The idea of going to Oregon had been floating around for a while. My husband visited as a child and absolutely loved it. Since then, he had been adamant about going back, and we finally decided to go last September. With the state being so big and such a short amount of time available, we decided to focus on the northern part of Oregon. We knew we wanted more nature than city – and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Here is how our adventure went…
Day 1: Columbia River Gorge – Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike (attempt)
We caught an early flight to Portland, the closest airport to the Columbia River Gorge, so that we could be on the
road by early afternoon and have the whole day to explore. In the interest of saving some dough on this trip, we had decided to camp most evenings and needed supplies. So our first stop was naturally the grocery store. After grabbing a few essentials (and hitting the olive bar at Safeway), we headed straight for the gorge. I’d already decided what hikes I wanted to do – there are a lot, so planning ahead is a good idea – and had mapped out directions. Our hike was to start out by a famous waterfall called “Multnomah Falls.” And being that this was a Saturday, the crowds were intense around it. Everywhere you walked, you seemed to be accidentally walking into someone’s camera shot. I snapped a few pictures and moved on (I’m not really a crowd person). We followed the paved path up the mountain, where some people were “hiking” while smoking cigarettes or in flip flops. (PLEASE don’t hike in flip flops.) But after the first mile, it started to split off in many different directions and turn into real, less crowded nature trails. And this is pretty much where we got lost.
I was trying to get to Fairy Falls, a whimsical looking, moss covered fall that looked absolutely amazing on websites I’d seen. Unfortunately (in my personal opinion), the trail system out there is confusing with few maps or markers. So we jetted down a numbered trail that we thought was supposed to connect us to our attraction. After seven miles, we ended up finishing a trail aptly called “Perdition Trail” that was unmaintained, overgrown, and probably closed about ten years ago (complete with a washed out trail staircase that must have fell victim to a powerful landslide). But let
me tell you – the views of the gorge on this trail were absolutely stunning! And there was not another soul in sight for its entire length. After this hike, I was a little bummed that I never got to Fairy Falls. So we wandered around for a bit, went back to where we started, and finally found our trail. It was evening (so hardly any people were around) and seeing these falls was heavenly. In the end, after 10 miles, everything we saw that day was all so worth the adventure, and we slept well that night.
Moral of the story: Go into these hikes with an open mind and an entire afternoon. You can get lost (in a good way) here and see things regular tourists don’t even know exist.
Day 2: Columbia River Gorge – Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls (and the Vertigo Mile)
We started early, like we always do for long hikes. We were hiking 14 miles this day to see a waterfall called Tunnel Falls (named as such because the trail actually goes under the 130 foot high fall). You’ll pay to park, then head on down the wide trail path of Eagle Creek.
Let me start off by saying, the trails at Eagle Creek are amazing! The views are stunning, the moss and overgrowth make you feel like you are in a fairytale, and the trees are ridiculously huge. If you are heading to Tunnel Falls, you will pass five other waterfalls along the way and a narrow edge drop-off portion of the trail where you can use cables for support. You also pass unique features (such as the “pot holes,” which are large lens shaped rocks) that will make you wonder how they were formed. There isn’t really much of an incline – just the distance that makes it a harder hike. And if you can manage the 6.5 mile one-way hike to Tunnel Falls, I assure you it is definitely worth it. The beauty is astounding, and I wanted to sit there forever and just watch it.
We kept hiking about a half mile passed the falls to experience the famed “Vertigo Mile.” While it was a cool experience (and worth doing if you are already at Tunnel Falls), I didn’t really get what the hype was with this part of the trail. However, my opinion might have been skewed by the fact that I had just seen an incredibly epic site (the most amazing waterfall I’ve ever seen to date) and because, for whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to get a good picture of the mile. Regardless, you will get to see another uniquely formed waterfall called “Twister Falls” before heading back the way you came.
After returning from our long journey, we decided some beers were definitely in order! So we headed north, across the border, to a Washington brew house called “Walking Man Brewery.” The place was an even mix of hippie and hipster, but the beer was absolutely delicious. And the staff was really helpful. We decided to go with a beer flight before heading west toward the ocean to camp for the night.
Moral of the story: Hike to Tunnel Falls. The 13-14 miles are worth seeing this beautiful site, and you can grab some great local brews after to reward yourself.
Day 3: West Coast (Fort Stevens Park, Cannon Beach, and Arch Cape)
After all the hiking from the two days before, we decided we wanted to explore the Oregon coast. Now, I cannot begin to describe to you how amazing these beaches were. Each is unique in its own way. We drove from beach to beach that day, just walking the shore and looking at wildlife.
Fort Stevens Park – We stopped here in the morning, as it was close to where we had stayed the night before.
It was foggy, and drizzly, and just perfect for a relaxing morning stroll along the beach. I remember this place as my sand dollar spot because they were everywhere along the shore. We frolicked along looking for live, washed up sand dollars to save and put back into the sea.
Arch Cape – This place was my absolute favorite, and the only word I could possibly use to describe it is: Magical. There were hardly any people here, yet the views were just as beautiful as Cannon Beach. We walked out onto the beach, which at low tide reveals colonies of
sea urchins, clams, and starfish – all clinging to the large rocks jutting out of the sand. I fell in love with the brightly colored starfish that were bigger than my head and the large crabs that would scurry away when you waded through their tide pools. I mean really – go to Arch Cape next time you are in Oregon!
Cannon Beach – You will know this place from The Goonies. Unfortunately, everyone else does too. But still the incredible popularity of this beach does not detract from its beauty. The beach is golden, the water is bright aqua, and the fog-topped mountains in
the distance make it such an amazing spot to visit. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back right now.
We camped at Nehalem Bay State Park that night. They have great campsites right up next to the ocean. However, it is a bit crowded and mostly booked up in the summer/fall. (So plan and book ahead.)
Day 4: Mount Hood (from Timberline Lodge trailhead)
On our last day, we decided it was only right that we visit Mount Hood. Mount Hood is an extinct volcano just
east of Portland. I was expecting rocky terrain and relatively little vegetation. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When we arrived, we parked in the Timberline Lodge parking lot. (The Steven King movie adaption of The Shining was filmed at this lodge. We didn’t look around inside, but just seeing the exterior was a pretty neat experience.) We grabbed our packs and headed out. The trail started out relatively solid, but the wind whipping off the mountain’s glaciers was cold. As we began to walk, I couldn’t help but notice all of the colors around me. Blue skies, purple-ish mountains in the distance, green forests below that, and red Mt. Airy shrubs in front of me. It was beautiful! As we went on, the ground quickly turned to a gray sand. And sand hiking, my
friends, makes for a nice workout. We decided to turn back at a river crossing about 3 miles in, hungry and craving a shower. We drove to Portland and stayed at a hotel that night, enjoying artisan cocktails in the evening (because who makes better artisan anything than hipsters in Portland!!).
Moral of the story: Mount Hood is wonderfully colorful in the fall months, but not like one would think. It’s a beautifully unique place. Beware that many of the trails are volcanic sand though, and plan accordingly.
Overall, Oregon was a huge success, and I wouldn’t change a thing. What is your favorite part of Oregon?