Tuesday, October 6, 2020

One Hundred Highlights

Eckman Lake
For our hundredth post in Casing Oregon, we are touching on one hundred of our favorite places in the state. Many have been featured in previous posts, some have not. Some are spectacular, some are simple pleasures, but all are places we love. A few are so popular that they may require a permit to enter, but some seem almost unnoticed.

It should be noted that in this year of COVID closures and wildfires, many of these places may not be available to visit at a particular time; be sure to do your research before leaving, as things have been changing quickly lately.

That being said, here in no particular order are one hundred of our top choices for campgrounds, paddling, quick stops, hiking, and road trip-worthy destinations:


Sand Lake
1. Whalen Island at Sand Lake. Just north of Pacific City, this peaceful campground beside a beautiful tidal inlet offers paddling, bird watching, hiking, fishing, and crabbing.
2. Humbug Mountain State Park. Tucked in a sheltered canyon near Port Orford, this park is smaller and simpler than some state parks. Here you will find a lovely beach and hiking trails.
3. Honeyman State Park south of Florence features dune access, fishing, and lake paddling. Cleawox Lake is near the camping area, larger Woahink Lake is across Highway 101.
Sunset Bay
4. Sunset Bay State Park south of Coos Bay offers hiking trails, access to a lovely little bay, and easy exploration of Cape Arago.
5. Cape Lookout State Park near Tillamook is on the Three Capes Scenic Route. Situated right next to the beach, this park also has some nice hiking trails, including a trail out Cape Lookout.
6. On the westernmost tip of Oregon, Cape Blanco Campground has two beaches with great rockhounding, ocean views, hiking trails, a Victorian farmhouse, and a lighthouse.
Champog State Park
7. Barview Jetty near the salty little town of Garibaldi offers a wide variety of camping options. The jetty parking lot has great wave watching and provides easy access to the beach.
8. History is all around you at Champoeg State Park. Bring your bikes and perhaps a fishing pole, and plan to visit nearby Aurora, founded in the 1800s as a Christian colony and now an antiques mecca.
Milo McIver Park
9. Milo McIver Park, situated on the Clackamas River outside of Estacada, offers boating and fishing in the river and lake. This spacious park has miles of hiking and equestrian trails, disc golf, and more in a beautiful country setting.
10. Waterloo County Park outside of Lebanon offers fishing, swimming, and boating in the South Santiam River. This is also a good home base for exploring the area's history or hiking at McDowell Creek.
The rebuilt tollgate at Tollgate
11. Ainsworth State Park in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge is a favorite stopping place when hiking and sightseeing in the area. Near many popular waterfalls and trails, this campground also offers a nice hiker-biker camp for cyclists exploring the Gorge. Do note the proximity of the railroad tracks.
12. Another good base camp, this time on Mt. Hood, is Tollgate. A quick, easy drive from Portland, Tollgate is the site of, well, a tollgate on the Oregon Trail. This peaceful campground is near numerous Mt. Hood hikes.
Lost Lake
Outside Maupin

Just off of Highway 20 east of Sweet Home, House Rock Campground is located in an old growth forest beside the South Santiam River. Besides swimming and fishing, this campground offers access to the historic Santiam Wagon Road.
14. Beside Highway 20/22 on the way to Sisters you will find Lost Lake. When the lake is deep enough this a a great place to paddle. Even when the water is too low, the bird watching is excellent (and the camping is less crowded).
15. There are many camping opportunities outside of Maupin along the wild Deschutes River. Follow the route of an old railroad to find several riverside sites. We aren't rafters, but we love this ruggedly beautiful byway.

