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Nature Reigns Supreme - From Urban Parks, To Wilderness Rivers, Get Outdoors in Oregon & Alaska

Published: May 24, 2011
Tualitin RiverBy Merle Rosenstein

Whether it’s a visit to a vibrant urban centre, a quiet getaway in cottage country, or a canoe or kayak journey in the wilderness, in the Pacific Northwest, travellers can do it all. Bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains on the east, the United States Pacific North West covers Oregon and Washington, and broader definitions include Alaska. With lush forests, towering mountains and volcanoes, raging rivers, and a wide range of animal and plant life, the options for adventure are endless. Here's the best of what nature has to offer in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington County
Oregon’s Washington County is a mix of forests, urban areas, farmland and floodplains, where visitors can bike, hike, or enjoy wine tasting or shopping.

L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, west of downtown Portland, boasts nine kilometres of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Other places to go for a hike are Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park, with nine kilometres of hiking and biking trails, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, with three square kilometres of floodplain in Hillsboro, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for indigenous and migrating birds, waterfowl and mammals, and Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton, with walking trails through forest, prairie and oak woodlands.

Don’t miss Tree to Tree Adventure Park, the Pacific Northwest’s first public aerial skills course, and one of the largest on the West Coast. With 40 tree-top obstacles on four courses, daredevils can try their luck in tunnels, and on wobbly bridges, rope swings, tightropes, climbing walls and balance beams.

Vineyard & Valley Scenic Tour Route

For a more relaxing time, Oregon’s newest driving route, the Vineyard & Valley Scenic Tour Route, an 80-kilometre drive through the lush Tualatin Valley, showcases 17 wineries, several farms, historic sites, wildlife refuges and awe-inspiring views of the Cascade Mountains, including Mt. Hood.
For more information, visit www.visitwashingtoncounty.com

Sea Lion CavesThe Oregon Coast
Oregon boasts 584 kilometres of stunning coastline between Astoria in the north to Brookings on the southern tip. Along the way, the terrain changes from lush evergreen forest to desert dunes, to mountains, to lovely sand beaches. Quaint towns on the Coast cook up great seafood. Other attractions include historic lighthouses, amazing scenic views, stunning state parks, an assortment of galleries and museums, and a world-class aquarium.

Hikers meet their match on the 579-kilometre Oregon Coast Trail, offering some of the most spectacular scenery in the state. Nature lovers won't want to miss the Sea Lion Caves near Florence, recognized as the world's largest. An elevator takes visitors down 12 storeys to hear sea lions barking up a storm.

Mt. Hood National ForestGreater Portland
With more than 200 parks, Portland is a haven for walkers, hikers, and water hounds. Portland lays claim to the largest urban wooded park in the United States, Forest Park, and the world's smallest park, the 60-centimetre Mill Ends Park. For outdoor enthusiasts, a kayaking or canoeing trip around Ross Island, skiing and boarding at Mt. Hood, whitewater rafting on the Clackamas River or hiking in Forest Park are excellent choices. Other hiking destinations are Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and Smith and Bybee Lakes.

Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge
Beginning at Portland and reaching south to the Willamette Valley and east to Mt. Hood, Mt. Hood territory boasts more than 97 kilometres of mountains, 77 waterfalls and a plethora of lakes and streams. Mt. Hood, the highest mountain in Oregon, offers year-round skiing at Timberlane Lodge. With more than 1,900 kilometres of hiking trails, Mt. Hood National Forest scores high points with hikers and mountain bikers. Adrenaline junkies can take their chances at Hood River for an unsurpassed windsurfing and kite boarding experience. And water hounds can go kayaking or rafting on the Sandy River.

Willamette Valley
The flat terrain and mild climate of the Willamette Valley encourages hikers and cyclists to explore the back roads and visit the over 200 wineries. With no shortage of lakes and waterfalls, the Willamette Valley is popular for kayaking and fly fishing. Silver Falls State Park provides visitors with jaw-dropping views of 10 waterfalls. Visitors can also sail Waldo Lake, hike to the summit of Mary's Peak for unbelievable views of the Cascade Range and Ocean, or make their way along the Delta Old Growth Trail and Opal Creek Wilderness Area.

Riverboat DiscoveryFairbanks Alaska
Known as "The Golden Heart of Alaska, Fairbanks, located 415 kilometres north of Anchorage, has a rich gold rush history. Visitors don't have to venture far to find outdoor adventure. Here are three key attractions that make Fairbanks a “must see” destination:

El Dorado Gold Mine. A replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad takes visitors into the original gold fields of the Interior, where miners explain the history of mining in Alaska. Visitors can also tour the mining camp and pan for gold.
Chena River State Recreation Area. In Chena River State Recreation Area, visitors can hike, go rock-climbing, kayaking, fishing or ride a 4-wheeler along a forest trail. The amazing variety of outdoor activities draws more than 150,000 people to the Chena River State Recreation Area every year.
Riverboat Discovery. History buffs will enjoy the three-hour Riverboat Discovery tour on the Chena and Tanana rivers. The highlight of the tour is a visit to a Chena Indian Village complete with spruce log cabins, birch bark canoes and fur pelts. Visitors learn how the Natives survived the harsh winters, and how they tanned and preserved hides. Another high point of the tour is a visit to the home and kennels of the late, four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher.

More information, visit www.explorefairbanks.com

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