Blessed By Nature - From Towering Mountains To Lush Vineyards, Oregon Is Indeed A Special Place
Credit: Shutterstock/Z Schnepf
Sure there is the rugged coastline; the endless forests, huge mountains, boiling rivers and breath-taking scenery that attracts visitors to Oregon. But nature has blessed the state with so much more than physical beauty. You can eat your way around the state and feast on artisan foods, micro brews, fine wines and the freshest of seafood and produce. Then burn off all those calories with adrenaline-pumping watersports and mountain sports or take it slow and hike or bike miles and miles of trails. At the end of the day, settle down in a snug B&B or cozy inn and enjoy the luxuries of life like feather beds and down comforters.
Credit: Washington County VA
Fall is the best time to take a culinary tour of the state. Every October and November, hoteliers, chefs, winemakers and brewers and farmers open their doors, vineyards and fields with personal behind-the-scenes travel packages. (Visit TravelOregon.com/Bounty)
And Portland, among the hottest foodie towns in the US, is the place to start. On Saturdays join locals at the Portland Farmer’s Market, a great sport for breakfast among the fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, fish and meats. Or study with the pros at any of the city’s popular cooking classes. From here drive the Hood River Fruit Loop, which showcases the season’s colours, along with local produce like winter pear, apples and wine.
Thirsty? There are more than 700 vineyards in the state producing first-class Pinot noir, plus a variety of other appellations. Find wineries, their varietals and amenities at the Oregon Wine Explorer Web site (explorer.oregonwine.org). Or sample one of the state’s many craft brews; Oregon has more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the US.
Credit: Travel Oregon
Oregon is home to the adventurecation – white-knuckle downtime that gets the heart racing. White-water rafting (Snake and Rogue rivers), jet boating (Rogue River), surfing (Oswald West State Park, Lincoln City), wind-surfing, kite boarding (Columbia River Gorge), and kayaking (Crooked River Gorge), top the water adventures. On land, Smith Rock in Central Oregon challenges all to conquer its sheer walls, cliffs and crags, and mountain bikers hit the trails all over the state. Or hit the road on Oregon Coast’s Three Capes scenic route, a 64-kilometre route through old growth forests, expansive dunes and panoramic vistas. In winter, snow lovers find some of the most pristine powder in the US, at 12 commercial downhill ski areas and 400 trails in three mountain ranges, including Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon and Mt. Hood near Portland.
At a more sedate pace, birders flock to Oregon to spot song birds, bald eagles, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, pelicans, herons and tundra swans.
And then there is the golf. Golf Digest recently ranked Central Oregon as 23rd in the top 50 best golf destinations in the world. Overall, there are more than 150 golf courses dotted throughout the state. Visit www.traveloregon.com/golf
The state’s history goes back a lot further than you think. Learn about Native American traditions at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute in Eastern Oregon, where exhibits chronicle 10,000 years of Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla culture.
Explorers Lewis and Clark left their mark, quite literally, on the state. The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail stretches from the Umatilla Tribes’ homelands in the Pendleton area, to Fort Clatsop on the Oregon Coast, and there are six major interpretive facilities dedicated to telling their story throughout Oregon.
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City explains life along the pioneering route and the End Of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City tells the story of the new lives settlers created in Oregon.
You can get a taste of the Old West at the ultimate rodeo: the Pendleton Round-Up, one of the oldest and most prestigious rodeos in the world. Held every September, the round-up boasts an old-fashioned rodeo, horseback and bull riding, cowboy breakfasts, dances, art shows and country music. Want to ride yourself? Book into a working cattle ranch for the real deal; or a classic “dude ranch” to experience good food and a healthy helping of horseback riding.
Along with a reputation as a foodie’s slice of heaven and a beer-lover’s nirvana, Portland has earned accolades for it’s green spaces and initiatives. More than half the city’s power comes from renewable sources and over a quarter of its workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation.
Speaking of public transit, hop on the Max light rail train for a trip to Washington Park. Start at the deepest subway station on the continent (Pioneer Courthouse Square) and rise to the Park and the Oregon Zoo; the Hoyt Arboretum; the World Forestry Center (an interactive museum of Oregon's logging heritage), and the Portland Children’s Museum. The Portland International Rose Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden are just a short shuttle ride away.
Staying with green power, take a biking or walking tour. Portland is an extremely walkable city and Portland Walking Tours’ Best of Portland Tour provides a detailed overview of downtown Portland including Oregon history, local culture and Portland architecture. Pedal Bike Tours also offers a history tour of downtown from one of their rental bikes.
