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Best of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon
Oregon, Washington, and a good chunk of British Columbia—the Pacific
Northwest is not one adventure. It's three. We scoured the region to find the wildest trips, cushiest lodges, freshest fare, and smartest intel. Your only
decision is where to go first.
  
Text by Christian Debenedetti   Photograph by Justin Bailie / Aurora Photos


Photo: Oregon's Crater Lake National Park

ABOVE THE RIM: Taking in the view in Oregon's Crater Lake National Park.


Oregon  |  Washington  |  British Columbia

Oregon's Top Three Action Plans

Day Trip: The Columbia Gorge, just east of Portland, is braided with postcard-perfect cataracts that lure masses. The 620-foot (189-meter) Multnomah Falls—the nation's second highest after Yosemite Falls—and its upstream cousins, Weisendanger and Ecola, are must-sees, but if you want to ditch the crowds (which you will), head one drainage over to the Oneonta Gorge. Lined with neon-bright lichens, the stream-filled slot canyon is accessible by fording a logjam—one that, thankfully, discourages the masses (www.oregon.com/hiking.cfm).

Weekender: Kelly Reichardt's mesmerizing 2006 film Old Joy (starring indie songwriter Will Oldham) captured the quiet, melancholic majesty of the Pacific Northwest forest: lush, dark, green, and dripping wet. But Bagby Hot Springs—the 136-degree (58-degree Celsius) bubbler that the film's characters seek out—wasn't a set. Visitors access the springs via a 1.5-mile (2-kilometer) hike in Mount Hood National Forest, then soak in individual wooden tubs (nwhotsprings.net/bagby.htm).

Epic: Like a miniature Torres del Paine jutting from the Crooked River, central Oregon's Smith Rock State Park draws scores of climbers to its 550-foot (168-meter) tuff-and-basalt spires. Novices take on the classic 5-Gallon Buckets (5.7), while the more experienced go for Zebra to Zion, a four-pitch 5.10 up Smith's most prominent face. Feeling superbad? Seek out the seemingly bare To Bolt or Not to Be, dubbed the first 5.14a in the U.S. (www.smithrockclimbingguides.com).


Why Oregon Rules: Regional Fare
That Oregon is at the center of the nation's booming local-foods movement should come as no surprise: James Beard, the father of modern gastronomy, was from here, and his philosophy of local ingredients and no-frills chefing inspires haute barnyard menus across the state. Here, three of the best.
 
Paley's Place, Portland
At this Victorian home turned culinary crucible in Northwest Portland, chef and co-owner Vitaly Paley transforms local, sustainably harvested ingredients like line-caught wild salmon, chanterelles, hazelnuts, and Dungeness crab into chic farmers market fare that's kept the place packed for 13 years (
paleysplace.net).

The Painted Lady, Newberg
It's the land Sideways forgot: When ambitious winemakers migrated from California in the 1960s to begin planting Pinot Noir grapes in what is now one of the world's top wine destinations, the Willamette Valley appellation was born. But the restaurant scene lagged woefully behind. No longer. On the first Wednesday of every month at the Painted Lady, local vintners pair their creations with a seasonal, European-influenced menu. This month (on May 7), Oregon Pinot pioneer Erath represents (
thepaintedladyrestaurant.com).

Steamboat Inn, Steamboat
It's telling that one of Steamboat's owners is a former appointee to Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission. Overlooking the steelhead-friendly waters of the North Fork of the Umpqua River in central Oregon, the stone-and-log inn draws Northwest foodies from far and wide with one seating per night, served promptly at dusk. The menu is generally fixed, but Steamboat offers the ultimate locavore exception: Anyone who catches a local salmon can have it prepared by the chef (lodging from $170;
thesteamboatinn.com).


Locals Only
As a private, gold rush–era mining tract, Opal Creek never saw an ax, and today its 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) of forest, now preserved, constitute the largest contiguous stand of low-elevation old growth in the state. Day hikers thread 15-mile (24-kilometer) loops through 800-year-old Douglas firs, giant western red cedars, and soaring Pacific yews, while overnight visitors sleep in refurbished hydro- and solar-powered miners' cabins. Chalk one up for the ancients ($125 per cabin; opalcreek.org).


What's So Good About Oregon Beer
In 1984 BridgePort microbrewery, the first in the state, set up in Portland's Pearl District and a movement began. Today the city has 33 breweries, more per capita than any other place on the planet (there is an honest-to-God movement to rename it Beervana), and dozens more have sprung up across the state. Lately, sustainable brewing is all the rage, led in part by the Bend-based Deschutes Brewery (www.deschutesbrewery.com), which uses organic barley and salmon-friendly hops—really. Moral of the story: If you're going to drink beer, let it be in Oregon.

The Impassioned Case For...Portland's Green Scene
The Nation's Greenest City—many claim the title, but in this era of "greenwashing," Portland Mayor Tom Potter, a dyed-in-the-wool eco-advocate and Critical Mass veteran, explains why his town should wear the crown.

"We have solar-powered parking meters. Our overall recycling rate is
63 percent. We passed a biodiesel ordinance for gas stations, are considering a carbon tax, and are creating bike boulevards. Even with recent growth, we've reduced our carbon footprint by one percent, while the rest of the nation has increased by 16. How's that?"
 
Base Camp
Wolf Creek Inn: The remote glories of southern Oregon, namely Crater Lake National Park and the Rogue River, always present the same conundrum: where to stay. For 125 years, the Wolf Creek Inn has been the answer. Within easy striking distance of both sites, the period (but not kitschy) hotel has seen the likes of Clark Gable, Orson Welles, and original adrenaline scribe Jack London, who finished his 16th novel, Valley of the Moon, here. Nowadays the crowd, mainly Crater Lake hikers or Rogue rafters and fishermen, is more understated but no less eclectic ($65; thewolfcreekinn.com).
 
Coolest Town Ever
Hood River: There are climbing towns and surfing towns, but Hood River has to be one of the nation's only windsurfing and kayaking towns. Sounds weird, and it is, but that's precisely the charm. It's quirky—the kind of place where most cars on the main drag, in spring at least, have kayaks on top (in summer it's boards). It's where world-class windsurfers gather at a pub called Full Sail to drink LTDs. Yet it's also the place where the Columbia River Gorge narrows to its most dramatic, and Mount Hood, that signature Oregon peak, hangs over town. Iconic and iconoclastic—who says you can't have it both ways?

Oregon  |  Washington  |  British Columbia

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