It's hard to slap a single characterization onto Oregon's geography and people. Its landscape ranges from rugged coastline and thick evergreen forests to barren, fossil-strewn deserts, volcanoes and glaciers. As for its denizens, you name it – Oregonians run the gamut from pro-logging conservatives to tree-hugging liberals. What they have in common is an independent spirit, a love of the outdoors and a fierce devotion to where they live.
It doesn’t usually take long for visitors to feel a similar devotion. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the spectacle of glittering Crater Lake, the breathtaking colors of the Painted Hills in John Day or the hiking trails through deep forests and over stunning mountain passes? And then there are the towns: you can eat like royalty in hip Portland, see top-notch dramatic productions in Ashland or sample an astounding number of brewpubs in Bend.
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The ancient mountain whose remains now form Crater Lake was known to the the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Band of the Snake as Giiwas, or "sacred place." It earned that name after the region's Indigenous people witnessed a catastrophic volcanic explosion around 7700 years ago, an even that knit itself into their oral histories in such detail that Klamath mythology predicted geological discoveries that weren't made until millennia later. It may be hard to picture now, but Mount Mazama was a roughly 12,000ft volcanic peak that was heavily glaciered and inactive for many thousands of years until it came back to life. When the top of the mountain blew, it scattered ash for hundreds of miles as flows of superheated pumice solidified into massive banks. These eruptions emptied the magma chambers at the heart of the volcano, and the summit cone collapsed to form the caldera. Sparse forests can still be seen growing in pumice and ash in the Pumice Desert, just north of Crater Lake along North Entrance Rd. Further afield, outside the park, beloved attractions like Umpqua Hot Springs hint at the region's ongoing geologic activity. Slowly over time, snowfall and rain contributed to the lake water – and the purity of the sources combined with the lake's great depth (at 1943ft down, it's the deepest lake in the United States) give it that famous hue. Those gloriously blue waters of Crater Lake reflect surrounding mountain peaks like a giant dark-blue mirror, making for spectacular photographs and breathtaking panoramas. Highlights of Crater Lake National Park The park's popular south entrance is open year-round and provides access to Rim Village and Mazama Village, as well as the park headquarters at the Steel Visitors Center. In winter you can only go up to the lake's rim and back down the same way; no other roads are plowed. The north entrance is only open from early June to late October, depending on snowfall. The Rim Drive No matter what else they get into, most visitors cruise the 33-mile loop Rim Drive, which is open from around June to mid-October and offers over 30 viewpoints as it winds around the edge of Crater Lake. A 7-mile side road leads to the Pinnacles, pumice and ash formations carved by erosion into 100ft spires ('hoodoos'). A paved side road on the east side leads to amazing views from Cloudcap Overlook, almost 2000ft above the lake. Without any stops, it takes about an hour to do this drive (but you'll want to stop!). Wizard Island Whether you're just gazing at Wizard Island from the rim of Crater Lake, or visiting it by boat, it's definitely one of the most prominent features of this national park. The island is actually the top of a cinder cone and rises about 755ft above the surface of the lake. On the island you can hang out and swim or hike up to the top of the cone and circle the rim (2.5 miles round-trip). The Fumarole Trail (1.4 miles roundtrip) leads around the coast along cool lava formations. You'll have to reserve in advance to get a boat shuttle here, only available in summer. Tours One of the most popular things to do at Crater Lake is to take the informative, ranger-led, two-hour-long Crater Lake Trolley tours. The old-fashioned, wood-paneled vehicle makes five to seven stops and saves