It is with pleasure that I welcome my first guest post to The Things My Eyes Have Seen. Steve and I first began chatting over Instagram while I was seeking recommendations on his home state. Eventually, I asked him to create this OREGON BUCKET LIST from a local perspective, for myself and others traveling Oregon. [Thanks Steve!]
Why Bucket Lists?
Creating bucket lists for travel destinations instead of itineraries helps me to prioritize how to spend that precious time on the road [See more of my Bucket Lists Here.] Plus, I have fun putting it together by finding inspiration for things to do and experience. I was only able to check off one box from Steve’s bucket list on my last trip to Oregon, but I am excited to visit more of these locations!
⇓ Find a blank template on my Instagram page ⇓
Good day! My name is Steve Bittner;
I am excited to share a little about my home state of Oregon. I am a writer, educator, photographer, father, husband, traveler, and a native Oregonian! (We’re a rare breed!)
I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life, have traveled to many parts of the world, and seen many beautiful and fascinating places and things, but Oregon has my heart.
In 2016, I survived what is usually a fatal traumatic brain injury, and have come back from the edge with a new appreciation for all that is around me. That has translated to a renewed love for all that is Oregon, and a new appreciation for the everyday beauty that is all around us, no matter where we call home. You can learn more about me and my day-to-day journeys on Instagram or at; www.steviethevagabond.com.
Join me on a little journey to some of my favorite Oregon places!
Cape Perpetua is one of my favorite places in all of the world! The Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve is the largest marine reserve in Oregon. The day use area is the highest viewpoint on the Oregon Coast accessible by car. On a clear day, you can see 37 miles out into the Pacific and 70 miles of coastline; seeing just how amazing it is when the Spruce Rainforest comes right down to the ocean.
Of course, you can drive to the day use area at the top, but you can also hike up from the visitor’s center. It’s quite a steep hike, so don’t try it if you don’t want a pretty good workout. There are other, easier hikes in the area and the visitor’s center has trail maps you can use. Be sure to take the ⅛ mile hike down to the Stone Cottage, built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corp. In World War II, it was used as an observation point to keep watch for enemy ships. You can also hike about four miles into Yachats via Amanda’s trail.
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Yachats could be considered a village and is just north of Cape Perpetua on the Yachats River. It’s a classic coastal settlement that is a blend of artists, retirees and counter-culture folks who love the Oregon Coast. It is set on rocky basalt bluffs, with crashing waves and spectacular vistas.
Stop at the Green Salmon, likely one of the most unique coffee shops you’ll ever visit! After an amazing meal at either The Drift Inn, which has a colorful history, or Luna Sea Fish House, where the owner is also the one who catches the fish for the establishment; walk north from Yachats State Park on the Oregon Coast Trail. The vistas are amazing and the trail is an easy walk. Once you get to Smelt Sands State Park (past the beachfront hotels,) you’re on the historic 804 Trail. This was an old wagon road and before that a Native American trail along the beach, more on it here.
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There are a lot of great small towns in Oregon, but of course, I am partial to my hometown Corvallis! Corvallis a fantastic, liveable, small city that is very walkable and bike friendly. A great farmers market year round, and lots of cool shops in the charming downtown area. The public transit system operates with no charge to passengers and is convenient and on schedule, though it doesn’t run on Sundays. Outdoor activities and open space are a priority in the community, and many people bike to work on an extensive network of bike paths.
Corvallis has all of the amenities and cultural events of a university town (Oregon State University) and is the home of three-time NCAA National Champs, the OSU Beavers! If you’re a beer or coffee fan, Corvallis is your place! Some popular watering holes for the downtown brewery crowd are: Flat Tail Brewery, Sky High Brewery which boasts a rooftop deck, and Block 15 (which has a site south of town where there are outdoor seating areas overlooking Willamette Valley farm fields.) For the coffee people, Corvallis boasts several local companies. The Beanery was founded in 1972, just one year after the first Starbucks was opened in Seattle, are pioneers in the popular coffee industry. Other notable local businesses with a fantastic cup of espresso are Tried & True and Coffee Culture. Come visit, I think it’s awesome!
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McKenzie River Trail
The McKenzie River Trail runs parallel to Highway 126 between Eugene and Bend. The drive between those two cities is extraordinarily beautiful, especially in the Fall when the leaves are changing. The 26-mile trail is remarkable, generally running with a gentle downward slope next to the river. It goes through old growth forests, on volcanic basalt bluffs, and starts just north of Clear Lake (if you are going from North to South.) The end of the trail is east of the small community of McKenzie Bridge, next to the highway.
Notable along the trail is Sahalie Falls and Tamolitch Pool/Blue Pool. A few miles to the north, the river disappears underground. It emerges from under the lava flow and forms the Blue Pool. The water is snow melt, so as beautiful as it is, it’s not a great place for swimming. Actually, some daring souls have lost their lives in pursuit of pictures of themselves diving into the pool. The site is becoming very popular, go early in the day, or in the offseason. If you’re looking for a cool place to stay, try Belknap Hot Springs. You can camp, stay in small cabins, your own RV, or in the lodge. The geothermally heated water is piped into a large pool right behind the lodge and is amazing, especially after a wet, rainy fall hike.
