As we stroll into summer, vacation planning is in high gear. Given the stress of the past 12+ months, we’ll be the first to say a vacation is just what the doctor ordered. So as folks pack their cars, set their out-of-office, and hit the road, we’re preparing for the influx of visitors the Willamette Valley hosts this time every year.
Where is Willamette Valley?
It’s no surprise that our stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest attract people in droves every summer. There’s something for everyone – outdoor adventure, diverse culture, scenic waterfalls, world-class wineries, and more. We may be biased, but Willamette Valley just might be one of the most idyllic spots in the country.
The area is home to a 150-mile long strip of paradise in Oregon, where the Willamette River flows the entire length of the valley. Bordered by mountains on three sides – the Cascade Range to the east, the Oregon Coast Range to the west, and the Calapooya Mountains to the south – the area offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
The great outdoors
It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with all of the camping, hiking trails, scenic drives, and pristine waterways found in this part of the country. From camping beneath the stars in the Willamette National Forests to bike rides along quiet backroads, there’s no shortage of breathtaking scenery.
The Willamette National Forest offers the largest selection of camping options in the area, including RV campsites, group camping, horse campsites, and tent sites. The Forest Service rents most of the forest’s camp areas on a first-come basis, and fees for overnight camps vary by location and season.
Not ready to pitch your tent yet? Not a problem. The state parks system offers an abundance of rentable cabins and yurts throughout the valley. From rustic to deluxe, you can choose your adventure without the hassles of tent set up and take down.
Ever wondered what a 177-ft. curtain of water looks like from the inside? Experience the majesty first-hand at Silver Falls State Park. Also known as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon parks system, Silver Falls is home to the Trail of Ten Falls, a nationally recognized hiking trail weaving through a densely packed forested landscape that’s nothing less than spectacular.
This 7.2-mile trail winds through a series of breathtaking waterfalls along a rocky canyon and descends to a winding creek at the forest floor. It’s considered a moderate hike and includes several connecting trails with separate access points if your want to break it up.
Silver Falls also has more than 35 miles of backcountry trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. However, use caution as bears and cougars are known the roam the more remote areas of the park.
Grab your bike and get ready for some of the best biking trails the country has to offer – including the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, the first official scenic bikeway in the U.S. Take a leisurely ride or work up a sweat along the 134 miles of trails through the picturesque valley. Not to worry, though – you don’t have to commit to the entire route, as it’s broken up into shorter segments perfect for day trips with plenty of options for refreshment along the way.
Ready for a more challenging bike adventure? Then Black Rock Mountain Bike Area is for you. This trail system is one of two areas in the Willamette Valley recognized by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and reserved for intermediate to expert riders only.
Black Rock Mountain Area offers free-riding and manmade features – all with ride-arounds to help you get down safely. There’s even a Basic Training area to help you get acquainted with the mountain.
Willamette Valley is home to two-thirds of the state’s vineyards and wineries, and the climate makes it one of the top pinot-producing areas in the world. The lush valley includes 765 vineyards that supply 564 wineries.
Winemakers have been planting vines and producing wine since Honeywood Winery, the oldest continuously operating winery, opened in 1934. Other wineries of historical significance include the nation’s first LEED-certified winery, Sokol Blosser in Dayton, and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Newberg, co-founded by one of the first women winemakers in Oregon.
There’s one final spot in Willamette Valley that you have to see to believe, and that’s the stunning clarity of Clear Lake. With visibility of up to 200 feet, Clear Lake is considered one of the best spots for freshwater diving in America.
Formed about three thousand years ago when a volcanic eruption in Central Oregon pushed a giant lava flow southwest toward the McKenzie River, Clear Lake is home to the remains of an ancient underwater forest. Enjoy the wonders on a dive, from a kayak or canoe, or by simply sitting along the shores.
No matter which adventure you choose, Willamette Valley will not disappoint. And if you’re in the area, stop by the Redwood Reserves farms and say hi. You can even get some adorable vacation pics with our furry rescue friends. We’re home to dairy cows, alpacas, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and everything in between.