Niagara Falls, Oregon is in the Hebo Ranger District, East of Pacific City and West of McMinniville. It does not remind me of the better known Niagara Falls but certainly holds its own among Oregon waterfalls. Here is a brief list of everything you need to know about Oregon’s Niagara Falls.
Four wheel drive is not necessary but patience and decent shocks are a plus for sure! We drove in from the East via McMinnville and Beaver. Our GPS took us to the trailhead without a problem but the route is also well marked once you get on the forest roads.
The directions include 6 miles on Blaine Road followed by nearly 6 miles on Upper Nestucca River Road to Forest Road 8533. Take Forest Road 8533 for nearly 5 miles to 8533-131. (There may not be a Forest Road sign here but there is a “Falls” sign and an arrow at the next junction). It is approximately 1 mile to the trailhead from the junction.
We chose to park in a pull-out approximately 1/2 mile from the trailhead since we had not been there before and we were unsure of the conditions. It turned out that the parking lot was very muddy and we were glad to have parked up hill. There were plenty of empty spots, however. In any case, I recommend using your GPS to find the trailhead and parking there as long as you are fine with mud.
The Forest Roads are slow going but in fine condition and wide enough to pass other vehicles. You will see plenty of logging operations and clear cut hillsides.
The falls are downhill from the trailhead. The trail is well maintained and clearly marked. There are benches and classic Oregon coastal forest views. The out and back hike totals around 2 miles and switchbacks through the forest following a small creek. The trail was muddy and wet but not worse than other similar trails.
We were not disappointed! Niagara Falls, Oregon is different from other local waterfalls. It cascades more than falls and is impressive. Additionally, the equally tall, Pheasant Falls, is only steps away. We spent almost an hour exploring Pheasant Creek and climbing the rocks alongside Niagara Falls. Both falls are over 100 feet tall and were flowing quickly when we visited in Februrary. While it cannot compare to Niagara Falls, NY/Canada, it is was a great surprise in terms of Oregon waterfalls. As long as you have some time on your hands and don’t mind Forest Service Roads, I recommend checking out this day-hike!
Odell Lake sits on the South side of Oregon Highway 58, just East of Willamette Pass summit. The Pacific Crest Trail runs adacent to it and Willamette Pass Ski Area faces it. We have driven by Shelter Cove Resort a hand full of times and each time CD tells a story about spending an afternoon reading a book there in 2004 while thru-hiking the PCT. Finally, we decided to stop in and check it out! Whether you are looking for a PCT resupply or a winter get-away, the Shelter Cove Resort won’t disappoint!
Hike the PCT Northbound from Mexico or Southbound from Canada
Cross Oregon Highway 58 after a day of skiing at Willamette Pass Ski Resort
Look for the sign, just East of Willamette Pass summit. Depending on snow conditions, parts of the road to the resort may be one lane but traffic is light and there is room to back up and pull over if needed. Go roughly 2 miles on the paved road to the resort. It is well marked.
10 reasons to stop in a Shelter Cove if you are just passing through.
The scenery does not disappoint.
Grab a snack and soda. The camp store is fully stocked with everything from soda and beer to frozen meals and PCT resupply items. The Hook and Tackle restaurant is closed in the winter but worth checking out in the summer for sure.
Scout out the cabins for future reference! Really, check them out, they look sweet!
Plan a fishing or kayaking adventure. The lake is easily accessible and inviting for sure.
Sit by the bonfire after a day of playing in the snow. Check out the fire pit by the lake. It was roaring when we stopped by.
Chat with the locals. The women at the store has been working there for 20 years and confirmed CDs hunch that he stopped there when hiking the PCT. The book lending library that he remembers is no longer there but she provided a historical perspective on the recent remodeling and shared memories of the old store front.
Kick your feet up. Even in the winter, there are plenty of deck chairs to take a load off after a fun day outside!
Look for wildlife. We didn’t see it but I am sure they were there!
Get in the holiday spirit! I don’t know if the pixie lights are there in the summer but in the winter they put out a welcome feeling of holiday spirit!
Take a deep breath and enjoy a moment of feeling part of the world, despite a pandemic! This place gives off good vibes as soon as you drive up!