Boating and Fishing

Beaver Creek
16. Beaver Creek State Natural Area south of Newport beside Ona Beach. This coastal creek is our favorite place to paddle. 
17. Cape Meares Lake, a 120-acre lake located between the Pacific and Tillamook Bay. Take 3rd St./Netarts Highway out of Tillamook to Bayocean Road past the Bayocean dike for boating access.
18. Sutton Lake north of Florence. A scenic lake with two pools connected by a narrow canal. Popular for both paddling and fishing.
Siltcoos Water Trail
19. Neacoxie Lake/Sunset Lake is a very long, narrow lake south of Astoria and Warrenton. To find it, take Sunset Lake Road west from Highway 101 just south of Camp Rilea. Fun to paddle and well-stocked with fish.
20. The Siltcoos Water Trail south of Florence. A delightful paddle through forest and dunes, this is one of our favorite getaways.
21. Hoquarton Slough in downtown Tillamook passes through town, countryside, and eventually into Tillamook Bay. This area is quite tide affected, so check the tides before putting in.
Clear Lake
22. Eckman Lake just east of Waldport is a great place to take kids to kayak or to try for the stocked rainbow trout.
23. The Alton-Baker Canoe Canal in Eugene passes behind Autzen Stadium, through town, parks, and natural areas before ending at the Willamette River.
24. Gold Lake lies east of Oakridge in the Willamette Pass. It offers beautiful mountain views, as well as a unique bog area.
25. Clear Lake  in the McKenzie Pass is the birthplace of the McKenzie River. Crystal-clear water 150 feet deep, a lava flow, a campground, a resort, and a sunken forest are among its offerings.
Lake Harriet
26. Mt. Hood's Trillium Lake near the old Barlow Road features iconic views of Mt. Hood. You will find paddling, hiking, history, fishing, and a very popular campground.
27. On Highway 20 west of Sisters, 250-acre Suttle Lake offers campgrounds, boating, fishing, and a swimming beach.
28. Click here for directions and information on Lake Harriet outside of Estacada in the Ripplebrook area. This small lake is a popular fishing destination; there is a campground and dispersed camping nearby.
Sparks Lake
29. Access Hosmer Lake from Mallard Marsh on the south end. Located on the Cascade Lakes Highway/Century Drive out of Bend, this lake has two pools. Paddle, then walk, up the creek at the north end to find a small waterfall.
30. On the same highway, Sparks Lake lies in a mountain meadow with stunning scenery, hiking trails, and sandhill cranes.
31. Lemolo Lake is north of more-popular Diamond and Crater Lakes. This medium-sized lake offers camping, paddling, fishing, power boating, and a small resort, all in the shadow of rugged Mt. Thielson.

Stops Along the Way to Somewhere Else

View from Cape Foulweather
32. The community of Taft at the south end of Lincoln City has Siletz Bay and ocean beach access, great water views, a fishing dock, and a picnic shelter with plenty of parking. 
33. The Astoria Column stands as a monument to the people who settled the west. Climb the stairs for incredible views over the wide Columbia.
34. Cape Foulweather/Otter Crest is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. Take a right turn just past Rocky Creek Viewpoint south of Depoe Bay. Stop at the bridge and walk up the road for great views as you climb the headland. 
The Connie Hansen Garden
35. The Connie Hansen Garden in Lincoln City is a must-see any time of the year. This garden just seems to get better and better, plus there are usually a few choice specimens for sale.
36. Short Sands Beach at Oswald West State Park is a lovely, sheltered spot, great for picnics and hiking. Park on the east side of the highway, cross underneath, and walk half a mile to the beach.
37. Seal Rock State Park offers great tidepooling at low tide (never turn your back on the ocean!). There is also an ADA-accessible viewpoint along the sometimes-steep beach trail.
Salem's Riverfront Carousel
38. Yaquina Head north of Newport is a popular whale-watching destination, plus you will find a historic lighthouse and a cobble beach.
39. The Portland Japanese Garden. Any time of year. Any time at all. Bring your camera.
40. Salem's Riverfront Carousel, built by volunteers over a six-year period, offers old-fashioned fun for all ages. 
41. Not to be outdone, Albany also has its own carousel built by volunteers over 17 years, plus a carousel museum where visitors can witness the creation of new animals.
Talking Water Gardens
42. Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge in southeast Portland offers easy access to wetlands and river views.
43. Talking Water Gardens in Albany is a series of wastewater settling ponds at an abandoned mill site: truly a unique way to see wildlife, and surprisingly beautiful and peaceful.
44. Portland's Leach Botanical Garden was begun in the 1930s as a private garden; it remains a Portland classic.
Deepwood Estate
45. Salem's Deepwood Estate features a historic mansion, grounds, and a conservatory. These gardens really shine in the springtime. Bring a picnic and your camera!
46. Another springtime stop is Bishop's Close. Situated outside of Lake Oswego, this old estate and its gardens sit on a high bank above the Willamette River. 
47. Take Bluff Road near Sandy to find the spectacular Jonsrud Viewpoint. Free telescopes assist in viewing Mt. Hood, the Sandy River Valley, and the "Devil's Backbone" traveled by Oregon pioneers.
48. Stop along Highway 20 to visit points along the Santiam Wagon Road, a major trans-Cascade route from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.
Fish Lake near the Santiam Wagon Road
49. The Barlow Road, the last leg of the Oregon Trail, passed over the flank of Mt. Hood. Sections of this historic route remain to be found by the curious; suggestions include Still Creek, Trillium Lake, and White River Crossing. 
50. Fish Lake just south of Highway 20 in the McKenzie Pass is a settlement of vintage cabins beside a snowmelt lake that becomes a wide meadow in summer. There is a section of the Santiam Wagon Road here. 
51. Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood is a must-see: a CCC-built showplace with panoramic Cascade views as well as hiking trails, and, of course, skiing.
The Oregon Caves
52. The Oregon Caves, Oregon's "marble halls" at Cave Junction. If you haven't toured these caves, you may not be an Oregonian.
53. Golden, a mining ghost town north of Medford, lies peacefully beside the eroded creek that provided the gold to build the town. The photogenic buildings are in various stages of preservation.
54. The Dee Wright Observatory stands at the summit of the Old McKenzie Pass, which is only open in summer months. Stop here for panoramic mountain views across the massive lava fields.
Balch Hotel at Dufur
55. It's easy to drive right by Glass Butte between Bend and Burns, but even a quick stop (and a bit of a walk if you don't want to drive the rugged road) will yield a remarkable collection of multicolored obsidian.
56. You've probably never seen anything like Diamond Craters, located outside of Burns. Drive cautiously into this 27-square-mile volcanic field to find a variety of craters and flows.
57. Dufur, south of Hood River, could have become just another central Oregon ghost town, but it simply refused. This pretty little community is steeped in history but also offers cycling, wine, antiques, and a charming hotel.

