: Hoodoo Ski Area by Austin Shepard

How to Winter Like an Oregonian

November 30, 2018 (Updated November 22, 2022)

It’s finally here! 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 (and no reservation system needed for Multnomah Falls, either). 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 quiet cabin with warm beverages at the ready. If you’d rather nestle up in your own cocoon, it’s easy to create cozy winter experiences in your own space, too. Winter in Oregon is waiting for you — so use this checklist to help make it your best winter ever.

Cosmic tubing will light up Mt. Hood Skibowl all season long. (Photo credit: MtHoodTerritory.com)

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 book early for an Oregon ski resort adventure like cosmic tubing, riding a snowcat to an elevation of 8,500 feet on Mt. Hood or other wintry bucket-list experiences. In Central Oregon, you can snowboard, surf and skate all in the same day. Here’s the latest on what’s happening with ski conditions and events at mountain resorts. Before you head out, make sure to read up on Oregon winter safety 101

Cycling fans will want to bust out their gear (or rent some) for mountain biking or fat-tire biking in the snow or on sand along the public coastline — really, give it a try!

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. Did you know winter is prime time for whale watching on the Coast? Here’s how to gear up for whale-watching week and take a guided hike on the first day of the new year.  

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 follow Leave No Trace principles and take steps like 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. If that’s not enough, check out our roundup of wonderful winter events for the whole family. 

Oregonians know that winter weather here can change in a minute, so always check road conditions before you go.

Be Prepared

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 conditions — 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. 

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 (eight 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.

Find yourself at a cozy cabin getaway this winter, like Cooper Spur Mountain Resort at Mt. Hood. (Photo credit: Gregor Halenda)

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 holiday getaway at a farm, garden resort, vintage trailer or vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Oregon has no shortage of cozy winter getaways and inspiration for the season. OK, enough dreaming — get out and start wintering!

About The

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a longtime journalist and travel writer/editor who is now Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager, helping to align content for visitors via social media, print and web. She’s called Oregon home for 25 years and loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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