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What are some good drives to see waterfalls that are just a short hike from the road?

Thanks for the question!  There are some very easy-to-follow routes for waterfall lovers.  I recommend you either order a free copy of the Oregon Scenic Byways magazine or view it online as it really outlines the routes with beautiful pictures.  As far as the time of year, there will be more water at other times of the year (winter, spring) however in August there is still more than plenty of water for the waterfalls.

From North to South

I-84 and the Columbia River Gorge: This is the iconic waterfall route in Oregon that includes Multnomah Falls (the states tallest).  The waterfalls in this area are breathtaking and also easy to access from the road.  They tend to be more crowded given the proximity to Portland.

Silver Falls: Given the short distance of the Columbia River Gorge, I suggest visiting the falls and then backtracking.  If you love farm land, make your way south through Mollala and Silverton to Silver Falls State Park.  This might be one of the best places to visit for waterfalls and hiking.  It’s just beautiful here.

Highway 126 – Florence to Sisters: Sweet Creek Falls is one of my favorite waterfall hikes is near Florence and the Oregon Coast.  The numerous falls parallel the trail and in the summer months the water is warm enough to wade into.  If you continue inland along Hwy 126 you pass Eugene and head into the McKenzie River Valley.  About an hour and a half drive from Eugene, you will arrive at Sahalie and Koosah Falls, two beautiful falls that are along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.  You can park at either waterfall and hike in a loop to see both.

Bend: Highway 126 east links up with Highway 20 which heads into Central Oregon and leads you towards Bend.  There are some beautiful falls in Bend, including Tumalo Falls.  From here you can head south along Highway 97 to Highway 138 west.  Highway 138 offers access to the north entrance of Crater Lake (this entrance is only open in the summer months) and parallels the wild and scenic North Umpqua River.  One of the highlights of the waterfalls on this route is Toketee Falls.  There isn’t much of a hike to get to this waterfall, but there are other waterfalls along Highway 138 with some more hiking.  If you want to hike here, I recommend seeing the falls and then cross the road to hike along the North Umpqua Trail (just watch out for poison oak, which is extremely thick in this area).

I hope this helps you plan a great trip.  Let me know if I can offer any more suggestions.

What are some good family-friendly lake resorts where we can go kayaking?

There are some really cool places to visit where you can enjoy a vacation rental with access to kayaking.

Twin Lakes Resort is a paddler’s dream as no motorized boats are allowed. It is in a rather remote area between the Willamette Valley and Bend. The drive is beautiful along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. Not really known for wine and more renowned for its craft beer, Bend is relatively close and a fun town for all ages. If you are more adventurous you can explore the Deschutes Paddle Trail.

Crescent Lake Resort is a beautiful lake near many other lakes that can be explored by kayak. Cabins line the lake. Explore nearby Waldo Lake- one of Oregon’s purest lakes where motorized boats are banned.

Cove Palisades State Park has some really cool cabins along the water. Like Twin Lakes Resort it is in a rather remote area.

Loon Lake Lodge is located along the beautiful Oregon Coast near Reedsport on Loon Lake where you can enjoy kayaking. You can pass through two different wine regions to get here- Southern Oregon (known for Cabernet and Syrah) and the South Willamette Valley (known for its Pinot varieties).

There are more, but these seem to me to be the most family friendly, with great kayaking opportunities. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Answered by Cari Soong, Ask Oregon Outdoor Adventure Expert on December 20th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

Where can I take my family rafting, fishing and hiking near Eugene?

Thanks for the question.  I suggest a trip east on Highway 126 from Eugene.  You can raft on the McKenzie River.  There are numerous guided trips.  I highly recommend Helfrich Outfitters and if you want to begin and end at Belknap Hot Springs Resort check out High Country Expeditions.  To get a great view of the Cascades take the scenic drive up Highway 242 a few miles from Belknap Hot Springs to the Dee Wright Observatory at the highest point of the road.  You can climb to the top of the observatory and view 360 degrees of the Cascades with a cool compass of sorts, that helps you figure out which peak is what.

You can fish in numerous spots along the McKenzie.  Some popular places are at Leaburg Dam and along the shore.  One of my favorite places to fish is at Clear Lake at the headwaters to the McKenzie River.  You can rent a row boat and drop a line in and troll while you take in beautiful scenery atop strikingly clear water.  (Here’s a tip if you do- use corn as your bait, with a very light weight sinker). In Eugene, you can also find some decent fishing near Autzen Stadium in the Alton Baker Canal and in Junction City at the Junction City Pond.

Check out www.eugenecascadescoast.org for more ideas on a trip in this area or stop in at the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center in Springfield for more ideas and maps.

I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any more questions.

Answered by Cari Soong, Ask Oregon Outdoor Adventure Expert on November 24th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

Where are some good spots for a scenic Oregon camping and fishing trip?

Thanks for the question! As you can imagine there are a ton of great places to camp and fish in Oregon. The following is a list of my favorites based on region.

