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Oregon road trip - help wanted

My friend Elly and I are doing a girls trip in early June. If my plane is on time (SeaTac), we should be on the road by 2 pm to Astoria. Elly will drop me at the PDX in the late afternoon at the end of the week and then drive home to Seatlle.

Astoria (booked 2N Comfort Suites Columbia River)
- Sunday, check into hotel and look for dinner
- Monday, explore Astoria, maybe visit Fort Clatsop

Depoe Bay (booked 1N Inn at Arch Rock)
- Tuesday, spend the day sightseeing along the coast

Silverton (2N Oregon Garden Resort - to be booked)
- Wednesday, maybe aquarium in Newport
- Thursday, sightsee and wineries
The Dalles - (2N hotel TBD)
- Friday, drive to Sandy River, then around Mt Hood to the Columbia (my AAA map says it's scenic)
- Saturday, Maryhill Museum
- Sunday, sightsee westbound along the Columbia including Multnomah Falls, end at PDX

I'd appreciate all comments, suggestions and recommendations for sightseeing, hotels (those booked are cancelable), restaurants, and everything else.

This is a follow-up to my earlier thread.

Edit/update: I started to post a blow-by-blow of my trip on my earlier thread. I now realize I should have posted here. Anyway, if you haven't seen my other post (link in the paragraph immediately above this, you are welcome to follow along.

Posted by
850 posts

If you're going to be in Astoria, you have to drive over to WA; the bridge is legendary. And, if you do that, you might as well take the time to visit the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center (which I think is better than the Oregon Park) and see the two iconic lighthouses at Cape D and North Head.

The drive south can be very scenic, but if you stay on 101 south of Tillamook not so much, because you're not going to see the ocean, just a lot of second growth forest. If you take the local roads out along the coast it will make for a very long day of driving. Good antique hunting area though.

From Depoe Bay I'm guessing you'll head to Silverton by way of Corvallis. The roads from Newport can be slow but are scenic. From Corvallis the drive is pretty fast. The Newport Aquarium is good, but if the weather is clear you might want to take the time and drive over to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse instead. If the tide is out you can walk around the tide pools and they can be fantastic. If it's sunny there will be hundreds of seals on the rocks sunning, and the lighthouse itself is a picture postcard landmark.

Hwy 35 around Mt Hood is scenic, but remember, the closer you are to any mountain the less you're going to be able to see it.

Last, the drive down the Columbia Gorge is very different depending on which side of the river you are on. the south side is interstate with a better, faster, road. The northern (WA) road is slower, and in my opinion, the better scenic drive.

Posted by
1648 posts

Who knows what Covid will bring, but right now OR and WA are both rolling back. Right now there is no indoor dining in OR, so keep checking on the situation and see what options you will have.

I agree, going through Corvallis is a good route to get to Silverton. Is Silver Falls State Park on your agenda? It is fabulous. If you like to hike, there is the train of 10 falls there, and if not at least the south falls should be visited.

Along the Columbia River Gorge, there are numerous excellent places to stop and see. Multnomah Falls, Portland Woman's Forum (great views of the Vista House and the gorge), the Vista House itself, and numerous falls along the way. Out by Maryhill is the Stonehenge replica which is very interesting and has great views. Columbia Hills State Park has some wonderful petroglyphs to check out. Horsethief Butte is interesting, and again great views. Rowena Crest, east of Hood River, has wonderful views of the gorge and there is a short trail, about a mile each way, that goes over to the bluff and is quite nice.

Restaurants are hard to really recommend right now as I already mentioned. That said, keep an eye on the situation, but that said here are a few. In Corvallis if you are swinging through during say lunchtime, definitely stop at Block 15. In the gorge, on your way back to PDX stop in Troutdale at The Edgefield, one of the McMenamin properties. The entire property is interesting, so if you stop allow enough time, and there are several restaurants on site but I am unsure of what is open right now and to what capacity. Two great places in Hood River are Celilo for a nice dinner, or Double Mountain for beer and wood fired pizza, or Solstice also for great beer and wood fired pizza. Overall I don't care for most of the wineries in the gorge, but on the WA side in Lyle is COR which is excellent. There are a handful of others nearby, so you could check out a few if you have time, but COR is the best hands down. Also in Hood River is Kickstand, which has excellent breakfasts. They have other meals, but breakfast is the one we have always done there.