PCT Camping Area
Cabins, Cottages, RV sites
Boat Launch and Marina
Hiking: Willamette and Deschutes National Forests
Alpine skiing: Willamette Pass Resort
Fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding
Subscribe to follow our adventures. CD is in the garage cutting wood for our new van conversion. We teamed up with Roost Vans to do a DIY electrical system – so stay tuned!
The day use area consists of a parking lot and a viewing platform. Once you see the view, it may be hard to resists the hike.
A marked trail leading to the ocean is easily to access from the parking lot. There are two main hiking options. One is a 5 mile long loop and the other is a 2 mile, out and back trail to the coast.
We started our hike around noon, hadn’t eaten lunch yet, didn’t pack water or snacks and opted for the shorter of the two trails. For those of you that have hiked in dunes before, there is a constant false sense of distance. Even with knowing that ahead of time, we were all surprised when we rounded a corner and still had not made it to the coast. It is longer than it seems but the trail is clearly marked and well traveled.
Wooden posts mark the trail through the dunes. The trail through the forested sections is obvious. Even on a hot July day, the beach was nearly empty when we arrived. I can’t imagine it ever gets much more crowded. If you are hoping to avoid crowds and get some exercise, this is the place!
2. Wear Shoes.
The sand can be hot! When you are not walking on hot sand, you may be walking on hard packed forest trails. Don’t leave your shoes at the car and chose your footwear carefully!
3. Bring Water and Snacks For An Afternoon At Oregon Dunes Day Use Area.
This seems obvious but we are famous for being underprepared or overprepared. I can’t decide if we are over confident, lazy, or impulsive but it is not unusual for us to check out a hike and end up 2 hours down the trail without snacks.
We started this hike by walking to the viewing platform, then onto the dune, then down the hill, and so on. I think you get the idea! Hiking on the dunes and into the forest was just too much fun and we didn’t want to stop once we started.
4. Be Prepared For Signs Giving Instructions In Case Of An Earthquake and Tsunami.
For those of you that have spent much time on the Oregon coast, this shouldn’t be too surprising. I typically read the sign and keep walking. By the time I hit the ocean on this hike, I don’t think I could have evacuated very quickly in the event of a tsunami. We all weigh our risk, I guess.
5. Dress For Exposure To The Elements.
In addition to shoes, I would recommend the following items:
Our second time at the Dee Wright Observatory was even more impressive than our first. We ended up there by default when the campground we aimed for was full. Oregon trip planning isn’t really something that I do very well. I actually don’t tend to do any trip planning at all.
Since we have been unable to get to our cottage this year, I have been trying to fill in the gap by buying another kayak and googling every freshwater lake in Oregon.
Oregon Trip Planning: Santiam Pass
We packed everything from kayaks to remote control trucks and headed to Big Lake Campground, near Sisters, Oregon. Most of the campground is first come, first served. It was mid-week and I was foolishly hopeful. The campground was full. For those of you interested in Big Lake Campground, it shares a driveway with Hoodoo ski area and is adjacent to Big Lake Youth Camp, which happened to be one of CD’s re-supply stops when he hiked the PCT. The campground was crowded and the sites were small. Other than feeling bad about driving all that way and not getting a campsite, I wasn’t too disappointed to not camp there.
Camping everywhere between there and Sisters was full. We headed back west on 242.
McKenzie Highway runs between Sisters and Belknap Springs and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I recommend this route as long as you are not in a hurry, enjoy driving twenty miles per hour, and are not prone to motional sickness.
If you chose this route, the pay off is one of the most interesting lava fields I have seen.
It wasn’t long before we caught our first glimpse. The lava runs right up to the road to the north and towers high above it but to the south there is just the usual landscape.
We hoped to camp at Lava Camp Lake Campground. Be careful not to confuse this with Lava Lake Campground, east of Bend. The entrance to Lava Camp Lake Campground is just before McKenize Pass summit when headed westbound. The entrance is difficult to find and is a dirt two track on the south side of the road. You follow this for approximately two miles to a day use area and a hand full of camp sites. Most sites are not on the lake. I wouldn’t have wanted to drive anything higher or much longer than our Sprinter down the road and when we got there, the campsites were full, of course. It is National Forest and I am sure some people slept in day use area parking but we chose a brief walk and drove on again.
Less than a half of a mile up hill is one of the most unique places that I have been.