Short Hikes

58. Heceta Head Lighthouse north of Florence stands above a little sheltered beach. A short hiking trail leads up the hillside to the lighthouse and a keeper's house, which is now a bed-and-breakfast.
59. Bayocean outside of Tillamook offers a loop hike: walk on an old road along the bay side, then come back on the beach. This is the site of a small town that was washed away by the sea.
60. The 804 Trail in Yachats is an easy path on oceanside bluffs. Most people can navigate this trail.
61. Kilchis Point in Bay City is a bayside nature preserve with a bit of history thrown in. Most of the paths are smooth and easy to walk.
View from Cascade Head
62. Cascade Head north of Lincoln City is a somewhat steep hike to find stunning views over the ocean; start at Knight Park off of Highway 101 and follow the signs.
63. The St. Perpetua Trail south of Yachats is recommended for its views over the Pacific and its wildflowers. Expect a good, hard climb up the south side of the cape.
64. Sweet Creek outside of Mapleton follows a peaceful forest stream as it pours over a series of waterfalls.
Silver Falls
65. Mary's Peak between Waldport and Philomath is the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range. The bare summit offers 360-degree views. You will also find old growth forest, wildflowers, and camping.
66. Portland's Marine Drive is paralleled by a paved bike/pedestrian path with river views, parks, wetlands, and two airports. This level route is accessible for all.
67. Silver Falls outside of Silverton is widely famous for its forest trails to 10 spectacular waterfalls.
Pedestrian bridge to Minto-Brown Island Park
68. Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem is a mixed-use wildlife refuge with trails, river and slough access, and a dog park. A pedestrian bridge connects it with Salem Riverfront Park.
69. Beacon Rock is technically on the Washington side, but the Gorge views as you climb the rock are well worth crossing the river for.
70. Gordon Meadows in the South Santiam Pass is at its best during spring wildflower season. Make it a day hike, or camp beside one of the small lakes along the trail.
Daly Lake
71. Little Crater Lake on Mt. Hood's shoulder  offers a fully-accessible trail to a beautiful geological oddity, plus camping, access to the PCT, and wildflower meadows.
72. Daly and Parish Lakes in the Santiam Pass are easy to reach and fun to fish, and both have dispersed campsites. Nearby Riggs and Don Lakes are also popular with anglers.
73. Tamolitch Blue Pool in the McKenzie Pass is a justly popular forest hike to a place where the McKenzie River bubbles up out of the ground into an intensely, well, blue pool.
Belknap Crater
74. Charlton Lake is only a fourth of a mile off of Forest Road 4290 near Waldo Lake in the Willamette Pass. There is dispersed camping and fishing; expect to meet some PCT through-hikers.
75. Climb Iron Mountain in the South Santiam Pass for expansive views and for one of the best wildflower displays in the state.
76. The Belknap Craters along the seasonal Old McKenzie Pass make a unique and rugged day hike across a lava field.
77. A bit to the east of #76 lies the trailhead to Black Crater, which offers a sometimes-rugged trail to a craggy volcanic outcropping.
Koosah Falls
78. Stunning Toketee Falls outside of Roseburg requires an easy, short hike to a viewing platform. The North Umpqua River plunges a total of 120 feet over a wall of basalt.
79. The McKenzie river rushes over Koosah and Sahalie Falls in the McKenzie Pass. The two falls are connected by a riverside path through the forest.
80. Climb The Twins near Waldo Lake for 360-degree views. These twin hilltops at the crest of the Cascades look out over eastern and western Oregon and offer birds-eye views of the area's lakes.
Hole in the Ground

81. Hole in the Ground outside of La Pine is, in fact, a really big hole in the ground, probably volcanic. About a mile wide and 500 feet deep, the hole is easily visible due to the sparse desert landscape.
82. White River Falls off of Highway 216 south of The Dalles is actually easy to view from the parking lot, but the short, steep trail goes all the way down to the river and an old powerhouse. This rushing river in the middle of the high desert is a must-see.
83. Fort Rock rises abruptly out of the monotonously flat desert about 70 miles out of Bend. This prominent landmark is a tuff ring that formed around an ancient volcanic vent.

