Did you know that in Salem, you can tour the state capitol, sip craft beer, see waterfalls, go mountain biking, paddle in the river and catch a concert all in one day? It’s true. Oregon’s law-making hub, 45 minutes south of Portland, is a also hidden hot spot for outdoor recreation, history, culture and artisanal food and drink.
Here are five spectacular ways to explore Salem this summer:
Sip beer and cider
Pace yourself as you explore the dozen breweries and cideries along the brand-new Salem Ale & Cider Trail, in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Collect a stamp in your passport at each spot and redeem it for a free pint glass when you’re done. Most of the 12 locations are around the bustling city core, so it’s easy to get around by foot or bike. Taste the wide range of sessions, porters, IPAs and everything in between at Salem Ale Works, Gilgamesh Brewing, Santiam Brewing and Vagabond Brewing; and the refreshingly crisp libations from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Anthem Cider and 1859 Cider Co. Or venture about 20 minutes south to the trail’s Rogue Farms Chatoe Tasting Room in Independence, where you can see how their hops and orchard fruit are grown on the estate.
Race from river to ridge
You’ll truly get to appreciate the beauty of the Willamette Valley as a participant or spectator to the city’s inaugural River 2 Ridge relay race, Sept. 16, 2018. Based on the popular Sea to Summit event in Japan, River 2 Ridge will have you paddling 6.2 miles down the Willamette River, biking 47.8 miles of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway and hiking a 5.8-mile loop around Silver Falls State Park as a team or on your own. Whether you participate or not, check out the free environmental symposium, the day before the event, Sept. 16, at Salem’s scenic Riverfront Park. Grab a photo opp at the park’s super-cool centerpiece, a huge tiled globe called “Eco Earth,” created by local students to reflect the world’s diversity on land and water.
Hit a new trail and see waterfalls
Even if you’ve been to Silver Falls State Park (25 miles east of Salem), you haven’t seen it like this. You can now mountain bike, hike or run along the new 3.7-mile Catamount Trail, a community-built addition that winds through the forest and creeks in the park’s remote backcountry, with enough features for experienced mountain bikers but not too difficult for the average rider. You can also cruise through the park along a few miles of mostly paved path. Don’t forget to pack a picnic — there are plenty of shady spots along the creek, nearby the historic Silver Falls Lodge, to soak up the vibe.
Stroll through the city’s natural space
Back in the city, there’s more to explore. The new soaring Peter Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge connects downtown Salem to the 1,200 acres of lush natural space at Minto-Brown Island Park, the city’s largest park. Bring the family and the pups — this park boasts a playground, picnic tables, fishing area and a 30-acre off-leash dog area, as well as nine loops (2 miles to 10 kilometers) for exploration. Don’t forget the binoculars — the observation platforms along the slough provide excellent bird watching as blue herons and osprey fly overhead.
Explore historic sites by bike
In a bike-friendly town like Salem, it’s easy to take in the top historical and cultural sites on two wheels along the 3-mile Historic Downtown Salem Cycling Route. Pop into the Oregon State Capitol for a tour; admire the classic and contemporary works by local artists at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art; catch a concert at the historic Elsinore Theatre or a family musical at the Grand Theatre; and spend the afternoon exploring local boutiques at the Reed Opera House, where the Salem Art Walk happens every last Friday of the month. And don’t forget to honor those who’ve served at the World War II Memorial, a nonprofit center a block from the Capitol. The center is working to make Oregon the first state in the nation to gather stories and biographies from each of its 152,000 World War II veterans.
Photo credits: 1859 Cider Co. by SLF / Travel Salem; Riverfront Park by River 2 Ridge Relay; South Falls at Silver Falls State Park by Caleb Wallace / WVVA; Peter Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge by Travel Salem; Oregon State Capitol by Kenji Sugahara