As you may have gathered, I tend to take the path of the lesser trodden. I am not into bagging countries/ towns/ locations, just to say "I've been there". I believe in chatting with locals, learning some of the language, and taking time to smell the roses. The destination is not necessarily the goal, but instead the adventure of getting there. You also may know that I am a Northwest USA gal. Growing up amongst the Douglas Firs, glacier fed streams, mighty Pacific Ocean and a myriad of mountain peaks. An area I know well, yet never grow tired of. Recently Sunset Magazine published a story about exploring the Oregon Coast. It is a great read, and something for which I could spend a week or two or three, discovering time and time again. In fact, I just spent a few weeks driving much of Highway 101 , you can find my story here.
BUT there is so much more to the Oregon than just the coast line. Today I am going to share yet another handful of amazing hotspots, some can take 24-48 hours, others need a minimum of a week and a 4-wd, tent, hiking shoes with an ounce of adventure. You can enjoy them all together, add them to other road trips or as mini holidays, as none are very far from the rest. Such is the geography of the wonder filled Pacific Northwest.
Once you have completed your Ocean drive, head East. I am going to suggest cutting over in Woodland, Washington, after moving off the Pacific in Astoria. This lovely drive takes you along the edge of Mount Saint Helens, along massive reservoirs of water and endless places to hike and camp. Keep your eyes open for bald eagles, deer, elk, black bears and foxes. With oodles of photo ops, you can easily spend a day between Woodland and Stevenson, or take many, camping is your best option. You will end this portion of the trip on the mighty Columbia River, suggested crossing; Bridge of the Gods ( toll bridge) taking you into Cascade Locks, Oregon. Hood River is just a handful of miles East, and this is definitely a place to hang out for a few days. With great coffee houses, a laid back lifestyle, breweries on every corner and a huge wake boarding/ kite surfing community which can easily entertain you for hours. Affectionately referred to as "the Gorge" the entire area along the Columbia River is stunning in its views and bucolic small towns, on both the Washington and Oregon sides. Get a bed and breakfast and spend a few days hanging out with the locals. Driving East affords another handful of incredible locations, but we will keep that to another post. Once your Hood River stay is complete, follow Highway 84 West, also known as the Hood River Highway, for about 15 miles and then take the exit for the stunning, Waterfall Highway.
Multnomah Falls may be the most famous, but this tiny two lane road heads past a plethora of waterfalls, many of which have trails to hike up or down, getting great views and a workout. Even without the many vertical drops of water, this is still an incredible road, which gives ample locations to view the mighty Columbia River from a number of great vantage points. By all means, you are less than an hour from Portland, which will have to be yet another posting, because you can easily spend a week exploring this foodie town. For now, head onto i-5 heading South. Your goal is Eugene, which will be about a two -hour drive. Just past the home of the Oregon Ducks, turn off onto state highway 58 heading East... ( alternately turn off in Springfield taking 126 East towards Bend, another fabulous way to explore the Sisters Region of the Southern Cascade Mountain Range).
More vast swaths of evergreens, mountain lakes, streams and hiking trails; load up the cooler before getting off of Interstate 5, so that random camping spots can easily be decided upon. Odell Lake, Crescent Lake, Davis Lake....all drop dead gorgeous. As you head over Willamette Pass, the evergreens will slim out and become sparse, pines replacing firs. Summer temperatures will become a bit hotter and evenings will be a bit cooler. There is a great lodge with rustic cabins on Odell Lake, though I have not spent the night there, it can be a reprieve in camping, if you are looking to upgrade from tent life. You are not far now from the worlds most famous caldera, and deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake. This National Park is simply breathtaking and can easily take up any number of days hiking and instagrammable moments. As I drove to Crater Lake during the latter part of June this year, it was easily over 95 degrees during most of my trip over the Cascades...yet, this National Park was still filled with snow. Be prepared for any type of weather, when traveling the mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest. There are a handful of campgrounds, which normally need advanced reservations, there is also a Lodge overlooking the lake. This jewel of the Northwest is such an immense shade of indigo you can get lost in it's beauty summer or winter.
Heading out of Crater Lake, again taking the path least traveled, continue South East, highway 62 to 97, heading towards Klamath Falls and Mount Shasta. Ending your tour of Southern Oregon and placing you into California. With a number of farming towns dotting the high alpine forests, there are a number of bucolic bed and breakfasts to enjoy, or easily continue with the camping tradition. From Mount Shasta and the adorable town of Weed, you can head back North on i-5 to Portland or South towards San Francisco as you are just about halfway between the two cities. Essentially doing a loop if you started with the Oregon Coastal drive. You can easily do this trip from Portland and take 3-7 days or more, adding on the Highway 101 or returning through Eastern Oregon, which has another grand level of beautiful natural sights to explore by yourself, with your dog or a faithful companion. Have fun!