Haystack at Canon Beach
Featured Northwest Lifestyles Oregon Outdoor Activities Uncategorized

Oregon’s top four attractions

Caption: Haystack rock is a dominant sight in Canon Beach. Credit: -TravelOregon.com (photographer: Joni Kabana)

Beautiful Columbia River Gorge

Editor’s note:  Between May 24 and Sept. 5, 2022, a timed-access permit will be required for each personal vehicle driven on the Historic Columbia River Highway from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. between Vista House and Ainsworth State Park. The best way to visit the Waterfall Corridor is to take the Columbia Area Transit (CAT) bus from Gateway Transit Center in the Portland Metro Area, Cascade Locks, and Hood River directly to Multnomah Falls. Tickets are available online, including yearly passes. To go by tour, you can drive to the private tour provider parking lots in Corbett (use Exit 22) for the Gray Line Waterfall Trolley. For the Sasquatch Shuttle, use Bridal Veil (use Exit 28). Several private tour providers also serve the Historic Highway Waterfall Corridor.  Visit ReadySetGorge.com for more information on closures and recreation

By Greg Johnson, travel writer

I made my first trip up the Columbia River Gorge during the late 70s with friends on a windy, rainy Northwest day. It was my first time to see so many waterfalls, so much rain, and so much rugged mountain beauty.

The Columbia River Highway, later renamed the Historic Columbia River Highway (HRCH), was a technical and civic achievement of its time, successfully marrying ambitious engineering with sensitive treatment of the surrounding magnificent landscape. The Historic Columbia River Highway has gained national significance because it represents one of the earlier applications of cliff-face road building utilizing modern highway construction technologies. It is also the oldest scenic highway in the United States. The Historic Columbia River Highway’s design and execution were the products of two visionaries, Samuel Hill, lawyer, entrepreneur, and good road’s promoter; and Samuel C. Lancaster, engineer and landscape architect.

A rainbow beams over the White Salmon Bridge in the Columbia River Gorge.

By the 1980s, public interest grew for returning drivable portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway to their 1920s appearance–based on careful documentation–and rehabilitating abandoned segments for trail use. Since then, drivable portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway, its masonry structures, bridges, and culverts have been repaired or replaced. The road is a popular tourist destination along with Multnomah Falls, the most popular natural site in Oregon, drawing over two-million visitors annually. The Falls are accessible from Interstate 84 and you must now reserve a ticket.

On a later trip, I was able to take a slower leisurely trip on the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is along this route where slow riders can visit the highly photogenic Vista House atop Crown Point with its sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.

Next, the highway drops down to a shady, fern-covered woodsy stretch where Latourell, Shepperd’s Dell and Bridal Veil state parks offer hikes to waterfalls and picnic areas. As you enter the National Scenic Area, stop for a hike to Wahkeena Falls bridge for a cool, misty camera shot.

The Bridge of the Gods in the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks. Photo by Greg Johnson

If you don’t mind crowds, Oregon’s most popular tourist destination, the 620-foot Multnomah Falls, offers an historic lodge house with a restaurant, gift shop and amazing views of the fourth highest waterfall in United States. The Falls are accessible from Interstate 84 and you must now reserve a ticket.

The Oneonta Gorge, two miles east up the highway, is interesting from the road for its narrow yet canyon like structure. Hikers will find misty hanging gardens while stomping upstream during low water periods.

After completing the western section of the historic highway, first time visitors may want to stop at the Bonneville Dam for a visit to the fish hatchery and fish-viewing windows where you can view the amazing array of eels, steelhead and salmon migrations.

Windsurfers flock to the Columbia River Gorge town of Hood River to test their sailing skills in ferocious gorge winds.

We have been visiting the next stop for more than 30 years, long before the scenic town of Hood River became the windsurfing capital of the Northwest. We have watched as the primarily logging and agricultural town fed by the rich fruit growing hood river valley grew into an eclectic mix of windsurfing, kayaking, bicycling and trendy boutiques.

A sailboat plies the Columbia River near Hood River, Oregon. Photo by Greg Johnson

If you plan to overnight, stay at Hood River Best Western Inn or Columbia Gorge Hotel and visit a local microbrewery or winery, take the Mt. Hood Historic Railroad or take a scenic hike on the walking path section of the historic highway just east of Hood River. Or, you can take I-84 east and catch the eastern stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway at Mosier (exit 69). The highway loops around to the top of Rowena Plateau and the wildflower refuge at Governor Tom McCall Preserve. The highway ends in The Dalles, where you can tour the Fort Dalles Historical Museum or visit The Dalles Dam.

The Skamania Lodge town of Stevenson is surrounded by scenic Columbia River Gorge landscape.

Another option is to cross the Hood River Toll Bridge to the Washington side towns of Bingen and White Salmon. This is actually my favorite part of the Gorge. Here, you can visit local wineries and fruit farms near the two towns and hike the scenic trails of Catherine Creek just east of Bingen. Or, you can drive further north in Washington up Highway 141 along the increasing popular whitewaters of White Salmon River to the scenic town of Trout Lake, which sits serenely at the base of snow-covered Mount Adams.

Amazing Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway

Beautiful Cultus Lake is one of many lakes on Cascade Lake Highway in Oregon. Credit: Greg Johnson

The Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway begins as Century Drive at the locally nicknamed ‘Flaming Chicken’ roundabout at 14th St and Galveston Ave on Bend’s west side.

