Oregon Road Trip
March 8, 2013 3:36 PM   Subscribe

At the end of August, we are going on a 9 day road trip through Oregon (round-trip from Seattle). The plan is to start on the east side of the Cascades, visit Bend and Crater Lake, arrive in Ashland (for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and head north along the coast on the way home. Any suggestions on what to visit and where to stay?

"We" are two adults and an 8 year old boy. We're going to skip Portland as we've already spent time there. Things that interest us include interesting hikes, geological features, museums, quirky places.

We may do a mix of camping and staying in motels/cabins.

Any suggestions what to see and where to stay will be much appreciated.
posted by ShooBoo to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Lava Butte and Lava Caves, south of Bend. (Sorry for lack of links, as I'm posting from my phone.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:41 PM on March 8, 2013

The House of Mystery! An old roadside attraction between Medford and Grants Pass, it can be a lot of fun, depending on your tour guide. (Disclaimer: former tour guide here)
posted by eralclare at 3:58 PM on March 8, 2013

Oooh, also: Astoria! Love that town. Brewery, comics shop, awesome Lunar Boy art gallery, and the very comfy Hotel Elliott.
posted by eralclare at 4:05 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ecola State Park, north of Cannon Beach, on your way back up the coast. Modest day hike gets you to some freaking spectacular views off high cliffs. In August, alas, it will be crowded.
posted by spitbull at 4:46 PM on March 8, 2013

The Steamboat Inn is on 138, if you choose to take that route to or from Crater Lake. I've been there only for breakfast/brunch: for many years it was the Monday morning meetup spot for a bunch of ravers who had been camping and partying in the woods all weekend. The food was good and they never had a problem with 30 or so grungy, unwashed weirdos descending on them from out of nowhere. It's actually a kind of sweet and lovely place, with cabins on the Umpqua River if you choose to stay. Dinner is only for guests and people with reservations it seems. The grounds are filled with flowers and the bathrooms are impossibly clean. Highly recommended for a dose of gentility if you've been spending days in the woods.

Not far from there is Umpqua Hotsprings. Pretty nice on weekdays especially- don't know if I'd want to camp near it on a weekend. Lots of other camping in the Umpqua National Forest, though.

In Ashland our road trip food staple is Wiley's World of Pasta. Nothing fancy (as the website might indicate!), but fresh pasta (only) cooked to order. I have always assumed the place was begun by deadheads who got tired of life on the road. It's clean and the waiters are attentive but it has a very strong granola vibe. I prefer it to the more touristy bits of Ashland. On that note, Hargadine Cemetery is a great old pioneer cemetery if you enjoy poking about old graveyards.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:49 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

15+ years ago I went on a road trip through Oregon (I think I'm long overdue for another) and stayed at Cape Lookout State Park. The campground is in a dense old-growth forest, but it's a short & easy hike over a hill to a long stretch of beach. I was amazed by the varied landscapes in such close proximity to one another. We slept in a tent but according to their website, cabins and yurts are available.
posted by kbar1 at 5:19 PM on March 8, 2013

Best answer: A trip through Oregon.... (staying in Central and Eastern Oregon and out the Willamette Valley)

If you are coming down I-5, hit Portland and head through the Columbia River Gorge. Enjoy waterfalls up to 620 feet high. Drive part of the historic highway. Take a hike to Punchbowl Falls or another one... The Oregon side of the gorge is a green wonderland. The Washington side gets a lot more sun and it a LOT drier.

Stop by Hood River and watch the wind surfers. It is a prime spot. The river flows West and wind normally blows East. Take the Historic Railroad to Parkdale on a dinner trip (or a train robbery one!) and have fun.

Head South on Hwy 97 towards Bend. If you want, book a white water trip on the Deschutes River. Around Bend there is a lot of natural attractions (my kind). You can see the volcano's up close. Go to Lava Lands south of town and drive to the top of a crater. The High Desert Museum is always fun. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument is impressive. There are two lakes in it and a very cool lava flow of obsidian glass.