Coast: Gold Beach or Loon Lake near Reedsport. There are some really cool coastal campgrounds in both locations. Tugman State Park and Umpqua Lighthouse both offer yurt rentals on site and are close to fishing sites. Lobster Creek Campground is a small site with access to both river fishing on the Rogue and proximity to saltwater fishing.

Central Oregon: Is home to numerous lakes with fishing and camping. Waldo Lake, Crescent Lake and Odell Lake near Oakridge, Elk Lake near Bend, Detroit Lake, and Lake Billy Chinook.

Southern Oregon: Summer Lake (Ana Reservoir) and Klamath Lake

These are just a few of the places in the state that you can fish and camp, but some of my favorites.

Let me know if I can help with any more questions. Fish on!

We want to go camping near good breweries in Eugene. What do you suggest?

Thanks for the question!  There are a couple of camping options near Eugene.  I think the best one is Armitage County Park.  It’s about equal distance to Hop Valley and Agrarian Ales.  You could actually bike to both, there is a very wide shoulder or bike lanes.  The campground is also conveniently located to Coburg Road which runs right into downtown Eugene and close to Interstate 5.  The price is a little on the expensive side because the sites are really catered to RV camping.  Some other campgrounds that are just a little further away from the city center are Schwarz Park in Cottage Grove on Dorena Lake, Sharps Creek in Cottage Grove and Richardson Park along the shores of Fern Ridge.

I hope this helps.  There are more options if you look for sites near Fall Creek Reservoir, Blue River Reservoir and out towards the coast in the Whittaker Recreation Area (not the same Whittaker as the new Brewery District in Eugene).

Answered by Cari Soong, Ask Oregon Outdoor Adventure Expert on September 5th, 2013 - Post Your Answer

Where should I start a hike on the McKenzie River Trail?

Great question! The McKenzie River Trail is one that is near and dear to my heart. I like to think of the trail as 3 different sections. The upper portion begins at Clear Lake. You can hike around the lake which is very beautiful (or rent row boats by the hour). The trail continues on from the southwest corner of the lake and before you know it you’re at Sahalie Falls and then Koosah Falls. These two waterfalls will impress you and the trail around here is very lush and picturesque. If you continue hiking down the trail you will notice that after a while the river disappears (it goes underground for a few miles). You can continue through this section, or after Koosah Falls loop back up the trail to your car at Clear Lake and shuttle to the next trailhead which would be at Trailbridge Reservoir. Take a right at the stop sign after you cross the river and head up the road to a parking area. Follow the trail on the right and in about 1.5 miles you’ll reach Tamolitch Falls aka Blue Pool. This is an out-and-back trail. If you still have time after these two hikes I would continue west on Highway 126 and stop at Belknap Hot Springs Resort. Here you can either give in to temptation and pay the $7 for an hour of relaxation in the swimming pool fed by natural hot springs, tour the beautiful property or hike a few miles down the trail (westward).

So the three sections in summary:

Upper McKenzie: Clear Lake to Koosah Falls (beautiful, scenic, waterfalls) Parking available at Clear Lake Resort, Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls

Middle McKenzie: Trailbridge to Tamolitch (fire and ice, forest and lava, and beautiful Blue Pool)
Parking available at Trailbridge Reservoir

Lower McKenzie: Belknap Hot Springs to McKenzie Bridge (hot springs, and lush forest)
Parking available at Belknap Hot Springs Resort, Deer Creek Rd, or the McKenzie River Ranger Station

We’re an active family of 4 looking for a week of Oregon adventures. What do you suggest?

Thanks for the question!  I will give you a basic breakdown of the state’s adventure offerings and once you decide where in Oregon you would like to visit I can narrow down the options and give you some more detail.  Also, the time of year changes what is available.

The Coast – The Oregon Coast is nicknamed the People’s Coast and it has something for everyone.  In the north coast you have Seaside, which is a fun town with lots of summer activities that appeal to kids of all ages (boardwalk, saltwater taffy, beachcombing, kites).  Heading south you will encounter numerous lighthouses (Yaquina, Heceta Head) and the fun town of Newport.  Between Newport and Florence is what I consider to be the BEST of the Oregon Coast scenery.  Cape Perpetua Scenic Area will beckon you to stop and explore.  I dare you to drive by it and not stop.  Florence has a fun downtown and offers access to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area where you can go on a dune buggy tour or try sandboarding.  Continuing south on the coast highway you’ll pass Reedsport which is home to the Umpqua Discovery Center.  Gold Beach is another adventure hub where you can go on a jet-boat ride, fish for salmon, or just enjoy the beach.

