Visiting Oregon - Portland to Crater Lake
Updated: Nov 19
With something beautiful dispensed by nature at every corner, Oregon is a nature lover’s paradise. Home to bewitching forests, thunderous rivers, numerous waterfalls, flowers, ferocious coast and some of the most astonishing geological wonders. Truly a place to be lost in admiration, this has become one of our favorite destinations.
Lavender Fields, Hood River
We prepared a long list of things to do in Oregon. Multnomah Falls, Oneonta Gorge and Crater Lake were the three major driving factors to plan this trip to the pacific northwest. All three were absolutely spectacular and no doubts about that. But frankly, we found some of the other places more enjoyable and exciting. Food tasted FRESH and delicious everywhere we ate. 5 days were definitely not enough to take in Oregon. But by the end of it we were totally blown away!
Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway / View from vista point
Day 1: On 4th July (2016) we landed in Portland International airport around noon, rented a car and drove straight to Columbia River Gorge scenic area. The drive was absolutely stunning. Grand Columbia River rolled through the basalt gorge that formed when ice age floods scoured its ways through ancient lava flows.
We gawked at the columnar basalt cliffs that looked as if sculpted by man and the dense moss covered douglas fir trees that looked like they were somehow arranged in perfect symmetry.
Who would imagine a setting like this only minutes away from the urban Portland city!
Columbia River view - Vista House at Crown Point
Vista House at Crown Point / Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks
Few hundred feet above the river, we made our first stop at the Vista House at Crown Point. We felt this was the best spot for panoramic views of the winding Columbia river and the mountains. After this point, crazy traffic on the highway caused delays and long lines for parking spots. Many others were vacationing on a holiday just like us. Unable to find a spot at any of the waterfalls we had to make few on the spot changes to our itinerary.
Lavender Fields - Hood River Fruit Loop
We grabbed lunch at Bridgeside Restaurant in Cascade locks overlooking the river and the "Bridge of the Gods". We had enough daylight to do the Hood River Fruit Loop drive, so we did just that.
35 miles full of vineyards, pear and cherry orchards, berry and lavender fields; cattle, goat, sheep and alpaca farms, horse ranches, flowers, grasslands, breweries and fruit stands.
It was a fantastic drive with views of snow capped Mount Hood on one side and Mount Adams on the other. We made many stops along the drive to capture the beautiful place. It was a long and tiring day and we needed some rest. We checked-in to our hotel, Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, WA.
Pear and Cherry Orchards, Hood River
Day 2: It was time for waterfalls. We made an early start and headed first to Latourell falls followed by Shepperd’s Dell and Bridalveil falls. Less traffic that morning allowed us to enjoy the beautiful drive and find parking easily. Each waterfall was unique and beautiful with short hikes full of tiny wildflowers and lush greenery. The bright green lichen on basalt rock walls around Latourell falls was the highlight there. By the time we got to Wahkeena Falls, it got very crowded and people waiting for parking spots caused heavy traffic jams. So I decided to get off and do the ¼ mile hike to Wahkeena falls by myself, which was beautiful as well. Then I hiked another ½ mile to Multnomah falls on a connecting trail, where hubby finally found a spot to park and waited for me.
Shepperds Dell Falls / Latourell Falls base
Multnomah Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Columbia Gorge. A 620 foot falls tumbling down towering basalt cliffs. The falls surely was majestic but it was so crowded that people took turns to get a proper view and pictures. After getting whatever photos we could, we had a delicious lunch at the Multnomah lodge restaurant. Then we headed to the mighty Oneonta Gorge.
To say “It was gorgeous” is an understatement. A narrow slot canyon only 20 feet wide with sheer basalt walls covered in lichens, mosses and ferns.
It was not easy to get past the huge boulders and the giant logjam. Only one of us made it across, managed to get few pictures but did not get to see Oneonta Falls in the end. It was just not for us :( Then we drove ahead to Horsetail falls which was visible from the car itself.
Read more about our hike at Oneonta Gorge
Multnomah Falls / Oneonta Gorge
So after all the waterfall viewing, we drove to the charming Hood River city to the famous Mike’s Ice Cream shop, to check out what it had to offer. The ice cream tasted fresh and creamy and the decor outside was very inviting. After the cool off, we headed to the historic Timberline Lodge that sat 5000 ft up on Mount Hood. It was very cold and windy up there. We got a closer look of the peak which had only few patches of snow left.
We wanted to finish the day with a hike on Trillium Lake loop trail, but despite going round and round we couldn’t find a parking lot nor the trailhead. But we were also tired so we decided to end the drive and return to our hotel.
Mike's Icecream / These flowers were everywhere
Day 3: We checked-out of the hotel and went to Seize the Bagel in Vancouver, WA for breakfast. Like i said earlier, everything tasted fresh, so did the cream cheese there. Before heading south we visited Washington Park in downtown Portland to check out International Rose Test Garden.
We were wowed by the variety of roses ranging from micro minis to large ones and the sweet fragrance that filled the air.
Then we walked to the adjacent Japanese Garden. Even with so many visitors in the park, a walk around the gardens was very peaceful and relaxing. Steep roads and beautiful homes surrounding the park felt like San Francisco, but different in many ways.
