Winter in the Pacific Northwest is a particularly enjoyable season. With fairly moderate temperatures, we don’t typically experience extreme or harsh winter conditions, making outdoor adventure feasible all year long.
Looking for ways to maximize the season in the area? Explore our favorite outdoor winter activities in Oregon and Southwest Washington — from a relaxing sled dog ride to an action-packed snowy hike.
Visit Silver Falls State Park
Photo Courtesy of Oregon State Parks
Home to a number of stunning waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park is worth visiting all year long — especially during the fall! The magic continues during the winter, when you can trade foot traffic in for slightly chillier temperatures. Traveling along the 7.8-mile Trail of Ten Falls is one of the best ways to sample the best of these natural wonders. Or opt for the 4.5-mile Lower Loop Hike to pass by seven waterfalls, including the awe-inspiring two-tiered Double Falls.
Cross-country skiing is a pleasant and picturesque winter activity. It allows you to travel at your own pace — taking in the snow-filled wonder at your own pace. Some of the best cross-country skiing destinations in Oregon include Mt. Hood at Teacup Lake, the Trillium Lake Loop Trail or the Crosstown Ski and Snowshoe Trail. Bend is also home to a number of exceptional cross-country skiing spots, including the Wanoga Sno-Park or the scenic 2.5-mile Tumalo Falls Trail.
Go Sledding or Tubing
If lounging on an inflatable tube or a sled is more your speed for outdoor activity, consider going tubing or sledding in the area! Popular destinations for tubing include the Mt. Hood Skibowl, Mt. Bachelor, Hoodoo Ski Area, and Farewell Bend Sno-Park. The Sno-Park at Oldman Pass is a great place for sledding and tubing in Southwest Washington!
Soak in a Hot Spring
Photo Courtesy of SoakOregon.com
As the temperatures drop a bit, it’s the ideal time to warm up inside a natural hot spring in the area. Thankfully, the Pacific Northwest is packed with hot springs — both natural and man-made! Check out some of the best hot springs in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
This may be an obvious addition to this list, but it is certainly worth mentioning. The Pacific Northwest is a haven for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, who have several mountains to choose from. Well-known destinations include Timberline, Mt. Hood Meadows, Cooper Spur, Ski Bowl, and Summit Ski Area at Mt. Hood. Just down the road from Hoodoo Ski Area in Sisters, Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon might be the most popular skiing destination in the state!
Experience Mt. Bachelor in a whole new way with a sled dog ride! Stay snug and warm in the sled while an athletic dog sled team and a professional musher take you on an exciting adventure through the snow. Glide over the soft powder and take in the inspiring sights of Central Oregon, including snow-covered Broken Top, the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor, all from the comfort of a dog sled.
Hike the Badlands
Photo Courtesy of the Oregon/Washington Bureau of Land Management
Situated just 15 miles east of Bend, the Oregon Badlands is a 30,000-acre high desert wilderness with castle-like rock formations, ancient juniper trees and rugged canyons. The area is worth exploring all year long — especially during the winter when the trails are free from dust and the temperatures drop down to a comfortable 50 degrees. Some of the most popular trails in the Badlands are the Flat Iron Trail and Badlands Rock Trail. Keep an eye out for wildlife during your trip, but be sure to leave everything undisturbed in this pristine stretch of land.
Stay at Elk Lake Resort
Photo Courtesy of Lane Pearson via Elk Lake Resort
Most Central Oregon residents are well aware of Elk Lake Resort, an epicenter for outdoor recreation along Elk Lake in the shadow of Mount Bachelor. During the winter, activities switch from jet skiing on the lake to snowmobiling through fresh powder. Winter activities at Elk Lake Resort include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, fat tire biking and more. Enhance your visit by staying at one of the cozy cabins tucked in the woods.
Wanderlust hosts a number of special Winter Tours in Central Oregon, from daytime snowshoeing adventures to a lava tube cave tour and brewery tours to nature photography trips. One of our favorites is the Bonfire on the Snow tour, which takes snowshoers to a quiet spot in the forest to cozy up to a glowing bonfire in the middle of an amphitheater hand-carved into the snow. Relax around the fire and enjoy delectable desserts and hot drinks while naturalist guides share fun facts about the forest, its animal life and the night sky.
Chase Storms Along the Coast
The Oregon Coast is known for its powerful storms that blow in during the winter, which can be observed at several vantage points along the coast. Be careful to not get too close, as strong winds, flying debris and rip currents can pose a major threat. Some of the best places to witness the next winter storm include Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria, Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach, the Seaside Promenade and the Devil’s Punchbowl near Newport.
More advanced winter sports enthusiasts might consider summiting Mount St. Helens this winter! Plus, this particular route offers a chance to summit without any technical climbing along the way. Take in incredible views of Rainier, Hood and Adams from this 8,364-foot summit atop a volcano. Talk about checking off something on your bucket list!
Photo Courtesy of John Sparks, Trailkeepers of Oregon
Formed as a result of lava flows over 12,000 years ago, the Guler Ice Cave is filled with gorgeous ice formations as melting snow drips through the chamber from above. The cae is especially cold during the winter, with temperatures dropping significantly as you descend the 20-foot stairs at the entry to the cave. Be sure to wear winter clothing, gloves, good footwear, protective headgear and a good headlamp to navigate the cave with ease.
What wintertime activities would you add to the list? Let us know what we missed in the comments below.