With gas prices lower than they have been in years, RVers are looking to hit some of their bucket list destinations in 2015. We’ve updated our list thanks to Travel Oregon’s 7 wonders of Oregon list. From Crater Lake, to the Oregon Coast, to the Painted Hills, we’re fortunate that we live in a state where these beautiful places exist, and we’ve made it our mission to visit all seven this year. In this blog we will be sharing our plans for weekend trips to the Oregon Coast, Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, the Wallowas, the Painted Hills, Smith Rock and Crater Lake.
The Oregon Coast
You can begin your Oregon Road trip right here at the Guaranty RV Service Center—have your tanks filled and tires checked while you are stocking up on some groceries for the road. It’s a short drive from Junction City to Florence where you can see all the wonders the Oregon Coast has to offer. Just three miles south of Florence is one of our favorite spots: Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park. It has excellent RV sites surrounded by trees and rhododendrons. There are two miles of sand dunes between the park and the ocean. Have you ever sledded down a hill made of sand? There are two freshwater lakes: one is great for swimming and you can rent a paddleboat or canoe on the other one. There is so much to do from hiking on trails lined with spring time rhododendrons, to picnics on the beach.
Just 40 minutes north of Florence is Cape Perpetua. Part of the Siuslaw National Forest, Cape Perpetua is where the forest meets the sea. There are plenty of places to pull over and look out over the ocean or down the coastline where the cliffs are wrapped in fog. There are tide pools to explore at low tide, miles of hiking trails through subtropical rainforest, and a visitors center with all sorts of interactive learning experiences. Cape Perpetua is one of those places that shows the power of the ocean and the resistance of rock. And while you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop in at the famous Sea Lion Caves.
About 45 minutes to the west of Portland is majestic Mt. Hood. It’s the highest point in Oregon and is one of our favorite places to visit because there is so much to do: from camping in the Mt. Hood National Forest, to skiing, or even alpine sledding. It is hard to pick a single spot to visit. In early spring, a trip up to Timberline Lodge is in order. There is nothing as luxurious as a hot chocolate by the fire when the weather’s still chilly enough for a sweater.
In the summer, nothing beats a camping trip, and the Mt. Hood National Forest gives you lots of options—whether you’re looking for forest camping, lakes or rivers, you’re sure to discover new favorite campsites. Picture your RV parked with the Clackamas River running behind it and trees surrounding you as you sit in your favorite camp chair with your awning rolled out overhead.
In the fall/winter it is all about snow sports, from skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows to snowshoeing in Mt. Hood National Forest. Bring the kids and take them inner tubing down the mountain. Warm them up after with grilled cheese and tomato soup from your RV’s kitchen.
The Columbia River Gorge
There is no place on Earth quite like the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Surrounded by trees, with rocky cliffs jutting out at irregular intervals and the mighty Columbia River rolling by, the Gorge is a place where magic might still be real. We suggest stopping by Multnomah Falls for a hike. Let’s be honest: standing at the bottom of a giant waterfall with an ice cream cone on a hot day might very well be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
If you haven’t had enough of waterfalls at that point, and you’re feeling adventurous, we suggest stopping at Oneonta Gorge. Here you walk up a riverbed, over a log jam, and wade through a small crevasse to come to your own private waterfall/swimming hole. It’s perfect for those hot summer days. Be sure to bring a sweatshirt that you don’t mind getting damp because when you get out of the water it can be chilly in the shade. For more things to do in the Columbia Gorge visit Travel Oregon.
Located in the northeast corner of our state lies the Wallowas: a mountain range of epic beauty. There are plenty of places to park an RV out there. For the best view of the surrounding landscape, take the gondola from Wallowa Lake Village to the highest peak of Mt. Howard. Here you can see Eastern Oregon in all it’s beauty stretching before you. Turn around and you can look past Devil’s Canyon into Idaho (some people say you can see all the way to Montana). It is the type of view that can change you, if you let it. There is also much to explore around the Wallowas from breweries to art galleries. Be sure to bring your camera; snap a photo from the top of Mt. Howard or take a picture of lakes surrounded by mountains, there’s so much to see.
The Wallowas are packed with history as well. Chief Joseph—possibly one of the most famous Native American Chiefs—was from this land. The Wallowas was also a place where homesteaders first crossed into Oregon on the Oregon Trail. We suggest a stop at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park at Blue Mountain Crossing. There are still spots where you can see the ruts in the ground from the wagon wheels.
The Painted Hills
Located in Mitchell, the Painted Hills are a sight to behold. They are one of three fossil beds of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. They never show themselves to any two people the same way. With a change in light or weather, the colors of the hills seem to glow and look almost handpainted. They are “painted” by sediment formations which were created by volcanic eruptions and changing climate patterns over 35 million years ago. To truly appreciate them, we recommend that you walk among the hills on the walkways that are provided (please don’t leave the paths as the soil is easily damaged).
While you are there you should take the time to see the other fossil beds, as well. Take the kids on a fossil finding expedition; maybe they will find a dinosaur or the fossil of a million-year-old plant.
If you are a rock climbing enthusiast, perhaps you’ve already tackled the famous Smith Rock State Park. But there are thousands of climbs to do in this park, so we bet there’s a new one you haven’t tried. Located in central Oregon’s high desert, Smith Rock State Park is full of canyons, hiking trails and fishing spots; it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream spot.
About an hour south of Smith Rock is Lava Lands. This is a place where, 7,000 years ago, lava cooled and broke apart. There are fields of obsidian shards shining in the sun. In fact, the astronauts trained here before the moon landing in order to learn how to walk on the lunar surface.
If you’re heading east from the Willamette Valley, be sure to stop by the the Guaranty RV Travel Center to fill your tanks, buy snacks for the drive, and make sure everything looks a-ok before you head over the pass.
Crater Lake is the ruin of a volcano that blew its top and filled with rainwater and snow. It is America’s deepest lake and a shade of blue that puts all other blues to shame. In the winter, Crater Lake gets an average snowfall of 44 feet, and seasonal roads often don’t open until mid-June, so plan this trip for mid-summer. Hike the one-mile trail down to the lake to swim or take a tour boat. Bring a change of clothes because it is not a trip to Crater Lake without jumping into the beautifully clear waters. It’s the wake up you need in life. Once you’ve made the hike back up the trail (there are benches to rest on if you need them), treat yourself to a great meal at Crater Lake Lodge. Opened in 1915 and extensively restored in 1995, it is like walking into the early ‘20s. Need a place to park for the night? There is a great RV park near by.
Once you are done at Crater Lake National Park, it is only two hours to Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or about three hours to the Oregon Caves, one of the coolest national monuments. Here you can explore a vast network of underground caves and tunnels.
We’ve planned these Wonders of Oregon as seven short trips, but for those of you living the RV lifestyle in the summer, the whole trip would take about two weeks. Exploring Oregon is one of life’s joys and there is always somewhere new to discover. So get on the road and start exploring. And, of course, if you have any questions or you need to set up an appointment for service before you take off, contact us.