We pulled into the parking lot of Dee Wright Observatory, I opened the door and set up the stove. It was well passed dinner time and we all needed a break and a second to think of what to do next. I was lighting up the stove when some people a few spots away shouted: “you must have the same idea as us.”
It took for a moment to see what was going on but then I realized that this couple was setting up a tent on the sidewalk, a table next to thier car, and two camera tripods. Another couple at the other end of the parking lot were sitting in thier car playing cards and eating chips. Everyone was there to see the comet NEOWISE.
Dark Skies, Oregon Trip Planning
Here we were at the top of McKenzie Pass, surrounded by 8 miles of black lava rock and not an artifical light in sight. It was nearly dusk. The kids and CD went for a hike while I made dinner. We moved the kayaks to the sidewalk and turned the van around for prime coment viewing. We just happened to find a great camping spot!
The excitement in the parking lot was obvious. People were chatting and pointing while be attentive to social distancing. It was helpful that there are two large parking lots and there was never more than six or eight cars at a time.
Between the cool temperatures and the wind, there were few mosquitos. We opened our van doors and watched the sky. We saw the comet in between camera flashes. It was good for the soul.
Cars came and went until midnight or so and then it was quiet and dark. We slept until 9:00 and woke up feeling like we had landed on the moon!
From the observatory you can see glaciers on the Three Sisters, views of Mt. Washington, and random trees growing out of lava flows. There is a paved walkway with signs discussing different features of the lava flow.
CD is pretty much always looking for PCT access. Approximately a 1/4 mile west of the observatory, on the north side of the road, there is PCT day use parking. You can hike southbound and head towards the observatory or northbound and head for Belknap Crater. We did both and they were both amazing! The landscape is so unique. Wildflowers, red dirt, and trees touch fields of black lava. The lava towards 10 or 20 feet above the ground at times and it feels bizarre to imagine how it just stopped flowing and piled up in such dramatic fashion.
The trail is well marked. Footing on the lava is a bit tricky but the dirt trail is easy walking. For this PCT day hike you don’t need much more than a parking permit, sunscreen, snacks, and camera. Enjoy!
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Are you looking for a place to stretch your legs while traveling I-94? If so, the Painted Canyon Trail at Teddy Roosevelt National Park is a perfect choice. Here are 8 reasons that the Painted Canyon trail makes a perfect stop on your next road trip.
1. Easy off – easy on highway access.
Finding the trail head is as easy as stopping at a rest area. You can see the visitor’s center from the highway and the trail head basically in the parking lot.
2. You may see a Buffalo.
Signs of Buffalo are everywhere from the parking lot and the picnic area to the trail and surrounding grasslands.
3. There is potable water adjacent to the trail head.
A drinking fountain and faucet are located near the trail head. We filled our water bottles, rinsed our dishes, and washed our legs with soap after finding poison ivy on the trail. By the way, there is poison ivy near the trail entrance. The trail is wide enough to avoid walking through it but it was too late by the time we realized it was there.
4.The Painted Canyon Trail forms a loop.
My favorite trails tend to be circles. I enjoy completing the loop rather than walking in and back or deciding where to turn around. This trail loops back behind a rock wall that hides that parking lot and highway. We felt as if we really went for hike into the wilderness!
5. The trail is well marked, easy to follow, and interesting enough to be fun!
6. The distance is just right for a hiking during a road trip.
We often find our road trips sidelined by long hikes that are beautiful but take all day. It is not uncommon for us to find that we have driven only 100 miles by the time dinner rolls around. It takes a while to drive across the country when you are doing it a 100 miles at a time! The Painted Canyon Trail is 0.9 miles and takes 30-45 minutes. Even our 5 year old easily made it in less than an hour.
7. The views from the trail really are better than those from the highway or the parking lot.
The hike is worth it when the views are better than from the van! Here is a view from the trail.
8. Take this trail to escape the wind at Teddy Roosevelt National Park!
The wind was blowing pretty strongly when we started the hike. Within a few minutes, we were removing our sweatshirts and complaining about the heat. As soon as we got back to the trail head, the wind was howling again. If you are feeling worn down by wind, take this trail and enjoy still canyon air!
Do you have 1 day to spend at Pictured Rocks but are unsure of how to spend the time? If so, here is our recommendation!
We drove west from Munising, swam in Lake Superior, waded in streams, and hiked to the Au Sable Light Station.