you from having to drive and park, plus you get very insightful narration along the way. Two-hour boat tours are also available and require a fairly strenuous 30- to 40-minute hike down the crater to the dock (then back up again). The two-hour tour ($44 per person) takes you around the lake, or include Wizard Island ($55 per person) for a chance to swim and hike. You can also just take a shuttle to Wizard Island ($28 round-trip). Reserve, as these are popular. Hiking and snowshoeing Crater Lake has over 90 miles of hiking trails, although some higher ones aren't completely clear of snow enough to hike until late July. The trails closer to Crater Lake Lodge and Mazama Village are the busiest but with a little determination and sweat you can lose the crowd to find some spectacular trails and mind-bending views. Wildflowers bloom through the hiking season and the higher the elevation, the later the blooms. In winter, only the southern entrance road to Rim Village is kept plowed to provide access to several Nordic skiing trails. Rentals are unavailable inside the park, so bring skis with you. Only experienced skiers should attempt the dangerous, avalanche-prone loop around Crater Lake, which takes two to three days and requires a backcountry permit from park headquarters. Snowshoes are provided for free ranger-led snowshoe walks in winter. Call ahead for reservations. Mt Scott This strenuous 5 mile round trip hike takes you to an incredible lake vista atop 8929ft Mt Scott, the highest point in Crate Lake National Park. It starts easily, through a meadow then climbs more steeply the higher (and more out of breath) you get. Because of the high elevation you can expect snow around the top of the trail year-round. It's said that this is the only place in the park where you can get the entire lake in a camera frame. This is also a great place to spot Grouse, Clark's Nut Crackers, Steller's Jays and other birds. Garfield Peak From the eastern edge of the Rim Village parking lot, this short but steep 3.4 mile trail leads up 8054ft Garfield Peak to an expansive view of the lake, the Klamath Basin and southern Cascade mountains; in July the slopes are covered with wildflowers. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Crater Lake but even with the crowds, it's worth it. Expect snow at the upper elevations all season long. Be prepared to get winded by the altitude if you're not acclimatized. Watchman Lookout Tower For a steep but shorter 1.4 mile hike, trek up to the Watchman, an old 1932 lookout tower on the opposite side of the lake that boasts one of the park's best views – and definitely the best views of Wizard Island. Wear good shoes to traverse a scree area. Expect a colorful palette of wildflowers from late August into October and snow year-round. It can get windy up here so dress in layers. Castle Crest Wildflower Garden Trail For flower enthusiasts, there's an easy 1-mile nature trail near the Steel Visitors Center that winds through the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden. This trail built in 1929 was one of the first interpretive wildflower trails built in a national park. The path meanders though meadow lined with forest and is dotted with wet meadows with stepping stones and little streams. Surprisingly, it's lightly visited so it's a great place to find some peace and quiet. Do expect mosquitoes. The most flowers bloom early in the season around June. Cleetwood Cove Trail The very popular and steep 2 mile trail at the northern end of the crater provides the only water access at the cove. Bring a swimsuit to take a dip in the lake (this will be with a whole bunch of other people) and waterproof shoes since the bottom here is sharp rock. Geology nerds will also love the chance to see the volcanic rock that makes up the caldera. Boat tours are available from here but reserve in advance. If the parking lot is full, park along the road (although even that might be full). Pinnacles Overlook Trail This short 1.2 mile trail is actually outside the park and gives you a glimpse of some different geology. Follow Pinnacles Rd (off of East Rim Dr) and keep going down Pinnacles Rd (about another 6 miles) until you reach Pinnacles Overlook. The colorful