Oregon has some of the most stunning natural landscapes of any state within the United States. From waterfalls to natural hot springs to towering mountain ranges, there is something for every nature lover. Check out some of the must see spots for a nature lover’s Oregon road trip!
Google Umpqua Hot Springs and you’ll discover that this place has an intriguing history and at times a downright intense one. These hots springs were closed in recent years due to E. coli, the destruction of the natural environment, and reports of drug fueled parties thrown by travellers. However, in recent years the park service has restricted its use to sunrise to sunset and implemented a restriction on the daily number of visitors. As a result, things have quieted down. When we visited in June 2016, we saw about 10 other people during both of our visits. Our experience there was a mellow one with a mix of a few tourists, a couple locals and a fair amount of nudity. Although the landscape is returning to its natural state, remnants of its past in the form of graffiti art and trash can still be found in the area.
Located on the North Umpqua River, this waterfall is a short hike off of Highway 138. The waterfall flows over columnar basalt before cascading down into a beautiful blue pool blow. In true Oregon fashion, Toketee Falls is used for hydroelectricity.
Where to Stay: Boulder Flat Campground
For easy access to Toketee Falls and the Umpqua Hot Springs, stay at the Boulder Flat campground for $10 per campsite. This is a bare bones campground without hookups, showers, or campground host.
A small, family-run vineyard where you can taste several varietals on the ambient outdoor patio overlooking the tasting room’s private lake. The vineyard prides itself on being unconventional with a selection including several non-traditional blends and rare varietals. Most noteworthy, are the fabulous Baco Noir and Marechal Foch. Make sure to try the organic red while taking a break from your Oregon road trip!
This is another excellent hot spring with a higher degree of management than Umpqua and a much cleaner track record. Also known as Terwiliger Hot Springs, this is an excellent place to relax in crystal waters in the Willamette Forest. The pools cascade down the hillside with the water source flowing into the top pool at an average temperature of 112 °F (44 °C). The subsequent pools become cooler the farther down you go. The hot springs are closed on Thursdays for weekly cleaning.
This amazing location has been popping up on my newsfeed all summer and for good reason! This pool is stunning not only in its aesthetic appearance, but also in how it is formed. The McKenzie River flows underground farther upstream and reemerges here from underneath the large cliff face. The topaz blue water is crystal clear making the pool seem shallow, although it is actually up to 30 feet deep in certain areas.
A note on cliff jumping:
While many people jump from the cliff, I’d advise against it due to a significant amount of deaths and rescues. Be sure to check the safety of the area if you do decide to jump as the clarity of the water can mask the true depth. The water here is also an average of 37°F, which can cause a big shock to your system. If you want a more laid back experience, simply hike down to the waters edge and have a nice picnic lunch. The hike in is a mellow 2 miles.
As a result of social media exposure, the number of visitors has increased dramatically. What used to be a quiet and secluded area has now suddenly become intensely packed with huge amounts of tourists. During our visit in June 2016, I was overwhelmed by how many people were visiting; many of who chose to hike in plastic flip-flops. For me, some of the magic was lost on the hike up, but the pool is truly an amazing beautiful site. Hopefully, in the coming months as people move on to the next viral location, Blue Pool can return to its serene peaceful atmosphere. Most noteworthy, The McKenzie River Trail which takes you to Blue Pool was closed due to the Blue Top Fire and reopened on September 8, 2016. Be sure to be extra careful in the sensitive environment as the forest recovers.
Clear Lake is about 90 miles from Eugene, making it an excellent place for a day hike or enjoying kayaking and fishing. Predominantly fed by underground springs that flow year-round, the lake is a stunning site and great place to learn more about the natural environment. Created almost 3,000 years ago as a lava flow dammed the river, the area is rich in geological scenery. Take a walk around the lake crossing wooden bridges, see the lava flows, and discover crystal clear blue-colored pools. Kayak across the lake to view the hundreds of submerged trees preserved by the cold waters.
This National Scenic Area comprises hundreds of thousands of acres between the mouths of the Sandy River and Deschutes River. A visit to this stunning area can easily be combined with a stop in Portland, as it is only a 30-minute drive away. Start at Crown Point State Scenic Corridor and get a bird’s eye view of the gorge itself. From here, the opportunities are endless, with the ability to hike, bike, fish, and see over 90 different waterfalls. Some of the waterfall highlights include Multnomah, Horsetail, and Elowah.
While this area is technically located within the Columbia River Gorge, it deserves to be highlighted. The unique nature of this adventure requires a little pre-planning. There is no actual trail. Instead, follow the river upstream starting with low water levels and encountering water depths of five feet at some points. An excellent option on hot days! Just make sure to wear waterproof shoes with good grip and clothes that you can get wet. Park in the designated area off the Oneonta Bridge and Tunnel and walk down to the river on the east side. At the entrance, carefully traverse the logjam and then continue upriver until you reach the stunning falls. Get more details on the nitty-gritty of the hike here.
Famous worldwide for the clarity of its deep blue water, this caldera lake is a must-see on any Oregon road trip! Formed 7,700 years ago by the collapse of then volcano Mount Mazama, the area is rich in geological history. Make sure to stay overnight at one of the campgrounds nearby and take in the gorgeous views by hiking and driving the rim road. Make sure to plan your visit in advance, as things can get very busy during the summer months. Also, temperatures can also dip low even in June and the winds can also make an afternoon chilly. Make sure to bring a jacket and your camera!
Oregon has some of the most stunning areas for nature lovers looking for pit stops on a road trip. The opportunities for great hiking, biking, and geothermal pools are endless. Get out there and explore all an Oregon road trip has to offer!