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Work trip turned family trip. Went out several days early to spend some time in the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding Portland area.
Day 1: Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
- Portland Women’s Forum
- Vista House
- Multnomah Falls
- Wahkeena Falls
Was on the road from the airport around noon, grabbed lunch to go and stopped at the Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint real quick for a picture – amazing viewpoint looking down the gorge with the Vista House in the shot. Then went to Vista House and ate lunch on the steps.
Continued down the scenic highway (Route 30) and was going to go to Multnomah Falls but a fallen tree was blocking the road. Had to park by Wakheena Falls and walked the .5 mile trail to Multnomah Falls, which is the tallest/most famous/most crowded. We didn’t go on the bridge but you can get the best views of the falls by walking about 2 minutes from the road/parking area. Took the trail back and decided to take the short trek up to Wakheena. We were going to skip it, but it took about 15 minutes round-trip and was definitely worth it. Drove to our cousin’s house in Underwood, Washington which is just across from Hood River.
Day 2: Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
- Falls Creek Falls
- Panther Creek Falls
- Wind Mountain
At the suggestion of our cousin we did Falls Creek Falls, which wasn’t on our list. So glad, it was awesome! 2-tiered waterfall, very powerful and nice 3.5 mile return hike through the woods.
Drove to Panther Creek Falls, which was my favorite of the whole trip. There is a small, unmarked pull off area for cars and you can cross the road and start walking downhill – the only marking for the trail to the overlook is spray painted on the opposite side of the road. So many different falls packed into one view, but make sure to go down to the bottom for the best view. If you continue walking downhill on the road, there is a very easy-to-miss trail on the same side (right side as you’re going downhill), maybe 100-200 yards from the main trail. If you come to the actual road that goes off to the left, you’ve gone too far. Only need 30-45 minutes total here. Then drove to the trailhead for Wind Mountain, which was quite a 2.5 mile roundtrip hike. It was uphill the entire way and you will work up a sweat. Don’t know that the view at the top is entirely worth it, but nice.
We were planning on doing Dog Mountain and Panther Creek this day, but Dog Mountain was so crowded and my cousin spoke so highly of Fall Creek Falls that we decided to do the shorter Wind Mountain (2.5 miles compared to 7) after the two waterfalls. Great choice.
Day 3: Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
- Wahclella Falls
- Horsetail Falls
- Latourell Falls
Early start, drove back to the Oregon side and really wanted to do Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Falls but Elowah was closed/inaccessible. Went to Wahclella Falls and the lot was already full so we had to park on the side of the road. We were one of the first to do that so we were a little nervous, but by the time we left the entire road leading uphill and away from the parking area was bumper to bumper with parked cars. Loved this hike/area, one easy mile each way and the ending is spectacular with the smaller waterfall coming down off the side from high up and the lower, powerful waterfall splashing into the pool. You drive past Horsetail Falls when on the scenic highway and it is right at the side of the road – not that great and hard to get a good picture so we didn’t do more than stop and look out the window.
Drove to Latourell Falls, had lunch on the grass and walked up the hill to the point where if you went any further, the falls wouldn’t be visible. Worth it, but didn’t want to go all the way up to the top (pictures didn’t seem worth it). Great views from the lower area too if you take the path that goes downhill to the base of the falls. We considered doing Bridal Veil Falls but skipped it – wanted to get to Hillsboro to our aunt and uncle’s place and let the kids run around a bit since they’d been in a plane, car, or backpack much of the previous few days.
Day 4: Cannon Beach and Hug Point State Park
Drove 1 hour 20 mins to Cannon Beach to see Haystack Rock and let the kids run loose on the beach. All beaches along the coast of Oregon are public property, which is awesome. Unobstructed views and tons of room. Quick stop at Hug Point State Park, which is less than 10 minutes from Cannon Beach, to see the seasonal waterfall/cave area. Neat spot but could be skipped. Back to Hillsboro for a relaxing evening with family.
Had meetings all day and ended up in Madras, which was the ideal spot for us to stop for the night. Driving through/around Mount Hood was beautiful.
Day 6: Smith Rock State Park
Woke up and drove another 30 minutes south to Smith Rock State Park, which was both my and my wife’s favorite place of the trip. Gorgeous day, been wanting to hike the Misery Ridge Trail for years and it did not disappoint. Amazing views, perfect mixture of exercise, views, and length (4 mile loop when combining the River Trail off the back side). The Monkey Face is really neat and there are rock climbers all over the park. Picnic lunch near the parking area and drove to Bend for another work meeting. Had dinner afterwards at Bend Brewing Company (great food, beer was average), and walked around the waterfront area a little.
Day 7: Crater Lake National Park
Had to take the long way to Crater Lake and come up from the south since the north entrance was closed (opens in June usually). Only Rim Village and Discovery Point were accessible at this time, and Discovery Point had just opened the week before. Tried to do as much of the Garfield Peak trail as possible, which starts behind the lodge. It got really steep and it was completely snow covered, so we couldn’t get the whole way up (especially with the kids). Great views of the lake from the rim from the part that we did hike, however. Had picnic lunch outside the lodge and drive to Discovery Point, which is only a few minutes away. So glad this was open – the view from here was breathtaking. It was much more obvious that Wizard Island was an island from this vantage point. Drove to Medford (almost 2 hours) to stay the night.
Work meeting and long drive (about 5 hours) back up to Hillsboro for early flight out the next morning.
I’ve been wanting to go to Oregon for a long time, and there is still so much more I want to do. There are many other hikes in the Columbia River Gorge (Oneonta Gorge, Eagle Creek, Elowah Falls, Horsetail Falls loop), and we didn’t even touch the Mount Hood area on this trip.
Smith Rock State Park is convenient if you’re going to Bend (and worth going out of your way even if you’re not), but Crater Lake is not on the way to anything. It made somewhat sense for us since we had meetings in Bend and Medford, and I’m very thankful for that. We met 2 people on this trip that have been in Oregon all their lives but haven’t been to Crater Lake. I’d love to be there in the summer when the road around the entire lake is open and you can go down the Cleetwood Cove trail to jump off the rocks. But it was pretty awesome being there with snow covering everything but the water. We had the best weather possible as it didn’t rain a single drop the whole time, and were told it was the first nice week in 7 months. Absolutely loved this trip.
Traveled in May 2017
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