Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, December 06, 2017, Page 4A, Image 4

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

Life in the
Valley y
Trade in your chills for thrills
22 Oregon winter
adventures that are
offering everything
It may sound crazy, but you could make the argu-
ment that the best time to explore Oregon’s
outdoors is during the winter.
Yes, it’s rainy, snowy and pretty much always cool.
But it’s those elements, plus the lack of crowds,
that make it such a glorious time to travel.
Waterfalls are booming or covered in ice. Old-
growth forests are at their mossy best. And hot
springs feel just a little bit better amid chilled
Here are 22 of my favorite winter outdoor ad-
ventures in Oregon.
Weather will vary considerably, so always check
roads and conditions before you go and be pre-
If you can’t find the right people to ask about
conditions, email me at zurness@statesmanjour- and I’ll do my best to help.
Crater Lake ski or snowshoe
Winter is king at Oregon’s only national park.
Forty-four feet of snowfall blankets this collapsed
volcano, making it one of the snowiest inhabited
places in North America.
Roads are typically, but not always, plowed to the
Rim Village. The lake is only visible 50 percent of
the time, so planning is key.
Once you’ve spotlighted a good weather window,
there are a few options. You can join a ranger-
guided snowshoe trip on Saturday or Sunday (call
541-594-3100 for reservations). It’s also easy to do it
yourself, by snowshoeing or skiing from Rim
Village along Rim Road — a large snow-covered
Best yet is snow camping along the rim of Crater
Snowy waterfall hunting
There’s something special about a waterfall cov-
ered in ice and snow. In Oregon’s Cascade Range,
there are a handful of waterfall hikes that trans-
form into snowshoe adventure after snow reaches
their elevation.
A few favorites include Sahalie and Koosah Falls
on the McKenzie River, Proxy Falls up McKenzie
Pass Highway, Tamanawas Falls on Mount Hood
and Tumalo Falls near Bend.
Hager Mountain Lookout, hot springs
and cowboy steak
This might be my favorite winter road trip and
adventure in Oregon. It takes you to the Oregon
Outback in the state's southcentral area.
The road-trip starts with a challenging snowshoe
climb to Hager Mountain Lookout, a rustic cabin
perched above 7,000 feet and heated by a wood-
stove. You must reserve a night at this mountain-
top abode in advance on
Reward yourself after climbing down by stopping
at Cowboy Dinner Tree on the way out. The best
steak or chicken dinner you’ve ever had is served at
this tiny, rustic spot that only accepts cash, requires
reservations and is only open Friday and Saturday.
Finally, treat your sore muscles (and bulging belly)
with a night or two at Summer Lake Hot Springs.
On the drive home, be sure to stop at Fort Rock
State Park.
Santiam Pass sno-parks
Just looking for a quick day in the snow? The
Santiam Pass sno-parks, east of Salem and Detroit,
have you covered. These portals to ski, snowshoe
and snowmobile trails require purchasing an
annual permit for $25 or day pass for $4.
There’s a family snow-tubing hill, a snowshoe trip
to panoramic mountain views, ski trails through
old-growth forest and even a cabin where you can
snowshoe in and spend the night.
Here’s a guide to each of the sno-parks on Santiam
Coast Range waterfalls
You don’t necessarily need snow to make a great a
winter adventure. Oregon’s smaller mountains, the
Coast Range, celebrate everything about the state
that's lush and green.
The best hikes in the Coast Range traverse rainfor-
est to giant, booming waterfalls that swell with
winter's 100 inches of rain. These hikes are often a
challenge to reach, but offer major rewards.
Diamond Lake proves a great place for some winter snowmobiling. ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
There are a handful of hot springs open to the
public all winter long. One favorite is Terwilliger
Hot Springs (also known as Cougar) on the McKen-
zie River east of Eugene.
Some hot springs, at higher elevations, might need
to be reached via ski, snowshoe or snowy hike.
That often includes Umpqua Hot Springs and
occasionally includes Bagby Hot Springs.
Always check conditions in advance.
Trillium Lake ski or snowshoe
Enjoy views of Mount Hood on a ski, snowshoe or
fat bike tour around popular Trillium Lake near
Government Camp.
The trek around this lake, best enjoyed on a week-
day when crowds are smaller, is 5 miles. It starts
from a small parking lot with a donation box (help
offset the cost of grooming trails). The trail then
drops steeply downhill on snow-covered roads to
the lake, then takes off around it.
Fat bike over the snow in Central
Few places have embraced fat biking on the snow
like Bend and Central Oregon.
