Travel & Outdoors

12 Oregon Adventures for 2022

Drive the Oregon Coast, snowshoe at Mount Hood, marvel at the Painted Hills, and more. 2022 is yours for the taking.

Edited by Gabriel Granillo By Karly Quadros, Katherine Chew Hamilton, Fiona McCann, and Margaret Seiler

Header image: Smith Rock, courtesy Sarah Quintans/Shutterstock

Travel has been tricky these past two years. Lockdown restrictions, social distancing, mask mandates, COVID variants: all of this has changed how and where we travel. But it has also reinvigorated our desire to see the world with the people we love, to make moments that matter, and memories (also Instagram feeds) that we’ll cherish long after we’ve put these challenging times in the rearview mirror.

Thankfully in Oregon you don’t have to go far to see and do some pretty amazing stuff. For those with severe wanderlust and a yearning for a 2022 of exciting experiences, we’ve put together a list of 12 Oregon adventures (that’s right, one for every month of the year) to remind you why keeping a tight Zoom meeting and peeling yourself off your sofa can have spectacular payoffs. We’ll see you out there.


January

Snowshoe at Mount Hood

Snowshoers are a hardy lot, plodding peacefully down the trail as cross-country skiers whip past, directing a glare if you’ve ’shoed in their track. Truth be told, our favorite Oregon snowshoeing spot is in Bend, where there are strategically placed warming huts to be found along wondrous trails. But if that’s too far for your tastes, the Mount Hood area has plenty of great jaunts. Beginners will gravitate to the Crosstown Trail, which rises just beyond Government Camp and lets you traverse the woods that are the town’s collective backyard. Try nearly hidden Enid Lake for a good picnic stop. If you want to push yourself, make your way to Twin Lakes, and head out all the way to Upper Twin Lake, leaving the roar of the snowmobiles at Frog Lake Sno-Park behind. During a super-snowy winter, the trails at Pocket Creek Sno-Park are worth exploring, especially since their proximity to Parkdale means you can stop off at cheerful Solera Brewery for killer beer and a surprisingly cosmopolitan menu. —Julia Silverman


February

Go Camping in the Sky in a Fire Lookout

Built for spotting wildfires (a task now largely left to the remotely operated swivel cam attached to their frames), these cabins on stilts require a serious stair climb (and a snowshoe trek just to get there) but reward with peace and quiet and incomparable views. The easiest ones to reach from Portland are in the Mt Hood National Forest, on Clear Lake Butte (available November–May) and Fivemile Butte (available year-round). Snagging one can feel like winning the lottery—nights get snatched up as soon as they’re released on recreation.gov six months ahead of time. A bed, a woodstove, a propane cookstove, a map table, and possibly a previous guest’s forgotten half-full whiskey bottle await the lucky winners. —Margaret Seiler 

 


March

Explore the Oregon Dunes

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic Dune was a 2021 smash hit, actually inspiring awe in our arts editor Conner Reed. At the very least it was a gentle reminder that the otherworldly Oregon Dunes, which inspired Dune author Frank Herbert’s vision of the desert planet of Arrakis, await on the Oregon Coast. The expanse of coastal sand dunes, one the largest in the US, between Florence and Coos Bay offers plenty of adventures: high-speed ATV, dune buggy, and sand rail tours (sorry, no ornithopter rides just yet), hiking, interpretive exhibits and ranger-led talks at the Oregon Dunes Visitor Center in Reedsport, wild-mushroom hunting in the fall, and oh so much more. Or you could simply bring your copy of Dune (which you bought at a local bookstore, right?) to the beach in the off-season and discover the rich world of Arrakis at the place that started it all. —Gabriel Granillo 