spires you look down on are around 100ft high. The spires are fumaroles, where volcanic gas rose up through hot ash deposits, cementing the ash into solid rock. As a side trip, you can also stop and take the Plaikni Falls Trail to Plaikni Falls (off of Pinnacles Rd) before you reach the Pinnacles Overlook Trailhead. Crater Lake Resort, RV park, and campground Construction began on the grand old Crater Lake Lodge in 1909 and it opened in 1915, but it's been steadily evolving ever since, with regular updates and renovations that haven't diminished it as a stunning example of the classic "parksitecture" style that first welcomed tourists to the country's earliest National Parks. Still, the intense winter weather conditions on the mountain took their toll, and the Lodge was almost razed in the 1970s until the local community rallied to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places. An extensive retrofitting in the early 1990s saved the Lodge, and today it boasts 71 simple but comfortable rooms – don't expect TV or a telephone. It's the common areas that are most impressive – large stone fireplaces, a fine dining room, rustic leather sofas and a spectacular view of Crater Lake from the patio are what make this place really special. Park lodging is closed mid-October to late May, depending on snowfall. Cabins and camping in Mazama Village are another option for lodging. Open approximately mid-June through September or October (depending on the weather), this is the park's main campground. The 40 pleasant cabin rooms (no TV or telephone) are located in attractive four-plex buildings. Mazama Village is 7 miles from Crater Lake, with a small grocery store and gas pump nearby. There are over 200 wooded camp sites, too, with showers and a laundry; Some sites are first come, first served. Whether you're pitching a tent or posting up in a cabin, it's wise to reserve as early as possible. Other than Crater Lake Lodge and Mazama Village, the nearest non-camping accommodations are 20 to 40 miles away. Fort Klamath has several good lodgings. Union Creek, Prospect, Diamond Lake and Lemolo Lake all have nice, woodsy places to stay. In particular, the lodge at Diamond Lake is a classic 1920s alpine lake retreat that's a little worn around the edges but still hints at century-old glam. There's lots of accommodations in Medford, Roseburg and Klamath Falls, too. Visiting Crate r Lake Most people visit Crater Lake by car; it's wise to carry chains in winter. The north entrance and most of the roads inside the park are closed from November usually until June. Hwy 62 and the 4-mile road from the highway to park headquarters are plowed and open year-round. The 3-mile road from headquarters to Rim Village is kept open when possible, but heavy snowfall means it may be closed; call ahead to check (541-594-3100). It's best to top up your gas tank before arriving at Crater Lake. There's reasonably priced gas at Mazama Village (summertime only); the closest pumps otherwise are in Prospect, Diamond Lake and Fort Klamath. Amtrak trains link up with the Crater Lake Trolley once daily in summer so you can make it up to the lake and back in a day. However, you'll have to spend the night in Klamath Falls one night either on the way in or out (depending on which direction you're headed). The Steel Visitors Center three miles south of Rim Village provides good information, with a film about the park, backcountry permits and weather info. Rangers are available to answer questions. Remember that you're at high elevation and pack accordingly, bringing lots of water, sun protection and convertible clothing for the fickle weather. Summer is often cold and windy, so dress warmly. The park's eating facilities are limited, though you can always bring a picnic and find a fabulously scenic spot. Rim Village has a small cafe and there's an upscale dining room nearby at the lodge where you can feast on Northwestern cuisine from a changing menu that includes dishes like bison meatloaf and elk chops with huckleberry sauce. Try for a table with a lake view (there are only a few). Dinner reservations are recommended. Mazama Village has a small grocery store and a decently priced restaurant called Annie Creek, too.
