Dreaming of a trip to France's wine country or Norway's legendary waterfalls? Until you take that international trip you've been dreaming about, here are some ideas to get a taste of the world right here in Oregon.
Whistler — Oakridge
Snow sports in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. Whistler may have more vertical, but Oakridge is a treasure with far fewer crowds.
Off the beaten path in the Cascade Mountains, Oakridge boasts lush forests, scenic lakes and stunning waterfalls. The miles of winding single track make it the Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest, where wilder experiences are embraced. Instead of a chair lift, grab a bus to the trailheads, which are spread out and offer unique sights along the way.
Don’t miss the International Mountain Biking Association Epic Waldo Lake Loop, which takes you deep into the Willamette National Forest around one of the most stunning lakes in the area.
France — Willamette Valley Wine Country
Located at the same latitude as the south of France, the South Willamette Valley boasts top-tier, award-winning wines and stunning vineyard views all year long.
The finicky Pinot Noir grape flourishes here, which becomes Pinot Noir unlike any you’ve ever tasted. Follow the South Willamette Wine Trail to experience all the region has to offer, from eclectic urban wineries to vineyard tasting rooms that feel remote without much time in the car.
Speaking of driving: book an incredible wine tour so nobody is stuck being the designated driver. Complete the experience with dinner at Bar Purlieu, an intimate French restaurant with amazing small plates, or Marché, a French bistro-style restaurant that features local, seasonal ingredients and pairs Oregon with France impeccably.
Baja Mexico — Oregon Dunes
If you’re looking for miles of sandy playground and fresh ocean air, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is North America’s largest coastal dunes. These ever-changing mountains of sand offer endless adventure, from dune buggy rides to sandboarding to golfing on nearby coastal greens.
Rent an ATV or book a tour on a larger dune buggy to see hidden wetlands, wildlife, and some of the best views. If a walk or trot is more your speed, explore the dunes on foot or on the back of a horse. Stay just north of the dunes in Florence, a quaint coastal town with touristy shops full of fun items and plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Scotland — Oregon Coast
Scotland’s sweeping forests and craggy coast are echoed from the Coastal Mountain Range and across the Siuslaw National Forest to the Pacific Ocean, where every beach is public land. Play golf at one of several coastal courses, enjoying the crisp ocean air breezes sweeping across the greens.
Start at Cape Perpetua, the highest car-accessible viewpoint on the Oregon Coast, and follow the trail to the lookout to see miles of rugged and rocky shore from a small stone shelter reminiscent of a crofter’s cottage. From here, take the Amanda Trail to learn about and honor the First Nations people that were forced out of their homes in the 1860s.
Head south to discover more history and explore Heceta Head Lighthouse, built in 1892, where the lighthouse keeper’s quarters are now a charming bed and breakfast that is reportedly haunted — just like any good historical spot in Scotland!
Norway — Cascade Mountains
If it’s lush, dramatic waterfalls you’re after, we’ve got you covered. Near Oakridge, discover Salt Creek Falls from a wheelchair-accessible viewpoint that also offers sweeping views of the Willamette National Forest. For those who wish to go further, hike down to the basin at the bottom of the falls or continue on the trail to Diamond Creek Falls, a 2.5 mile loop.
In the McKenzie River region, discover Sahalie and Koosah Falls, another pair of gorgeous cascades. The Sahalie Falls viewpoint is also accessible, and the loop hike between these two connects to the McKenzie River Trail. Sahalie Falls is used to being a star and was featured in the film Homeward Bound.
Off the beaten path to the east, Proxy Falls is only reachable in summer before the road is closed due to winter snow. The water pools at the bottom instead of streaming away and actually sinks through the porous lava below. Truthfully, there are too many awe-inspiring waterfalls in the area to name here — you'll have to discover them all for yourself.
Mars — McKenzie Pass
We can’t all be the Mars rover Perseverance, but if you’re wishing you could land yourself on another planet for a bit, McKenzie Pass certainly feels other-worldly.
Fields of lava rock spreading out in all directions, with mountain peaks far in the distance, give the impression that you have stepped into a scene from Star Wars or some other science fiction movie. In fact, in the mid-1960s, astronauts trained here to help prepare them to land on the Moon. Explore the area on the paved and accessible half-mile trail up to the Dee Wright Observatory, built in 1935 and sitting at 5,187 feet elevation. Check road conditions as the highway is not plowed in the winter. Luckily, you won’t need a spaceship to get home, and civilization will be here when you’re ready to return.