There are multiple places to ride, mostly found
along Cascade Lakes Highway west of Bend. The
best option is to stop at a local bike shop to rent a
bike and get advice on where to go.
I rent my bikes from Hutch's Bicycle Store in Bend
for $45 each per day. My favorite place to ride is
Wanoga Sno-Park, which has groomed fat bike
trails once the season gets rolling, and Dutchman
Sno-Park, where there’s a great ride to Todd Lake.
Cape Lookout whale watching
Travel four to 10 miles through the snowy wilder-
ness to this mountaintop Marriott with views of
Diamond Peak.
U.S. Forest Service personnel occupy the lookout
during summer months, keeping watch over
Willamette National Forest for signs of fire. From
Nov. 1 to May 15, though, the 14-by-14 abode is
available to rent on Recreation.Gov.
You’ll need to carry in all of your supplies, and the
trip is entirely uphill, so be prepared for a major
challenge here (unless you chose to snowmobile in,
which is allowed).
Chilly Oregon hot springs
Travel through the winter forest and then take
your clothes off for a dip in the thermal hot springs
that bubble to the surface in a few places around
western Oregon.
My favorite trails at Oswald West include Neah-
kahnie Mountain, Short Sand Beach and Cape
Stop at the Middle Fork Ranger district in Oakridge
for advice and a Willamette Pass winter recreation
map. More info here.
Oxbow Regional Park
Fish for winter steelhead or hike through old-
growth forest at this wonderful park west of the
Portland Metro Area.
The practice of driving to ocean overlooks and
scanning the horizon for nature’s most majestic
animal has its appeal, but the standing around
gets old pretty fast.
But if the fish aren’t biting, go hike the network of
trails that follow the river and delve into old-
growth forest.
That’s why the combination of hiking Cape Look-
out and whale watching is so appealing. You can
enjoy one of the coast’s best trails (4.8 miles round-
trip) while hiking to one of its best places to spot
From mid-December through mid-January, you can
watch 20,000 gray whales as they travel south to
the warm lagoons of Baja Mexico.
Spring watching begins in late March as the gray
whales travel north on their way towards Alaska.
Diamond Lake snowmobiling
Frosted-white evergreens zip past, and frozen
wind howls against your face during a snowmobile
trip over the mountains or into the forest sur-
rounding Diamond Lake Resort.
The unofficial hub of Southern Cascade snow-
mobiling is home to 300 miles of groomed trails,
including connections to routes that run from
Bend to Klamath Falls.
The two most popular trails are the 20-mile route
to the north rim of Crater Lake and the climb up
8,376-foot Mount Bailey.
Diamond Lake Resort offers snowmobile rentals,
along with a guided service and a recovery service
for those who get their sled stuck off trail.
The hikes in Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area,
east of Salem, are jam-packed with people during
the height of summer.
Warner Mountain Lookout
during the year’s coldest months.
Finally, for even greater adventure, cross over
Highway 58 onto Fuji Mountain Road and climb 4
miles uphill to a three-sided snow shelter offering
epic views of Diamond Peak. Spend the night here
if so inclined, as a loft sits above a wood stove.
The highlight of this park, which requires an entry
fee, is the winter steelhead you can land on the
Sandy River.
Best hike with kids: Sweet Creek Falls
Each of those options will take you on major
adventures in a celebration of everything rain-
and drive to the snow-tubing hill.
To be completely honest, I’ve always found whale
watching on the Oregon Coast a little boring.
Opal Creek hikes
Most photogenic and easy to access: Golden and
Silver Falls
This is a moderately challenging adventure.
Favorite overall hike: Kentucky Falls
Closest to Salem: Niagara Falls
A group of skiers take a break in front of a mountain skyline at Ray Benson Sno-Park.
All of that changes in a big way during winter.
This area of waterfalls, old-growth forest and
gem-clear rivers stays mostly free of snow, except
for rare low-elevation snowstorms.
The Opal Creek, Little North Santiam and Henline
Falls trails are all winners. For a possible snowy
mountain climb, try Henline or Whetstone moun-
tains trails.
Salt Creek Falls adventure
One of Oregon’s tallest waterfalls covered in snow
and ice — plus a family snow-tubing area — is the
highlight of this trek near Oakridge.
The classic option is an easy 1.4-mile out-and-back
snowshoe trek to 286-foot Salt Creek Falls, a
breathtaking sight in winter. From the Sno-Park, all
that's required is trekking a summer access road to
the falls.
After visiting the falls, you have some options. For
a longer and more difficult adventure, venture
onto Diamond Creek Loop on a 5-mile trek past
another snowy waterfall.
