Oregon Spring-time Bucket List

Spring is Oregon is marked by sunny days, flowers, fresh strawberries, and optomism. Here are three Oregon spring-time bucket list items not to miss!

Wooden Shoe Tulip-Farm and Vineyard

The Wooden Shoe Tulip festival starts in early March and runs through early May. The driving route to the festival is well marked from I-5 near Woodburn. With 40 acres of tulips, 100 acres of open space, and countless family activities, there is more than enough fun for everyone. Be prepared to purchase a ticket to park and enter and pay for food and kids activities. Even considering the costs, you won’t be disappointed!

Oregon’s Waterfalls Are Most Spectacular in the Spring-time

The Colubmia River Gorge is full of popular waterfalls but there are plenty of less well-known but impressive waterfalls around the state. Even the Willamette Valley even has hidden treasures to offer.

  1. Oregon’s Niagara Falls

Where to find it: Near Lincoln City

Why go there: An enjoyable hike leads to two beautiful fall.

Things to know: The drive includes a fair amount of time on a logging road but don’t give up – you will eventually find the parking lot!

2. Alsea Falls and Green Peak Falls

Alsea Falls is the better known of the two. You can find it only steps from the parking lot and you won’t be disappointed. Green Peak Falls is a different adventure.

Where: Near Alsea

Why: Alsea Falls is well known for a good reason. It is beautiful and powerful. Finding Green Peak Falls feels like an awesome adventure

Things to know: Look for the rope to help you scale the hill next to Green Peak Falls.

Oregon’s Spring Skiing!

Wether you are headed to Mount Hood or Mount Bachelor, you are bound to find some of the best blue-bird days around! Mount Hood boasts the longest ski season in North America and Mount Bachelor keeps the lifts turning well into the spring.

Mount Bachelor is easily camper van friendly. Thier huge parking lot is complete with electric hook ups and festivities. Bring your grill, sunscreen, coolers, sunglasses, lawnchairs, and friends and settle in for a few days! You won’t regret it!

Oregon Waterfalls: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, Oregon is in the Hebo Ranger District, East of Pacific City and West of McMinniville. It does not remind me of the better known Niagara Falls but certainly holds its own among Oregon waterfalls. Here is a brief list of everything you need to know about Oregon’s Niagara Falls.

Getting There

Four wheel drive is not necessary but patience and decent shocks are a plus for sure! We drove in from the East via McMinnville and Beaver. Our GPS took us to the trailhead without a problem but the route is also well marked once you get on the forest roads.

The directions include 6 miles on Blaine Road followed by nearly 6 miles on Upper Nestucca River Road to Forest Road 8533. Take Forest Road 8533 for nearly 5 miles to 8533-131. (There may not be a Forest Road sign here but there is a “Falls” sign and an arrow at the next junction). It is approximately 1 mile to the trailhead from the junction.

We chose to park in a pull-out approximately 1/2 mile from the trailhead since we had not been there before and we were unsure of the conditions. It turned out that the parking lot was very muddy and we were glad to have parked up hill. There were plenty of empty spots, however. In any case, I recommend using your GPS to find the trailhead and parking there as long as you are fine with mud.

The Forest Roads are slow going but in fine condition and wide enough to pass other vehicles. You will see plenty of logging operations and clear cut hillsides.

The Trail

The falls are downhill from the trailhead. The trail is well maintained and clearly marked. There are benches and classic Oregon coastal forest views. The out and back hike totals around 2 miles and switchbacks through the forest following a small creek. The trail was muddy and wet but not worse than other similar trails.

The Falls

We were not disappointed! Niagara Falls, Oregon is different from other local waterfalls. It cascades more than falls and is impressive. Additionally, the equally tall, Pheasant Falls, is only steps away. We spent almost an hour exploring Pheasant Creek and climbing the rocks alongside Niagara Falls. Both falls are over 100 feet tall and were flowing quickly when we visited in Februrary. While it cannot compare to Niagara Falls, NY/Canada, it is was a great surprise in terms of Oregon waterfalls. As long as you have some time on your hands and don’t mind Forest Service Roads, I recommend checking out this day-hike!

