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Need Help in Trip Planning

Pitman, New Jersey
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for Rapid City, South Dakota
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Need Help in Trip Planning

I am in the very early stages of planning a possible trip to Oregon, flying into Portland in August. I need help from locals and those very familiar with the area, as there seems to be much to see in this very large, diverse state. We are considering a rather large loop starting in Portland and heading east over the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. After this, I thought we could head to the Bend area and then Crater Lake. Then I thought we might be able to head west toward the coast and come back up to Portland. I know the state is large and I don't want to plan too much. Here are the some of the sights that interest us so far:

Crater Lake (A must see to us)

Columbia River Gorge (another must see)

Bonneville Dam

Columbia River Gorge Museum in The Dalles

Mt. Hood scenic area

Portland area, including the Oregon Zoo & Oregon Trail Interpretative Center in Oregon City

Tillamook Cheese Factory

High Desert Museum in Bend

Lava Tubes/Caves in the Bend area

Sea Lion Caves in Florence

Oregon Aquarium in Newport

We are a family of three, two adults and a 10 year old. We enjoy the outdoors, short hikes (no more than 3 miles round trip), waterfalls, amusement areas, history, caves, wildlife viewing, scenic drives, and family friendly attractions (i.e. aquariums and museums).

Here are some questions that I have:

1. How much time do we need to adequately see this loop? Are we trying to plan too much? Our vacations typically last 10-11 days.

2. Does anyone have any other suggestions of attractions to see throughout this area of Oregon?

3. Are there any attractions that I listed above that are really not worth checking out, in anyone's humble opinion?

Any assistance/suggestions are greatly appreciated. I am really just getting started and looking for ideas.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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1. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

Wow that is a lot! A classic road trip, for sure. In terms of question three, I wonder if, once you see the coast and the gorge, if you're not going to want to linger there for another day or two, and scratch some of the other things. But if your travel style is much more about seeing, packing the car, and moving on to the next destination, you'll probably know exactly how to get it all done.

If you do end up going to central Oregon, I wonder if your 10 year old might enjoy a fossil digging trip www.wheelercounty-oregon.com/index.html and a stay at a working dude ranch. http://wilsonranchesretreat.com/ A friend did this with his kids and loved it.

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for Portland, Sunriver
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2. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

Looks pretty good. I would only tweak it a bit. Do the loop in reverse so that you can do the coast north to south. That way it is easier to pull off at viewpoints and such.

I personally would take off the cheese factory and the sea lion caves. Time is much better spent on other things, IMO. From Portland you can head straight over to Cannon Beach. Ecola State Park and Haystack Rock are both there and are must sees. You can hike in the park also.

In Portland, IF you have time, hit OMSI (oregon museum of science and industry). Really a fascinating place. But since you will be here in August when we normally have great weather, I would only do this if you have already done everything else you want outside. The museum is great, and there is a submarine you can tour as well as an IMAX theater.

Near the zoo is Forest Park where there are loads of trails to hike.

The gorge is chuck full of great hikes too. Be sure to take the old scenic highway though, not just I-84. Must stops on that route include the Portland Women's Forum (odd name, but fantastic views and great place for a picnic), Vista House, and Multnomah Falls. Walk to the very top of the falls or do a loop hike there as well.

oregon city
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3. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

You have a good list of things to see. If you want to see all of your list, you will, but you'll be in the car for most of the 10 days. Your loop is a good idea. For the ideal vacation I think I'd recommend this amount of time for the following...

3 days at the Coast

1 day at Crater Lake

2 days in Central Oregon/Bend

3 days for Portland area(includes 1 day for Gorge/Mt Hood)

As far as your attractions Tillamook Cheese Factory is a big tourist trap-unfortunetly I get sucked into the vortex each time I go by- there isn't anything too special about it-execept that darn ice cream! Sea Lion Caves-always a debate on this fourm if it is worth going to- again another tourist trap, and you can see sea lions in other public areas without having to pay to see them.

Other suggestions for what to see-since you have waterfalls- I'd suggest Silver Falls State Park- near Salem. Great waterfalls here...

'Century Drive' out of Bend is a beautiful drive and you can go up the chairlift on Mt Batchelor for some great views. Also McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway is an interesting drive as well through the lava fields.


As far as the Interpretive Center in Oregon City-I haven't been there in along time, but remember it was pretty good. Oregon City has alot of great little small museums if that interest you as well. Here's a good website. http://www.el.com/to/oregoncity/

Also if you get to the Interpretive Center dont forget to take the short drive over to Willamette Falls and see another great waterfall. And of course your 10 year old might be interested in going up the only municipal elevator-its free-and a fun way to get to some of the other museums up on the hill.

oregon city
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4. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

oh- if you are interested in more history in Oregon City try the McLouglin House-which is now part of Ft Vancouver National Historic Park- you can also get a museum pass to visit most of the museums in OC for a reduced price.