This popular riverside park, which lines the west bank of the Willamette River, was finished in 1978 after four years of construction. It replaced an old freeway with 1.5 miles of paved sidewalks and grassy spaces, and now attracts joggers, in-line skaters, strollers and cyclists. During summer the park is perfect for hosting large outdoor events such as the Oregon Brewers Festival (although temporarily shelved during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's hopefully returning in 2022). On a hot day, join the crowds cooling off at Salmon Street Springs Fountain, in the park at Salmon St. Things to do This riverside park is best explored on foot. First you'll want to stop for splash or a photo at the interactive Salmon Street Springs Fountain, which emits water from 185 jets to the beat of computer-generated patterns. Then continue north along the paved waterfront path. Once you pass the Morrison Bridge, you will arrive at the Battleship Oregon Memorial – take note of the time capsule inscription at the base of the monument, which was sealed on Independence Day 1976 and will be unearthed in 2076. The Bill Naito Legacy Fountain is just north of there; admire its lively jets as you make your way towards Burnside Bridge. If it's a weekend, you'll be lured into the pavilion of the Portland Saturday Market, where hundreds of local vendors sell everything from art and kitschy souvenirs to clothing and handmade accessories. North of Burnside Bridge is the Japanese American Historical Plaza, which features art dedicated to the memory of the Pacific Northwest's Japanese immigrants and native US citizens of Japanese descent who were sent to internment camps during WWII. From there, a row of cherry trees leads you north to Friendship Circle, an interactive monument playing composed Japanese music just west of the Steel Bridge. Now you can walk over the Steel and Hawthorne bridges to the Eastbank Esplanade and then back around to make a loop. Cherry blossoms Between Burnside Bridge and the Steel Bridge, the Japanese American Historical Plaza memorial is where Portland heads for cherry blossom viewing and photographing (usually mid-March to end of April depending on when the season). With 100 cherry blossom trees in all their delicate beauty, it’s a spectacular sight on a sunny Spring day. Hotels near Tom McCall Waterfront Park Close to Old Town-Chinatown, there is excellent accommodation (and food) nearby. Hoxton Old Society
West of the city, Washington Park is a lush destination with 410 acres of green space, well-manicured gardens and forested trails. Within the parkland are a bunch of great Portland attractions. Several are perfect for travelers with children, including an excellent playground, and the Oregon Zoo and Hoyt Arboretum, which feature more than 1000 species of native and exotic trees from around the world. All are linked by a free shuttle bus. Beyond Hoyt Arboretum, the World Forestry Center is an educational museum exploring forests and their trees. Rose Garden The International Rose Test Garden is the centerpiece of Portland's famous rose blooms (and where it gets its nickname Rose City). There are more than 700 varieties on show here, plus great city views. Japanese Garden Further uphill, the Japanese Garden is another oasis of tranquility. Part of a post-WWII restoration of relations with Japan, the US has many beautiful Japanese gardens, but this is considered one of the very best. It has an impressive array of water features, koi ponds, ornamental cherry trees, a ceremonial teahouse and a sand garden. Hiking trails Washington Park Loop is a 6.4 km loop trail popular with locals for walking and mountain biking. It’s best in spring and summer, with wild flowers dotting the meadows you’ll pass. There are shorter trails for people shorter on time (or fitness levels). Download a map from the Washington Park website, though trails are also signed. Can I take my dog? Yes, you can take your dog to Washington Park and on the trails, but they have to be on a leash. Is there parking? Parking here is limited so you’re strongly recommended to take public transport or perhaps even cycle here (it's a few miles from downtown). Plus it's the greener option—and this is Portland. Real time parking information is available online so if you must drive, keep abreast of how busy it will be. Ride the free shuttle The Washington Park Free Shuttle operates daily from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can also track the free shuttle online. It usually comes by every 15 to 30 mins. TriMet’s Blue and Red MAX Light Rail lines serve Washington Park MAX station by the park. Trains generally run every nine minutes, but only during the day.
Abutting the more manicured Washington Park to the south (to which it is linked by various trails) is the far wilder 5100-acre Forest Park, an urban Northwest forest in the Tualatin Mountains. The main built sight in the park is Pittock Mansion, a grand mansion built in 1914 by Henry Pittock, who revitalized the Portland-based Oregonian newspaper. It's worth visiting the grounds (which are free to enter) just to check out the spectacular views. Take a picnic. Trails The Portland Audubon Society maintains a bookstore, wildlife rehabilitation center and 4.5 miles of trails within its Forest Park sanctuary. The major trail here is the 30-mile hiking trail that runs the length of Forest Park. It’s open to walkers, and dogs on leads. Other shorter walks are signposted with trail markers. Download the Forest Park Trails printable map from the Portland Parks & Recreation website to find out more. Animals As well as an avid hiking fraternity, Forest Park is an oasis of plants and animals, with ferny shrublands, meadows, evergreen and deciduous forests as well as streams. This ecological diversity sees a mix of wildlife in the park: 100 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, and 400 species of invertebrates. You may come across elk, deer, porcupines, and mountain beavers to name a few. It also draws bird species like bald eagles, great horned owls and hairy woodpeckers. Trees you’ll encounter include firs, big leaf maples, red alders, and Western red cedars. Parking Parking is limited, but there is information on the Portland Parks & Recreation website on where to park, and car-parking capacity, at each trailhead.