In this area you can see several cool and often overlooked things. Hole in the ground (It looks like the meteor crater in Arizona, but it is volcanic in origin). Crack In The Ground is a walkable two to three mile long chasm in the desert. When I was there in August it was 100 degrees above it, and there was still ice in it. A welcome change. Lots of caves and sites to explore.

West of Bend is the cool/touristy old west style town of Sisters. After enjoying it, travel on Hwy 242 to the McKenzie pass. The Dee Wright Observatory is in the middle of a lava field. A safe way to see how impressive it is and to get some great views of many volcanos. A great side trip.

Southwest of Bend if the Cascade Lakes Highway. Sparks Lake is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Yes, I said that. Early morning at the camp ground and then walking or floating on the lake is just about perfect to me.

Crater Lake is just breathtaking. Morning makes for the best photos and if you are there early enough, admission is free. Make sure to take the side trip to The Pinnacles while at the park.

While in Ashland, take a day trip to Jacksonville. A charming old west town.

Head to the coast via Hwy 199 to go to Brookings. On the way stop at the Oregon Caves National Monument. Heading North on the coast you have to stop at Shore Acres State Park near Bandon. A beautiful well tended garden and some history awaits…

North of Coos Bay rent some ATV's and head out onto the sand dunes at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Have a blast.

Stop at Mo's in downtown Newport and enjoy some famous Clam Chowder. Then head to Depoe Bay. The shops are cool and watching the boats come into the worlds smallest navigable harbor is fun. Speaking of small, just north in Lincoln City you can be on the beach standing in the 'D' River and look West and see the ocean, look right and see Devils Lake. From low tide at 440 feet to highest tide at 120 feet it is short no matter when you measure it.

Head north to Tillamook and go to the Cheese Factory and get some yummy ice cream. Sorry that is just me, get some of their famous cheese while you are there.

Stopping at Canon Beach can be fun. Astoria is always nice. The victorian style houses, the Clatsop Column, the Lewis & Clark history and it you are luck some tall sailing ships in port.

I hope I gave you some ideas. As you can tell, I tend to lean to the natural history side of travel. Have fun
posted by Leenie at 5:20 PM on March 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Leenie, you forgot John Day Fossil Beds National Monument! Especially the Sheep Rock and Painted Hills units. Totally astonishing and beautiful. That and Crater Lake were the geologic/visual highlights of the drive around Oregon we did a few years back. We stayed in Madras at a no-name motel, but I think there's camping near those two units.
posted by rtha at 5:26 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sea Lion Caves just north of Florence is a great memory from my childhood.
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 6:19 PM on March 8, 2013

Leenie already got everything covered.

I also want to second Rtha's suggestion to visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The kiddie might like the fossil museum and historic sheep ranch (forgot the name). You must visit Painted Hills if you are out in Eastern Oregon. I also like to swing by Thomas' Orchard on the way back.

Since you come at end of August, if you want to be ambitious you can try to hike South Sister all the way to the top. It will be a grueling day hike. If that's too much, stop at Moraine Lake and turn back. Here's more hikes around Bend area.

I also like to go to Smith's Rock State Park for hike and watching rock climbers.
posted by Carius at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2013

I was thinking about my reply above. The others are correct. Smith Rocks, John Day Fossil Beds (especially the Painted Hills unit at sunset) are great, and the Sea Lion Caves are great for kids.

If you take the highway to Brookings, it is a short trip south to California to visit the redwoods. They are always awe inspiring...

I should have added a trip to the West Coast Game Park Safari park South of Bandon. Kids can pet some of the animals (they normally have baby animals available). Some animals, like deer, roam the park and you can feed them.

Near Newport, you can explore the tidepools at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. A lot of fun for kids of all ages. Watch the star fish, hermit crabs and more... The Oregon Coast Aquarium is also fun.
posted by Leenie at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2013

Just darting back in to say that the google images of Painted Hills that Carius linked to - yeah, they really look like that!
posted by rtha at 10:29 AM on March 9, 2013

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