Over the last year, we’ve grown accustomed to cancelled or postponed events, COVID safety protocols and other adjustments to our daily routines. Throughout it all, one of the most consistent “safe” activities has been outdoor recreation. And thankfully, here in the Pacific Northwest, we have no shortage of options for enjoying the great outdoors — and some of the most stunning views in the world.
And this spring, as the temperatures slowly begin to rise and the snow melts on the hillside, let’s enjoy the PNW to the fullest. We’ve included a variety of ways to get outside and enjoy diverse destinations, from skiing on Mount Hood to whale watching in Cannon Beach and biking around Mount St. Helens to sipping wine in the Willamette Valley.
Of course, be sure to maintain distance from others and wear a face mask. And before you go to any of these destinations, make sure they are open to the public by checking their website or social media accounts.
Drive Along the Hood River Fruit Loop
No visit to Hood River is complete without a cruise along the Hood River Fruit Loop — especially during the spring. The Hood River Valley is home to an overwhelming number of wineries, fruit orchards, flower fields and more. There are 29 member stands that create the Hood River Fruit Loop, offering wine, fruits, vegetables, flowers, ciders and food. Some are open all year, while others open for harvest time, which changes each year. Take a look at our guide to the Hood River Fruit Loop, complete with a map and descriptions about each member stand.
COVID NOTE: Check the website of each individual stand before you visit to ensure they are open and for the most current information about their COVID protocols and requirements. Overall, masks and socially distancing are requested per state requirements.
Go on a Hike
Hiking season is back! Well, did it really go anywhere? However, spring is an ideal time to hit the trail — as temperatures begin to warm up, the sun shines a bit more frequently, and the scenery is still as beautiful as ever. Take a hike along one of these wildflower-lined trails in the Pacific Northwest, from the Portland Metro Area to Central Oregon, and several in between. We’ve included a mix of easy loop trails, challenging climbs, coastal hikes and desert trails. While they vary in difficulty and terrain, each trail shares one thing in common — a colorful display of wildflowers during the spring!
Go Whale Watching in Cannon Beach
Each year, nearly 20,000 gray whales travel along the Oregon Coast between Alaska and Mexico and can easily be spotted off the shoreline at Cannon Beach. These 35-ton beasts make their way south for warmer waters at the start of winter and head north to cooler waters at the start of spring. And during peak migration, you could potentially see as many as dozens of whales passing by at a time. Whale watching along the Oregon Coast is a must-do winter and spring activity! That’s why we created this guide to enhance your whale watching adventure in Cannon Beach, for both locals and visitors alike.
Visit Crater Lake
People flock from all around the country — and the world — to catch a glimpse of the iconic Crater Lake, a jaw-dropping, bright blue lake surrounded by a national park. If you haven’t visited Crater Lake National Park to see Crater Lake in person, just know — pictures don’t do this beauty justice. With a depth of 1,943 feet, this stunning lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the intense blue color reflects the lake’s purity and depth. Word of Caution: Before you make the trek to Crater Lake, check the weather forecast and live webcam to ensure the lake is visible, as storms can hide it from view during the winter and early spring.
Hike Around Mount St. Helens
Most known for its destructive eruption on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano situated in Southwest Washington. The Johnston Ridge Observatory offers some of the clearest views of the volcano, with several viewpoints along the way. But you can get an even more up-close-and-personal look at Mount St. Helens by climbing it! The hike up the mountain is difficult but requires no technical climbing skills and is open almost-year round. There are plenty of hikes traveling up and around this majestic peak, which reaches an impressive elevation of 8,363 feet. Climbers must attain a permit to hike Mount St. Helens; more information can be found here. If you’ve conquered Mount St. Helens already, consider climbing (or at least admiring from a distance) one of the many majestic mountains dotting the region.
Search for Great Blue Herons in Portland
At the risk of sparking “put a bird on it” jokes, we have to ask. Did you know Portland has an official bird? The Great Blue Heron is the city’s official bird, and it is celebrated with Great Blue Heron Week in early June each year. But this large bird starts gathering in big rookeries and builds nests atop trees as early as February, and chicks are typically born in April. Great Blue Herons are a subtle sign of spring’s arrival, and they are most visible during the month of March, before trees begin to fill out with leaves and block them and their nests from view. See an abundance of herons at Ross Island south of downtown Portland, on Bybee Lake where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet, and along 185th Avenue near Beaverton.
