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Oregon has so many uncommon sights that deserve to be seen, you can't say "been there, done that" with one visit. Here is a handful of some of our most original, most amazing, must-see wonders, and the best times to see them.
The International Rose Test Gardens. Stop and smell more than 500 varieties of roses in Washington Park. Blooms are at their peak in summer and snowcapped Mt. Hood is always at its peak in the distance. The Tom McCall Waterfront Park. What was once a freeway in the heart of the city is now a two-mile greenway that makes a beautiful venue for many summer festivals and concerts.
A whole crew of lighthouses. Since 1870, nine different beacons have lit the Coast when it wasn't clear. Yaquina Head, Heceta Head, Umpqua River, Cape Arago and Cape Blanco are still in use. The others - Tillamook Rock, Cape Meares, Yaquina Bay and Coquille River (Bandon) - are still very picturesque. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Stroll the beaches, hike, camp and ride off-road vehicles all year round in this 47-mile natural sandbox between Florence and North Bend. In early fall, the temperatures usually are higher and winds are lower.
The Historic Columbia River Highway. Pack an extra roll of film for the panoramic views of the Columbia River and dozens of easy-to-reach waterfalls. In the spring, the falls are full and the crowds are small. Changing seasons around Mt. Hood. Oregon's premier peak shows off gorgeous wildflowers in late spring and vivid fall colors in October.
Silver Falls State Park. Hiking around (and sometimes behind) these ten magnificent waterfalls is a cool way to spend a hot summer afternoon. In spring, the falls are at their fullest. But the trails are at their wettest. The blooming Cascade foothills. April showers bring a profusion of rhododendrons along the McKenzie River (Highway 126) and McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway (Highway 242).
Crater Lake National Park. The "blueness" of the country's clearest, deepest lake is phenomenal on sunny days and breathtaking in winter when the rim is covered with snow. The park's south entrance is open year round. Oregon Caves National Monument. Guided tours explore intriguing caverns and corridors of "The Marble Halls of Oregon" throughout the year.
The giant pillars of Smith Rock State Park. Hikers, rock climbers and shutterbugs enjoy this scenic area near Redmond all year. The cliffs are the most colorful at sunrise and sunset. Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The country's largest obsidian flow and two beautiful lakes in the caldera are accessible spring through fall.
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The vistas of North America's deepest gorge are heavenly all year round. Indian paint brush and lupine color the canyon walls in summer. The Painted Hills at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. One of nature's finest prehistoric works of art is especially colorful at dawn, dusk or right after a spring rain, when moisture brings out spectacular hues.
Feeling adventurous? You've come to the right state. Oregon's high mountains, deep rivers, scenic coastline and rugged desert create some of the world's best conditions. So pack up the gear. Take a deep breath. And venture out.
Oregon's thousands of trails offer everything from short hikes and bike rides at sea level to exhausting assaults on 10,000-foot peaks. You can explore 13 national forests, 224 state parks and more than 400 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. If you don't want to carry the load, arrange a horseback trip or a llama trek. Then pitch your tent in one of more than 350 National Forest and state park campgrounds. Trails and campgrounds at lower elevations or along the Coast are open all year round. Others are usually accessible from Memorial Day through October. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, with the exception of some campgrounds that accept reservations.
Oregon's rivers and lakes seem to go on forever, and there's no end to their recreational possibilities. Rafters and kayakers can splash in Class II, III and IV rapids on more than a half dozen rivers, including the Rogue in Southern Oregon, the Deschutes in Central Oregon, the Snake in Eastern Oregon, and the McKenzie in the Willamette Valley. Those who prefer to stay drier are usually within a few minutes of putting into perfect flat- water rivers and lakes. You could also be up the Rogue and Snake rivers without a paddle by taking a jet boat tour; or take a relaxing cruise on the Willamette or the Columbia in a riverboat.
Marlin Perkins could've made a career spotting wildlife in Oregon. Refuges and designated areas make it easy to see whales, sea lions, otters, elk, osprey, herons and bald eagles; not to mention the ever-present deer, ducks, geese, beavers, and unusual creatures crawling in our tide pools. If you are interested in lions, tigers, and bears - visit the Wildlife Safari drive-through game park - it's a great adventure for the whole family. If your department is fish and game, just grab a license. A catch and release policy at most lakes and streams keeps fish large and abundant. Anglers can try their luck by land or boat throughout the state, with experienced guides ready to help find our prized salmon, steelhead and trout. Hunters will want to set their sights on our deer, elk and game fowl seasons.
Any serious windsurfer has heard about the legendary winds that blow through the Columbia Gorge at Hood River. Lakeview in Southeastern Oregon is known as the Hang Gliding Capital of the West. Rock climbers hang out with some of the world's most famous faces at Smith Rock in Central Oregon.