The I-5 Corridor – (North to South) Begin your trip with a stop in Portland.  Explore a very unique town full of delicious eateries, museums, natural wonders and more.  If you head east from Portland along Interstate 84 you can explore the Columbia River Gorge and hike around numerous waterfalls, including the tallest in the state, Multnomah Falls.  Further south on I-5 take a shopping adventure in Woodburn and enjoy shopping at the Woodburn Outlets (tax free). East of Woodburn is Silverton and Silver Falls State Park, a great place to go hiking and take photos.  Next stop is Eugene.  Try to visit on a Saturday so that you can check out the Saturday Market.  There are a lot of great hikes in the area, some with swimming holes too.  After you’ve explored Eugene, set the GPS for Winston and the Wildlife Safari.  Make sure you stop for cheese at the Rogue Creamery and cool off with a trip on a Hellgate Excursions Jet Boat in Grants Pass.

Central Oregon a.k.a “The Dry Side” – Some of my favorites east of the Cascades are Warm Springs and the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spas, Smith Rock State Park in Redmond.  In Bend you can have river adventures (rafting, tubing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing) mountain biking adventures and culinary adventures.   A trip to Oregon isn’t complete without a stop at Crater Lake.  If it’s really a hot day you can cool off at the end of the Cleetwood Cove trail with a dip in the clear blue (very cold) water.

I recommend you check out the state’s Scenic Byways and once you decide where you want to go let me know so that I can offer you more suggestions.

Happy travels!

Where are good places to camp near mountain biking trails?

Oakridge (50 miles east of I-5 near Eugene) has hundreds of miles of trails.  You can camp at Salmon Creek Campground and ride from your campsite about 50 feet onto the Salmon Creek trail.  For some of the more challenging and thrilling trails in the area you’ll need a shuttle to various trailheads which are available from Oregon Adventures.

Bend/Sisters (Central Oregon, 2 hours from Oakridge) Has fun trails and ample camping.  Some popular places to camp are Tumalo State Park and my personal favorite, Smith Rock State Park (both have yurts you can reserve).  Your best bet for mountain biking is the Phil’s Trail Network that starts right in Bend.  You can also mountain bike at Smith Rock and in Sisters at Peterson Ridge and, farther west, on the McKenzie River Trail.

Hood River (Adjacent to the the Washington border, east of Portland) In the last few years Hood River has really emerged as a mountain biking destination, which pairs exceptionally well with this outdoorsy waterfront town.  You can camp at Lost Lake Resort and Campground and ride nearby Post Canyon Trail System.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

What do we need to know before cycling the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway?

Thanks for the question!  I biked the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway in 2011 (read my blog from the ride) and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. I rode in the opposite direction you’re planning, finishing the ride at Champoeg State Park.  Champoeg State Park offers RV spaces that you can reserve online.

One of the best resources for this route is rideoregonride.com.  You can see all the latest about the trip and also see where the closest bike shops, restaurants and lodging are located along the way.

As for transportation from Armitage Park near Eugene back to your RV at Champoeg, the options are limited and there isn’t one point to point option.  What I recommend is to take the Amtrak Cascades from Eugene to Salem.  For an additional fee you can bring your un-boxed bike on board   The only downside to taking the Amtrak Cascades is that you can only get as far north as Salem.  From Salem it’s around 30 miles to Champoeg State Park so you would have to either get a taxi or use pedal-power to get you there.

I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any other questions.

Where are the best moderately difficult mountain biking trails in Oregon?

Thanks for the question! One person’s definition of “moderate” can vary greatly than the next person’s. I would say that a good number of the trails in Oregon are moderate. I would recommend rideoregonride.com as a resource and also look for local bike groups in the areas where you want to ride. A lot of bike shops have regular group rides. Below are some of my suggestions for moderate trails throughout the state. There are a ton more. So let me know if you want some more suggestions.

Brice Creek Trail (Cottage Grove) – This trail does have some steep cliffs and roots, but with decent bike-handling skills, shouldn’t be a problem. The trail is a lot of fun and goes past some beautiful waterfalls.
McKenzie River Trail (McKenzie Bridge) – Parts of this trail, near Clear Lake, are diffiicult. However, the portion below Trailbridge Reservoir to McKenzie Bridge is intermediate/moderate difficulty. The trail is mostly clear of rocks and roots and there aren’t any major climbs, there are a couple of narrow steep corners.
Waldo Lake Trail (Oakridge) – Outside of Oakridge, towards Willamette Pass, is one of the purest lakes in the state with a 18 mile loop around. The trail has a few obstacles, but for the most part is considered moderate because of the length of the trail. I recommend waiting until late summer, to get in shape for the ride and to wait out the swarms of mosquitos that tend to last until mid August.
Alpine Trail (Oakridge) – Whether you get a shuttle up to the trailhead, or pedal up road 1910, this trail is fun with moderate difficulty as far as obstacles go. Make sure your brakes work, because once you get on the trail it’s mostly downhill.
Timothy Lake Loop in the Mt. Hood National Forest is a fun 16-mile trail
Peterson Ridge (Sisters) This trail is on the easier side of “moderate” and offers great views of Cascades.

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