Four solo days in Oregon. What to do?
March 29, 2012 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm heading out to Oregon in mid-April for a conference, but I'm taking four extra days in front of the conference for a nice, solo vacation. I'm mostly interested in day hikes to see ecologically interesting things and relaxing a bit. What should I do and where should I stay?

I'm thinking of heading south along the coast. Would there be a good place to stay (semi-isolated cabin?) where I could make short (<2hr one-way) trips to interesting areas? I spent some time in Oregon 10years ago and saw some sites (eg. Crater Lake), but I wouldn't mid revisiting some of them again.

Also, flying into Portland.
posted by buttercup to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Oregon coast is lovely. But maybe because I live in Northern California, I was a little underwhelmed - it's got more dunes than we have, but still, trees, beaches, okay.

But inland, oh my god. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is otherworldly, especially if you are from someplace where the rocks are covered with dirt and grass and trees. We went to the Sheep Rock unit and the Painted Hills unit. Mind. Blown. The visitors center is awesome, as well.

We drove out 84 from PDX to The Dalles, then turned south on 197. Stayed in Madras and then from there went out to John Day. Then we headed west again, stayed in Deschutes, and hit up the Lava Butte geological area, then down to Crater lake again, and then up the coast and back to Portland. I think we did it in about four days.

From my flickr: Painted Hills; Sheep Rock, view from Lava Butte; take the boat tour at Crater Lake and see the Old Man.

Really one of the best road trips ever. But you gotta love rocks. Loving beer helps, too, as there's lots of good beer around.

We stayed in a sketchy-seeming motel in Madras because the other motels wanted like $100 a night. Sketchy motel wanted $50, the sink was a little leaky, but the bed was the most comfortable of the trip. YMMV.
posted by rtha at 7:48 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

We went to Silver Falls and I really enjoyed it. There's a hiking trail that will take you past all of the waterfalls, which should be pretty impressive around April as the snows are melting.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:50 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a note on Crater Lake - Crater Lake is probably going to be a no-go mid-April. You certainly won't be able to drive around the lake because of the snow, and whether the park itself will be open is up in the air.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, April - I missed that part. Yeah. We were at Crater Lake in July and there was still snow. Not lots, but still very much there.
posted by rtha at 9:23 AM on March 29, 2012

You mentioned wanting to stay in a cabin. If you're in a budget, there are a bunch for rent through the state parks and this time of year should be fairly quiet. Here's a list of all the parks that have cabin and yurt rentals....they are listed by coastal and inland locations.
posted by medeine at 10:18 AM on March 29, 2012

I have family on the coast near Newport, which I highly recommend. The last time I was out there I also spent some time in Tillamook State Forest, which is gorgeous.
posted by postel's law at 10:31 AM on March 29, 2012

I think one highlight of the coast is Cape Lookout State Park. You could see if you could rent one of the State Park's yurts -- you'll definitely need a reservation. The hike to the cape and the hike down to the beach from the same trailhead are both quite awesome. That fog-drenched old-growth Sitka spruce forest is pretty special. If the weather's clear, then April might be a good time for spotting gray whales on the migration. Cape Lookout is adjacent to Netarts Bay, and the little towns of Netarts and Oceanside on the Bay have lots of rentals in a pretty setting.

If you haven't been to the Columbia River Gorge, then I would recommend the hike up Eagle Creek as being premier. Besides the spectacular waterfalls, it showcases an interesting mix of dougfir and patches of Oregon oak in proximity. The usnea hanging off of the oaks is something to be seen. Wahclella Falls is a really short but very enchanting alternative.

On the eastern end of the gorge, April should still have nice wildflowers at Catherine Creek (on the WA side) or Rowena Crest (Mayer State Park on the OR side).

I think April will be pretty early to visit anywhere with much elevation in the Cascades. However, you might consider staying at the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. That would be one of your best opportunities to see some spectacular old-growth forest. I would research what kind of snow/road/weather conditions to expect.
posted by polecat at 2:50 PM on March 29, 2012

The Ape Caves by Mount St. Helens are pretty rad. There are regular hiking trails near them, but if you go down inside it's like a really, really long (13,000 feet!) horizontal cave caused by lava flow. There are two routes, one that is mostly flat and one with crevices for people who like more of a challenge. But learn from my mistake: YOU NEED TO BRING YOUR OWN FLASHLIGHT or GLOW STICKS. I had to turn back and find a town that sold flashlights because I naively thought there would be a place to get them there.

It's less than two hours NE of Portland in Washington, up right by St. Helens. I went in March two years ago and it was chilly inside (like most caves) so bring a jacket if you go.
posted by tacodave at 3:03 PM on March 29, 2012

I love the Ape Caves, but there can be snow out there as late as June, and you need to make sure you have snow tires or chains and are able to hike a mile through snow or mud if you want to go in April.

Indeed, any high elevation hike in mid-April is going to be snowy or extremely muddy in the greater Portland area. I recommend a trip to the coast instead.

Be sure to check Tripcheck before you go, especially if you're following Google Maps or GPS instructions -- which have led several non-local residents on paths that got them stranded over the past few years, in some cases resulting in deaths.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:23 PM on March 29, 2012

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