Travel Journal

Here Are the 10 Best Trips We Took in 2017

From high desert landscapes to high design in Honolulu, this past year of travel stole our hearts.

By Ramona DeNies December 22, 2017

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Swiss land artist Ugo Rondinone's Seven Magic Mountains lights up the landscape 10 miles south of Vegas.

At times this past year, it felt like America (or some within it) aimed to shrink inward—to brick up borders, obstruct paths, strangle lines of communication. And yet, life on the Portland Monthly travel desk reminds us that this impulse runs contrary to something fundamental about humanity. We're curious. We quest. We explore. This drive takes us outward—to locations across the Pacific Northwest, and occasionally across the planet. Travel is the act of discovering what's just beyond, of literally expanding our worlds.

Among our many brilliant treks across the West in 2017, here are 10 that gave us life. And should you feel a certain wanderlust, scrolling through this list, consider launching the New Year with some adventures of your own. 2018 could probably do with a fewer bricks.

1. We Traded Skis for Fat Bikes in Sun Valley

Sun Valley, Idaho, is America’s original ski resort, dating back to 1936. But quirky Ketchum—the resort's neighboring town, and the southern gateway to the Sawtooths' sprawling backcountry—has a fanbase all its own.

2. We Went Back to the Land in Nevada

From wild land art to family-friendly outdoor adventures, editor in chief Zach Dundas discovered that Nevada's true gold is found on the canyon-riven outskirts of Las Vegas.

3. We Embraced Tropical Nostalgia in Honolulu

A Portland design team revamped an aging Marriott on Honolulu's up-and-coming Kuhio Avenue. The luxurious result "shimmers with an aura of midcentury, jet-set island fantasy."

4. We Biked to Our Wine in Eola-Amity Hills

Yes, there is a country-rustic route in the South Willamette Valley that links eight tasting rooms and some very tasty tacos. And you can bike it. 

5. We Climbed a 72-Foot Lookout Tower

Tucked into Washington’s Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Heybrook Lookout Tower was closed for decades. Now, you can once again overnight in its snuggly, fully-equipped cabin,with 360-degree views and not another soul in sight.

6. We Trekked the Length of the Oregon Coast to Find 10 Perfect Beaches

From Clatsop Spit to the southerly Oregon Islands, our state’s entire shoreline is a ribbon of rocky, sandy sublimity. And thanks to our 1967 Beach Bill, it’s yours. We celebrate 10 superlative beaches on the 50th anniversary of this landmark legislation.

7. We Hiked In to a Historic Lodge Hidden in the Wallowas

Back in the 1950s, the Minam River Lodge was a hunting retreat with no road access. In spring 2017, the lodge reopened—as isolated as ever, but with stunning new perks.

8. We Ran the Length of Forest Park

In October, the 30-mile Wildwood Trail was a mud bath. We set out to complete the entire length of Forest Park's trademark track. Pain was felt. Euphoria was achieved.

9. We Embraced Idaho Time in Eastern Oregon

Sure, 2016 made “Malheur” synonymous with an antigovernment armed occupation. But Malheur National Wildlife Refuge isn't actually in Malheur. It's in neighboring Harney County. Put together, Oregon’s two largest counties make up 20 percent of the state—and that, managing editor Margaret Seiler found, means a lot of photo ops. 

10. We Ogled All the New Flights from Alaska Airlines

Orlando. Albuquerque. Detroit. In 2017, Portland's favorite carrier announced eight new nonstop destinations from PDX. (The latest? Direct to JFK!)

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