International Rose Test Garden in Portland
Variety of roses / Japanese Garden
After a hot 3 hour drive we arrived at Best Western Hartford Lodge, Sutherlin and called it a day. It was a convenient location between Crater Lake and the pacific coast, where we planned to visit next.
Day 4: Little did we know about Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway (Highway 138) that lead to Crater Lake National Park.
A dense forest with a number of waterfalls, wild and scenic Umpqua river, majestic cliffs and magnificent old growth trees.
Though we were tempted to stop many times, we headed first to Crater Lake. The lake formed when volcanic Mount Mazama exploded, sunk and filled with rain and melting snow over centuries, and is known as the deepest lake in the US. This may be one of the bluest lakes we have even seen, with strokes of turquoise and teal around the edges. Stopping by many viewpoints along rim drive, we headed to Castle Creek Wildflower trail. It was a serene and beautiful hike with a gentle stream coursing by the trail. There were few pretty flowers and pretty blue butterflies but not so many as we expected to see. And those BIG mosquitoes didn’t leave us in peace for long.
Check out all the beautiful Flowers from Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake / Flowers on Wildflower trail
Who doesn’t love chipmunks?! They were all over the place, minding their own business but trying to cross roads right in front of speeding cars. Our next stop was Vidae Falls on East Rim Drive. It was a beautiful cascading waterfall just off the road. Rest of east rim was closed so we turned around and headed back out of the park onto Umpqua Scenic Byway. There were plenty of pullouts to admire the Umpqua river, wildflowers grew in plenty the entire stretch and the place was mosquito infested.
It is no exaggeration that the leaves in this forest were greener than green. Apparently there are over 17 waterfalls that can be accessed from this highway alone.
Our first stop was Clearwater Falls. A picturesque cascading falls feeding a variety of mosses on the rocks and logs surrounding it. Next was Watson Falls, the tallest waterfall in the area, was an easy hike uphill through a dense trail with more flowers.
Vidae Falls - Crater Lake National Park
Watson Falls - Umpqua National Forest Oregon / Wildflowers
Toketee Falls was our favorite among all the waterfalls we visited in Oregon. A 12 foot diameter wooden Toketee pipeline that passed the trailhead, regulated the falls and diverted a huge volume of river water to a powerhouse downstream. From the tiny leaks, it was evident that the pipeline was bursting with water. An easy trail ran parallel to the roaring Umpqua river leading to a viewing deck.
Thundering sounds as the 2 tiered falls plunged into the pool rubbing the columnar basalt walls is indescribable.
Halfway through, our adventurous side diverted us off the trail to get a good look of the river. The wild Umpqua river churned through a narrow rock gorge and fell into bowl shaped potholes that eventually plunged as the Toketee Falls.
Toketee Pipeline / Umpqua River, Oregon
The rest of the drive, from Sutherlin to Glide (where highway 138 starts) was not bad at all. It was more of a farm land, we saw many deer sharing rolling grass hills with cattle and sheep.
Day 5: Wish we had a day or two more to spend in Umpqua Forest. Very little is written about this part of Oregon and the gorgeous waterfalls there, it is definitely a must visit in our opinion. Anyway, it was time for us to hit the coast, so we checked-out and headed to Florence. It started to rain as we entered Siuslaw National Forest on highway 101.
There was more lush greenery, cute little towns and gorgeous ocean views along this highway.
Our first stop was Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. We just saw the dunes from the lookout, got some photos and moved on. Next we stopped at the riverfront of the old town of Florence, to see and photograph the old Siuslaw River Bridge.
Siuslaw River Bridge, Florence
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area / Thor's Well - Cape Perpetua
Only few miles from there was Sea Lion Caves. An elevator took us 200ft down to a viewing deck from where we could see sea lions resting on rocks in an ocean cave. There were informative displays and a view of Heceta Head lighthouse from down there.
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon
Our next stop was Cape Perpetua Scenic Area in the coastal city, Yachats. The visitor center had a display of some of the native flowers and fruits with their names, saved me some time on the internet for my Flowers from Oregon post. We took the trail to Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well. Spouting horn did not have much action going on despite being high tides that day. There were many more flowers and plenty of edible berries along the trails. A park ranger urged us to try Salal Berries. They tasted quite good, more like a mix of blueberry and guava.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area / Devil's Churn - Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
We continued on the trail to Devil’s Churn. It was fascinating to see huge waves crash into the rocks spraying water 20-30 feet up in the air. We hopped on rocks to the edge of the inlet as those huge waves put on a pretty spectacular show. For our last and delicious lunch in Oregon we stopped at Ona in Yachats. Then we headed to Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport. We couldn't go inside the lighthouse as it was closed but we got great views from the deck. There were countless number of nesting birds on the rocks and many pretty flowers bloomed across the hills. Our last stop for the day was Devil’s Punch Bowl. We could see the bowl from the lookout but couldn’t hike the trail as it started to rain heavily.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Birds at the Lighthouse / Devil's Punch Bowl
With this we had to end our trip and drive to our hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, Tigard. After a quick dinner at the bistro inside we called it a night as we had to catch an early flight the next morning.
We may have missed many beautiful spots, especially along the coast. But we did see lots of unexpected places, made lots of lovely memories and enjoyed to the fullest.