Category Archives: Oregon Coast

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!

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

Cape Kiwanda (Summer)

Directions: Head to Pacific City on the Oregon Coast and get onto Cape Kiwanda Drive. Follow it down to the public parking areas near the beach.

From the parking area head down towards the beach. Take a right and head for the large dune right in front of you. Go left on the dune where it’s less steep and hike up to the top. Once up at the top you will have great views of the beach below, Pacific City, and the Haystack out in the ocean. There is an interesting cave that makes quite the noise when large waves come crashing in. You can go farther up the dune to get even better views as well. There is a lot to explore up here so make sure you give yourself enough time to see everything!

      

      

There is a cable fence that runs along the top and while we were here there was a Ranger walking along the fence letting people know that it is allowed to cross the fence, but he was warning that it’s very dangerous near the edges. He flat out didn’t recommend going down towards the cave. Many people have fallen at Cape Kiwanda and there are a lot of clothespins clipped to the fence with memorials written on them for those who have died. The day before an 8 foot chunk had fallen into the ocean, the edges are very unstable. 

      

We did cross the fence at the large flat area, but didn’t go anywhere near the sides. We saw a lot of people standing right on the sides and down by the cave. We do NOT recommend doing this. Please listen to the Ranger and stay where it’s safe.

We saw plenty of seabirds, and a deer munching on some bushes on a ledge. Whales have been spotted during the summer months but we didn’t see any on our trip. We were surprised to see paintbrush, clover, and salal blooming, it was a nice treat!

      

Cape Kiwanda is a VERY popular place and definitely shows some signs of over loving. Please respect the area and pack out anything you brought with you.

 

Distance: .5 – 2 miles, depends how much exploring you do (easy)

Elevation: 240 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes year round

Warnings: Falling

University Falls (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 West and then get on Highway 6 (for Banks and Tillamook). After about 19 miles on Highway 6 take a left at the road for Rogers Camp. Go right at the split so you’re on Saddle Mountain Road. Follow the road (staying right at all the splits) for about 3 miles, the road is always signed for University Falls. The trailhead is on the right side of the road and well marked. It’s a gravel road with a few potholes but it’s pretty well maintained. Watch for logging trucks and ATV’s

Last time we were here we happened to pick a day with a huge trail run going through the area. This time was much better since we didn’t have to dodge people running up on us out of nowhere 😆

From the small parking area get on the trail that starts out heading uphill gradually. You will soon come to a ATV crossing, after this crossing the trail starts heading downhill. There were a lot more flowers this time, the salal was blooming all along the trail as well as some wild daisies and tiny lupine.

      

After passing the large clearcut area off to your right the trail levels out again and curves left. The sign for the waterfall was knocked down this time but the trail off to the left is overgrown but still obvious. Along this side trail was some muddy areas that were a haven for mosquitoes but quick to pass through. You’ll quickly see the creek and then University Falls off in the distance.

      Head back out the way you came in.

The trail was a little better this time around with the flowers but the clearcut is still ugly. It takes away from what could be a very pretty coast range hike.

 

Distance: .8 mile (easy)

Elevation: 200 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Season: All

Popular: No

Warnings: None

Best Of 2016

We did a lot of great hikes in 2016, here are some of our favorites and our overall top hike of the year.

  • Willamette Valley:

Henline Falls– This is a short hike but it takes you to an amazing waterfall. Catch it at the right time of day and you might just see a rainbow at the base as well!

  • Columbia River Gorge:

Columbia Hills State Park– Great area to see wildflowers with amazing views of the Gorge.

  • Washington:

Lewis River Falls– So many pretty waterfalls in such a short distance. Definitely a must see.

  • Coast:

The Thumb– This was probably the most unique hike we did this year.

  • Central Oregon:

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge)– The views are amazing at the top and you get a very up close view of Monkey Face!

  • Mt. Hood:

Wind Lake– You get to ride a chairlift up to the top of Ski Bowl and then hike to a somewhat hidden lake. And the whole time you have great views of Mt. Hood and Government Camp. 

  • Portland:

Powell Butte- This is a great hike in the city. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Hood.

  • Southern Oregon:

Plaikni Falls– This hike was inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s very pretty, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colors.