Here are a few things to know about going to the light station.
1. The last 1.5 miles to the Au Sable Light Station is on foot.
You can either walk the trail or walk the beach. We walked the trail there, had a picnic there, and walked the beach back!
2. You can see Lake Superior both from the top of the light house and from the beach. It is amazing either way!
3. There is a ship wreck on the beach between the light house and the trail head.
The shipwreck is different than most I have seen. It is just a skeleton of a boat and is fully accessible from the beach. You may be aware that lake levels change over time. This picture was 2019 so the water was relatively high compared with past years but a bit lower than 2020.
We carried drinks, sandwiches, snacks, sunscreen, hats, and plenty of other things. We didn’t bring our passport books and had to settle for a stamp on a blank piece of paper. Its not the same!
5. You may end up swimming in Lake Superior.
It may sound cold and daunting but, on a hot day, it is clean, clear, and refreshing! It was unbelievable hot the day we were there. I wasn’t prepared to swim in the lake and ended up taking a nice long swim in my tee shirt and skirt. It wasn’t my proudest moment but I was perfectly content, comfortably cool, and it was worth it! Next time I will be better prepared!
6.Wear water shoes and carry bug repellent.
The beach is rocky in places and all of the tales that you may have heard about biting flies in the U.P. of Michigan are true!
7. Consider stopping once or twice on your drive to the trail head.
You may want to plan enough time to go wading in a stream.
8. The ranger talk at the light station offers a quick glimpse of the history.
Learn about the Au Sable light station, Lake Superior, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The tours are thirty minutes long and require a $3 donation per person.
I have been to every National Park in southern Utah. Most, more than once. I had never been to Dinosaur National Monument. It felt out of the way from I-80 and I prefer I-70 through Utah.
I enjoy southern Utah so much that once I hit Utah, going south feels like the only options. Everything is different this year, however. We are taking our annual road trip, despite the current pandemic, because we have the opportunity to see our families. Since everything is different and I love Steamboat Springs, we opted for highway 40 from Salt Lake City.
Dinosaur National Monument’s west entrance is at very close proximity to this route. When we got there, I could not have been more surprised and amazed! The scenery is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Moab but far less populated. We accessed the visitor’s center, hikes, and a campground on the Green River all within 10 miles of the highway and in a 15 minute drive. Here are 8 things to know that I didn’t know until this week.
1. Dinosaur National Monument is not as far out the way as it may seem.
It is on the way if you happen to be on highway 40 between Heber City, Utah and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The west entrance visitor’s center is less than 10 miles from the highway, hikes, and the campground are a few miles beyond.
There are other entrances but we did not explore those on this trip and cannot speak to those. In looking at the map, they clearly seem further from the highway and more difficult to access than the Jensen, Utah entrance. The Quarry Visitor’s Center was well attended but we chose to bypass it in light of the current pandemic.
2. It offers plenty of river sports.
The Green River and its largest tributary, the Yampa River, run through the park before heading south to meet the Colorado in south of Moab.
Whether you prefer to hire a commercial guide or apply for a private permit, the rafting is guaranteed to be an adventure!
If rafting isn’t in your plans, bring your fishing pole, swimsuit, and picnic supplies and settle into a spot on the river bank.
I have been to tons of National Parks and Monuments and done many, many hikes. Less than two miles from the visitor’s center and on the way to our campground, we stumbled upon one of the most diverse hikes that I have seen.
The Sound of Silence trail is a 3.2 mile loop, rated moderate to difficult. It starts in a dry river bed, winds up and over various rock layers and through narrow washes. We walked in and out the first mile at sunset just after we arrived at the park and then returned the next morning for the full loop. I was not disappointed! Bring a hat (there isn’t any shade), sunscreen, water, and decent shoes. You will get dusty and hot. The trail is well marked and would be nearly impossible to follow with out the markings.
4. The views are different than you may expect.
Red, green, white, and shades of brown are all mixed together. Red rock stands against white, with valleys and high hills.
5. The campgrounds are easy to find, clean, and enjoyable.
From the Jensen, Utah entrance, there are 2 campgrounds within 10 miles. We chose Green River and it was perfect for what we needed. It was easy to get to and did not require tons of extra driving. It is on the edge of the river and offers a variety of campsites. We followed a trail to a sandy river bank, climbed a steep hill side, made friends with a resident chipmunk, and spotted tons of lizards. There is potable water, toilets and picnic tables. Not every site had shade. Some sites were smaller than others and none were fully exposed to the river but for our purposes and camping in our Sprinter, it was a good fit. The location sealed the deal for sure!
