa Mountains; snuggle up in a campground at the base of your ski area, or indulge in a luxury resort at the foot of Mt. Bachelor. Spend time with multiple generations at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. Invite the whole crew or just your sweetie to a getaway at a farm, garden resort, vintage trailer or vineyard in the Willamette Valley for the holidays. Oregon has no shortage of lodging destinations and cabin inspiration for the season. OK, enough dreaming — get out and start wintering!