Category Archives: Winter

William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge (Winter)

Directions: Drive I-5 to exit 228, turn right onto OR-34 W and follow it for about 9.5 miles. Turn left onto OR-45 Bypass and just less than a mile later merge onto OR-99W. Follow this road until you see signs for the refuge, where you will turn onto Finley Road. Follow this gravel road a short distance where you will enter the refuge on the left.

This is a large wildlife refuge with lots of different hiking trails. Some are open year-round and some are only open from April to October. In this post we’ll be talking about three of the trails.

Homer Campbell Memorial Trail- 1 mile

This is an out and back trail on boardwalk that takes you to an observation blind. The boardwalk takes you through the Muddy Creek riparian area that is full of ash trees. We saw quite a few Wood Ducks in the wooded area. When we reached the blind we saw Tundra Swans and Canada Geese out in Cabell Marsh. We also saw many Song Sparrows in the trees right around the blind.

      

      

Just past this trailhead is the Fletcher House and an old red barn, they are both worth a short stop.

      

Woodpecker Loop Trail- 1.1 miles

This is a lollipop trail, the trail heads into the woods at an even grade, soon you will start the loop by heading right and crossing over a small footbridge. From here the trail starts to head uphill, it’s nothing too steep. You will come to an observation deck that’s built around a large oak tree that gives you a nice view of the refuge. Continue following the loop through and open field area to a small seasonal pond. From here you head back into a more heavily wooded area, the trail starts to drop down and takes you to the end of the loop where you follow the trail back to your car.

      

      

This trailhead is very close to the refuge headquarters, they have a small gift shop and bathrooms here. There is also a few feeders and plants that attract many birds. We saw Rufous Hummingbirds, Mourning Doves, an Acorn Woodpecker, and many Tree Swallows.

      

McFadden’s Marsh Trail- .30 mile

This short trail is located on the far side of the refuge, there are a few ponds that are worth stopping at along the road on the way.

This short gravel and boardwalk trail takes you along McFaddens Marsh to a observation blind. We saw an Egret, Canada Geese, and Red-Winged Blackbirds in this area.

      

 

We will definitely be back this spring or summer to check out the seasonal trails.

 

Distance: 1-8+ miles, depends on the season and which trails you decide to take.

Elevation: Depends but there seems to not be too much elevation in any one trail.

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Dogs are NOT allowed in the refuge

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great birdwatching, excited to see what birds we can see in other seasons.

Frog Lake (Snowshoe)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 east past Government Camp, keep left at the junction with Hwy 35, staying on 26. Follow Hwy 26 for about another 5 miles where the Frog Lake Sno-Park will be on your left.

It’s amazing that we are still snowshoeing in mid-March, with lots of snow too! This winter has been great!

From the parking area get on the trail, which is actually the road when there is no snow. It’s very wide and evenly graded, lined with tall snow covered trees. This area is very popular with snowmobilers, so you will be hearing and seeing them often. We just tried to stay to the side of the trail since they come up on you fast, easier then trying to quickly get out of the way so you don’t get hit. This trail is also used by x-country skiers.

      

      

You will soon come to a junction to your right, this takes you to the lake. It starts out downhill briefly then evens out the rest of the way. You will start to see the lake off to your left through the trees, keep following this trail until it splits. Go left and downhill until you reach the lake and what is normally the parking lot during the summer months. If the lake isn’t frozen over yet we hear that there is a trail around the lake, there was so much snow that we couldn’t see any trail at all. But, the lake was completely frozen with a large snowpack on top of the ice so we went out onto the lake and looped around that way. This is another area you really want to watch out for the snowmobilers, they were crisscrossing all over the lake at a very high rate of speed. It’s also good to make sure you are certain that the lake is frozen over before going out onto it.

      

On a clear day you will have a great view of the mountain at the lake. It had gotten really cloudy and started snowing by the time we got to the lake which was a bummer! After you finish the loop head back out the way you came in.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Elevation: 200 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Yes a snow-park pass is required

Seasons: Anytime there is snow 🙂

Popular: Very

Overall: This is a very pretty area but the snowmobiles do take away from how great this place is. They are very loud and smell like exhaust pretty bad. Might be best to try this place early on a weekday.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (Winter)

The Rhododendron Garden is located on 28th Avenue, across from Reed College in the Eastmoreland neighborhood.

This is more of a walk than a hike but it’s still a nice place to go to get outdoors for a while.

