Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-205 North to exit 27. Merge onto Highway 14 east and follow it for about 12 miles. Take a right at the sign for Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge.

From the parking area pass the bathroom (there is a whiteboard on the side that has a list of wildlife people have seen recently, it’s worth a look) and get on the trail. You’ll pass a few interpretive signs and soon be following along next to a large open grassy/marshy area.

      

After passing by a couple branches of Steigerwald Lake you will enter a small wooded area. Here we saw a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, and Brown Creeper.

      

      

Keep following the trail and you’ll come to a split in the trail, part of the refuge is closed October through April to protect winter birds. Go right and cross the bridge, in here we saw a Bald Eagle. Follow the trail to another bridge over Redtail Lake. We saw Northern Shovelers and Coots in the lake as well as a sleeping Nutria in the grass. You can continue on from here where the trail ends at the dike trail.

      

Head back the way you came in.

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: None

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed in the refuge.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All. Part of the trail is closed Oct-Apr

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Little Zigzag Falls (Autumn)

Directions: Head east on Highway 26 until you reach Road 39 (about 6 miles past the town of Zigzag). Head north on Road 39, the trailhead is at the very end of the road (about 2.5 miles from Highway 26).

From the trailhead get on the nicely graded trail and quickly pass a few picnic tables and under a few trees that have fallen from above. The trail follows along Zigzag Creek the whole time and you’ll notice the trees all over the creek from past storms. There are many beautiful sections that are great for photos.

      

You’ll cross a bridge and soon come to a small slide area before arriving at the 40-foot waterfall. There is a trail off to the left that takes you up to the top of the waterfall as well.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

Before you leave, back at the parking area, cross the stone bridge over the creek and get on the old Mt. Hood Hwy. Follow it for a short distance and you’ll come to a stone tunnel that goes under the old highway. It now seems to have graffiti on the inside but it’s still an interesting little side trip.

To see our other posts about Little Zigzag Falls click here and here.

 

Distance: 0.6 miles (easy)

Elevation: 40 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Warnings: None

Laurel Hill (Autumn)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 and continue past the town of Sandy for approximately 26 miles to a pullout between mileposts 50 and 51. There is a large brown “Laurel Hill” sign.

Take the stone steps uphill where it dumps you out on the Old Mt. Hood Highway. On a clear day it’s worth going left on the old highway a very short distance where the highway ends and you get a nice view of Mt. Hood.

      

Back at the stone steps go right on the old highway and pass the chute trail and soon come to another trail off to the left marked with a simple “hikers” sign. Take this trail and head up a few switchbacks. You’ll see a post with an old Oregon Trail marker on it and a sign stating that you’re on an original wagon route.

      

Continue on uphill where the trail is lined heavily with Rhododendron, which was mistaken for Laurel, thus the name Laurel Hill. This whole area is packed full of history and it’s worth stopping at the few informational signs at the beginning of the hike.

      

Soon the trail meets back up with the old highway, go left here and follow it a short distance to where the old highway ends. You’ll get a view of the top of Mt. Hood, the busy highway below and Tom Dick and Harry ridge off to your right.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 2.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: 225 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Spring- Fall

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Memaloose Hills (Autumn)

Directions: Take I-84 to exit 69. Follow Highway 30 east and in 3 miles you will see the Memaloose Overlook sign with a gravel parking lot on the left.

From the parking area carefully cross the road and take the unmarked but obvious trail. The trail is lined with oak trees and is kinda rocky, but typical of Gorge trails. There are a couple houses off to the right but they are pretty far away.

      

The trail heads uphill gradually for a bit and eventually levels off for a while before heading back downhill to a small stream. It was dry when we visited (mid-October) but i’m sure it gets pretty full during the rainy season. There is no bridge over the small creek but should be easily crossed over some of the well placed large rocks.

      

After crossing the creek you will see a unmarked trail off to the right. Take this trail that’s flat and winds through fairly tall grass. You’ll pass by a small pond with cattails and head off towards a fence. At the fence area the trail starts heading uphill somewhat steeply as you go up Chatfield Hill. After you pass the tree line you will start to see Mt. Hood off to your left. The last half of the hill is just grass with nice unobstructed views of the mountain and valley below.

