Tag Archives: Wildflowers

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!

Mt. Howard- Tramway & Hike (Summer)

Directions: Take I-84 east to La Grande and go north on Hwy 82. Follow 82 into the town of Joseph. Take Main St. in Joseph through the town and head south the road turning into Wallowa Lake Hwy, it’s about 6 miles from the town of Joseph. Once in the Wallowa Lake area continue straight until you see the Tramway on your left a short distance later.

This hike has you take a Tramway from the base at 4,450′ to the top of Mt. Howard which is at 8,150′. It takes 15 minutes to get to the top and offers amazing views of the Wallowa Mountains and Wallowa Lake. The cost is $33 per adult, for child and senior prices, as well as other information click here.

After enjoying the short but spectacular tram ride you’ll be let out by the Summit Grill and this is where the hiking portion starts. We started with the smaller loop that takes you to three viewpoints. The trails are very well manicured, it does take away from the nature aspect of the hike but this place is very busy and we understand the need for it. The trails are mostly packed dirt and rock. There are a lot of shrubs and dwarfed trees, as well as some very wind ravaged trees that are bent and curled. In this first loop there is a staircase to get to the top viewpoint. All of the viewpoints in this loop have fantastic views of the Wallowa Mountains.

      

Next we headed east toward the larger loop that takes you past two viewpoints. There are more trees over here and we saw some lingering purple lupine which was great. We saw mountain bluebirds, vultures, crossbills, and many other birds on this loop. The views on this side are of the Snake River and Wallowa Lake. At the north tip you’ll come to a viewpoint with a windsock, this is the launch site for people who are paragliding/hang gliding. There’s a bench here and within minutes of sitting down we had little chipmunks crawling all over us. Please do NOT feed the animals it’s not good for them, as tempting as their cute little faces are.

      

This is a very tourist heavy place and sometimes that can be a little annoying. But the tram was fun and the loops do give you very nice views of the area. We would recommend going during the week and as early as possible.

      

Even with the wildfire smoke this place is still pretty awesome. Your tram ticket is good for the WHOLE DAY too, so ride that baby as many times as you can!

      

Distance: 2.6 miles (easy)

Elevation: 325 feet (easy)

Pet Friendly: No

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None- just the tramway fee.

Seasons: May-Oct

Popular: Very

Warnings: People that have issues with heights may not enjoy the tram ride to the top.

Owl Point (Summer)

Directions: Drive Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag and take a left onto Lolo Pass Road. Follow this road for about 10.5 miles, take the second right onto FS 18. Follow this road for about 10 miles, half of which is a gravel road, and take a very sharp righthand turn onto FS 16. Drive for 5.5 miles and turn right at the large intersection onto FS 1650. This road becomes gravel and ends at the Vista Ridge Trailhead.

This is a busy trailhead and it doesn’t have a huge parking area, so things may get tight. Many hikes start from the Vista Ridge Trailhead but the trail to Owl Point is not the most popular which is very nice. We only saw two other people the whole time we were here, and it was a very sunny weekend.

From the trailhead follow the rocky trail for about a third of a mile to a junction in the trail. Sign in at the wilderness registration station and then head left. The trail starts out fairly evenly graded but that quickly changes. The trail starts heading uphill and it gets pretty steep in some sections. The trail itself is nice but there are a few downed trees, they are all easy to get over. After about a mile of hiking you’ll come to two side trails off to the right. The first offers a great view of the valley below and the second gives you a really good view of Mt. Hood.

      

Back on the main trail it will soon level out and open up a bit. There are a lot of huckleberry bushes through here and we even ran into some snow piles (we did this hike in late July). You’ll drop down into a small meadow and start heading uphill again, it’s not quite as steep and isn’t as long. In mid to late July the Avalanche Lilies are blooming and it’s pretty amazing. They lined the trail and were all over the meadow.

      

When you come to a junction go left/uphill (there is a sign but it was quite faded). You will come to another junction, go right here and the trail ends at Owl Point. It offers up one of the best views of Mt. Hood. The lupine was blooming which just added to the spectacular view.  Wander around a little bit and you can see Laurance Lake off to the right over the large rocks and the town of Parkdale. There’s a small Owl Point Register attached to the rocks, it has pictures of the volunteers from Portland Hikers who cleaned up this trail and a guestbook you can sign.

