Portland, Oregon is situated among great hiking and nature options that don’t fail to impress. The Columbia River Gorge is only about 30 minutes away from the city center and the seaside is about 90 minutes. I was able to accomplish both in one very-long-but-so-worth-it kind of day.
First up was the Gorge. After you pass Troutdale, the road goes almost right along the Columbia River which affords great views of the gorge to your right, and Washington State to your left. There are many state parks and recreation areas abutting the landscape. There was one that I didn’t visit but found particularly unexpected was Rooster Rock State Park. At this park there are clothing optional beaches and even a gay cruising area, not something I would’ve imagined along a river in Oregon with the Lewis & Clark insignia; but that’s the best part of the Pacific Northwest – it’s full of surprises.
As for the rest of the Lewis & Clark State Park areas, it’s filled with gorgeous scenic viewpoints, waterfalls, creeks, and trails. Thanks to the abundant rainfall in this part of the country, these are the greenest greens that I’ve ever seen in the USA. I’m sure every Oregon teenager is sick to death of hearing about Lewis & Clark thanks to school field trips, but I thought it was interesting having history meet with nature. Be sure to check out Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in the gorge (this area is also the wettest part of the gorge, bring a jacket!). The gorge also has a lot of fun hikes for all experience levels and a great viewpoint at the Vista House.
The Oregon coast is a quick 90 minute drive from Portland, and it’s the scenic route. Shortly after leaving Beaverton the highway becomes a two lane road through some gorgeous farmland leading up to the ocean. The best part is that you can’t tell the ocean is coming until you’re practically on top of it. We chose to visit Cannon Beach and Astoria, which are both famous movie locations! The Goonies was shot at both, and Kindergarten Cop was shot in Astoria. This was probably wasted on me seeing as I haven’t seen either! However, Cannon Beach was just about the most adorable beach town I’ve ever seen. We visited during low tide, and there was what seemed like a massive jellyfish genocide on the beach. The walk was really long from the landing to the water, and the whole beach was strewn with dead jellyfish. The water was absolutely freezing; it almost reminded me of Maine. The coastline isn’t craggy though, and it almost appears to go on forever. The scenery of Haystack Rock alongside the misty air and clear sand made it a very pretty sight. In town we went to a kitschy 50s style candy store called The Picnic Basket. Their selection is overwhelming but some of the highlights were the Tabasco-flavored chocolate, flavored crickets, and the softest fudge I’ve ever had in my life (my favorite being the cookie dough fudge). The staff was really humorous and put up with us trying a sample of about 9 different fudges, definitely worth a visit.
Next we drove up to Astoria for some dinner while it was approaching dusk. Astoria is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go because of the way it looks on a map, and since Astoria is one of my favorite areas in Queens. All you need is a little curiosity to find something special. Astoria has some pretty buildings and a small downtown area. We decided on having a meal at Buoy Beer Company on the water. It is situated on a wooden dock, and below the dock there were some pieces of wood connecting the beams, and this huge pack of these sea lions were relaxing and barking in clear sight from the dock. Inside the restaurant there was a section of floor made of glass where the sea lions were also chilling underneath. Isn’t that just exactly what you would picture out of a Pacific Northwest coastal experience? To just add to the preconceived notion, our waitress was this very soft spoken Alaskan lady whose soothing voice could sell you bath products blind. The food was absolutely delectable, the vibe was super relaxed and enjoyable, and the beers delicious and local. I had the habanero oyster deviled eggs which were flavorful, and the local specialty: the baked salmon and SALMON JERKY. Not only was it the freshest salmon I’ve ever eaten, but what a quirky and unexpected choice (this was also my first time having jerky).
Have you been to the Oregon coast or the Columbia River gorge? What were some of your favorite experiences?