The Cascade Lake Highway is a drive of 66 miles and with stops for exploration, will take you 3-5 hours to complete. The road opens seasonally in June (depending on snow conditions) and closes in October beyond Mt. Bachelor.

Central Oregon surfers take on the waves at the whitewater park in Bend. Photo by Greg Johnson

As you leave Bend’s city limits and enter Deschutes National Forest, drivers pass a road accessing two significant falls and wonderful hiking opportunity along the Deschutes River. Climbing quickly, you’ll pass the first of the series sno-parks that allow access to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer.

After a sweeping turn with a magnificent view of Mt. Bachelor, you’ll pass the ski area and enjoy an extraordinary view of Broken Top and the Three Sisters, enter Dutchman Flat, and then reach the first of the string of Cascade Lakes with Todd Lake. This, for me, is the real beginning of the drive. It is also where things begin to get very interesting from a geologic perspective.

The Deschutes River in Central Oregon. Photo by Greg Johnson

After passing several more lakes, drivers will reach the first opportunity for services at Elk Lake resort. Along this drive, you can fly fish, see the headwaters of the Deschutes River, swim, hike, climb a mountain, see wildlife, get ice cream, launch a kayak and soak your soul in the outdoors in any other variety of ways, before the Cascade Lakes Highways ends at OR-58 near Crescent and Odell Lake.

Canoeing at Lava Lake on Cascade Lake Highway. Photo by Greg Johnson

The route offers stunning mountain views including Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, and more. Stop along the way at one of 14 alpine lakes to take in an abundance of recreation, history, and wildlife. Mount your horse for a trail ride at Todd Lake. Grab your fly rod and cast a line in the water at Hosmer Lake. Snap photos of the perfect turquoise water on a hike around Devil’s Lake. Rent a standup paddleboard or boat to explore Elk Lake or Cultus Lake.

Pristine Fall River in Central Oregon. Photo by Greg Johnson

For ideas on camping, fishing, boating, hiking, or navigating the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, be sure to download this interpretive sites tour map.  

Scenic Oregon Coast

The Astoria-Megler Bridge and Canary Pier in Astoria on Oregon Coast. Credit:
TravelOregon.com (photographer: Joni Kabana)

Start your Oregon Coast trip at the seagoing town of Astoria on the northern Oregon coast. Must stops here are the Columbia River Maritime Museum where you can learn about the Northwest’s seagoing history and observe the Columbia River from a scenic viewpoint.

Then, travel south to the Lewis and Clark’s Fort Clatsop and walk through a full-size re-creation of the explorer’s fort. You can also view the remains of the 1906 shipwreck Peter Iredale on the beach at nearby Fort Stevens State Park.

Further south, stop off at Three Capes Scenic Loop for stunning views of Cape Meares, Cape Lookout and Cape Kiwanda.

The Otter Rock fat bike ride around Newport on the Central Coast of Oregon. Credit:

Next in line in the small town of Tillamook, hike the trails at Bayocean Spit and Kilchis Point Reserve. And don’t forget to stop off for a tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Traveling south again, visit the lighthouse at scenic Yaquina Head and Cape Perpetua Scenic Area with its vies of Spouting Horn, Devils Churn, Cook’s Chasm and Thor’s Well. The 2,700-acre scenic area offers 27 miles of hiking trails and an interpretive center. Further south, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area between Florence and North Bend features a day use areas at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park. The John Dellenback Dunes Trail south of Reedsport gives hikers a chance to access the dunes.

Tourist take in the wave action in Yachats on Oregon coast. Photo by Greg Johnson

The Cape Arago Beach Loop southwest of Coos Bay features walking paths, seal and sea lion views at Simpson Reef, the Cape Arago Lighthouse and state parks at Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.

The Bandon Beach Loop Drive is a beautiful stretch of coastline that offers access to viewpoints at Coquille Point and Face Rock. Mountain bikers can trek the Whiskey Run Mountain Bike System and foodies will enjoy munching on the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail.

Crater Lake National Park

Tourist peer out over Crater Lake in Southern Oregon. Photo by Greg Johnson

The deep blue waters of Crater Lake are surrounded by 2,000-foot-high cliffs with a picturesque island arising from the watery scene.

Start your visit at one of two visitor centers. The Steel Information Center lies south of Rim Drive next to park headquarters and is open year-round. In the summer, the Rim Village Visitor Center is open along Rim Drive on the southern side of the caldera. Your many options include hiking, camping, backpacking, picnicking and sight seeing. If time permits, take the scenic Rim Drive around the lake.

An epic zipline adventure awaits you at Crater Lake Zipline. Located just south of Crater Lake National Park, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of Upper Klamath Lake, Cascade peaks like Mt. McLoughlin and Pelican Butte all from the treetops of the National Forest.

A picturesque island arises from Crater Lake. Photo by Greg Johnson

The historic 71-room Crater Lake National Park Lodge which is built on the edge of a caldera originally opened in 1915 and is open from late May to Mid-October. Three restaurants, gift shops, cabins, RV parking, camping and gasoline can all be found within the park. 

The lodge features one of the most breathtaking views of the deep blue Crater Lake.  Boat tours are available July through Mid-September (weather permitting) and the park offers many hiking trails of different levels of difficulty, as well as guided walks and informational talks given by National Park Service Rangers.

Note: Crowding is occurring at popular trails, parking lots and indoor facilities — bring your face covering. If visitors don’t follow posted rules and regulations, facilities and popular sites may close.  Excessive trash has become a problem. Pack out everything you bring.