Nearby, Pheasant Creek Falls
Pheasant Creek

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Also, check this out!

https://ramblingfootsteps.travel.blog/2020/08/06/oregon-dunes-national-recreation-area-day-use/
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Crescent Lake Sno-Park

We decided to follow yesterday’s wildly successful sledding trip with a second trip to the mountains. This time we headed towards Willamette Pass, hoping to get a parking spot at Gold Lake Sno-Park. We arrived around noon and there wasn’t an open parking spot in site so we pushed onward. Approximately 7 miles later we found Crescent Lake sno-park. The parking lot is smaller than Gold Lake but obviously much less popular. Among the half a dozen cars there, at least three were attached to snomobile trailers and one was clearly park for the long haul. I had intended to opt for snow shoes today but once I saw the groomed and relatively flat route, we decided to try the cross country skis again.

Here are a few things to know about Crescent Lake sno-park.

1. There are snowmobiles and plenty of space for everyone.

The kids loved seeing the snowmobiles on the trail. I liked seeing the signs marking distances to towns and services along the snowmobile trails as this was reminiscent of winter in the the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you have a snowmobile, this may be one place to check out!

2. The terrain is perfect for beginner cross country skiers.

I am not talking about the kids here, they have picked it up just fine. My cross country skiing skills are marginal at best, however! These trails were perfect. We skiied on the groomed trails and in through the woods. I got tangled up a few times but nothing too serious. The kids progressed from beginners to experts as they provided me with tutorials about every kind of homemade nordic ski technique you can imagine.

3. The lake is a short distance from the parking lot.

The lake is a short 1/2 mile from the parking lot if you access it through the campground entrance. The kids spent a fair amount of time chopping ice chunks from the shore and toss into the lake. I warned them about breaking through the ice and ending up with wet socks. In the end, I was the only one with wet socks. They stayed dry and had tons of fun!

The boat ramp is also adjacent to the Crescent Lake Resort, which appeared to be closed for the season but still accessible to vehicles and a somewhat popular way to access the lake in the winter.

4. The other nearby sno-parks have thier own personalities and the Pacific Crest Trail is right there in the middle of it all!

Approximately 2 miles before Crescent Lake parking, there is Junction sno-park. It has an unbelievably huge parking lot, which happened to be mostly empty. I think it may be a hot spot of snowmobile parking but am not really sure.
Gold Lake was packed with cross country skiers and snow-shoers. The parking lot was much larger than Crescent Lake but was narrow and completely full. Don’t worry if you start into the parking lot and it feels narrow. Once you get to the end of the lot, there is a no-parking section that is labled “bus turn-around”. It worked great for us on this busy day!

Waldo Lake has a relatively small parking lot that I assume gets rather crowded. We stopped there to make dinner on our way out. It was dusk and there was only one other car but it was obvious that it is a popular spot during the day. The trail was wide and well packed from use. The kids grabbed the snow tubes and found some amazing sledding while I cooked soup in the van. Once it got dark, I pulled the van around to shine the headlights on the trail for them. They explored snow caves and hit some serious sledding jumps! I think Waldo Lake may be our next place to check out for a day but we may try to go early, late, or on a non-holiday weekday to avoid crowds.

The Pacific Crest Trail is right there for all of the PCT section hikers out there! My husband thru hiked the trail in 2004 and remembers Willamette Pass as one of his favorite sections! The trail was well marked but there was not any winter parking with direct trail access from the road.

These days of playing in the snow are keeping me going for sure! Remember to get your sno-park pass before you head out! You can learn more here!

Please follow our adventures~

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A Winter Afternoon: Oregon Sno-parks

Oregon sno-parks are designated Winter Recreation Areas. You should purchase a sno-park pass ahead of time. Information about passes can be found here.

Ray Benson sno-park is near HooDoo Ski Area in the Deschutes National Forest and is one of the more popular sledding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing spots. The parking area is large enough to allow space, even on a busy day. The trail system is extensive and, although many people tend to flock to one area, there is plenty of room to spread out if you wish. Here are 5 ways to enjoy an afternoon at an Oregon sno-park.

There is tons of parking, remarkable views, and easy access to the trails.

1. Try out your new cross country skis!

Ray Benson offers a complex trail system. You can chose to stick to the groomed trail or venture into the woods. Either way, it is guarenteed to be a good time!

The trail is shared with snowmobiles, families snowshoeing, people hiking, and most likely some rogue sledders but don’t let that deter you, there is plenty of space. I chose the off-piste route on the way down as it turns out that I am still totally out of control on cross country skis. I wrongly assumed that somehow my skills improved since ten years ago when I last hurled myself, arms flailing, down a trail in Montezuma, Colorado.

2. Get some exercise with the reliable stand by, snowshoeing.

I can always count on snowshoeing for safe, effective, and fun exercise! Whether you are on the trail, off trail, or hucking a tiny cliff, snowshoeing is a guarenteed to be a good time. Remember your poles for the best work out and the best chance of making it back to the parking lot without tripping and taking a header.

