Did you know America’s deepest river gorge (yes, even deeper than the Grand Canyon) winds through Eastern Oregon? It’s long been dubbed Hells Canyon, where the Snake River cuts through rock for breathtaking scenery and knockout white water rafting. There’s lots to do on dry land too, including wilderness trail hikes and a great road trip. Follow the Hells Canyon All American Road from river's edge to mountaintop for a glimpse of elk, bear and bighorn sheep among the region’s colorful and rugged basalt cliffs. In Southern Oregon, The Rogue River offers countless opportunities to get your feet wet – by canoe, jet boat or raft, or even in hip waders with a fishing pole in hand. A favorite hangout for governors and pro fishers alike, the region boasts some of the best fly fishing guides in the country.
Killer waves? Yep. Public beaches? Got those, too – 363 miles worth. Surfing in Oregon rivals some of the best locations in the world. Of course, the water is a few degrees cooler, so bring a wetsuit. Surf spots dot the entire coastline, and one popular place is Oswald West State Park, just south of Cannon Beach. Backed by rugged, forested cliffs, the park provides gentle swells for beginners and pros alike.
For a more intense experience, the world’s top surfers have just 48 hours’ notice to descend on Lincoln City for the annual Nelscott Reef Tow-In Classic, one of only two professional tow-in surfing contests in the world. The large swells off Lincoln City result from the first winter storms reaching the Oregon Coast while a dominant high pressure system remains over the Northwest. Translation? Giant waves, some reaching a staggering 40 feet.
World’s Windsurfing Capitol
On a typical breezy day near Hood River, hundreds of colorful sails dance across the Columbia River as windsurfers and kite boarders ride the famous Columbia River Gorge winds. The conditions are so good, this area of the Gorge has earned a reputation as the windsurfing capitol of the world, attracting professionals from around the globe. First timers are welcomed too, and local shops will arrange for lessons. Nearby Hood River is a vibrant community nestled in a fertile valley known for its bountiful fruit harvest. It offers friendly inns, good eats and an engaging, ecologically minded business district.
Smith Rock in Central Oregon challenges all who come to conquer its sheer walls, cliffs and crags up to 700 feet tall. The peak lures rock climbers from around the globe with more than 1,400 climbing routes. Fall is one of the best times to climb, when weather is still dry and rocks are cooler than during the longer sunny summer days. Those who aren't "craggers" can hike or bike on the park's numerous trails, scout for birds and local wildlife, or eat a picnic lunch as they view the action on the walls above the Crooked River. The river flows through the 641-acre park. North of Redmond, cutting a 300-foot deep crevice through 10-million year old basalt flows to form the Crooked River Gorge, a hotspot for fly fishing, rafting and kayaking.
Putt and Pedal
- Tee Time
Play through spectacular stretches of sand dunes high above the Pacific Ocean or tee off in the heart of wine country. Oregon offers world-class golf courses built by some of the industry’s best known architects. Perhaps the epitome of Oregon golfing is Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, a place where all the essential elements converge to create a spectacular golf experience. Located on Oregon’s rugged south coast, the resort is one of the few American golf retreats that can truly lay claim to the legacy of Scotland’s ancient links. Golfers have their choice of three distinct courses perched high above the Pacific Ocean, each remarkably different in character and shot-making requirements. Or, near Oregon’s central coast, enjoy a challenging 18-hole, par-72 golf course also built in the Scottish tradition: Salishan Spa and Golf Resort. Golf Digest recently ranked Central Oregon as 23rd in the top 50 best golf destinations in the world, with 25 local golf courses to suit your fancy. Overall, there are more than 150 golf courses dotted throughout the state. Visit www.traveloregon.com/golf for a complete list of courses and resorts.
- Pedal Power
Not only has Portland been rated the number-one biking city in the nation, according to Bicycling magazine, but Oregon’s back roads, miles of trails, intimate inns and dining options make the state ideal for a road trip on two wheels. We’ve got everything from easy rides at sea level to exhausting assaults on 10,000-foot peaks. One popular option is the Oregon Coast’s Three Capes scenic route near Tillamook, a 40-mile section that takes bikers through old growth forests, expansive dunes and panoramic vistas. Or, join Eola Hills Wine Cellars every Sunday in August for the “Bike Oregon Wine Country” tour through the Willamette Valley, with loops ranging from 45 to 70 miles.