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Dee Wright Observatory
If you’re traveling from Eugene towards Bend (11 miles before you get to the Blue Pool) you will come to the intersection of highway 126 and 242. Highway 242 is the old McKenzie River Highway. It’s a narrow and curvy, steep but beautiful drive between Hwy. 126 and Sisters. The highway is closed seasonally due to snow, so check the status before you head that direction.
At the summit, in the middle of a 675 square mile lava field, is Dee Wright Observatory. It’s an open mountain observation site created in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp out of lava rock from the surrounding lava field. From there you can see Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and even Mt. Hood. It’s interesting to note that the lava field was used for astronaut training by NASA in preparation for upcoming moon landings. The views are spectacular, and the options in the area for hiking and to visit alpine lakes are numerous.
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The Painted Hills have been named one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. This area is the most famous of the three units that compose the John Day Fossil Beds. I have lived in Oregon for my whole life and didn’t visit the Painted Hills until recently because I assumed it was overrated. It is definitely not overrated! Go visit! The drive there is amazing in and of itself, as you travel through such varied and beautiful landscapes. It really is stunning! Take your time and enjoy it. The nearest town is Mitchell, and there are accommodations there along with a grocery store and gas station. If you visit, you’ll be in a remote area, so be prepared.
It is best to visit in the late afternoon when the colors of the stratification of many thousands of years of history are best highlighted by the sun and skies. There are a variety of easy hiking trails and the colors seem to change based on when you visit. Please stay on the trails as foot traffic outside of trail boundaries will seriously damage the hills.
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CRACK IN THE GROUND
The Oregon Outback refers to the central southern Oregon portion of The Great Basin: part of the large, arid desert plateau that covers much of southwestern Oregon, near the small town of Christmas Valley. It’s a wide open area, with expansive skies and so many unusual places to visit. Crack in the Ground is a two mile long, up to seventy feet deep, ancient volcanic fissure. It’s a bit difficult to get there as the road is quite rough, and it is advisable to drive a vehicle with high clearance.
Hiking up to the fissure, one wonders what all the fuss is about, and then, suddenly, there’s a large crack in the ground right in front of you! It’s amazing! You can hike down into the fissure, and you’ll notice the temperature disparity between surface temperature and the temperature down in the crack is quite amazing, especially in summer!
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Another Oregon Outback site that will amaze you is Fort Rock; a National Natural Landmark that rises up out of a prehistoric lake bed (about 45 minutes west of Crack in the Ground.) It rises out of the high desert and is worth a visit! Though the photo was taken at a distance, one can hike around inside the volcanic tuff ring and you will begin to realize just how huge it really is! If you’re coming from Bend, you will first come upon the little town of Fort Rock, Stop at the little homestead museum in Fort Rock.
In a nearby cave, the oldest sandals in existence were found, estimated to be between 9,000 and 13,000 years old and created by local Native Americans. It’s pretty easy to imagine the Native Americans speeding across the plains on their horses in this area of spectacular, expansive skies and remarkable geologic features!
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Steens Mountain is in the far southeast corner of Oregon. Technically it is one large, fault-block mountain, fifty-miles long but is often referred to as a mountain range. The mountain is an “uplift,” as you drive or hike to the nearly 10,000-foot summit, the surface of the ground is relatively flat but at a steep angle. On the way up, you’ll pass huge glacial moraines, alpine lakes, and if you’re lucky maybe a herd or two of wild mustangs.
The 52-mile Steens Mountain Loop Road is one of the most spectacular drives in the state of Oregon. The mountain summit is about 87 miles southeast of Burns. You will be away from everything for the best stargazing around! It is possible to drive to the summit, but even at the end of the summer, there may still be some snow on the ground. Looking east from the summit, the face of the mountain drops down dramatically to the floor of the Alvord Desert. Amazing!
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The Wallowa Mountains are in the far northeast corner of Oregon, known as the Alps of Oregon and one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon! Much of the mountain range is designated as the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and it is a wild and beautiful place. Wallowa Lake is a moraine lake carved out by ancient glaciers, and the walls of the moraine are clearly visible. The Wallowa Mountain range was the domain of Chief Joseph and the Lower Nez Perce tribe. There’s so much history there!
The hiking is amazing, and taking the Wallowa Lake Tramway up 3,700 feet to the summit of Howard Mountain is well worth it. The Tramway operates from mid-May when the snow has cleared through early October when the snow returns. The towns of Joseph and Enterprise are nearby and boast a variety of lodging and meal options, galleries, and museums. This is a bit out of the way, but well worth the trip with a myriad of things to do. Plan wisely depending on the time of year.
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Thank you again to Steve for creating this great Oregon Bucket List bursting with information and inspiration. Be sure to FOLLOW him on Instagram and check out his website StevieTheVagabond. All photos used on this post were provided by Steve.
*If you feel inspired to make your own Bucket List [I use CANVA] please TAG ME in them; I love to see people’s travel inspiration.
Have you been to any of these locations?
What would be on your Oregon Bucket List?
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