April

Drive the Oregon Coast Highway

From Astoria to Brookings, Oregon’s 363 miles of US 101 takes drivers past stunning shoreline views, dramatic cape hikes, looming sea stacks, working fisheries, swinging casinos, secret surf spots, a cheddar mecca, and more. Avoid summer traffic with a spring trip, and don’t plan on being in a rush for any part of it. You’ll want to turn off at every beach and trailhead in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic corridor, feel an urge to undertake a thorough scientific sampling of every seaside café’s fish and chips, and be tempted to stop and shoot your own car commercial south of Port Orford. The highway doesn’t hug the water the whole way, and unless you’re a 101 completist it’s worth the detour near Tillamook along Netarts Bay. (If the lunch window is open at Nevør Shellfish Farm, try what’s fresh, even if you’ve never heard of it.) Near Coos Bay, leave 101 to take the spur from Charleston to Cape Arago State Park. A stop at Shore Acres State Park is mandatory, whether the former timber baron’s grand estate garden is in full bloom (or full glow with holiday lights, a long-standing annual tradition that’s on hold in the pandemic) or just its rainy-season lushness. —MS


May

Raft on the Rogue

It’s hard to imagine a river more epic for whitewater rafting than the Rogue River, which is 215 miles long and flows westward from the Cascades near Crater Lake all the way to the coast at Gold Beach. The river was one of the original eight recognized by Congress in 1968's National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. To get the full Rogue experience, you’ll want to do a multiday rafting trip. One popular option is a family-friendly four-day trip that spans 40 miles through the Siskiyou Mountains and ends at Foster Bar, passing through plenty of Class II and III rapids and one infamous, tough-to-maneuver Class IV rapid, Blossom Bar. Pitch a tent along the way or stay at rustic historic lodges by the riverbank. Short on time? Half-day and full-day trips are also available from the many private rafting companies that offer trips down the river, complete with their own Class IV rapid. —Katherine Chew Hamilton


June

Marvel at the Painted Hills

If, like many, you associate Oregon’s lush natural beauty with cascading waterfalls, still lakes, and craggy coastlines forged from the wild Pacific spray—in other words, water in various majestic forms—then the Painted Hills can come as something of a shock to the sense and spirit. Who knew that in Oregon’s arid deserts, one of the state’s most arresting visual landscapes arises in breathtaking color from the dry ground? Layers of red, rust, black, and gold give these sleeping giants with their knuckly folds an otherworldly feel, testament to the passage of time and changing climates. Bring your water bottle—there’s none on site and the sun gets hot in this area, especially in the early afternoon—and take one or more of five trails of varied lengths and difficulty for spectacular views (Carroll Rim, the longest, provides a panorama, though Painted Hills Overlook and Painted Cove also offer up a spectacle) or paleontological history (Leaf Hill Trail). There are some designated spots for wild camping in the hills, though the nearby town of Mitchell also boasts a hotel and other lodging options, and serves as a great jumping-off point for exploration of the whole area, including the Sheep Rock visitor center and trails, and the Clarno Unit, all part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. —Fiona McCann


 

Along the Corvallis to the Sea Trail, which was completed, after nearly 50 years, in 2021

July

Backpack from Corvallis to the Coast

In 2021, after nearly 50 years of tireless work (mostly from volunteer efforts organized by the Corvallis to the Sea Trail Partnership), the city of Corvallis celebrated the opening of the new Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail, a 62-mile route that connects the Willamette Valley to the Pacific Ocean. The trail is a network of public land, abandoned roads, gated corridors, and low-traffic streets that stretches from Corvallis to Ona Beach at Brian Booth State Park, and it’s perfect for hiking or biking. Along the way, you also get to experience lush forests, wide-open vistas, flora, and wildlife. Be prepared—the trail is very difficult. With limited water along the route, travelers are encouraged to bring plenty of their own. Hustling hikers can complete the trek in just three days, but the C2C partnership says the trail is best for a five- to six-day trip at a more leisurely pace. Prepare to camp out (in designated camping spots only!), and don’t forget to grab yourself a free permit. —GG

 

