Category Archives: State Park

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

Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site (Summer)

Directions: Drive I-84 east to La Grande, go north on Highway 82 and follow it into the town of Joseph. Once in Joseph follow Main St. through to the south end of town where the road curves and turns into 8th St. The Park is on the right.

We took a little trip out to Eastern Oregon and this was our first stop. We did an evening hike which was great for wildlife viewing.

From the small parking area head up the dirt path that has a few longer switchbacks and takes you to the top of a small hill. You get views down into a meadow and the Wallowa Mountains off in the distance. The trail soon heads back downhill and follows along the meadow and Silver Lake Ditch, we saw a few deer here which was great. There were many birds in the trees along the trail as well.

      

Soon you’ll come to a split in the trail, we went right towards Knight’s Pond that you can walk around. We also took the trail to the left of the pond and walked along a offshoot of the Wallowa River. Both the pond and the stream are very pretty, there are a couple small bridges over both.

      

From here we wondered around a little bit and then headed out the way we came in. This whole area is very scenic with the mountains, pond, and stream. Add in the deer and how quiet it was and we were very happy we decided to check this place out.

      

Make sure to stop and read some of the informational signs to learn about the history of this beautiful area!

We were here during some pretty intense wildfire smoke and can’t wait to come back when it’s clear out, to get even better views of the Wallowa Mountains. The smoke did make for a pretty great sunset though!

Distance: 2 miles (easy)

Elevation: 80 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Can be on nice weekends. Seems to be quiet on weekdays.

Warnings: People have seen bears in the area.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park (Pinnacles Trail) (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 east to exit 104, turn right for Wasco/Bend. Follow Highway 97 for a little over 7 miles and take a left for Wasco. Drive for about 2 miles and take a right on Clark St., a short distance later take a left for Highway 206E and Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Go another 15 miles and take a right into the park. Take a left and follow the road all the way to the end back by the campsite area and a couple vault toilets. This is the Pinnacles Trailhead.

The drive out was great to, you get to drive through a wind farm which was very interesting. Stop at the viewpoint to get a good look at the wind turbines and a nice view of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

Cottonwood Canyon is one of Oregon’s newest state parks and is the second largest. There are a few different hikes you can do here and we decided to try out the longer trail on our first visit. This area can get very hot even in spring and there are very few shady areas along the trail. We did this hike early on a sunny cloudless day and it was quite hot by the time we finished. Make sure to plan accordingly with water, sunscreen, etc. There are also lots of signs warning about ticks and snakes, so be prepared for that as well. For more information about ticks click here.

This hike is also shared with mountain bikers.

The hike immediately starts out along the John Day River and you will be hiking closely to it the whole way. After passing a trailhead station the trail curves and come to a basalt overhang with many cliff swallow nests above. You will see them flying in and out of the nest and catching bugs near the river. Continuing on you will be walking along sagebrush and other small bushes, hills and basalt cliffs line the canyon the whole way. We saw many deer and bighorn sheep tracks but never saw the animals themselves. We did see many butterflies and lots of different birds, as well as bones from small animals.

      

You will come to a junction in the trail we decided to go left here and gain a bit of elevation to get a better view of the canyon and river. It connects back with the main trail a short distance later. There is a bench at the top which offers a great view. You will notice benches along the trail with mile markers on them.

 

 

      

The trail continues on with much of the same views which isn’t bad, it’s very pretty. You’ll get away from the river briefly and the trail enters an area that is lined with large thistle and has a small boggy area. After this area you start seeing the river again and come to the end of the hike.

      

You’ll see the bench with the mile 4 marker and you can see the small pinnacles off in the distance to your left. You can go a bit farther to get a better look at them where you will see a gate, past the gate is considered off trail.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

This trail is different than a lot of the hikes we go on and that was nice. The whole area is beautiful with all the rolling hills and cliffs. It was our first hike along the John Day as well and it’s a very pretty river. We will definitely be back to check out the other trails.

Distance: 8 miles (moderate)

Elevation: 70 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: Yes $5 per person, not car.

Seasons: All

Popular: The area is popular for camping but we saw only four other people the whole time on the trail.