  • Kayak:

Disappearing Lake– This was such a treat! It’s a lake that’s only around for about a month out of the whole year.

Overall Best of 2016:

Bald Mountain– The hike up bald mountain is beautiful and lined with beargrass. Once at the top you round a corner and come to one of the best views of Mt. Hood we’ve ever seen. Do this hike!

What were some of your favorite hikes in 2016? Any you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?

 

The Thumb (Summer)

Directions: Depending on where you’re coming from head to Lincoln City. Once in Lincoln City go to the very North end of town and turn onto Logan Road. Pass the Safeway and follow the road to the very end. The road ends at two gates, turn around and park in the small gravel turnout.

From the gravel turnout head up the road until you come to the two gates. Head towards the left gate, you can get past the gate on its right side. Follow the trail uphill and you will soon come to a split in the trail. There is a small hiking sign pointing you to the right. From here the trail heads uphill pretty steeply.

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Once at the top of this first steep section the trail splits again. To your left is a washed out trail so stay right and keep heading uphill. Stay on the main trail as you keep going uphill, there will be a couple side trails but don’t take them. Eventually the trail starts to level out as you head into an area that’s thick with salal. It’s pretty overgrown in places and the trail gets really narrow because of it. You will pass a good viewpoint of the ocean as you continue on.

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The trail then starts heading downhill as you come out to the grassy field and get your first good look at The Thumb! Follow the trail through the grass as you reach the base of The Thumb. From here it gets a little hard, the trail heads up very steeply. It’s a short distance but it’s so steep it’s hard to stand up straight. Once at the top you have amazing views of the ocean and Lincoln City below. There isn’t much room at the top so if there are people up there you may want to wait until they come down before you start up. This is an out and back trail so when you are done head back out the way you came in.

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During the wet months this whole trail is very muddy and slick. We have had a stretch of really hot weather and there was still muddy parts in the wooded areas. There are a lot of runoff and washed out areas in the trail as well. So the weather may be something to consider before hiking this trail.

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View of The Thumb from down on Roads End beach.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation: Not 100% sure on the elevation but it’s pretty steep in multiple places.

Difficulty: Moderate to The Thumb, hard going up The Thumb.

Pet Friendly: Yes but there are drop offs that could be dangerous for dogs.

Good For: Sure footed hikers. May not be best for younger kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All but best in summer.

Popular: No

Overall: This was a great hike, definitely something different which was nice!

Banks-Vernonia Trail (Buxton Trestle) (Spring)

Directions: This hike starts at the Manning Trailhead. Take Highway 26 West to the town of Banks where you will take a right onto Pihl Road (it’s off of Hwy 26, if you see the Dairy Queen you’ve gone too far). Immediately cross Sell Road and the trailhead is on the right.

From the parking area go left on the paved path and cross the road. You will quickly cross a bridge over Dairy Creek. For about the first mile or so the trail will be going through farms. We saw cows, pigs, horses, and chickens. There area few houses and barns along the way as well. We even saw a Cricket match going on out in a field which was fun to stop and watch for a bit.

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Soon you will come to Pongratz Road, after you cross the road the trail becomes much more woodsy. You are still on a paved path but you are surrounded by trees and the trail starts to gradually head uphill. After a little over a mile you will come to the Buxton Trestle, it has been resurfaced for pedestrian use. You can see picnic  tables and a large grassy area below, you will be down there shortly 🙂

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After crossing the bridge take the side trail that takes you down to the Buxton Trailhead. Keep going past the trailhead and cross a bridge over Mendenhall Creek. Now you will come to the picnic table that you were seeing from up on the Trestle. You also get a great view of the trestle and can take in just how big it is. Continuing on this trail it takes you back up to the main trail. Go left and follow the trail back out the way you came in.

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This would be a good stop on the way to or from the coast. It’s very popular for bikers so be prepared for bicycles zooming past you the whole time. There are also nettles along the trail in the woodsy areas.

