Welcome to the Willamette Valley!
The beautiful state of Oregon is known for many sights and adventures. One of those sights and adventures is the breathtaking beauty of Willamette Valley. Situated in the western portion of the Beaver State, the Willamette Valley stretches from the south in the town of Eugene to the far north to Portland. Altogether, that is roughly a 150-mile stretch of forest, vineyards, waterfalls, flowered pastures, and rivers.
The Willamette Valley is mostly known for its Mediterranean climate, wet seasons, vineyards, and wineries. To be exact, the valley boasts of more than 600 wineries! Like, wow. That is a lot of pinot noir.
However, perhaps wine isn’t your favorite to sip on, or maybe you just want to know what else the Willamette Valley has to offer besides wine.
Yes, the Willamette Valley offers far more than vineyards and wine. It is a relaxed environment boasting fun adventures at every turn. I am going to show you a few, random adventures to partake in as you roam through the valley. And you guessed it: I am NOT going to say, “Visit a vineyard and winery!”. Well, maybe not.
Are you ready? Let’s get started.
1. Ride horseback through the Willamette Valley.
Do you love horseback riding? If so, imagine gearing up and riding through some lush scenery on a beautiful Tennessee Walking Horse. (And while I promised I would not say it, I will just mention that you can take guided winery tours via horseback. But I did not say anything.) Throughout the 150-mile stretch of everything that is the Willamette Valley, you will find several farms (ahem: and wineries) that will allow you to ride horseback and soak in the scenery. Oregon loves equestrian tours and experiences! (Most stables will allow you to rent the horse for about two hours.)
2. Visit Silver Falls State Park to view ten of Willamette Valley’s incredible waterfalls.
Yeah, you read that right. Silver Falls State Park is an amazing place to hike and view ten incredible waterfalls. It is called, “The Trail of Ten Falls”, and it does not disappoint. You may hike as much or as little as you wish and is a great option for the entire family! The trail is nearly eight miles in length in one huge loop. Don’t worry though; there are long-cuts and short-cuts along the way. So, if you get tired part of the way through, or you don’t feel like hiking the whole eight mile loop, you can cut it short and call it a day. However, I highly recommend taking your camera or phone so you can capture spectacular photos of the waterfalls.
3. Hike in the Willamette National Forest
Speaking of hiking and the many great places in the valley to do so, you should plan a day of hiking and exploring in the Willamette National Forest. There are countless numbers of trails to choose from. I recommend the Tamolitch Falls Trail (The locals also call it Blue Pool because the base of the waterfall has a really cool shade of blue.), Sahalie Falls Trail, and Koosah Falls Trail. The Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls trails are connected and have a fairly short length of two miles. After you have spent the day hiking, be sure to check out the McKenzie General Store for a memento or keepsake gift and the Obsidian Grill Restaurant to fill your tummies with a tasty, Oregonian meal.
4. Eat at one of Willamette Valley’s summer farm dinner events!
I don’t know about you, but I love to eat. And I especially love to eat when I am on vacation and visiting somewhere new. Trying out new foods in new environments is a foodie’s dream come true! Throughout the Willamette Valley, you will see various Field and Vine Events where farmers and vineyard owners get together to create a remarkable dinner set on the farm. All food is fresh from the fields, crops, and vineyards of the Willamette Valley and so is the wine. It makes my mouth water at the thought of it! Imagine yourself eating a farm fresh dinner while looking at the picturesque view of the Willamette Valley? Oh yes, it can be you.
5. Have a little fun and go berry picking like they did in the good ole days.
Assuming that you will be visiting the Willamette Valley in the warm summer months, why not have a little fun and go berry picking like folks did in the good ole days? The Willamette Valley will be full of farm fresh fruit and veggies to pluck from the plants. (Although, I do not recommend picking any fruit or veggies that grow in the wild just in case it is not edible.) Throughout the Willamette Valley, there are many farms, orchards, gardens, and nurseries that are open to the public for anyone to enjoy picking. You can simply pick your fruit and then enjoy a refreshing drink and snack on the farm.
6. Be spontaneous and ride your bicycle in Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem.
If you love riding bicycles, Oregon is certainly the place for you! The town of Salem, which is located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, is home to a very large park known as Minto-Brown Island Park. It stretches out on over 1,200 acres of land and consists of nearly 30 miles of trails! Phew, that is a lot of trail riding! However, if you don’t have a bike or don’t know how to ride one, no worries. You may also choose to walk or run the trails. To get to the infamous Minto-Brown Island Park, you must go to Salem’s Riverfront Park and cross the Peter Courtney Minto-Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. There is a shop where you can rent a bicycle, or you may ride your bicycle if you have one with you. It makes for a great day of family fun and lets you really work up a good appetite!