      

Once at the top of the hill you get amazing views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, The Gorge, and Marsh Hill. The top is pretty flat and makes a nice place to sit, have lunch, and take in the views!

      

We’ve been here twice and both times it has been really quiet, only crossing paths with 3 or 4 other people the whole time. We would definitely recommend doing this hike on a clear day, the views are what really make this hike worth it!

 

Distance: 3.25 miles (easy)

Elevation: 450 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Most ages- there is some elevation gain towards the end when going up Chatfield Hill.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Warnings: Poison Oak

To see our previous visit in spring click here.

Oregon’s 7 Wonders

Travel Oregon came up with Oregon’s 7 Wonders and we’ve slowly been checking them out over the past few years. They’re spread out all over Oregon which is great because it really gives you a chance to see a lot of the state.

This August we finally checked off the last wonder and here’s what we thought of them…

The Columbia River Gorge:

We’ve visited this wonder so many times we’ve lost count, starting when we were both kids, and have very fond memories of this area. It’s a little bitter sweet due to the recent wildfire that ravaged the area but this area is so large that there is still places to visit, and we can’t wait until the trails reopen and we get to see this beautiful place again. We know it will take a lot of time, but the Gorge will come back stronger than ever.

Waterfalls, views, and wildflowers…a Gorge trail will take you somewhere amazing!

      

      

Some of our favorite Gorge hikes are Fairy Falls, Larch Mountain, and Wahclella Falls. If you’re Looking for a good lunch spot check out The Ranch for a good burger in Hood River.

The Oregon Coast:

This is another wonder that we’ve visited countless times. Some of our favorite cities are Newport, Pacific City, and Lincoln City. Oregonians know that the coast really is an all season place. A perfect summer day is amazing but a nice winter storm is fun too! Tide pools and lighthouses are some of our favorite things to check out at the coast along with all the great hiking.

      

      

Some great hikes in the area University Falls, Cape Falcon, and Drift Creek Falls. If you’re looking for some good food check out Pacific Oyster in Bay City.

Smith Rock:

We’ve been to Smith Rock three times and it’s amazing. The hikes are great and you can’t really go wrong with any trail you pick. Our personal favorite is Misery Ridge, it may be a bit difficult but it’s well worth the extra energy spent. With the Snake River Gorge winding through the large tuff and basalt rock formations it’s easy to see why this area made the list.

      

      

Make sure to stop by Juniper Junction (Rockhard) for some tasty huckleberry ice cream.

The Painted Hills:

Probably the most unique place on the list with all of the bright colored hills. There’s so much to see here you’ll need to plan for most of the day to really explore this place. There are trails that take you up hills to allow you views of the whole area. Off to one side you’ll see large hills with yellow, red and purple paintbrush type strokes on them, and then if you look another direction you’ll see smaller hills that are deep red or bright yellow-gold. Make sure to check out the trails that go around the smaller hills, it’s really amazing to see the texture and colors up close.

      

      

For more info on the trails click here.

Crater Lake:

Crater Lake is a Caldera Lake that’s very large and very blue. You can drive around the whole crater rim and there are many trails around the caldera. After spending time at some of the many viewpoints and getting a good look at the lake and wizard island make sure to make some time to explore the trails. A few of our favorites are Plaikni Falls and The Pinnacles.

      

      

While you’re in the area make sure to check out Toketee Falls.

The Wallowas:

Way out in eastern Oregon are the Wallowa Mountains, near the town of Joseph. They call it the Swiss Alps of Oregon and we can definitely see why. The best and easiest way to see the Wallowa Mountains are to take the tramway up to the top of Mt. Howard. Wallowa Lake is also a big attraction in this area, the lake is huge and it offers great views of the mountains as well. There are a ton of beautiful barns in the area, stop at the visitor center in Joseph for a map of where you can find them all.

      

      

We recommend the famous mountain berry shake at the Eagle Cap Chalet and a burger from the Glacier Grill.

