Most know about Oregon’s lush greenery in springtime and the best waterfalls to visit in the summer. But countless breathtaking and unique sights are transformed in the winter here, offering unique and enchanting moments like raging waterfalls, active wildlife and beautiful scenery. So, bundle up and get outside!
The Oregon Challenge Passport
A great way to get started is to pick up an Oregon Challenge Passport, which offers over 140 locations around the state to begin exploring.
The Oregon Challenge was created to get people outside and active to enjoy nature year-round, including the winter months when the cold tends to keep people bundled up indoors. The Oregon Challenge Passport includes locations in Oregon’s three major valleys, 11 national forests, and more. The Passport also includes information about Oregon’s flora and fauna you might encounter while exploring!
Once you get a passport, may the adventures begin! Check off each location as you visit, and don’t forget to enjoy local businesses and shops along the way. Challenge yourself and see how many of the 140 destinations you can visit!
The passport is self-regulated, so when you come across something or visit a location listed in the booklet, make a note next to the entry of the time and what you saw. Additionally, the Oregon Challenge suggests you make a new photo album to further document your adventures, and even share them on social media.
You can get your own Oregon Challenge Passport for $10 online, or purchase one at Margin Coffee in downtown Albany.
Winter Adventures Around Oregon
Recommendations courtesy of The Oregon Challenge
If you haven’t visited McDowell Creek Falls County Park in the wintertime, then you are missing out. This time of year the falls are flowing full with water from the Santiam River. With over three miles of hiking trails, the park offers viewing decks and wooden bridges to The Royal Terrace and Majestic Falls, a few smaller cascades and breathtaking scenery.
One of the more diverse hiking areas is in McDonald-Dunn Forest. Located near Corvallis, the forest has trails fit for anyone from beginner to advanced hiker to families, bicyclers and more. There are almost 30 miles worth of trails in the Forests, meaning you can visit countless times and always have a new experience.
Talking Waters Gardens in Albanyis a great location for a scenic stroll, and even during winter the area is teeming with a variety of wildlife. Many of the ponds are drained in colder months as well, exposing features like “the weeping wall,” a former loading dock left over from an old mill that has water flowing over it in abundance during warmer months.
There are endless sights to see in the South Santiam River area. If you’re looking for a family-friendly winter experience, explore gorgeous snow parks with skiing, sledding, snow-mobiling, tubing, snowboarding and snow-shoeing opportunities. If hiking is your thing, stay below snow level and traverse routes like Trout Creek Trail and Rooster Rock. Along Trout Creek you’ll get to experience the rushing blue waters and cascading waterfalls that become even more majestic during winter months. For a more family-friendly version of the Trout Creek Trail, begin at the Trout Creek trailhead, but take the alternative Walton Interpretive Trail.
Yet another spectacular South Santiam spot is The Gordon Meadows Hike. While the hike is 8 miles round trip, there are multiple meadows along the trail where you can relax and enjoy the scenery and then head back around if you’re looking for a shorter hike. Or, if you just want a spot to enjoy winter scenery and spend time with family, the roadside pullout at Lost Prairie is a great place to play in the snow.
West of Albany, enjoy a view of magical Mary’s Peak in the Coast Range after hike along lush green meadows in Beazell Forest. There are two loops in the Beazell Forest area as well as multiple other trail variations to enjoy along Plunkett Creek. Hike through this majestic Douglas forest by taking the South loop trail, which will lead you through a plantation and into another meadow. End your hike by checking out Lumos Winery or Cardwell Hill Winery, which are both in close proximity!
Along Oregon’s spectacular coast is Cape Perpetua. The Cape’s popularity is well deserved, as its main lookout is over 800 feet above the ocean, making it one of the highest viewpoints accessible by cars on the Oregon Coast. Cape Perpetua is located in Siuslaw National Forest, and the area features 26 miles of trail possibilities to explore, complete with incredible forest vegetation, endless scenic views, tidepools, a geyser, coastal caves, caverns and more.
Ultimately, wherever you choose to go in Oregon this season, there is no doubt that you’ll get a unique and beautiful experience out of it. Who knows, maybe winter will become your favorite season to explore our wonderful outdoors!