7. Do you enjoy being pampered? Get a deep tissue massage at the Allison Inn and Spa in Newburg
The Beaver State is known for placing tremendous importance on self-care practices and healthier lifestyle options. Therefore, it is no surprise to me that the folks there offer spa services.
But, the Allison Inn and Spa is not a small, simplistic spa. It is a large place that is spread out on over 35 acres. You can book a few nights at the inn and take full advantage of their relaxing spa services such as massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, and more. Furthermore, the four-star resort also provides a peaceful sculpture garden on the grounds and farm fresh meals. It isn’t a small inn by any means with nearly 80 rooms for guests and a handful of fancy suites.
I love that the massage treatments at the Allison Inn and Spa are influenced by the natural environment of the Pacific Northwest region. For example, the Deep Forest Escape body therapy is unique to the region. The massage therapy includes body oils made from local Juniper and Pine. The scent is remarkably unbelievable and relaxing.
Additionally, it’s also convenient to many visitors for Newburg to be in close proximity to Portland. You can enjoy the many treasures of the Willamette Valley without being too far from city life. It’s a win-win if you ask me.
8. Have a blast by visiting the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville.
Do you love anything involving aviation and space exploration? If so, you must check out the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. The museum offers so much that you can plan on spending an entire day there. The many exhibits showcase important tidbits of aviation and space artifacts and history.
My favorite activity at the museum is the Spruce Goose Flight Simulator! It takes you on a wild ride that will almost convince you that it is the real deal. I stepped out of the flight simulator feeling like an aviation pro!
The museum also has an incredible movie theater that takes you on a 3-D journey. Talk about a whirlwind experience! If you have kids, they will enjoy the 3-D movie theater, no doubt.
If you get hungry, don’t worry. There are several restaurants inside the museum that offer to satisfy everyone’s palette. And if you enjoy shopping, check out the museum store. You are guaranteed to find some space and aviation goodies. (The freeze-dried ice cream is very unique and fun!)
9. For your artsy side, explore the art museums of the Willamette Valley.
Yes, there is much more to the Willamette Valley than vineyards and wine. The Willamette Valley boasts of many talented artists and their beautiful artwork. If you appreciate good art or are an artist yourself, do yourself a favor and tour the many art museums throughout the area. It is literally a breath of fresh air after partaking in so many wine tours. Take a break with an art tour, instead!
Located in Salem, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University is a spectacular place boasting of incredible art pieces. It is one of the largest art museums in the Beaver State and features many art pieces with Pacific Northwest themes. You will enjoy the galleries and exhibits that showcase art expressing the beauties and wonders of the region.
Another great art museum is located in Eugene: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon. This art museum is unique in that it specializes in Asian art. You will enjoy their collection of art pieces from Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and more. If you love Asian art, this is a must-see museum. You will feel as if you have taken a trip to Asia, honestly! Furthermore, this is the only academic art museum in all of Oregon to be a member of the American Alliance of Museums. To say that it is a special place is an understatement. Be sure to check it out.
Then, there’s the fabulous Mid-Willamette Valley Art Trail that fascinates visitors every day. It is a trail of 12 galleries that are dotted along Highway 99 from Corvallis to McMinnville and offer spectacular art pieces. It almost feels like a treasure hunt!
10. Take a break from technology and check out the Oregonian farm life at Leaping Lamb Farm.
Have you always dreamed of living on a farm? The next best thing is to spend the night at a farm! You can soak up the environment of farm life without the responsibility of maintaining it day in and day out.
Leaping Lamb Farm is a great place to wind down and experience the simpler life. The farm is located a few miles from Corvallis and approximately 40 miles from the Oregon Coast. In this small, quiet valley, you can choose to spend the night in a cute farm cottage or the sturdy farm house. If you really want the experience to feel real, you can help out with all the farm duties! You and your family can partake in feeding the animals and so much more. Even better? You can collect farm fresh eggs from the hens in the afternoon to cook up for your breakfast the next morning! If you are feeling stressed and in search of some relaxation, take an evening stroll on one of the many farm trails that will be available to you. I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the natural sounds and views all around me. Breathing in the fresh, valley air was also extremely refreshing and invigorating to my soul.