Distance: 5.8 miles

Elevation: 230 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: We’ll be back with our bikes next time 🙂

University Falls (Spring)

Directions: Take Highway 26 West and then get on Highway 6 (for Banks and Tillamook). After about 19 miles on Highway 6 take a left at the road for Rogers Camp. Go right at the split so you’re on Saddle Mountain Road. Follow the road (staying right at all the splits) for about 3 miles, the road is always signed for University Falls. The trailhead is on the right side of the road and well marked. It’s a gravel road with a few potholes but it’s pretty well maintained. Watch for logging trucks and ATV’s

From the trailhead the trail is just to your left. You will start out going uphill and cross two gravel roads. After crossing the second road the trail starts heading downhill as you come to a really big clearcut area on your right.

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After passing the clearcut area the trail levels out and comes to a trail junction. Go left towards the signed University Falls. It’s a skinny trail that’s a bit overgrown. Follow this more heavily wooded trail a short distance as it ends right at the base of University Falls.

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University Falls is quite pretty and it’s almost a cross between Fairy Falls and Ramona Falls. This waterfall is best viewed during the rainy seasons, it’s only a trickle during the summer. It makes a great stop while on your way to the coast!

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Distance: .8 miles

Elevation: 190 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: No

Overall: The waterfall is very pretty. The hike itself wasn’t that great, especially with all the clearcutting.

Yaquina Head (Winter)

The distance for this hike depends on what you end up doing.

Directions: Take I-5 South to exit 228. Get on Highway 34 West and then get on Highway 20 West. Take Highway 20 into Newport and take a right onto Highway 101. Drive for about 4.5 miles and take a left onto Lighthouse Drive. There are signs once you are in Newport.

There are multiple things to do at Yaquina Head. For this trip we decided to check out the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and Cobble Beach. There are multiple trails and coves as well but we didn’t have time for it all! Click here to see a brochure of the area.

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You can walk or drive to the lighthouse and beach area from the interpretive center. If you choose to walk you’ll pick up the trail at the interpretive center parking lot and follow it along the bluffs where it drops you at the lighthouse parking lot. You have a chance of seeing gray whales and harbor seals on the trail. If you drive just follow the road that takes you to the parking area.

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The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is the tallest (93 feet) lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. You can sign up at the interpretive center for a tour of the lighthouse. We did the tour and it was definitely worth it. BLM workers dress up and show you around the bottom rooms, share lots of history, and take you up to the top where you get to see the actual light.

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There are viewing decks behind the lighthouse to whale watch and get great views of the ocean. Don’t forget your binoculars!

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For Cobble Beach take the wooden steps down to the rocky beach. It’s one of the more interesting beaches as there is no sand, it’s all cobble and rocky tide pool areas. For the full experience you want to be aware of the tide. You need to visit at low tide, we arrived about 45 minutes before low tide was at it’s peak which worked well. The tide pools are great! We saw starfish, purple sea urchins, anemones, barnacles, snails, mussels, and crabs. It was probably our best tide pool experience. We also saw Harbor Seals and Harlequin Ducks!

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Yaquina Head is a great area for nature lovers and kids. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here!

Distance: 0-1 mile

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: No

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $7 (good for 3 days)

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: This place was really fun, we can’t wait to come back and check out all the stuff we didn’t have time for!

Hug Point Waterfall (Winter)

Directions: Take Highway 26 to Highway 101 and go South for Cannon Beach. Follow 101 South for about 12 miles to the Hug Point state recreation area (there are signs).

This is an easy beach walk to a small but pretty waterfall. It would be a nice addition to any hike you’re doing in the area, or if you are short on time. This is also a nice stop for people with younger children.

Warning: You need to be aware of the tide. This waterfall is ONLY accessible at low tide. Please check a tide table before starting this hike.

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From the parking area take the staircase down to the beach and head North. As you come to a sandstone point make sure you watch the tide as you round the corner and start to see the waterfall. You’ll pass along a cave in the sandstone and pass a cove type area before you reach the waterfall. It’s just a quick quarter mile from the parking area.

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The waterfall is only about 15 feet high but it’s quite pretty with the colors of the stone around it. There are also nearby caves to explore and you can walk up on top of the waterfall. When you are done head back out the way you came in.

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Distance: .5 mile

Elevation: Minimal elevation gain/loss, just the staircase down to the beach.

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: No

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: A pretty little waterfall that is only viewable at low tide.