Mt. Hood:

Of course the Mt. Hood area would make this list- it’s amazing! The mountain itself is beautiful as are the lakes and waterfalls that surround it. This area can’t be beat when it comes to winter activities too- ski, snowboard, snowshoe…you can seriously do it all.

      

      

Some of our favorite hikes in this area Bald Mountain, Umbrella Falls, Zigzag Canyon, and snowshoeing at White River West.

 

Oregon’s 7 Wonders are truly amazing and they really show off how great this state is, we’ll be back to visit them all again and again!

How many of the wonders have you seen? We’d love to hear what your favorite wonder is!

The Explored Co.

Back in the beginning of summer we were asked to write a journal entry for The Explored Co. We gladly accepted as we have followed a few of the Explored pages on Instagram and Facebook for some time.

We wrote our journal entry (that was posted back in July) about how much we love the Mt. Hood area. There are quite a few entires in the journal section now and they are all great reads.

They also have a shop with shirts, stickers, and a lot more.

 

Have fun checking out a great site and we hope everyone has been able to get in some nice autumn hikes!

Crater Lake (Autumn)

Crater Lake sits in a caldera that was formed over 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama collapsed following a major eruption. It is the deepest lake in the United States and is only fed by rain and snow, it’s considered to be the cleanest large body of water in the world. The water itself is an amazing shade of blue, 1,943 feet deep, and 6 miles wide.

      

Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902 and is 183,000 acres. You can drive all the way around the rim (33 miles) and there are over 30 scenic pullouts along the way. Some of the best viewpoints are Watchman Overlook and Cloudcap Overlook. Be sure to stop by Videa Falls, it can be seen from a pullout on the main road.

      

We did two hikes while we were here, The Pinnacles and Plaikni Falls. Both are very nice hikes and between them you get to experience the old growth forest, a pinnacle valley, and see some interesting formations left behind from the volcano. Click the links to see a more in depth post about each hike.

      

It actually snowed part of the time we were here. It was interesting because it was only snowing in certain areas and partly sunny in others. It really made us want to come back in the winter and snowshoe!

Make sure you check out the visitor centers and drive by the historic lodge.

      

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Crater Lake, there’s so much to do here that you really need to plan a whole day or more if you want to do a decent amount of exploring all the trails.

There is a $15 entrance fee, dogs are allowed in certain areas, and it’s very family friendly.

If you have more time, check out Toketee Falls about 25 miles past the North entrance.

Timothy Lake- West Side (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 about 40 miles past the town of Sandy to Skyline Road. Turn right onto Skyline Road and follow it for a little over 8 miles to a junction with FR 57. Turn right and drive for about 3.5 miles where you will cross over the dam. Turn right and a short distance later come to an intersection. Go right into the parking area.

We did this hike on a day with VERY thick wildfire smoke. We couldn’t see Mt. Hood at all which was a bummer but this was still a nice hike.

Head off on Timothy Lake Trail #528 that’s lined with trees, beargrass, and rhododendron bushes. You’re hiking right next to campsites nearly the whole time. We were here very early so most people were still sleeping so it was quiet. I’d imagine it could get pretty noisy and busy during peak camping season.

      

The trail is flat almost the whole time, it switches from being wide to a bit narrow. It’s mostly dirt and rock, it’s been dry so we kicked up a lot of dust while we were here. Our legs were pretty filthy 😆. You’ll be near the lake the whole time and there are many side trails that take you right to the edge of the lake. You’ll cross a couple footbridges and mostly just wind through a very pretty lakeside trail.

      

About 3 miles in you’ll come to where the lake narrows. The water color was a pretty green here and there are some places to stop and rest if needed. We decided this was a nice place to stop to make an out and back trip of 6 miles. If you go to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail you will have a roughly 7 mile hike. So head back out the way you came in.

      

This isn’t the most exciting hike and you don’t get a super quiet nature feel with walking by about 12+ different campsites. Still, the lake and trail are very pretty. We’re definitely coming back but probably in fall when people aren’t camping much. Make sure to walk by the dam, it’s pretty interesting!

Distance: 6 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 60 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Spring through fall

Popular: Yes

Warnings: None

Cape Falcon (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 west to Highway 101. Go south on Highway 101 for a little over 13 miles. There is a parking area on the right side of the highway for Oswald West State Park and Cape Falcon.