Walking, biking, taking transit, shoppers love Portland. Oregon is a tax-free state, so bargains here are really bargains. Popular areas include Pioneer Courthouse Square, downtown; Northwest 23rd Street; and large malls like Lloyd Center and Clackamas Town Center. Book-lovers head to Powell’s, the world’s largest independent bookstore with more than one million books, while foodies head to the market. Some of the best: Saturday Farmers Market at Portland State University; Monday Farmers Market at Pioneer Courthouse Square; and the Wednesday Farmers Market on the South Park Blocks at Salmon Street.
At the end of the day, relax over a pint at one of the city’s 40 breweries. Known for making bitingly bitter Indian Pale Ales and other hop-heavy brews, the latest trend with Portland brewmasters is barrel-aged sour beers similar to the Belgian Style, using whiskey barrels or Pinot barrels from local vintners and distillers.
When you do hop in the car, head out on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, an 80-kilometre drive through the lush Tualatin Valley in Washington County. The route showcases local wineries, farms (some with stands offering seasonal fresh produce and/or u-pick), historic sites, wildlife refuges and scenic viewpoints, including the iconic Mt. Hood. Other county attractions include birding at local wetlands and preserves; zipping through the air at Tree to Tree Adventure Park and great golf on public and semi-private courses.
From Portland, head southeast to Central Oregon. Nearly 300 days of sunshine every year guarantee a full slate of outdoor adventure. Bend is the largest city and the main hub for local exploration.
Golf in the region is spectacular, and the Central Oregon Golf Trail boasts 30 courses, many with a championship rating, and architects like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, David McLay Kidd and Tom Doak. The Pacific Amateur Golf Classic, one of the premier amateur events in the US, is held on several area courses every October.
Adrenaline junkies get the juices flowing on whitewater rafting trips, rock climbing walls and awesome mountain biking trails. As for mountains, Mt Bachelor, near Bend and Sunriver, is the sixth largest ski and summer resort in North America. In fact, Bend and the entire region offer some of the best mountain biking and cycling terrain – both high desert and mountain – around.
Indoors you can check out local history, both human and geographic at the High Desert Museum in Bend. Or at the Des Chutes Historical Museum housed in a 1914 schoolhouse. You can also explore Native America culture at The Museum at Warm Springs and Cowboy Culture at the Bowman Museum in Prineville.
One of the best ways to see the beauty of Central Oregon is to drive one of several Scenic Byways. The McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway offers spectacular views of waterfalls and the Cascade Mountains. The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway offers access to Mt. Bachelor along with a dozen alpine lakes. Some of the most stunning views are at the top of Paulina Peak in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
Speaking of trails, at the end of the day you can follow the Bend Ale Trail to eight craft breweries, or sample local delights at an amazing variety of restaurants. In fact, people take their food so seriously here there are more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the state – even Portland.
Heading south along Highway 97 from Bend, you travel through Klamath County in Southern Oregon’s High Country. A land of lovely lakes, wild rivers and high desert, the area is home to Crater Lake National Park, the only National Park in Oregon. Klamath Falls is the gateway to the Park. It is also the jumping off point for world-class fly fishing, canoeing and birding watching. Head to Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, it’s actually five refuges in one.
But the real draw is Crater Lake. The deepest lake in North America, it is famous for its clarity and intense blue colour. Drive the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway All-American Road for a grand view of the area’s inspiring beauty.
From Klamath, circle west and head to The Valley. Highway 66 follows an old stage coach trail and heads straight to Ashland, home of the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Fine dining, museums, parks and Mt. Ashland Ski Area also deserve attention.
Highway 140 travels to Medford, Jacksonville and on to Grants Pass. Medford is the commercial hub of Southern Oregon and home to award-winning wineries, artisan cheeses and specialty chocolatiers, along with fine dining options in the OldTown District. The historic gold rush town of Jacksonville is a National Historic landmark where history comes to life in museums and antique shops. In Grant’s Pass you can embark on fishing, rafting and jet-boating adventures on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River that runs right through the centre of town.
From Klamath Falls you can also head back up Highway 97 and the turn-off to Highway 138. You won’t be disappointed. Highway 138 is called the “Highway of Waterfalls” and heads right to Roseburg in the heart of the “Land of Umpqua. The Umpqua is Oregon’s oldest wine rowing region and there are more than 20 wineries to visit.
From Roseburg, and from Grants Pass, head over to the South Coast and its spectacular beaches.
From the South Coast, it is an easy, and very scenic drive north on Highway 101 along Oregon’s stunning coast. Wide beaches, thundering surf, unique towns and a full calendar of festivals are all highlights of this route back to Portland.
For more information on Oregon, visit www.traveloregon.com