 

      

There are plenty of places to sit and relax, have lunch and take in the view.

      

When you’re done at Owl Point there are couple more places to check out before you head back to your car. At the first junction after Owl Point go right and hike for about 200 yards to Alki Point. It’s a rockslide area with views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.

      

Head back from Alki point and go through the junction that splits to Owl Point and head back down to the first junction. Go left here and towards the Rockpile. You’ll hike through a pretty meadow with blooming heather that attracts a lot of butterflies. There’s a small fork in the trail, go right and the trail ends at the Rockpile with even more views of Mt. Hood.

Head back to the main trail a follow it out the way you came in, to get back to your car.

We really loved this hike and can’t believe it’s not more popular. The views are amazing all through the hike and the wildflowers were a real treat as well.

 

Distance: 4.5 miles (easy)

Elevation: 650 feet (moderate)

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: There’s a decent amount of elevation, with some steep sections so this may not be the best for older folks and younger kids.

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Summer and fall (unless we’re having unusually dry or wet weather, call before going.)

Popular: No, but the trailhead/parking area is popular.

Warnings: None

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

Government Cove Peninsula (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to the exit just past Cascade Locks that’s marked for a weigh station. Get on Frontage Rd and continue on and cross the tracks. Park near the gate.

From the gate follow the trail off to the left as it climbs up to the top of the main rock area. At the top you get great views of the Gorge, this is also a nice place to eat lunch or hangout for a while.

      

Head back down but not all the way, go off to the right and climb up another section of the rock where you will find a lot of wildflowers in the spring. We saw lupine, wild iris, wild rose, and much more. The grass is a bit overgrown around here but the trail is still visible and passable.

      

Next head back down and explore around the base. There are a lot of trails that take you all around the island. You can see the south part where the cove is and usually a few cormorants and nutria. You can also get out where the island comes to a point and see the Columbia River really well.

      

After you’ve finished exploring you can take the lower trail back to the gate where your car is parked.

We definitely enjoyed ourselves a bit more this time around. All of the flowers were a surprise which was a nice treat. This is a great area for kids to get out and do some exploring 🙂

Distance: 2.25 miles

Elevation: 100 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: No

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: This is a popular area for fishing and duck hunting but the trails aren’t busy.

Overall: Spring is a great time of year for this hike.

 

Memaloose Hills (Spring)

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.

This is a great hike in the spring during the Gorge wildflower season.

      

From the parking area cross the road and take the unmarked trail. The trail starts out fairly flat, there are oak trees all around and a couple houses out in the distance. If you are doing this hike in peak wildflower season you will be surrounded by many different types of flowers. Lower on the trail we saw balsamroot, blue-eyed mary, shooting stars, and harsh paintbrush.

      

      

The trail heads uphill gradually and levels out again. Here we saw blooming miners lettuce, western buttercup, upland larkspur, naked broomrape, and chocolate lily. There were also lots of birds, bees, and butterflies. Soon, the trail heads downhill to a small seasonal stream that you will cross and stay straight on the trail. The trail opens up where you will see a farm and start winding uphill. The balsamroot is profuse here all over the side of the hill and the lupine was just starting to bloom.

      

      

Once at the top of the hill you will have views of the Gorge and Highway 30 down below. There is also ballhead waterleaf and big-head clover blooming at the top. This is the end of the hike, head back out the way you came in.

      

      

This quickly turned into our new favorite wildflower hike, there are just so many different flowers blooming here. Other wildflower hikes nearby are Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Nature Preserve, they are just another 3 miles up the highway.

We do want to warn everyone that poison oak grows all along this trail and we are heading into tick season. For more on ticks click here.

Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: 400 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: No

Seasons: All but spring is best

Popular: Yes on nice weekends

Overall: We highly recommend this hike for anyone wanting to experience the wildflowers in the Gorge.

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?

 

Bald Mountain (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 to the town of Zigzag. Go left onto Lolo Pass Road and follow it for about 4 miles where you will fork right onto road 1825. In a little less than 1 mile go straight onto road 1828 (it’s unsigned but it’s right before a bridge), this road is paved but has some pretty big potholes you’ll need to watch out for. Drive another 5.5 miles and go to the right onto road 118 (it’s gravel and quite narrow). Follow the road for about 1.5 miles until you reach the Top Spur Trailhead. This is a busy trailhead so parking can get interesting.

