Winter Magic in Oregon

November 30, 2018

You loved the giant rabbit running through tulip fields in the summer — now it’s giving children a ride through the snowy slopes of Eastern Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness. You loved the whales hidden in the clouds above a daydreamer — now there are ships emerging through the sky at Heceta Head Lighthouse. The sweet, whimsical animations from “Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated” are back — only this time, spring and summer’s scenes of enchanting forests, vineyards, rivers and mountains are refreshed for fall and winter.

Want to experience Oregon’s magic in real life? All of the locations featured in the “Only Slightly Exaggerated” illustrations are places you can actually visit. Here are some of the featured spots that inspired the creative team behind this multimedia project. (And along the way, you can even pick up your very own limited-edition posters.)

Lithia Park, only slightly exaggerated
Southern Oregon’s Lithia Park showcases brilliant fall colors. (Photo credit: Carol Barrington / Alamy Stock Photo)

Lithia Park

A green oasis in Ashland’s bustling downtown district, leafy Lithia Park provides numerous trails and spots for strolling, sitting, people watching and sipping a latte. It’s right across from the grounds of the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival (which reopens in February) and the fountains that bubble up with lithium-rich water — yes, you can sip it! These waters inspired the name of this park, which opened on the site of a former mill in 1916 and is now home to its very own Japanese garden, ball courts, picnic areas, playgrounds and more.

Eagle Cap Wilderness, only slightly exaggerated
Eastern Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness is a winter wonderland. (Photo credit: Leon Werdinger)

Eagle Cap Wilderness

This pristine area in the Wallowa Mountains in the northeastern corner of the state is prized for its snowy bliss in the winter. From Cornucopia Lodge near Halfway, intrepid adventurers can snowmobile or snowshoe through the rugged backcountry of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  Enjoy a day of skiing and family fun at Ferguson Ridge Ski Area near Joseph or at Anthony Lakes Resort, in the Elkhorn Mountains, near La Grande. Adrenaline junkies shouldn’t miss the spectator-friendly Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race in January.

Heceta Head Lighthouse, only slightly exaggerated
Oregon Coast’s Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint shines in the winter. (Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Perched on a dramatic 200-foot bluff just north of Florence, Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the Central Coast’s most iconic landmarks, and look to take a tour (late May through early September). It’s not far from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Whale Watching Center an hour north in Depoe Bay, the Sea Lion Caves and other year-round attractions. You can even stay here at the Heceta Lighthouse B&B, the former assistant lighthouse keeper’s residence, which dates to 1893.

Steelhead Falls, only slightly exaggerated
Central Oregon’s Steelhead Falls is especially enchanting in the snowy season. (Photo credit: Troy McMullin / Alamy Stock Photo)

Steelhead Falls

Forty-five minutes north of Bend, the trail here at Steelhead Falls is enchanting to visit any time of year. Fall and winter take on an especially magical feeling as the Deschutes River tumbles down a 20-foot cascade into a pool surrounded by colorful rimrock (just be sure to take precaution when hiking the cliffs, which can be extremely slippery.) Know that parking here is free but limited, so carpool when you can. It’s just one of the many adventures you can find in Central Oregon’s winter wonderland, as well as a great excuse to get to know all the towns and communities here worthy of a winter road trip.

Oregon Wine Country, only slightly exaggerated
Willamette Valley’s Lady Hill Winery celebrates cellar season in style. (Photo credit: Lady Hill Winery)

Lady Hill Winery

Home to more than 500 wineries, the Willamette Valley is just one of Oregon’s world-class wine regions — each home to winemakers who are deeply rooted in their sense of craft and place. Midway between Portland and Salem in St. Paul, Lady Hill Winery is a fifth-generation family farm that produces a wide range of complex and exquisitely drinkable reds and whites. Their tasting room is open daily, across from Champoeg State Heritage Area. Winter just might be one of the best times to visit Oregon wine country, when cellar season brings out a more intimate side to tasting rooms from north of the Willamette Valley, WillaKenzie Estate in Yamhill, to the south, King Estate in Eugene.

Mount Hood Railroad, only slightly exaggerated
Mt. Hood and the Gorge’s Mount Hood Railroad is a special holiday tradition. (Photo credit: Mount Hood Railroad)

Mount Hood Railroad

All year long, this historic scenic Mount Hood Railroad offers excursions that tickle the fancy of kids and grownups alike. In the winter, book a seat aboard The Train to Christmas Town, where you’ll roll through the farmland and mountain views of Hood River and Parkdale, the majestic slopes of Mt. Hood in the distance. The trip starts and ends in the riverfront community of Hood River, where the season comes alive at downtown restaurants, brew pubs, shops and festivals. Make a Hood River Valley trip of it, with easy shuttles to Mt. Hood ski areas and great hotel deals in the Gorge.

ZooLights, only slightly exaggerated
Portland Region’s Oregon ZooLights makes winter nights magical. (Photo credit: Michael Durham / Oregon Zoo)


This enduring holiday tradition at the Oregon Zoo in Portland kicks off Nov. 21, 2018 and runs through January 5, 2019. ZooLights ticket holders wander at their own pace throughout the 64-acre zoo, where 1.5 million twinkling lights are strung in the shapes of animals. An old-fashioned train ride, carousel, snacks and hot beverages round out the festivities. Make sure to take public transit to avoid the parking hassle and receive $5 off your ZooLights admission. Also, you can use it to easily zip downtown in 10 minutes for more lights and festivities as well as stellar restaurants and shopping. From holiday tea to seasonal musical performances, we’ve got lots of inspired Portland holiday traditions for you.

Love these magical winter scenes as much as we do?

Pick up a poster while they last at select Oregon visitor centers and special events.

Download the digital wallpaper for free on your phone or computer background

Enter to win an Oregon Wine Escape to the Willamette Valley in the misty days of winter

Visit the Oregon Mural Trail in person — find them in Roseburg, The Dalles, Prineville, Oakridge, Ontario and other towns.

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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