Take the trail for Cape Falcon (it’s toward the right side of the parking area), this trail is a mix of dirt, rocks, and a ton of roots. It can get VERY slippery with even just a little bit of rain, it started to sprinkle on our way out and one of us slipped on a rock and took a good fall. We saw a few other people sliding around as well. If you’re here during the rainy seasons plan for a trail with thick mud and pools of water.

The trail starts out gradually uphill as you quickly leave the highway noise behind. You’re walking through large spruce trees and it’s very pretty. In about a half mile you’ll come to a signed trail junction where you head right. You’ll start noticing the salal here and get ready because it gets much taller and thicker later in the hike. There are glimpses of the ocean as you wind through the trees and come to a boggy area with skunk cabbage and a short boardwalk section.

      

From here the trail rollercoasters but it’s nothing too steep. A few times you’ll drop down into some boggy areas and then back up and out to some views of the ocean. While we were here we saw a ton of surfers below. The trail is pretty eroded in areas so watch where you walk.

      

      

Keep following the trail as it winds its way along the edge of the cape and you start seeing Neahkahnie Mountain through the trees. After passing an especially eroded section that’s covered in roots from the salal you’ll keep going a bit farther to a very obvious but unsigned split in the trail. Go left as the trail cuts through the 6+ foot tall salal and heads uphill gradually. The trail opens up briefly at a viewpoint but keep going off to the right on a very narrow trail through shorter salal. This trail takes you to the tip of Cape Falcon and an open area with nice views of the ocean and Neahkahnie Mountain. The salal can be sharp where it’s been cut, it’s a good idea to hold your arms up above it or keep them very close to your sides.

This is an out and back trail so head back the way you came in.

      

We loved this hike! It was very pretty and kinda had that storybook type look. The views are great as well.

Distance: 5 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 200 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: May not be best for older folks and young kids. The trail is pretty eroded and covered in roots that are easy to trip on.

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warning: Falling

Ponytail Falls (Summer)

This hike was done less than a week before the Eagle Creek fire. We don’t know how bad this trail has been damaged. Hopefully the damage was minimal and we’ll be able to see all three of the waterfalls on this hike again soon!

Directions: Take I-84 East to the Ainsworth State Park (exit 35) and follow the Old Highway left towards Horsetail Falls.

We decided to do this hike in the opposite direction that we went the last time we visited, which was a couple years ago. To see that post click here.

Park in the Horsetail Falls parking lot and take the trail just to the left of the waterfall. You’ll be heading up long switchbacks that take you up above Horsetail Falls. The trail levels out a bit as you round a corner and start hearing Ponytail Falls. The waterfall itself pours out of a crack in the basalt shelf and dumps into a small pool below. The trail takes you behind the waterfall and continues on the other side.

      

      

Not far after the waterfall you’ll pass a slide area and come to a side trail that takes you to a great view of the Columbia River and nice views of the Gorge to the east. Back on the main trail it continues to stay pretty level for a bit and then you hit a few more switchbacks as you head down into the Oneonta Gorge area. You’ll cross a bridge and get a nice view of Middle Oneonta Falls and the Gorge itself. If you’re here on a warm day you’ll probably hear the crowds of people at Lower Oneonta falls below.

      

After crossing the bridge the trail heads uphill to a trail junction. Go right here and the trail switches from being level to heading uphill, but nothing too steep. There is another small slide area and you’ll pass another side trail that takes you to a viewpoint. Soon the trail starts heading downhill as you make your way down to the old highway.

      

Go right on the should of the highway (be cautious, there isn’t a lot of room here) and pass Oneonta Gorge and go through the Oneonta tunnel, about a quarter of a mile later you’ll be back at Horsetail Falls.

 

Distance: 3.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: This depends on how comfortable you are with hiking. There are a decent amount of switchbacks on this trail and places you could fall (there was a death on this trail last year). You’ll also be walking along the old highway for a short distance. Be cautious and make sure you’re surefooted and you should be fine.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Very

Warnings: Falling and walking along a narrow road.