From the entrance take the paved path and switchback once where you go under a bridge and come to a pond. There are lots of ducks here and sadly it looks like the big willow tree that was by the bridge didn’t make it through the winter storms. Continue on the path and you will round a corner and start to see the golf course across the water. The path here is gravel and takes you to another pond with even more ducks, you may even see a nutria if you have the patience to hang around for a while.

      

      

After crossing the long bridge go left and down along the pond, pick up the path as it goes back up into the rhododendrons. There will be a fence and stream to your left and a grassy area to your right. As you continue to follow this trail it will round a corner and come to an area with cattails and reeds, you can see more of the golf course across the water here as well. Continuing around you’ll be following along the water as it loops back to the long bridge. From here just continue to follow the path back to your car. There are lots of side trails along the way to check out, the garden is beautiful and a great place to explore.

      

      

Some of the birds we saw were herons, ruddy ducks, mallards, humming birds, geese, coots, wigeons, and wood ducks.

Distance: 2 miles (you can do more or less, depends on which trails you take)

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes but dogs must be leashed

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee from March- September, except every Mon & Tues are free year round.

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great place for wildlife viewing, we need to go back during rhododendron season.

Silver Falls State Park- Trail Of Ten Falls (Winter)

Directions: Take I-205 to exit 10 and drive South on Highway 213. Follow signs to Silverton, once in Silverton get on Highway 214. Take Highway 214 for about 14 miles to the South Falls Lodge parking area.

We did this hike on a very rainy weekend. All of the waterfalls were very full which was great to see! There are park maps at the pay station area, they are nice to have so you know which waterfalls are coming up. You can do the large loop that takes you to all 10 waterfalls, or you can do just a few. There are three trailhead areas, each have multiple waterfalls within just a few miles.

All of the trails are very well marked with easy to read signs. The trails are all fairly wide, with packed dirt and rocky in areas. There are a few bridges and two areas with long and pretty steep staircases. You can walk behind multiple waterfalls as well, so there’s a good chance you will get a little wet in the warmer months, or soaked in the wet months.

      

Since this is such a straightforward hike we’ll just post some pictures of the highlights. We have done this hike in other season, winter is definitely our favorite so far. The waterfalls and creek were so full and it was a lot less crowded.

      

      

      

Distance: 7.5 miles (if you want to see all of the waterfalls)

Elevation: 1,200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Dogs are not allowed on MOST of the trails.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: $5 entrance fee

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is one of Oregon’s best State Parks!

Browns Ferry Park (Winter)

Directions: Take I-5 to exit 289. Turn left onto Nyberg, follow the road a short distance and the park will be on your left.

This is a nice park for a quick walk, or a great place if you’re a birder.

      

From the parking area go over the bridge, follow the trail around to the left and you can quickly check out the big barn that’s in the park. Head back and down towards the pond, this is a great area to see birds. During our visit we were able to see a golden crowned sparrow, spotted towhee, gadwalls, northern shovelers, buffleheads, green winged teals, and pied-billed grebes. Continuing on, follow the path past the pond and across another bridge.

      

      

From here stick to the dirt path that follows along the river. We saw a woodpecker in here and you will pass by a few small marshy pond areas. The trail connects back out to a paved path briefly but you can get on the dirt trail again. Follow this for as long as you want. You get brief views of the Tualatin River and the houses that line it, but it’s mostly fairly wooded.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends.

Overall: This is a nice park, the pond attracts some great birds. Nice place for kids or an afterwork walk as well.

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (Winter)

Directions: Take I-5 South to exit 294. Get onto 99W/Barbur Boulevard and drive about 6.5 miles. Take a right into the Refuge.

From the parking area follow the trail down into a wide gravel path with trees. There are many side trails and benches with informational signs. The path goes down a small hill and over a bridge where you will start to follow along the Tualatin River. We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately and the river was definitely over it’s bank. There were large areas of the trail along the river that were flooded out and you needed to go way out into the grass to get around it.

      

There is a platform area that gives you a view of the river and has an informational sign. Continuing on you head toward a thicker wooded area. The trail was flooded out here and we couldn’t go any farther. If you are able to continue, the trail takes you out to a wetland observation deck. It gives you great views and there are usually lots of birds out this way.

      

Head back out the way you came in and make sure you check out the visitor center. There are a few telescopes that let you get a nice closeup view of the wetlands. As well as lots of interpretive stuff.

      

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 60 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great place to do some birding.