- Cycle Oregon
Often described as “the best bike ride in America,” takes riders across roughly 500 miles of Oregon’s diverse landscape in seven days. Serious cyclers and adventure lovers wind through bucolic backroads, climb narrow mountain passes and sail along the coastline on a journey from the coastal community of Astoria to Ashland in Southern Oregon. You do the pedaling, they take care of everything else.
Snow lovers will find some of the most pristine powder in the nation, with 12 commercial downhill ski areas and 400 trails in three mountain ranges. As Oregon’s largest snow area, Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon has one of the longest winter seasons for downhill skiing and snowboarding in North America, and was ranked as the best lift system by readers of Ski magazine. Groomed cross-country trails, dog sled rides, ice skating, sleigh rides, a half-pipe and a full snowboard park are also part of Mt. Bachelor's ski resort. Regulars include a handful of past U.S. and Canadian Olympians.
Just a short drive from Portland, Mt. Hood features three unique ski areas, multiple tubing parks and the historic Timberline Lodge for post-ski retreat. Renowned for its year-round snow, Mt. Hood’s terrain park serves as a training ground to some of the best snowboarders in the world. The recreational area also features a variety of trails for cross country skiing and snow shoeing.
Who needs room service when you can pitch a tent and roast marshmallows at more than 350 well-groomed or rustically maintained campgrounds, nestled in 13 national forests and more than 200 state parks? Camping is a great way to see and experience the beauty of Oregon.
For a more pampered campsite adventure year-round, yurts (circular, domed tents) provide a deluxe experience. From the coast to mountain lakes, 18 Oregon state parks offer these rotund, cozy structures. Near the coastal community of Winchester Bay on the coast, the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park has six deluxe yurts within feet of 500-foot-tall sand dunes. Each yurt sleeps up to seven people and has a kitchen, a bathroom with hot water, a TV and covered decks with private grills.
Another alternative for a unique overnight visit is the Out 'n' About Treehouse resort in Cave Junction, which offers Swiss Family Robinson-style lodging – literally up in the trees! Suites include amenities like kitchenettes, claw-foot bathtubs and heat. Or, rent a teepee at Clyde Holliday State Park near the pristine John Day River or at Lake Owyhee State Park in Eastern Oregon, both perfect for rockhounds, hikers and wildlife observers.
Visit www.traveloregon.com for a complete listing of campsites across the state.
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Oregon is a birder’s nirvana, with its coast, mountains, desert and swamps and all the species that occupy them. Eastern Oregon’s lakes, rivers and marshes attract frequent fliers to viewpoints including songbirds at the Bird Track Springs Nature Trail and bald eagles at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area. Near Portland, the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area boasts an astounding number of ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and tundra swans. The Klamath Forest National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Oregon is a vast refuge habitat for thousands of birds, ducks, geese, pelicans, herons and eagles. Or, spy on more than 1,000 majestic bald eagles in the nearby Bear Valley Refuge – the largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in the U.S.
Besides 363 miles of pristine public beaches, high-desert country, painted hills and wine-producing valleys, Oregon is home to North America’s deepest river gorge (Hells Canyon), the country's deepest lake (Crater Lake) and the world’s second-most-climbed mountain (Mt. Hood), which also happens to host North America’s only year-round ski season. So giddy up…you’ve got some exploring to do! Here are a few good places to start.
- Visit Cannon Beach to see the majestic Haystack Rock, one of the most recognizable Oregon Coast landmarks and home to thousands of tufted puffins, gulls and cormorants. Pick a spot on the cliffs to observe their flight, photograph the view, set up an easel, or just let the rhythm of crashing waves inspire your imagination.
- In Southern Oregon, visit Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,932 feet, and be astounded by the intense blue color and incredible clarity, an effect of the water's depth and purity. During the summer, drive around the rim of the caldera (formed from an intense volcanic eruption), enjoy boat tours across the lake and hike up trails for breathtaking views.
- The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the richest fossil bed sites in the world, containing 14,000 acres of preserved plant and animal fossils from 40 million years ago. Visit the Paleontology Center to join a guided tour of the diverse geological landscape.
- Take the kids to some of the best tidepools at Cape Arago State Park, about 15 miles south of Coos Bay. Spy on the families of seals and sea lions at Shell Island and go beachcombing for shells and agate.
- Walk alongside the world's largest obsidian flow, trek through the Lava Cast Forest, venture into the Lava River Cave, climb to the top of Lava Butte to examine the region's ancient volcanic features, and visit the Lava Lands Visitor Center – all part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument near Bend.