Beyond Portland’s City Limits: The Best Day Trips

You can take your rented bike and pedal down to a waiting Zipcar and get out of town. From the mountains to the coast—and everything in between—you’ll enjoy an easy break from the urban outlook, usually with an hour of driving, or less.

53000 East, Historic Columbia River Hwy, Bridal Veil, OR 97010, USA
Multnomah Falls is a gorgeous sight located about 45 minutes by car outside of Portland, Oregon, on the Columbia River Gorge. Several hikes of differing degrees of difficulty offer vantage points to view the falls. The sound of the rushing water is a soothing composition from Mother Nature.
5510 NE Breyman Orchards Rd, Dayton, OR 97114, USA
Red Ridge Farms has been growing grapes in the Dundee Hills for 40 years. In 2005, it added olives to its repertoire, becoming the only commercial producer of olive oil in Oregon. Call ahead to visit the mill and sample such varieties as Arbequina and Koroneiki. (503) 864-8502. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
I’m not one for posting food photos, but I had to make an exception for this one. I was seated at a table at the Le Puy bed and breakfast in Newberg, OR. As this wonderful dish was placed in front of me, the innkeeper informed me that the eggs used to prepare this meal were taken from the farm right out the window. Now, I’ve heard the phrase “farm to table,” but I’ve never eaten a meal where I could actually SEE the farm FROM my table. Breakfast was great, and I applaud the innkeeper and the chickens.
Warrior Rock Lighthouse, St Helens, OR 97051, USA
Minutes from downtown Portland, there’s a hike on the northern tip of Sauvie Island that takes you through bird-sanctuary beauty and wilderness isolation. The walk out to explore Oregon’s smallest lighthouse can be a comfortable sunny stroll through the beach, woods, and wetlands. It can also turn into a damp slog later in the rainy season when island lakes overflow their banks, inundating the roads and trails. But year-round, it’s still possible to find your way to the spot on Warrior Rock where the classic light overlooks the Columbia. Cycling out to the light gets you to the trailhead at the end of Reeder Road for the 7-mile roundtrip hike out to Warrior Rock. The original lighthouse was built in 1889, and that wooden structure was replaced with the current concrete tower in 1930. Back in 1969, the rocky shelf that juts out into the Columbia couldn’t stop a barge from running into the light, compromising the foundation. The Warrior Rock Light, one of two in Oregon that are not on the Pacific, is now automated and still serves the busy shipping lanes on the river. This historic site is a great spot to experience a bit of island life, have a picnic, or just relax watching the day drift down river.
38149-38155 Northwest Reeder Road
Perched on a not-so-lonely nude beach on the northern end of Sauvie Island is an enigma. Well above waterline lies a 30-foot orb that piques the imagination and challenges explanation. The “spaceship” origin is not interstellar but certainly presents itself as other-worldly. The craft is actually a ferro cement experimental boat built around 1970 just upriver. It was designed as a self-righting sailboat and carried a local family on adventures for a couple decades before it got away. Now covered in moss and graffiti, it sits as a testament to Oregon innovation and exploration. To do some of your own exploring of this mysterious craft, take Reeder Rd out to where the pavement ends at a spot called Collins Beach, aka the nude beach. (Yes, if you venture out in summer, you will see naked people.) There’s a parking area (permit required) and trails down to the beach. Sitting up in the trees, just above the sand, sits the stripped-out hulk of a dream. The tri-hulled beast looks more like a lifeboat than a spaceship, but alien nonetheless. Be careful climbing around if you decide to explore inside. The rusting steel framework is losing its cement skin in places and can be dangerous. Cycling to the site is a great way to spend an afternoon on the island and get a great workout in the process.
McKenzie Hwy, Blue River, OR 97413, USA
A trip up to the Dee Wright is a required trek for all my guests who visit Oregon. If you want to experience the power and beauty of the planet, the Old McKenzie Highway delivers an eyeful. Starting in Ponderosa Pine forests and climbing to 5,300 feet above sea level, the road wages a mighty battle to deliver travelers to the top. The structure at the pass is built out of lava from the surrounding flow and towers above the old wagon road that is now Route 242. The road is closed in winter, but it’s a busy corridor during the summer tourist season. The observatory has windows which become frames for the famous peaks easily seen across the barren landscape. On the top deck you can easily see Mt. Hood to the north on a clear day. An interpretive trail gives visitors a great geology lesson on Cascade volcanology. It is a very harsh environment with the blistering heat of summer and the raging snow storms of winter. One can hardly imagine moving though this moonscape in a covered, ox-drawn wagon back when Oregon was just a territory. Nothing like it.
20 Basin St, Astoria, OR 97103, USA
Astoria’s Cannery Row has enjoyed a resurgence as a tourist destination for Oregon Coast visitors. As the former state capital clings to the Columbia River with the determination of a stubborn child, dwindling fishery and logging economies give way to opportunities. Bridgewater Bistro pairs perfectly with the new vision for the city’s future. With wonderful water views in a historically inspired space, the Bridgewater is an open and welcoming environment with two levels of seating. Summer sends patrons out on the expansive deck shadowed by the Astoria-Megler Bridge. The menu is focused and locally sourced. Our party started with the Bloody Mary oyster shooters and moved through the salad selection, pausing to peruse the extensive wine list. Local craft beers and specialty cocktails provide plenty of drink options. The main course was split between the fresh salmon and the steak offering, and both were prepared with inspired seasoning. Staff are friendly and professional with a genuine commitment to the work they do. The views have a tendency to distract from the food at hand, but those dishes find a way to hold their own in the competition for a diner’s attention. Combine value, quality, and service in Oregon’s NW corner for a memorable dining experience at the Bridgewater.
A black, awe-inspiring lava landscape is the welcome mat to our trek into Oregon’s iconic volcano reserve. The Three Sisters: Faith/North, Hope/Middle, and Charity/South are ringed by a trail network that includes a stretch on the infamous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The wilderness circumnavigation of these dramatic, dormant peaks challenges hikers to keep their eyes on the trail at every bend. The big diversion on our journey is the climb to the saddle between Middle and South sisters. The area holds a short necklace of glacial lakes and challenging access through snow and ice. Great accommodations when you need to chill that cocktail at 7,500 feet. Trails up to the saddle are well defined but not maintained or officially marked, making getting lost or disoriented par for the course. The weather in August quickly goes from blazing in the lava beds to long sleeves at altitude. One night I had every bit of clothing on inside my sleeping bag to stay warm. Lower elevations produce brilliant meadows of lupine and paintbrush this time of year. Water sources are limited, but two “springs” provide gourmet liquid bubbling out of volcanic rock. This is a moderately strenuous 48-mile walk without the difficult detour to the saddle. The east-side Green Lakes trail has a restricted burn area and is less populated, while the west side PCT portion tends to be busy. Don’t let the 5,000-foot elevation gain/loss scare you off. Every step is like walking through geologic time.
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