Longer Hikes

84. Hike to Elk Meadows, spend the night, and take a side trip to Gnarl Ridge at timberline on Mt. Hood for wildflowers and views.
South Sister
85. Climb South Sister. In good weather, this popular trail outside of Bend is mostly just a really hard day hike. Check the forecast, start early, and be prepared for deep, loose cinder near the summit. 
86. Jefferson Park is a frequently-visited mountain meadow in the Santiam Pass. Wildflowers, alpine lakes, and an up-close view of Mt. Jefferson complete the picture.
Upper Twin Lake
87. Another popular hike, Twin Lakes and Palmateer Point on Mt. Hood makes a great family outing.
88. Patjens Lakes, a series of three mountain lakes in the Mt. Washington Wilderness, would also be a good family overnighter. Take Big Lake Road in the Santiam Pass to access the trailhead.

Eagle Cap Wilderness
89. The Three Fingered Jack Loop is more of an endeavor, but the views make it definitely worth the effort. This loop follows the PCT and a couple of connecting trails.
90. The Eagle Cap Wilderness is known as "Oregon's Alps." Be prepared for jaw-dropping scenery in this remote and rugged area.

Road Trip-Worthy Destinations

Inside Fort Stevens
91. Fort Stevens outside of Astoria. Where else can you wander through military installations, ride your bike to a shipwreck, watch huge ships enter the Columbia River, camp, and take a side trip for a history tour of Oregon's oldest town?
92. Cape Arago near Coos Bay, also a historic area, offers camping, beachcombing, wildlife observation points, and the gardens of the Shore Acres Estate.
93. Mt. Hebo outside the tiny town of Hebo has two lakes, a campground, miles of roads and trails, scenic meadows, lush forests, history, and a few mysteries.
Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway from Crown Point
94. Take the scenic route with the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. Explore waterfalls, trails, viewpoints, and charming little towns on this historic stretch of road.
95. Many people have never even heard of the Link Lake Basin in the Deschutes National Forest. Access this area from the Corbett parking lot on the east side of the Santiam Pass. Take a good map, as there are several small lakes along this maze of roads that lead through a partially-burned forest.
96. Scott Lake is one of our family favorites. Take the seasonal Old McKenzie Pass to find this gem of a lake, as well as hikes to more lakes.
East Lake in Newberry Crater
97. Newberry Crater outside of Bend is not a crater, but a volcanic caldera containing two lakes. Camp, fish, hike, and take in the views from atop 7,985-foot Paulina Peak. 
98. Crater Lake. Because you can't call yourself an Oregonian if you haven't been to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States and one of the most beautiful.
99. Sumpter outside of Baker City is a historic mining town. Check out the strange contraptions once used to extract wealth from the earth. Explore this area to find old mines (keep out!) and picturesque abandoned buildings. Find more history in Baker City's museums.
Sumpter Dredge
100. Steen's Mountain outside of Burns in southeastern Oregon. 170,200 acres; everything here is big, do your research so you don't miss anything. This is the highest point in southeastern Oregon, with the state's highest road. It overlooks the Alvord Desert, Oregon's driest spot. Visit the largest fault block mountain in North America. Drive, hike, explore, find history, camp, and you may decide that we saved the best for last.

So there you have it, one hundred of our favorite places; it was surprisingly hard to narrow them down. If we missed some of yours, perhaps we will do a post on them in the future; in the meantime, get out there and have fun!

The beach near Humbug Mountain

Cleawox Lake at Honeyman State Park

Cape Mears Lake

The Alton-Baker Canoe Canal. Part of the appeal of this destination is that it's fun to say Canoe Canal.
That's it, say it with us. Canoe Canal.

Trillium Lake

Portland Japanese Garden
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
Jonsrud Viewpoint

Sweet Creek

Beacon Rock
Little Crater Lake
Tamolitch Blue Pool
Iron Mountain
Black Crater
Fort Rock

White River Falls

Elk Meadows
Jefferson Park
Three-Fingered Jack
Sunset over Scott Lake

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