3. Join the gang of sledders.

We steered clear of the crowds due to Covid but there was still plenty of amazing sledding. Our preferred vehicle are snotubes that were given to us by my grandma for Christmas a few years ago. If you chose a tube, consider inflating it to its maximum capacity. The extra inflation really steps the fun up the next level!

We chose to sled mid-day in the sun and again at 3:30 after the sun was behind the trees. The move from sunny and 40s to shady and 30s provided a super speed icy track to really put the sledding over the top for the kids while also just pushing my mom anxiety up a notch. Sledding was the biggest hit of the day for sure!

Even though the picture doesn’t do Oregon sno-parks justice, this is an intense sledding hill, complete with an icy sink hole at the bottom!

4. Set up for tailgating.

What is better than a campstove and chairs were set against the backdrop of moutains and fresh snow? Cheese and crackers, lunch hot off the griddle, and a couple of servings of hot chocolate with marshmallows seemed to keep my crew in top condition. Next time I think I will expand the menu and include myself when packing mugs for the hot chocolate.

Our first trip in the new Sprinter 4 x 4. We sat on boxes and spent the morning putting paneling back in for the trip but it was a success!

5. Come prepared to stay all day.

An afternoon at Oregon sno-parks require spare socks, spare gloves, different boots for different sports, spare hats, layers, windbreakers, down jackets, fleece … the list goes on and on. I never would have packed like this in Colorado but Oregon is different. The snow is wetter here. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. So, come prepared because everyone will want to stay all day and they minds well be dry and warm!

Please follow our adventures as we convert our latest Sprinter van into a camper for our family of 4!

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5 Ways To #optoutside This Thanksgiving

Skimboarding Pacific Ocean Beaches

Oregon’s Pacific Ocean beaches are scenic, spacious, and accessible. They are not exactly known for being warm and sunny, however. The benefit of this is that you can enjoy the same beach activities during winter as you can during the summer. So we chose this weekend to pick up a new hobby.

Skimboarding was a hit! Everyone had a turn. Most of us were semi-successful and at the end of the day, each of us was smiling!

Exploring Dunes

Next stop was Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It felt great to trade a turkey dinner for a few laps up the dunes. There were two cars in day use parking when we arrived and none when we left. Don’t let the footprints in the sand fool you, we were mostly alone on the dunes on Thursday and only accompanied by distant ATVs on Friday. The kids were free to dig, climb, run, build, and explore as far as they could go. How bad can a little sand in the van be anyway?!

Oregon Dunes
The ATV tracks in the distance
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Camping Near the Pacific Ocean

Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park was open and with plenty of empty tent sites. Every site in the RV loop was full but we only found one tent and one other camper in our primate campsite loop. Tent sites are $21. We didn’t have reservations and late check in was a breeze. We walked form our campsite down a wooded path and to the day use parking lot to get one more shot at the dunes, do some star gazing, and toss in a fishing lure a few times.

Star Gazing

The moon was nearly full. The dunes were empty. Hardly anyone was camping. The day use lot was closed. It was a great time for star gazing!

Fishing

We didn’t catch anything but we enjoyed trying. The dunes run down into a lock with accessible shorelines and a dock for fishing. Next time, we will bring the kayaks and get out there to see what we can catch!

Don’t worry, I still cooked a turkey. It was just a few days late. Spending our pandemic holiday outside was just what we needed! We weren’t isolated but didn’t need a mask since hardly anyone else was there. Now, I will lend my thoughts to Christmas and how best to hold off the feelings of sadness and loss that comes with holidays during COVID 19 times. The guilt of being together versus the lonliness of not being together may temporary be reconciled by fresh air and exercise. Stay safe and happy holidays everyone!

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: Day Use

Are you looking for something different along Oregon’s coast? If so, Oregon Dunes is for you!

The dunes span 40 miles and rise up to 500 fee above the Pacific Ocean. Among the dunes, you can find everything from rivers to rainforests.

We arrived at the dunes from the East via Reedsport and turned northbound. Oregon Dunes’ day use area is north of Gardinar and south of Dunes City.

5 Tips For Enjoying Oregon Dunes Day Use Area

1. Plan Time to Hike.

The day use area consists of a parking lot and a viewing platform. Once you see the view, it may be hard to resists the hike.