Posted by
3961 posts

Hi Chani, sounds like you’ve made great choices of the “best of the best” in Oregon. In addition to suggestions up thread this link may bring more ideas- Depot Bay, Newport, etc. You can’t go wrong. Excellent variety to choose from. Enjoy!

Posted by
1133 posts

For Astoria, if it is a fairly clear day, I would go up to the Astoria Column for nice views of the city and working port. The Column is an iconic tower in Astoria and if it is open, you might be able to climb the spiral staircase. It has been closed due to COVID restrictions but I think it is worth seeing up close.


On your way down the OR coast, you might stop in the little town of Rockaway Beach and eat lunch at Sand Dollar Restaurant & Lounge. The restaurant is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday but it looks like your itinerary shows you will be in the area on Monday. The town is just North of Tillamook. I enjoyed a delicious late lunch of fresh baby green-salad and prawn cocktail straight from the local waters. The location could not be better - right on the beach and plenty of tables outside.

See sanddollarrestaurant,com

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
1667 posts

To drive from SeaTac to Astoria, don't take I-5 and US-30. The better route is I-5 to Olympia, then US-101 to WA-8 to US-12. Then at Montesano, exit onto WA-107, which eventually joins with US-101 again. Then you turn onto WA-4 and then WA-401, which takes you to the bridge KGC mentioned. Here is the route on Google maps. It sounds much more convoluted than it is. It's very scenic, and it only adds about 10 minutes to your trip.

In Astoria, don't miss the Astoria Column. Great views!

I'd recommend skipping The Dalles and instead spending those last two nights in Hood River. It's a smaller town with a lot of charm, and it is a bit closer to Mt. Hood and to PDX, giving you more time on your Sunday drive for stops to see the various waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge. KCG is mistaken in that the drive on the Oregon side of the Columbia River is not Interstate, because you will exit I-84 at Exit 35 and then follow the Historic Columbia River Highway. You'll want to stop frequently for waterfall viewing and short hikes, so be sure to leave plenty of time. In fact, you might want to consider doing that on Saturday so you have plenty of time to enjoy it, depending on what time you need to be at PDX. The entire drive is an absolute gem.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
1205 posts

About 45 minutes north of Depoe Bay is Nekowin Beach. About 10-15 years ago a storm uncovered an ancient petrified forest on the beach. At low tide you can see the stumps. Low tide or not, it's a wonderful beach. There's a little cafe there, the Hawk Creek, which has a nice menu.

Posted by
10519 posts

Note that Oregon is tightening restrictions; hopefully things will be better by the time you get there.

Depoe Bay (booked 1N Inn at Arch Rock)
- Tuesday, spend the day sightseeing along the coast

Silverton (2N Oregon Garden Resort - to be booked)
- Wednesday, maybe aquarium in Newport
- Thursday, sightsee and wineries

Presumably, you would be visiting the Aquarium on the day you travel to Silverton, and not a separate return trip to the coast?

Posted by
700 posts

You didn’t share your exact travel dates. Low-tides have been mentioned. There are super low tides on May 27 and June 25, so on or around those dates you could see the stumps at Neskowin.

Also mentioned was the fact that 101 doesn’t go along the coast south of Tillamook until Lincoln City. However, you can still catch a coastal route for a portion of that by turning west (state hwy. 131) in Tillamook and following the “Three Capes Route.” Know, however, that it will be significantly slower that way. We’ve enjoyed the Pelican Brewing restaurant in Pacific City.

