Weird and funky are two words often associated with Oregon. Independent spirits call this land home, and while most of the state leans towards a liberal standpoint, there are still a few conservatives too. No matter your political stance, Oregonians are passionate about their state and eager to welcome visitors into their world.
Once the end destination for pioneers in the Wild West, much of Oregon has been left untouched. Hundreds of state parks have been created to preserve the land’s natural beauty. With Mount Hood, Crater Lake, rugged forests, and jagged coasts, Oregon is a sight to behold.
Out of the wild and into the concrete jungle, cities like Portland and Salem have become hotspots on the map. Known for being quirky and unique, Portland has become a major tourist destination. With liberal minds and eco-friendly lifestyles, Portland is also a mecca for hipsters. The quirkiness makes the state special, and you can’t beat an Oregon adventure.
A Brief History
Paleo-Indians once lived on the land, which is today a part of Oregon. Estimated to have lived 15,000 years ago, recorded proof of human activity in Oregon has been dated back to 13,200 years ago. Discovered by an archeologist in 1938, the Fort Rock and Paisley Caves were once the home of early humans.
Through the years, early humans developed into Native Americans who lived in the area during the 16th century. Some of the local tribes include Chinook and Nez Perce. Initially, Native Americans welcomed the European explorers because of the new trade; however, the introduction of foreign diseases would be fatal for many tribes.
Spanish and British explorers were frequent visitors to the Oregon Coast in the 1700s. Though, by far, the most famous explorers in Oregon were Lewis and Clark. The expedition led by the duo traveled along the Columbia River and helped establish the fur trade in Oregon after an abundance of thickly furred animals was discovered.
Further expeditions led to permanent settlements. Pioneers soon set their eyes on Oregon, and the state became a popular destination in the Wild West. The Oregon Trail crossed the country before ending in Oregon City. The trail helped many pioneers make their way and settle in Oregon. Throughout the 1800s, fur and the development of railroads fueled Oregon’s economy.
Today, Oregon thrives off of its unique history. Remnants from the past have been preserved at historical sites or in museums. These institutions are the best way to experience Oregon’s history as you delve deeper into this state.
Salem is the capital city of Oregon, which is in the heart of the Willamette River Valley. Acclaimed for its gardens, Salem is also the bedrock for Oregon based artists. The Hallie Ford Museum of Art features pieces of local art, and many independent artists have opened up their own galleries. One of the most popular displays of art is the annual Salem Film Festival.
Blended into the modern city are period pieces and sites. The Willamette Heritage Center features a 19th-century wood mill and preserved homes.
Another historical site is the Bush House Museum, which is set in a 19th-century mansion. Old cottages are also scattered throughout the garden museums. The Oregon Garden, Bush’s Pasture Park, and the Deepwood Gardens are the most popular to visit.
Surrounded by fertile land, Salem is also host to excellent restaurants and wineries. The local produce ensures that you always have a five-star meal as you enjoy your time in Salem.
The famous slogan, “Keep Portland Weird,” can be seen on signs and bumper stickers. Yet, unless you visit Portland, you won’t be able to truly appreciate its quirky character. Long called weird because of the city’s features and residents; Portland has shaken its outsider identity and been embraced by hipsters, liberals, and odd characters.
While the city is still weird, more people are looking to embrace Portland and delve into the city’s culture. Bikes, beers, and coffee are staples in the city. The locals are passionate about their values, and peaceful protests or sidewalk campaigns are commonplace in the streets. It’s true that Portland is an enigma in itself, but a quirky attitude isn’t all that Portland has to offer.
Nearby Portland is Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, and the Pacific Northwest Coast. These three natural elements also boost Portland’s popularity as many visitors are eager to explore the outdoors. With nature on its doorstep, Portland is the perfect place to see both the beautiful and strange things in life.
On the Coast
Lined with lighthouses and cliffs, the Oregon Coast is breathtaking. Salty air can do you good, and with hundreds of beaches, there are plenty of places to explore. With more rocks, green hills, and quaint towns, it’s easy to spend a few days enjoying Oregon’s coastline.
Cannon Beach is the most popular coastal destination, which will treat you to a classic Oregon experience. Haystack Rock is the beach’s most prominent feature, though there are a couple more formations that jut out of the water too. Ecola State Park is a great place to hike and get a better view of the area.
For busy tourists seeking a thrilling adventure, the dunes at Florence Beach will provide endless entertainment. An entirely different landscape from that of Cannon Beach, Florence Beach is lined with sand dunes, rivers, and restaurants. Dune buggy tours get you out on the sand, and kayaks can guide you down the Siltcoos River.
