As you make the 286-mile (457 km) journey through coastal Oregon, you’ll discover the story of a land founded on adventure — of treasures won and lost, of villages come and gone, of lush forests anticipating the arrival of intrepid settlers arriving from the eastern United States.
Hidden Treasures of Portland and Salem
At the northern extreme of Oregon is Portland, the state’s largest city. It’s alive with fun: cycling and gardening are both strong local pastimes. On weekends, be sure to visit Portland’s legendary market located in the historic Chinatown district. Here you’ll find artisans gathering to sell their wares, as well as a diverse range of street foods to select from. www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com
Before heading south, be sure to visit the Hoyt Arboretum, which overflows with stunning flora from around the globe. www.hoytarboretum.org
Open meadows punctuate the forest in Hoyt Aboretum.Salem, Oregon’s capital city and about a 45-minute drive from Portland on I-5, is full of hidden treasures like award-winning wineries, historic museums and Salem’s magnificent gardens.
A good way to immerse yourself in the culture is to attend the Oregon State Fair, to be held from August to December this year at Salem’s Oregon State Fairgrounds.
Enjoy art, music, and good food! This fair is the largest and oldest in the state with eleven days of entertainment to enjoy and relax while getting to know the people who make Oregon their home. As with most fairs the program includes thousands of exhibits all competing for the coveted Blue Ribbon Prize. Featured are equestrian performances and prized livestock.
A Welcome Sight Along the Oregon Coast
Going south from the cities, put yourself at ease on the serene and scenic journey along the nearly 400-mile (643 km) Oregon Coast. While the rocky shores face the robust tides of the Pacific Ocean, snow-capped mountains form the brilliant Cascade Range north to south, extending into neighboring Washington and California.
South Falls, the tallest and most majestic waterfall in Silver Falls State Park, is a nearly 200-feet (60m) drop. For the avid hiker, make your way behind the waterfall and cross the bridge going downstream where you can catch a glimpse of the spectacular waterfall.
Sweet Creek Falls
Located on Highway 126 halfway between Eugene and the coast, Sweet Creek Falls Trail Complex features a web of catwalks on a 2.2-mile (about 3.5 km) walk across a dozen small waterfalls. Visitors who come here in April or May can spot woodland wildflowers like the big white trillium or pink fawn lily. Parking permits cost $5 a day.
The region around Sweet Creek Falls and the coast generally is a bit of a geological quirk. The rock in the area all came from the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean, being slowly pushed up about one inch a year as the North American continental plate collides with the Pacific plate. The Oregon Coast is actually a chunk of Pacific seafloor that was buckled up as a result of the collision.
Hiking the Historic Town of Jacksonville
To the far south, near the California border, is the town of Jacksonville.
If you love travelling by foot and being close to nature, then the 1800’s gold-mining town of Jacksonville is a must-see. In its cultural center you’ll discover art galleries, summer music festivals and the addition of miles of hiking trails that twist and turn through recently opened parklands. They are open all year and admittance is free.
Eastern and Central Oregon
While this article has mainly focused on sights along the Oregon Coast and Cascade Range, the drier, eastern portion of the state is not without its spectacles.
Exploring the hills of the northeast, you’ll find the spectacular Painted Hills, considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Oregon. The colors correspond to the differing ancient geological periods in the distant past, when the region was a floodplain. The various shades of black, grey and red are formed by the remains of ancient plant life and variation in temperatures.
By: Maria Banks