Dinosaur National Monument has much more to offer than just fossils and is easier to access than you may think. Get out there and enjoy!
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Have you ever wanted to camp in the Grand Canyon? If so, consider Hermit Rapids.
Here are five things to know about hiking Hermit Trail and camping at Hermit Creek.
1. You will need a permit.
This can be obtained at the back country ranger station. You must camp in designated sites. Hermit creek campsites are first and Hermit Rapids are second, 1.5 miles further down the trail.
The trail head can be accessed with your camping permit and is 8 miles west.
2. The trail is maintained but not always obvious.
Yes, we found ourselves off the trail a few times but never enough to get particularly scared or worried. I considered it to be a trade off for getting away from the crowds.
3. The hike is not easy.
In the nearly 10 miles from the trail head to the Colorado river, this trail drops from approximately 6600 feet elevation to 2300 feet. The first 2.5 miles alone drops nearly 2000 feet.
I loved this about this hike.
4. There is water!
Bring your filters and purification systems and get some water. Santa Maria Spring is 2.5 miles from the trail head and is a great place to catch some shade and some cool water!
Hermit Creek is the next water source. It flows from its location at the campsite into the Colorado River.
Not only did I appreciate the drinking water but putting my feet in Hermit Creek was like a slice of paradise!
5. It is worth the hike in to the Grand Canyon.
The rapids are impressive and the night sky is dark. Expect to see a handful of others on the trail and at camp. For me, there were just enough people to help me feel like I was in the right place but not so many that I was aware of their presence in the canyon.
We hiked in May and the sun was hot. There is a period of shade if you hit the timing right on the hike but this is easy to forget once the hot sun hits you again.
We walked out of the canyon and straight to our car without being greeted by tour groups and day hikers. The trade off was that there wasn’t anyone there to cheer for us or congratulate us on our successful hike back from the canyon floor but still, it was worth it!
I could write ten blog posts about my adventures at Glacier National Park. My first time in the park was over twenty years ago. Those few days of hiking and exploring were the spark for much of the traveling that has come since. Just when I thought I could not be more impressed by Glacier, I stumbled into Two Medicine.
Two Medicine is found on the east side of the park and on the shore of Two Medicine Lake. We arrived via Highway 2 from West Glacier on our way out of park. Once there, we found a campground, camp store, ice cream, hikes, picnic areas, boat rentals, and views for miles!
5 Ways to Enjoy Two Medicine, Glacier National Park.
Are you hungry? Do you need hiking or camping supplies? Are you just looking for a nice cup of coffee? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, drop into the store. In addition to having everything you need and then some, enjoy its history and scenery.
2. Have a picnic.
Get your lunch to go and head out to the lake. Skip stones and listen to the waves as you eat.
3. Take a boat ride.
We didn’t have a chance to enjoy this first hand but we heard good reviews by people at the park. The tours were full so we will make a note to reserve a seat next time.
4. Enjoy a hike.
Hikes are easy to come and offer great rewards. Waterfalls as accessible in as little as .3 miles. Full or half day hikes and multi-day backpacking trip options are available as well.
We had been on the road for more than two months. We were eager to get home and anxious to be on the road when we found ourselves in Colorado with our “check engine” light on. Thankfully, family loaned us a car so we could set off on some day trips! Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is less an hour drive from Colorado Springs. It was one place that we had yet to explore.
Here are 6 reasons that we are glad we did!
1. Hands-on Activities
The variety and depth of hands-on experiences were more than expected. We joined the kids for one lap around the visitor’s center and nearby yurt before they settled into their activities of choice. From digging for fossils, to sorting rocks, we spent much more time here than planned.
I was glad to find more than 10 miles of trails to hike! In addition to meadows, you can find pine forests and boulder fields. The views are much different than those just a short drive east.
3. Self Guided Walking Tours
The walking tours are easy to follow and full of fun facts also.
4. A Petrified Redwood Forest at the Fossil Beds
I expected to see fossils but I didn’t expect an ancient lake and forest!