Warnings: Ticks

Lewis River Falls (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East to Cascade Locks and cross the Bridge Of The Gods ($2 toll). Take a right onto Highway 14 and drive for almost 6 miles where you will take a left onto Wind River Road. Follow Wind River Road up and over Old Man Pass, a couple miles after the pass take a left onto Curly Creek Road. Follow this road until you come to the junction with FR 90. Take a right onto FR 90 and drive for about 10 miles where you will take a right into the Lower Lewis River Falls parking area.

A small section of this trail between the lower and middle waterfalls is close. There is a detour that adds about a mile to your total hiking distance. You wont miss any of the waterfalls.

From the parking area head down the trail by the bathroom until it dumps you out at the main trail and Lower Lewis River Falls. There are multiple viewing areas for the lower falls. Go right and you will pass two of them, there are small wooden benches at them as well. Heading back up the main trail you’ll pass a staircase that takes you down to a viewing platform at the top of the lower waterfall.

      

From here get back on the main trail and head upriver. You will pass multiple staircases that allow river access and a small boardwalk turnout. As you pass these side areas the trail heads uphill gradually on a fairly wide and well maintained dirt path. There are campsites off to your left in the beginning and you will always see the river off to your right. When you are almost to the middle waterfall the trail is closed due to damage. It was like this the last time we were here (July 2016) and doesn’t seem to have had any work done on it. Take the detour trail that heads uphill somewhat steeply and through a slide area. It ends up at road level and the parking area for the middle falls. Briefly pass through the parking area and get back on the trail heading back into the forest. You’ll cross a bridge over Copper Falls and head downhill to Middle Lewis River Falls. The water level was so high this year that you couldn’t get out onto the rocks and get a good look at the waterfall.

      

Continuing on the main trail there are few spots on the way to the upper falls that have eroded quite a bit and you should be careful hiking through it. You will soon reach Upper Lewis River Falls, there is a place to get off trail and down to river level that offers a great view of the waterfall. There are a few big logs here that make it a great place to have lunch or sit and relax for a bit.

      

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

This hike is very pretty with all the lovely trees and always having a view of the river as you go. All three waterfalls looks different and are each worth checking out. Visiting in spring this year was nice because the waterfalls were a lot fuller. In the summer this place gets very busy and becomes and popular swimming hole.

Distance: 6 miles

Elevation: 320 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: Yes, a $5 NW Forest Pass is required

Seasons: All but check for road closures due to snow in the winter

Popular: Yes

Overall: We love this hike, theres a lot to see which is never a bad thing 🙂

Starvation Creek State Park Waterfall Hike (Spring)

Directions: This hike is located right off I-84 at the Starvation Creek State Park exit (#55)

We did this quick hike on a busy weekend and it was nice to see all of the improvements they have made to the area.

From the parking area go left past the bathrooms and round the corner to see Starvation Creek Falls. Once you are done here head back to the parking area and get on the trail that follows along I-84. They have done a lot of improvements in this area and it’s all paved now.

      

The first waterfall you’ll see on this section of the trail is Cabin Creek Falls. It’s hidden back behind giant basalt boulders, you can walk back in to get a good look at it. Continue on and they have put in a new elevated walkway/bridge type thing as you start to pull away from the freeway a bit. You’ll come to a split, go left and you’ll reach Hole In The Wall Falls. Its name is very literal, as it comes straight out of a manmade hole way up at the top of the cliffside.

      

We stopped here for the day but you can continue on steeply uphill and reach a junction, stay right and you’ll soon come to Lancaster Falls. We posted about Lancaster Falls here.

      

Head back out the way you came in.

 

Distance: 1.5 miles (to Hole In The Wall Falls, 2.5 miles (to Lancaster Falls)

Elevation: 300 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: On nice weekends

Overall: Easy trail where you get to see a lot of waterfalls but the noise from I-84 is very loud.

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!

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?

 

Crack In The Ground (Autumn)

Directions: From La Pine, Oregon go South on Highway 97 and turn left onto Highway 31 towards Reno. After about 30 miles turn left onto Fort Rock Road. Follow Fort Rock Road for 22 miles and turn left onto Christmas Valley Highway. Continue on the highway through the town of Christmas Valley where you will turn left onto Crack In The Ground Road. After 7 miles on this washboard dirt road you will reach the trailhead.