August

Get to Know Oregon Wine Country

Ribbon Ridge, Applegate Valley, the Van Duzer Corridor—Oregon's American Viticultural Areas (the fancy name for specific wine-growing regions) sound like settings for the Great American Novel. But choose-your-own-adventure might be a better literary model for planning a wine-tasting trip of your own. Just toss the AVAs in a hat, draw one out, look up the open hours and reservation policies, and set to route planning. (The next time, pick a different AVA and a different designated driver.) Tasting rooms range from mom-and-pop charmers to architectural wonders to pristine picnic scenes—MS


September

Rock Climb at Smith Rock

Just under 150 miles southeast of Portland, in Terrebonne near Bend, this world-renowned destination is regarded as the birthplace of sport climbing, where climbers use existing bolts on the rock’s face to clip themselves in—though there are also plenty of routes for traditional climbers, who place their own security fixtures on the rock as they ascend. More than 1,800 routes are available to challenge climbers of all levels on its welded tuff surface—compressed volcanic ash from a volcanic eruption 30 million years ago. One of the park’s most remarkable features is a 350-foot-tall rock pillar called Monkey Face, which features one of the world’s toughest routes known as Just Do It. Grab a copy of Oregon climbing pioneer Alan Watts’s Rock Climbing: Climbing Smith Rock, which details many of the routes; you can also enlist the help of a local climbing school to guide you. The park is open year-round, and tent camping is available spring through fall. Between climbs, keep an eye out for bald and golden eagles, mule deer, and river otters. —KCH


 

October

Tear It Up in the Alvord Desert

Tucked away in deep southeastern Oregon in the shadow of hulking Steens Mountain, a bleached white desert playa unfurls for miles. The Alvord Desert, a dry lakebed, best visited from May to October, looks like caked salt flats, but it’s actually alkali minerals—the same minerals that infuse the nearby Alvord and Willow Creek Hot Springs. This jaw-dropping landscape is well off the beaten path and a prime adventure zone. Two daredevilish women broke the world’s land speed records there: Kitty O’Neil in 1976 and Jessi Combs in 2019. During peak season you can still spot other adventurers riding motorcycles, parasailing, or hiking in the nearby mountains. And, if you’re lucky, you may just catch the region’s wild horses drinking from nearby running water. —Karly Quadros


November

Forage for Mushrooms near Salmon River

After the first big rain of the season, mushrooms abound in Oregon—chanterelles (Oregon’s official state mushroom), American matsutake, king bolete, lobster mushrooms, morels. From late August until December, you’ll find mushrooms near the Oregon Coast, the Cascades Range, the Willamette Valley, and more—pretty much wherever is moist and shadowy, which, of course, is a lot of places in Oregon, will yield a bounty of mushy bois. But for a deep dive into old-growth wonder, spend a day foraging at the Old Trail near the Salmon River. Along this five-mile out-and-back trail you’ll discover a wealth of colorful mushrooms ripe for harvesting. The Salmon River, which runs along the western slopes of Mount Hood and merges with Sandy River, keeps this area soggy year-round—the perfect conditions for mushroom growth. Lucky visitors will also be treated to peak fall colors and the annual salmon run along the river. For more information, safety tips, and field trips, visit the Oregon Mycological Society. —GG 


December

Storm-Watch at Cape Meares

The beach is synonymous with summer, but the Oregon Coast might be most impressive during late fall and winter's dramatic displays of waves upon waves crashing on the shore. From Yachats to Fort Stevens there are plenty of places to cozy up in a seaside lodge and storm-watch, but our favorite place is Cape Meares. While scoping out unparalleled views of the waves at this scenic viewpoint and wildlife refuge next to Tillamook Bay (do bring your rain gear), be sure to visit the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the "Octopus Tree" Sitka spruce, which has been rooted on this stretch of coast for more than 250 years. Once your watch is done, consider bedding down for a cozy night somewhere with a jetted tub and a fireplace (try the Inn at Manzanita). It’s been a long year. You’ve earned it. —GG

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