From the trailhead you’ll be going uphill on a trail thats covered in tree roots and rocks. In most places it’s almost like steps with all the roots. It’s moderately steep but nothing too terrible. After a half mile go right on the Pacific Crest Trail and just a short distance later come to a big trail intersection with a wilderness registration box. After filling out the paper head to your right and uphill slightly, make sure you see the sign on a tree that says Timberline Trail no. 600 Muddy Fork. Follow the trail through woods of skinny trees for about a third of a mile.

DSC_0046 copy      DSC_0053

You will leave the woods and come out to a clearing. This trail has one of the best reveals we’ve seen. Round the first corner of the clearing and come to absolutely spectacular views of Mt. Hood. You’re head on with Hood and to your left are wildflowers growing on the side of Bald Mountain, to your right is a valley of trees. It’s hands down one of our favorite views of Mt. Hood. Continue on the trail as you skirt along the edge and pass quite a few awesome viewpoints. You’ll briefly reenter a wooded area and then pop back out to a second clearing with more views of the mountain.

DSC_0056      DSC_0085

When you finally reenter the forest follow the trail to a signed junction. Go left as the trail heads uphill for a bit before leveling out and coming to another junction. Go left again towards signed Top Spur Trailhead. This trail takes you back to the big intersection with the wilderness booth, go right and head back down the way you came in.

DSC_0099      DSC_0112

Distance: 2.3 miles

Elevation: 400 Feet

Difficulty: Moderate. You gain all the elevation quickly in the beginning so it’s only steep for a little bit.

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Almost everyone. May not be the best for young kids, the area with the views has steep drop offs.

Bathrooms: Portable toilet at the trailhead.

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass required

Seasons: Spring through Fall.

Popular: Very popular trailhead and most of the trail is busy as well.

Overall: Great hike. We’ll be coming back to do other hikes in the area.

 

 

Summer Hikes

Looking for a nice summer hike? Here’s a list of some of our favorites 🙂

If you’re looking to stay in Portland and the surrounding cities check out Oak Island, Mt. Talbert, or Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. They are all easy hikes that have decent shade and lots of birds.

DSC_0058

We love hitting up all the great trails that the Mt. Hood area has to offer during the summer months. Tamanawas Falls and Umbrella Falls are great options if you are looking for a waterfall hike. For a lake hike check out Mirror Lake (and Tom, Dick, and Harry Ridge!), and Lower Twin Lake. Zigzag Canyon is also a really fun hike, go in mid to late June while the lupine is blooming!

DSC_0004

Some great summer Gorge hikes are Upper and Lower Latourell Falls, Gillette Lake, and Strawberry Island.

DSC_0025

Summer time is full of Kayaking as well, be sure to check out Scappoose Bay and Lost Lake!

DSC_0025

–Happy Hiking!

 

Catherine Creek (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East to Hood River and cross the Hood River bridge ($2 toll). Take a right onto Highway 14 and drive for about 4.5 miles where you will take a left onto Old Highway 8. Follow the road for about 1.5 miles until you come to the gravel parking area on the left side of the road.

The trail starts when you walk through a fence and see a small metal trail marker that says 020. You will be on a wide gravel path as you head down towards Catherine Creek. The trail continues as you come to a small bridge over the creek. After crossing the creek you will start to see the large basalt formations to your right.

DSC_0002      DSC_0128

DSC_0022      DSC_0015

Soon you will come to an old corral and here is where you will be able to see the arch in the basalt. The trail heads uphill to a wide flat area and the start of the wildflowers. There will be two forks in the trail, stay right at both of them as you head up to the top of the basalt wall. There are numerous wildflowers that bloom at the top and you get a great view of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge as well.

DSC_0031      DSC_0071

DSC_0027      DSC_0044_2

Once a the top, the trail heads downhill as you pass the top of the arch. Keep following the trail through all the wildflowers where it ends at Old Highway 8. Walk along the highway a very short distance back to your car.

DSC_0093      DSC_0088

DSC_0114      DSC_0067

Please be sure to watch for ticks and poison oak on this hike!

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All but best in spring.

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a quick easy hike for wildflowers in the spring. Great views as well.