While Portlandia keeps it weird and manages to steal the spotlight often when it comes to Oregon, the Beaver State has so much to offer. Our Flightie Jose Rivera went on a six-day road trip through Oregon, discovered hidden gems, and ticked items off his bucket list. Jose shares the highlights:
Like most people, my first experience with Oregon consisted of a short weekend trip to Portland. It was during this visit that my love for craft beer, food trucks and nature reached new levels. Every time I come back to Oregon, I would discover coastal towns like Cannon Beach, Astoria, and Seaside that led me to believe that there was more to this state than its most popular city. It became evident that these towns were only the tip of the iceberg of things to discover as I set out for an amazing 6-day journey throughout the Beaver State, thanks to the fine folks at Travel Oregon. It was on this journey that I had the extreme fortune of seeing all 7 wonders of Oregon including a bucket list item of mine: the Painted Hills. Upon my arrival at the airport, I was greeted and taken to the car rental lot to pick up my car which was fully loaded with GPS, a selfie stick, snacks, an itinerary, a water bottle, backpack, and a rain jacket.
The Columbia River Gorge
If you find yourself without enough time to see all the wonders, the Columbia River Gorge is your best bet as it’s only a short drive from Portland. Go to Crown Point for breathtaking views of the mighty Columbia River as it winds through the Gorge. Travel through the Historic Columbia River Highway where you can discover Multnomah Falls along with dozens of other scenic waterfalls in the area. In Hood River, windsurfing, kiteboarding, parasailing and many other wind-dependant sport are prevalent. If wind sports aren’t your thing, there are other ways to indulge your other senses – such as your taste buds. Here you can enjoy craft beer, delicious hand-crafted ice cream and a 64km stretch of wineries where you can sample pinot noirs, chardonnays, tempranillos, and syrahs. Need I say more?
The Oregon Coast
Stretching approximately 363 miles (or 584 km for us Canadians), the Oregon Coast is home to the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway which lives up to its name. The byway begins in Astoria, a city famous for being the setting of memorable movies like The Goonies, Short Circuit, Kindergarten Cop, and Free Willy. The byway concludes in Brookings, a region known for its temperate “banana belt” climate. It’s along this coast that you will find an abundance of parks, charming towns, friendly people, great seafood, and surreal sunsets. Oh, the sunsets!
Located in south-central Oregon, this caldera lake is the centrepiece of Crater Lake National Park and is known for its crystal clear water that is deep blue in colour. The lake was formed about 7,700 years ago when the Mount Mazama volcano collapsed due to a violent eruption. And from its violent past, something beautiful was created, something worthy enough to be named one of the state’s seven wonders. Here you can hike in the old-growth forest, cross-country ski during the winter or simply admire how pristine the lake really is. Make sure to check the latest conditions when planning a visit as some of the facilities and roads are closed during certain times of the year.
Smith Rocks enjoys 300 days of sun a year and is nestled in an outdoor enthusiast’s playground that is Central Oregon. Here, you have three different options for climbing: sport climbing, traditional climbing, and bouldering. If climbing isn’t your thing, you can hike, mountain bike, or look out for golden eagles as they soar over this magnificent structure. You could also enjoy golfing, caving, paddle boarding, or kayaking on the Deschutes River or skiing on Mt. Bachelor – all of which are all nearby.
The Painted Hills
Stratification (strætɪfɪˈkeɪʃən): the arrangement of sedimentary rocks in distinct layers (strata), each layer representing the sediment deposited over a specific period.
If you ever have the fortune to visit the Painted Hills, you will notice layers of gold, red, yellow, green, and black that reveal the millions of years of history embedded within them. Make your way to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Wheeler County and aim to be there around late afternoon for the best photo ops. The tones and hues seem to vary due to constant light and moisture level changes which make each visit unique. While here, make sure you visit the other two units in John Day: Clarno Unit and Sheep Rock Unit. Clarno is the westernmost unit and has Mars-like pillars that were formed by volcanic mudflows and ancient waterfalls. The third and easternmost unit, Sheep Rock, is home to the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center which was built in 2003. Here you can see fossils that were found in the area that belongs to the early cousins of elephants and camels as well as rhinoceroses and sabretooth tigers.
Home to the Timberline Lodge, which is one of the few year-round ski lodges in the world, Mt. Hood also boasts five other ski areas, giving skiers and snowboarders plenty of options. Surrounded by 11 glaciers, Mt. Hood’s snowy peak is easy to spot from a great distance. While in the area, be sure to spend some time at one of the alpine lakes that include Lost, Mirror, and Trillium Lake. A drive through the “Fruit Loop” which is located between Hood River and Mt. Hood is a must during the spring and summer months. Here you will find fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, pies, jams, syrups, ciders and smoothies. Do yourself a favour and stop by at the Apple Valley Country Store and have one of their huckleberry smoothies. Your taste buds will thank you later.
Unfortunately my co-pilot and I only just managed to see them from afar as we made our way from John Day to Pendleton but if you like to travel in anything but car, the Wallowas is the place for you. Located in northeastern Oregon in a land that has hardly changed since the days of the Oregon Trail pioneers, here you will find avid hikers, horseback riders, and bikers who spend their days reaching alpine summits where you can see the high desert on one side and Hells Canyon on the other. If you’d rather be stationary, Wallowa Lake offers cabins and camping grounds with mini-golf options nearby, making it a perfect getaway for you and your family.
In all, we travelled over 2,500 kms and experienced almost every type of weather and terrain. One thing stayed the same however, Oregon has some of the nicest and most hospitable people on Earth and that’s not an exaggeration. There’s something very special about this state and I’ll be forever thankful for the opportunity to experience it with two dozen participants from eight countries around the world. I think it’s safe to say that Oregon is my spirit animal.