Often called the most authentic Japanese garden outside Japan, this tranquil escape recently underwent a $30-million expansion under the guidance of renowned architect Kengo Kuma. Completed in 2017, the expansion added three new buildings to the already impressive array of water features, koi ponds, ornamental cherry trees, a ceremonial teahouse and a sand garden. Free tours run daily at noon. To maintain the serenity and beauty of this space, visitors are asked to maintain some important courtesies. Stick to the approved paths and don’t step on raked sand gardens or moss. Turn your phone off. Don’t smoke or vape. And don’t feed or try to touch the koi. Gift shop and cafe If you want to soak up more Japanese culture on your visit you can also head to the Garden Gift shopin the Cultural Village and pick up a souvenir. There is also a gorgeous glass-framed cafe onsite, Umami Café, which serves Japanese tea sets with treats like mochi icecream and umami popcorn. Parking Located inside Washington Park, Japanese Garden has similar pressures on car parking spaces. For this reason visitors are encouraged to catch public transport and either walk or take the free shuttle on to the gardens. See Washington Park for more information on transport options.
The heart of downtown Portland, at the heart of Portland’s retail district and the city’s transit system, is a multi-tiered brick plaza nicknamed Portland's 'living room'. It is the most-visited public space in the city and a popular meeting spot. When it isn't full of sunbathers or office workers lunching, the square hosts concerts, food and beer festivals, farmers markets, parades and demonstrations. In summer it hosts Friday-night movies – aka Flicks on the Bricks. History One of Portland's grandest Victorian hotels once stood here, but it fell into disrepair and was torn down in 1951. Later the city decided to build Pioneer Courthouse Square, and grassroots support resulted in a program that encouraged citizens to buy and personalize the bricks that eventually built the square. Names include Sherlock Holmes, William Shakespeare and Elvis Presley. You can buy a brick for the plaza paving and leave your mark on the square still today for US$125. Portland’s Christmas tree Every year a giant Christmas tree is decorated and lit up with colorful Christmas lights in Pioneer Courthouse Square. This being Portland, you’ll want to know how sustainable that is, right? The tree is farmed and donated to the city by an Oregon timber company. In theory it's carbon neutral. Phew. Across 6th Ave is the Pioneer Courthouse. Built in 1875, this was the legal center of 19th-century Portland. Hotels near Pioneer Courthouse Square Ace Hotel Woodlark Heathman Hotel Crystal Hotel
Located 3 miles south of Yachats, this volcanic remnant was sighted and named by England's Captain James Cook in 1778. Famous for dramatic rock formations and crashing surf, the area contains numerous trails that explore ancient shell middens, tide pools and old-growth forests. Views from the cape are incredible, taking in coastal promontories from Cape Foulweather to Cape Arago.
This beautiful 283,400-acre region spans the Cascade Range and is highlighted by the glaciered Three Sisters, three recent volcanic peaks each topping 10,000ft. The western slope of the wilderness is known for dense old-growth forest laced with strong rivers and streams. The storied Pacific Crest Trail, easily accessed from Hwy 242 at McKenzie Pass, traverses the area.
This interpretive center is the nation's foremost memorial to the pioneers who crossed the West along the Oregon Trail. Lying atop a hill 7 miles east of Baker City, it contains interactive displays, artifacts and films that stress the day-to-day realities faced by the pioneers. Outside you can stroll along the 4.2-mile interpretive path system and spot the actual Oregon Trail.