At the end of a long day, the beach’s restaurants are ready to provide relief. With plenty of options, Florence Beach is ideal for traveling families who want both relaxation and adventure.
Neskowin Beach is quite the opposite of Cannon and Florence because of its smaller community and quiet shores. Often overlooked for the busier beaches, Neskowin is the place to go if you want to escape the crowds. There are a few local establishments for lodging and dining, but the more remote character of this beach makes it feel like your own private paradise.
A favorite amongst the locals, tourists who do choose to visit Neskowin, can explore astonishing areas like Proposal Rock or Hart’s Cove. Various other oceanside trails traverse the area, so you can pick and choose a tour adventure. Longer trails can last all day. However, there are plenty of half-day hikes too.
To the Peak
Inland from the coast, Mount Hood is Oregon’s tallest peak. A part of the Cascade Mountain Range, Mount Hood is a popular summer and winter destination. Hiking trails provide exercise and entertainment. In the winter months, snow guarantees that the local resorts will be busy with skiers and snowboarders.
The resorts also provide a wide range of restaurants and bars, which happily cater to their guests. Sitting just 90 miles outside of Portland, Mount Hood is the perfect day or weekend trip destination.
Mount Hood Meadows is the area’s largest and most popular resort. However, there are dozens of smaller lodges that can accommodate travelers and their friends or family too.
At the base of Mount Hood is the National Forest. Just 20 miles away from Portland, the Mount Hood National Forest acts more like the city’s extended backyard. Thick trees and cool lakes are just a few of the highlights. With eight wilderness areas and part of the Pacific Crest Trail, visitors won’t run out of things to explore in Mount Hood.
On the River
Frequently named as one of Oregon’s best places to visit, the Columbia River Gorge is stunning. As the largest scenic area in the United States, this is Oregon’s top prize. Crown Point is the start of the river, and as it cascades and flows through the land, multiple waterfalls and cliffs add to the landscape’s beauty.
Bridges, paths, and highways are the entry points into the park, and they allow you to view the river’s scenery. Highlights in the area include Latourell Falls, Rowena Crest, and Post Canyon. Visitors are allowed to walk, bike, and drive through the area. For a break, local restaurants serve farm-fresh meals and world-class wine, so you can soak up everything that the area has to offer.
Deep and Blue
World-famous for its extraordinary clarity and deep blue color, Crater Lake is one of the most visited destinations in Oregon. The lake was formed by a massive volcanic eruption that occurred thousands of years ago. After the explosion, the steep walls collected water and became the beloved lake.
Today, the lake is a popular destination for recreation and fun. Boating and fishing are permitted on the lake, under the presumption that you follow the laws of the National Park. Swimming in designated areas is also permitted and under the park service’s guidelines.
Hiking in Crater Lake is a popular activity that you can enjoy on the shore or in the lake. Wizard Island is one of two islands in the lake. The island can be hiked, and its steep cone shape provides excellent views of the surrounding area. Garfield Peak Trail is another popular path that gives a great scenic overview of Crater Lake and the distant Mount Shasta.
Guests have named Crater Lake Lodge as the best accommodation. Historic, the lodge was built in 1915. Now owned by the National Park Service, the lodge has 71 rooms, a restaurant, and a lounge. Closed for the winter months, Crater Lake Lodge is open annually from late May to mid-October.
As a National Park, Crater Lake also hosts activities like biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and camping. More popular in the summer months, most of the facilities and accommodations follow the lodge’s schedule. This means that camping areas and park facilities are open from late May to mid-October before being shut for the winter months.
Point of Interest
Similar to the Pacific Crest Trail, though quite a bit shorter, the Oregon Coast Trail is one of the top points of interest in the state. Winding for 360 miles along Oregon’s Coast, the trail takes you through the state’s best landscapes.
To keep you fueled along the way, the trail does pass through small communities. The US Highway 101 also passes through parts of the trail.
While the trail stretches for hundreds of miles, visitors can hike smaller portions for a day or half-day adventure. In some stops along the way, you can also catch a boat to ride off towards distant estuaries or islands. Hikers should be prepared for steep inclines and thick forests. While you follow the coast, it’s important to keep to the trail so you stay safe on your journey.
Lush, wild, and weird, Oregon often surprises its visitors who are unaware of the state’s natural beauty. From the coast to the waterfalls and the mountains, Oregon’s landscapes will lead you on an unforgettable adventure. When you aren’t basking in nature, you can dive headfirst into the state’s unique culture and explore the city streets of artsy Salem or quirky Portland. No matter how weird, Oregon is an enchanting destination.