A marked trail leading to the ocean is easily to access from the parking lot. There are two main hiking options. One is a 5 mile long loop and the other is a 2 mile, out and back trail to the coast.

We started our hike around noon, hadn’t eaten lunch yet, didn’t pack water or snacks and opted for the shorter of the two trails. For those of you that have hiked in dunes before, there is a constant false sense of distance. Even with knowing that ahead of time, we were all surprised when we rounded a corner and still had not made it to the coast. It is longer than it seems but the trail is clearly marked and well traveled.

Wooden posts mark the trail through the dunes. The trail through the forested sections is obvious. Even on a hot July day, the beach was nearly empty when we arrived. I can’t imagine it ever gets much more crowded. If you are hoping to avoid crowds and get some exercise, this is the place!

View from Oregon Dunes Day Use area hike.

2. Wear Shoes.

The sand can be hot! When you are not walking on hot sand, you may be walking on hard packed forest trails. Don’t leave your shoes at the car and chose your footwear carefully!

Oregon Dunes trail through the forest is easy to follow and diverse!

3. Bring Water and Snacks For An Afternoon At Oregon Dunes Day Use Area.

This seems obvious but we are famous for being underprepared or overprepared. I can’t decide if we are over confident, lazy, or impulsive but it is not unusual for us to check out a hike and end up 2 hours down the trail without snacks.

We started this hike by walking to the viewing platform, then onto the dune, then down the hill, and so on. I think you get the idea! Hiking on the dunes and into the forest was just too much fun and we didn’t want to stop once we started.

Oregon Dunes day use hike

4. Be Prepared For Signs Giving Instructions In Case Of An Earthquake and Tsunami.

For those of you that have spent much time on the Oregon coast, this shouldn’t be too surprising. I typically read the sign and keep walking. By the time I hit the ocean on this hike, I don’t think I could have evacuated very quickly in the event of a tsunami. We all weigh our risk, I guess.

5. Dress For Exposure To The Elements.

In addition to shoes, I would recommend the following items:

Hat

Sun screen

Sunglasses

Beach towel

Bathing Suit

Wind breaker

Oregon Dunes

Have Fun At Oregon Dunes!

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Oregon Beaches: Newport to Waldport

The Oregon Beach Bill was signed into law in 1967 and guarenteed public beach access to the 362 miles of Oregon coastline. The impact of this is obvious when you look at an Oregon map. The western shore is dense with beaches and parks. Here is a small sample of Oregon beaches between Newport and Waldport.

Ona Beach

This is one of our favorites. It is part of Brian Booth State Park and it has it all!

Ona Beach parking area is framed by Beaver Creek to the south and picnic areas to the west. There is space to launch a kayak, toss out a fishing lure, or have a picnic. You will find plenty of picnic tables with room for lawn games if you chose. You can follow the creek to a sandy beach or cross a foot bridge to the Pacific ocean. The Pacific Beach is wide open, clean, and not crowded.

Accross the road is the second half of Brian Booth State Park. Beaver Creek State Natural Area is east of Highway 101. There are two designated boat launches within a mile from the highway. You can also find a boardwalk and hiking trails.

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach has a restroom and a short wooden walk way down to the beach. It sits up above the beach abit so be prepared to walk down a short but relatively steep trail to the beach. The beach seems to go on forever in either direction. There is perfect sand and wide open space.

There was plenty of wind when we were there. It may be a great place to fly a kite! The parking lot is long and narrow so I was unable to see the beach while cooking lunch in our van. I had a cell phone signal though so it was easy to let everyone know when lunch was served!

Curtis Street

You won’t find this one on the map! This is a small gravel parking lot north of Ona Beach. From there, you walk down an embankment to the ocean. It seems to be a local’s favorite. It gets crowded with people walking dogs and riding bikes after dinner and the parking spots are hit or miss. We had it ourselves one day and could barely find a comfortable parking spot the next. Houses tower high above the beach on either side of the access and Seal Rock can be seen to the south.

Packing List for Oregon Beaches

  1. Jacket
  2. Windshirt
  3. Hat
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Bathing suit
  6. Sunglasses
  7. Sweatshirt
  8. Pants
  9. Shorts
  10. Beach toys
  11. Kites
  12. Beach towels

Tips:

Bring layers. If you have not been Oregon beaches, you will likely be surprised about the temperatures. We took a day trip in July and went from 90 degrees in the Willamette Valley to 67 degrees at the coast.

Bring plenty of snacks and drinks. We always stay longer than we plan.

Watch for wales, seals, jelly fish, and crabs.

Have fun!

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