From the trailhead follow the dirt trail that’s lined with sagebrush and juniper trees. You get a nice view of Oregon’s high desert in this area. Soon the trail reaches a metal box on a pole that has some sign in sheets. The entrance into “the crack” (which is a volcanic fissure) is just a few steps from the sign-in area.

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The crack itself is 70 feet deep and can sometimes be as much as 20 degrees cooler than the surface temperature. Some spots you can walk two people deep, mostly though it’s single file. There are even a few sections where you will need to turn sideways and squeeze through. Be aware that if you want to do the whole length of the crack you will need to be willing to scramble over fallen rocks in a few sections. It’s nothing hard but does require you to be sure footed. There are little birds that fly around in the crack and some have nests up in the rocks. We did run into a snake, we don’t know what type but just be aware.

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You can also walk along the top of the crack and get good views looking down in. This is an out and back trail, so head back out the same way you came in.

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On your way make sure to stop by Fort Rock State Park. It’s a tuff ring that you can hike in and around. The area is really interesting and well worth the stop.

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Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 50 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: May not be a great trail for young kids and older folks, due to the few scramble areas.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Spring, summer and fall.

Popular: No

Overall: Very interesting place, we easily could’ve spent a few more hours exploring the area.

Mary S. Young State Park (Spring)

Directions: Take I-205 South to exit 8 (West Linn) and follow Willamette Drive until you see the entrance for Mary S. Young Park on your right. Follow the road all the way through the park to the main parking area in the back.

At this parking area there is a map of the park (take a picture with your phone so you don’t forget!), you can also view the map here. We decided to just take a few of the trails and explore the park. We ended up seeing parts of the Trillium, Turkey Creek, Riverside and Heron trails. We were trying to get out to Cedar Island but the bridge wasn’t open yet (even though it was supposed to open in spring).

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All of the trails are well maintained and can become busy on nice days. They are a mix of pavement, packed dirt, and wood chips. There are lots of great birding areas and multiple creeks that run through the park. You also have good views of the Willamette River. There are a few off-leash dog areas as well.

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Distance: 1-5+ miles

Elevation: 300 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the picnic areas

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Mary S. Young Park is a great option if you don’t want to drive very far. Like Mt. Tabor or Powell Butte it’s nice to just get out and explore all the different trails.

Columbia Hills State Park (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East and take The Dalles exit #87. Cross the Columbia River Bridge and follow the road for about 2.5 miles. Take a right onto Highway 14 and a short distance later take a left onto Dalles Mountain Road. This road is gravel and you will follow it for almost 3.5 miles where you will round a corner and quickly come to a fork in the road. It’s marked with an old wagon and other old farm equipment. Stay left at the fork and continue on the road until you come to a gate and the parking area. The road is gravel but it’s in pretty good condition, there are some potholes but we saw all types of cars making it just fine.

It’s officially wildflower season!

Your trail on this hike is a gravel service road. The road climbs up Stacker Butte through fields of balsamroot, lupine, and other wildflowers. You have excellent views of Mt. Hood, the Columbia River and The Dalles on the way up. As the trail climbs the views just get better and better.

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After about a mile and a half you will start to see some of the FAA equipment in the distance. At about the two and a half mile mark the hike ends at the top of Stacker Butte. You have a great view of Mt. Adams and rows of wind turbines off in the distance.

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This hike is moderately steep on a well maintained gravel road. We got here fairly early and avoided most of the crowds. It’s not as popular as Rowena Crest but it still gets fairly busy during wildflower season, especially on the weekends. Make sure to watch for ticks and rattle snakes! This is an out and back hike.

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Distance: 5 miles

Elevation: 1,450 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Dogs are NOT allowed.

Good For: This hike gets pretty steep, it may not be best for young kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: $10 Washington Discover Pass, you must purchase this before you get to the trailhead (at Fred Meyer, etc.).

Seasons: All but best in spring.

Popular: Yes during wildflower season

Overall: Great views and tons of wildflowers!