Oregon Coast
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for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
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5. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

Hi, I agree with Mtngrl and chinookgrrrrl -- skip Tillamook, unless you just want to take a quick look 'round and say, oh, it's made here, yep! If so, that would take you maybe 15-20 minutes.

Bonneville Dam? I'm pretty sure there are no longer tours there (anybody know for sure?), so that would also take no more than a few minutes.

Zipping right along now, lol, Sea Lion Caves ... if your 10 year old is an adventurous sort, I'd say yes. It's very different, and quite smelly, too! You can also get up close to the sea lions very easily on the docks on the bayfront in Newport.

If you like the Newport Aquarium, also see the Hatfield Marine Science Center (free!) right next door to it.

Visit at least one of the lighthouses in Newport also; Yaquina Head is more impressive. You may also spot whales from there.

I would suggest you go inland just a few miles from the town of Reedsport to see the elk! Very impressive creatures. Reedsport is about 20 miles south of Florence.

The lava tube in Bend is awesome! Take along a couple of flashlights, even though you can rent a lantern. The flashlights show up the walls and ceiling better.

I haven't been to the Columbia River Gorge Museum, but if you can fit it into your schedule, the interpretive center at Cape Disappointment, just across the river from Astoria has a marvelous display of Lewis and Clark -- very well done.

I'd add OMSI. I love OMSI, even if some of the puzzles do defeat me, lol!

Silver Falls is worth a stop if you can squeeze it in. You may not have time for a "real" hike, but with an hour, you could see the main falls and walk about a bit.

Chinookgrrrrl's schedule is good, if you could add another day or two, it would give you some "relaxing time" somewhere along the way, maybe at the coast?

Hope this gives you some ideas :-)

Portland, OR
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6. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

You have obviously done your research and I am happy to see that you have 10-11 days for the trip! That should be ample time to do everything on your list although a couple more days would be ideal.

Yes, the sea lion caves our touristy but I think it would be something your 10 year old would find fascinating! As for the Tillamook Cheese Factory, it is also a tourist trap and worth a skip. You can find the ice cream at the grocery stores.

The Bonneville Dam and fish hatchery is a great place to visit. You son will be thrilled to watch the fish crawl up the ladder! Unfortunately, there was a recent theft of many of the great sturgeon from the sturgeon pond this summer.

You can do the Gorge, Bonneville Dam and the Mt Hood scenic area in a day loop although if the weather is good you may opt to stay a night or two in Hood River, especially if it is windy. You can go to the park and watch the kite and wind surfers.

In Portland there is plenty to do for several days and the weather should be good. Don't miss going to Powell's City of Books on Burnside! It is the largest independently owned book store in the country and you could get lost in there for hours!

Enjoy our fabulous state!

Portland, Oregon
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7. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

I generally like your itinerary, but agree with others regarding Tillamook Cheese Factory and Sea Lion Caves. Unless it's part of a day trip from Portland, Tillamook would be add driving distance and time that I doubt you'd find worth it. So I'd suggest replacing Tillamook with time on the southern coast. And I'd suggest replacing Sea Lion Caves with 15 minutes on the docks in Newport.

How about something like: Portland - The Dalles - Bend - Crater Lake - Crescent City, CA - Newport - Portland.

Not suggesting you stay in Crescent City, but the route there from Crater Lake takes you through giant redwood groves (a whole lot more impressive than a cheese factory). And you'd be in position on the south coast to take a jetboat ride up the Rogue River (much more fun than a tour of a cheese factory). Also, are you planning on a dune buggy ride? I don't know a 10 year old who wouldn't enjoy one.

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8. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

The Cheese Factory in Tillamook is great fun, the scenery is beautiful around this area, you can take a picnic lunch to Cape Lookout State Park, I have some photos posted here of our time in the park last summer. If you like history, there is also the Latimar Quilt Museum which was fun to go through with some gorgeous quilts.

The Sea Lion Caves will be great fun for your child and keep the Oregon Coast Aquarium on your list, it is very educational and entertaining as well.

Look like a great time, Merry Christmas and enjoy your travel research! :)

Buenos Aires...
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for Buenos Aires
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9. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

Wow, such great advice from the Oregon locals!!

Next time we come back to visit, I will use this itinerary to see some of the places we missed, even though we lived in Portland..there is just so much to see!

syrahgirl, next time you visit Oregon, you can use these lists too..I don't think you ever posted about most of these places.

Beaverton, OR
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10. Re: Need Help in Trip Planning

We always get sucked into the Tillamook Creamery vortex too! I'm addicted to their German Chocolate Cake ice cream and their cheese curds. Have yet to find that flavor of ice cream or the cheese curds in the stores so we have to go out there for them!

We went to the Sea Lion Cave once. As has been mentioned before, it is very smelly. The sea lions only use the cave in the fall and winter and spend the rest of the year below the cliffs.

The High Desert Museum and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (easily accessible Lave River Cave there) in Bend are great. We did 3-1/2 days in Bend to hike at the monument and visit the museum.

Keep an eye out for whales off the coast too.

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, 5 miles south of Yachats, has some very nice hiking trails.