Soak in a Hot Spring
Sure, spring makes us excited about warmer, sunnier days ahead, but we all know there are still plenty of colder days on the forecast. Help make your time outside a bit more tolerable by soaking in a natural hot spring! Hot springs mysteriously merge science with relaxation in a unique and unexplainable way. The Pacific Northwest is filled with hot springs, ranging from tiny hand-dug pools to massive hot springs with entire structures created around them. Learn more about the many hot springs sprinkled throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington and get ready for a combination of relaxation and adventure.
Visit Smith Rock State Park
Bend is an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts, many of whom regularly visit Smith Rock State Park, a massive 641-acre state park with both deep river canyons and towering rock formations. Smith Rock State Park is an absolutely spectacular sight to see — and one of our favorite hiking destinations in the area. There is so much to explore within the park, whether you like to hike, mountain climb, camp, bike, run or simply admire nature and wildlife. The park is open from dawn to dusk year-round and the day use fee is $5 per vehicle. Spring is an ideal time to visit, as temperatures aren’t quite as hot as the summer, when it can reach 100 degrees!
Experience History at Fort Vancouver
Situated along the northern bank of the Columbia River in present-day Vancouver, Fort Vancouver was a 19th-century fur trading post that acted as the headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia Department. The fort was named after Captain George Vancouver, a British officer of the Royal Navy. Today, the fort holds so much history, from its fur trading origins to its powerful military legacy, plus the magic of flight and the origins of the American Pacific Northwest. At this time, you can safely visit Fort Vancouver by exploring its outdoor attractions, including the trails and grounds, plus The Fort Vancouver Garden. It’s a great place to walk, job, bike, picnic, walk the dog or watch the sunset or sunrise!
Go to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
Considered one of the most iconic spring events in the region, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn attracts thousands of guests from the last week of March all the way through the month of April. The festival features a total of 40 acres (that’s like 25 Portland city blocks!) of gorgeous tulips in bloom. Thankfully, this annual tradition is still happening in 2021 — with a few COVID guidelines in place. This year, the event extends from March 19 all the way through May 2 and tickets must be purchased online in advance to control the number of people on-site!
Bike Around Sauvie Island
As soon as the sun is shining (and even when it’s not, really), Portlanders flock to Sauvie Island to take in the scenery on two wheels. The most popular place to bike is the 12-mile loop around the lower end of the island, which is comprised of Sauvie Island Road, Reeder Road and Gillihan Road. Along the way, you’ll pass by pumpkin patches, you-pick peach orchards, a winery and many more notable sights. Even avid bikers taut this loop as one of the most scenic in the area. Click here for a map and more information about this route!
Sip Wine on a Patio at Willamette Valley Wineries
After all this hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures, you might want to unwind with a glass of wine — while still appreciating the great outdoors. Many Willamette Valley wineries are open for in-person dining — err, sipping — with creative accommodations, like providing outdoor open-air seating with heaters. Read all about our favorite wineries in the valley, check their website and plan your visit to their outdoor patio. There’s nothing quite like sipping on a glass of pinot noir as the sun sets over the horizon.
Go Skiing on Mount Hood
That’s right! The ski season at Mount Hood extends well into the spring. In fact, Timberline offers the longest ski season in North America, as it typically extends from mid-November all the way through Memorial Day. The Palmer Express high-speed lift allows the resort to operate well beyond the typical season. And no matter the time of year, the views from the top of this 11,245-foot volcano are second to none — and the slopes are well-maintained. Click here for more information about skiing at Timberline, and here for more information about visiting Mount Hood.
Embark on a Volcano or Cave Tour With Wanderlust Tours
Wanderlust Tours provides half-day guided tours and trips throughout the year in Bend, Sunriver and Sisters. During the spring, Wanderlust Tours include kayak and canoe tours, craft beverage tours, lava tube caves and volcano tours, and photography tours. The lava cave and volcano tours are especially unique experiences — providing a rare glimpse at some of the extreme highs and lows in Central Oregon. Become immersed in nature with one of Wanderlust Tours’ action-packed tours.
Explore Tryon Creek State Natural Area
Take an afternoon to explore Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Situated on the boundaries between Portland and Lake Oswego, this 658-acre park is the only state park in Oregon located within a major metropolitan area. Tryon Creek State Natural Area hosts 8 miles of hiking trails, including a paved all-abilities trail, plus 3.5 miles of horse trails, and 3 miles of paved bicycle trails. A suggested portion worth exploring is the easy-to-moderate hike starting at the nature center called the Ruth Pennington Trillium Trail.
How are you enjoying the great outdoors this spring? Let us know in the comments below!