11. Go fishing, swimming, or canoeing on Clear Lake in the Willamette National Forest and walk away feeling more connected with Mother Nature!
If you are in search of something to do outdoors in the Willamette Valley, then look no further than Clear Lake. I think its name is fairly self evident: The lake is super clear and clean! In fact, Clear Lake is so pure and clear that you can dive more than 200 feet beneath the water’s surface and still have visibility! Located in the Willamette National Forest, the lake is the perfect getaway from the hectic activities of everyday life. It is a beautiful place to go fishing, swimming, or canoeing. If you have a fear of water, don’t worry. There are many hiking trails around the lake for you to soak in the views! And yes, you can take your bicycle and ride the trails if you prefer. It’s all about relaxing and enjoying your time in the Willamette Valley!
12. Speaking of bicycle riding, go biking on the mountain trails!
The International Mountain Bicycling Association recognizes two amazing bike trails in the Willamette Valley. (This can only mean that the biking trails are super stellar!) The Oakridge Black Rock Trail and the Black Rock Trail.
The Black Rock Trail is located on the outskirts of Falls City and Salem in the southern portion of the Willamette Valley. The Black Rock biking trail consists of four main trails where you can practice your biking skills and build your stamina. (You know, riding uphill and all that fun stuff.)
The Oakridge Black Rock Trail is situated south of Eugene (approximately 40 miles south of Eugene.) Oakridge is actually a small town that is nestled in the heart of the hills of the Willamette National Forest. This place is for the bike riding lover who enjoys climbing those steep hills and gliding back down them. You will find hundreds of mountainous trails in this area that are carefully maintained.
13. Explore all the covered bridges in the Willamette Valley and be ready to share your rustic covered bridge photos.
Oregon is notorious for having many covered bridges. Let’s face it: They are gorgeous, charming, and mysterious! However, did you know that Oregon has more covered bridges than any other state on the western seaboard? There is a fascinating self tour called The Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route that you will find interesting. It literally guides you along the string of covered bridges in the Willamette Valley. Furthermore, there is a trail for the bike lovers, too! The Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway allows you to explore more covered bridges while riding your favorite bike. It is a 36 mile loop for any biker who loves covered bridges, lakes, and colorful plants and flowers. You should totally check it out!
And as I said initially, be ready to share the rustic covered bridge photos that I KNOW you will take while embarking on this particular adventure. You know that you want to!
14. From the months of March to May, visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn.
If you are a flower lover, then look no further than the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. Every spring, from the months of March to May, the farm shows off its 40 acres of bright, cheery, and colorful tulips. This is one of the top spring events in the Beaver State, so I strongly advise you to reserve your tickets early. The crowds are kept to a minimum these days; therefore, you wouldn’t want to lose your place in line.
You may purchase tulips and other goodies at the farm. (The homemade honey is the BEST.) Furthermore, please bring a camera whether you are a photographer or not. The fields of vibrant colors are mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. The picturesque sight should be preserved!
15. Be adventurous and take a scenic drive through the Willamette Valley. There is much to see!
If you enjoy taking country drives, then taking one through the Willamette Valley should be the ultimate goal for you. After all, Oregon has the most scenic roadways than any other state in the country! You, of course, can draw out your own pathway through the Willamette Valley, or you can follow numerous route suggestions that are floating around out there.
I recommend exploring the Over the Rivers and Through the Woods Scenic Byway. This pathway stretches over 60 miles through the Willamette Valley to the Cascade Mountain Range. You will see plenty of valley rivers, lush greenery, and majestic mountains. You can expect the drive to take approximately two to three hours depending on your speed and whether your make any stops.
The Silver Falls Tour Route is another scenic roadway in which I recommend. It covers 60 miles of thick, lush forests, towering mountain peaks, and spectacular waterfall views. This pathway is typically a two hour drive depending on how fast you travel and how many stops you make for photos.
All in all, the Willamette Valley is 150-mile stretch of land in which you could choose to drive through completely in a few hours. It is the perfect road trip option for all sight-seeing, road trip lovers. The sights are unforgettable, the wine is unbelievable, the food is remarkable, and the adventure is indescribable. You must experience it for yourself to know what I am talking about!
Plan your trip to the Willamette Valley today and be prepared to NOT be disappointed. You will thank me later.