Or, if you’re with kids, head back to the sno-park
Climb Mount St. Helens
Make your way up the broad slopes of this volcano
with its top missing, either to ski or to challenge
yourself with a trek to the summit.
In summer, you need a permit to climb this popular
mountain and they can be difficult to come by. But
in winter, this isn’t required.
From Nov. 1 to March 31, self-register at Marble
Mountain Sno-Park. There is no fee for permits
during this period.
To climb in winter, make sure to have skis or cram-
pons, and an ice axe. Be prepared and in good
shape before you attempt it. For more informa-
tion, contact the Mount St. Helens Institute at
(360) 449-7883.
Redwoods road trip
The best time to visit the world’s tallest trees is
during the middle of winter, when the crowds
have slimmed down and the primeval forest is
dripping wet.
My favorite park is Jedediah Smith Redwoods
State Park, just south of the Oregon and California
state line.
There are heated cabins, yurts and campgrounds
at the park, along with nearby hotels in Hiouchi
and Gasquet.
Here’s a list of my favorite redwood hikes.
McDowell Creek Falls
Silver Falls State Park makes a wonderful winter
destination, but I actually prefer this less-visited
Whether it’s the lack of notoriety or remote loca-
tion, the feeling you get arriving at McDowell
Creek Falls Park is that of stumbling upon a hidden
Located 10 miles north of Sweet Home, the un-
assuming park is home to four spectacular water-
falls found on an easy, fun, trail home to unique
bridges and viewing platforms. Dogs on leashes
are welcome.
The 1.8-mile loop passes Royal Terrace Falls, Majes-
tic Falls and Crystal Pool.
There’s a map at the trailhead and the trails are
well maintained.
Ecola and Oswald West State Parks
In the summer, the trails of these two spectacular
state parks on the Oregon Coast are packed to the
breaking point.
But in winter, all that changes.
These two parks are about a half hour apart in the
Cannon Beach area and often filled with solitude
At Ecola, Tillamook Head is a great destination,
along with Indian Sands Beach.
Winter kayaking
As Oregon’s population has grown, I’ve often
heard people grumble about not being able to
enjoy the state’s most beautiful places without
being surrounded by crowds.
Obviously, these people have never been winter
kayaking on Oregon’s rainy-season rivers and
Yes, it takes a drysuit and you’ll still probably be
cold. But for my money, there is nothing better
than winter kayaking. As the rain falls, it becomes
possible to navigate down tiny rivers and creeks
where the beauty would blow your mind.
You’ll need the correct gear and ability to get
started safely, so consider getting more informa-
tion from the Willamette Kayak and Canoe Club.
Other good options include Next Adventure or
Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe in Portland.
Madras Mountain Views bikeway
On the right day, this Central Oregon scenic bike-
way might be the best winter ride in the state.
Sunny days with temperatures between 50 and 60
degrees happen with some regularity in Madras.
The views of seven major Cascade Mountain peaks
highlight this 30-mile, mostly flat route that also
passes views of Lake Billy Chinook.
The ride begins and ends at Sahalee Park in down-
town Madras. It follows a collection of low-traffic
roads west of town in a farmland setting.
"On the right day, it's sunny and so nice in the
middle of the winter, especially for us valley dwell-
ers," said Alex Phillips, the bicycle recreation
coordinator at the Oregon Parks and Recreation
Drift Creek Wilderness
The largest old-growth rainforest in Oregon is
home to a carpet of moss and lichen that swallows
everything without legs and can be accessed by
two semi-difficult trails east of Waldport.
The Harris Ranch Trail and Horse Creek Trail both
drop 3 miles into the remote canyon of Drift Creek,
a tributary of the Alsea, in a landscape that re-
ceives 120 inches of rain per year.
The Harris Ranch Trail is a bit easier to access (it's a
short jaunt off Highway 34) and offers better
access to Drift Creek's riverside beaches, while the
Horse Ranch Trail offers slightly larger trees.
Commercial ski areas
There are six major resorts in northwest Oregon,
each little different. In addition to downhill, many
offer Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and snow-tubing.
Here’s the list: Hoodoo, Mt Hood Skibowl,
Timberline, Mt Hood Meadows, Willamette Pass
and Mt. Bachelor.
Download the enhanced Explore Oregon app from
Apple's App store or Google Play for detailed
descriptions and directions to outdoor adventures
throughout the state. Send us your feedback!
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photog-
rapher and videographer in Oregon for six years.
He is the author of the book "Hiking Southern
Oregon" and can be reached at zurness@States- or (503) 399-6801. Find him on
Facebook at Zach's Oregon Outdoors or @Zach-
sORoutdoors on Twitter.