Swampy Lakes Sno-Park (Snowshoe)

Directions: Take the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to the signed Sno-Park, it will be on the right.

The Swampy Lakes area has multiple snowshoe and x-country skiing trails. We were snowshoeing so we’ll be talking about the snowshoe trails. For a map of the whole area with all of the trails click here.

Trail options: A short loop (1.75 miles) and long loop (3.25 miles). Tie trail that takes you to a nearby Sno-Park.  Lastly, the porcupine trail that takes you past the lakes and to a shelter with a wood stove, this can be done as a 4.6 mile loop or an out and back that is 4 miles.

The weather we encountered was less than ideal, strong winds and steady snow made for low visibility. We decided to explore a small section of the porcupine trail and the short loop.

      

All of the trails are very well marked with blue diamonds that have a yellow snowshoer inside. The trails all go through a very pretty lodgepole pine forest that switches from heavily treed to sparse. The loops seem to have little elevation and the porcupine trail rollercoasters the whole way. This is a great place to spend time just exploring around.

      

There are designated trails for what activity you are doing, please make sure you are paying attention to the diamonds and not getting on a x-country trail with your snowshoes.

      

We can’t wait to come back on a day where the weather allows us more time to see more of the area.

 

Distance: Depends on which trail you choose

Elevation: Depends- some loops are flat, some take you up buttes with quite a bit of elevation.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in the Sampy Lakes area.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: Sno-Park Pass

Seasons: Snowy months for snowshoeing and x-country skiing

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great area, looking forward to going back and seeing the snow shelter.

Tumalo Falls (Winter)

Directions: From the city of Bend go west on Skyliners Road and follow it to Bearwallow Road where you will take a right. Less than a mile later take a left onto NF-4601 and follow this road for about 3 miles. Turn left and follow the road for about a mile and a half.

In the winter there is a small parking area at the snow gate that is just past a one lane bridge. With all the heavy snow the area got the parking lot had very deep snow. During the snowy months we would not recommend parking in the small lot if your car is not all wheel drive AND high clearance. We saw a few cars that were stuck and one that even had to be towed out of the area. Park along the road that forks left, right before the bridge.

From the snow gate get on the wide trail that in the peak seasons is the access road that takes you up to the waterfall. This is a heavily used trail so the snow was pretty packed down. We saw people snowshoeing, skiing, and just in boots. We started out snowshoeing and then decided to carry them since the snow was pretty hard.

      

      

You start out following pretty close next to Tumalo Creek. The trail rollercoasters for almost the whole 2.5 mile trip out to the waterfall and there are snowy ridges all around you. The trail mostly looks the same the whole way out but it’s quite pretty. At about the 2.25 mile mark you cross over a bridge and wind up a short hill where there are bathrooms and a viewing platform. There was so much snow that it was all the way up to the top of the railing around the viewing platform. You can take a steep but short side trail to get to a top viewing area but we were running out of daylight and didn’t have time. We will for sure head to the top on our next trip out here.

From here head back out the way you came in.

      

Distance: 5 miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Sno-Park Pass or a NW Forest Pass (depending on the season)

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great winter hike or snowshoe. We’re excited to go back and see what it looks like without snow 🙂

Sandy River Delta (Winter)

Directions: Take I-84 East to exit 18 and take a right at the stop sign. Follow the road under the freeway to the parking area.

We started this hike on an unmarked trail that is near the entrance gate to the parking area. We followed this dirt and gravel trail straight and through an open area where there is an intersecting trail that you can take either left or right. We went right and followed this trail that’s up above the open meadow area you just walked through. The trail continues for a while before coming to an open area where you can see power lines and off to your right you can see the big open grass area that has a main trail running through it.

      

Head down to the main trail, where you get a nice view of Mt. Hood, and go left following it along a section of the Sandy River and to a bird blind. You can go past the blind a bit and get a view of the Columbia River. From here head back out and follow the main trail back through the open grassy area as it winds back around to the parking area.

      

The Sandy River Delta is the areas largest off-leash dog park, so you will see tons of dogs roaming around freely. You will also see mountain bikers and horseback riders, as well as hear duck hunters off in the distance. This area is great for birdwatching, we’ve seen many different birds here throughout the year.

There are many different intersecting trails and they aren’t really marked. Most of them lead back to main trails, it’s a great place to get out and just explore.

To see our previous post about the Sandy River Delta click here.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: Minimal

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Very

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Very easy hike, more of a walk actually. Nice place to nature watch and just explore.

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?