You can avoid the interstate, if that’s a goal, from Silverton to The Dalles by taking state highways 213 and 211 to the town of Sandy, then following highway 26 to 35 which takes one north to Hood River. A good stop along the way for close up views of the mountain is to head up to Timberline Lodge at Government Camp.

I agree with the suggestion to use highway 30, the Historic Columbia River Highway, where you can. I’d suggest getting to Crown Point for Columbia River gorge views.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
238 posts

You've got lots of good information already so I'll just add a few things. Astoria is a great town--lots to see and do. The Astoria Column has been mentioned and it definitely gives you a great view on a clear day (if you're willing to climb all 166 steps). Buoy Brewing in Astoria is a fun place to eat (and the beer is good too!) --they are allowing dine-in as well as outside dining and takeout, though the menu is more limited than in pre-COVID days. Gracie's Sea Hag in Depoe Bay has what many consider to be the best clam chowder on the coast, and across the street along the seawall you can sometimes see the local whales swiming around. About 20 or so miles south of Depoe Bay is Seal Rock, which has a nice little cove-like beach. If you're there at the right time you can see the seals sunning on their favorite rock.
I very much agree with the poster who suggested staying in Hood River rather than the Dalles. Depending on your budget you might consider The Columbia Gorge Hotel just outside of town. And don't miss McMenamin's Edgefield (about 45 miles south of Hood River). It is a great place to stay and would be worth a night, but even if it can't fit into your overnight plans stop and wander around--the grounds are lovely and the extensive artwork inside is worth seeing. It is in Multnomah County (as is Portland) and we are currently unable to dine inside, but the hold at this point has been suggested to last a couple of weeks (no guarantees though) so depending on your travel dates indoor dining may be up and running again. And we are going into the time of year when outdoor dining can be very pleasant.

Posted by
1205 posts

Buoy Brewing in Astoria is an excellent suggestion! And if the weather isn’t cooperating while you’re in Astoria try the Maritime Museum. Among other things the museum explains how the pilots take the ships over the Columbia Bar. It’s pretty amazing.

Posted by
2117 posts

Chani you've received great input so far, all of it spot on. Hopefully things will be more opened up by June (we've just gone into our third big lockdown). For sure masks will be required everywhere public (whether people wear them, another story). Some additional thoughts:

Since you arrive on Sunday, your food choices may be limited. Buoy is open though, beer and food (awesome plexiglass floor to see the sea lions). The Columbia Maritime museum is well done (currently has a capacity limit) - fun fact, my dad served in the Coast Guard on the Columbia lightship docked at the museum. I'd head out to Fort Stevens State Park for a walk on the beach and to see the wreck of the Peter Iredale. Astoria Column does have great views but it's a very narrow climb (not for claustrophobic).

On the way to Depoe Bay
I also love the three capes drive, but the Cape Meares segment is closed due to landslide. I'd personally drive on through Tillamook (visit the creamery, cheese, ice cream, etc. is good any time of day). Then cut over on Highway 131 to Cape Lookout (great hike out and back) and then on to Pacific City. Late lunch at Pelican Brewery. If you're lucky you can watch the dory boats land on the beach. If you can get in, Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay has excellent food.

Depoe Bay to Silverton
You might consider back tracking to drive via Highway 20/22 to Salem on to Silverton, instead of going through Newport. I like the aquarium but given your time I'd skip it. The wineries near Silverton aren't that fantastic IMHO, so I'd suggest instead hitting a couple wineries on your way from the coast to Silverton. If you drive Newport/Corvallis route, take highway 99 and try Airlie or Emerson. If you drive Lincoln City/Salem route, take a quick detour north on 99 to Left Coast Estate. Because you're mid-week, you may have to make an appointment to taste, check their websites. When in Silverton, for sure go to Silver Falls State Park - beautiful hikes, waterfalls, etc. It had a wildfire last year, I haven't been up to see if there is visible damage, but it's usually the Oregon mossy green people think of.

Drive from Silverton to Columbia
If you're wanting a backroads drive, you can certainly do that, but my quick Google map shows a 3 hour drive that way, plus there were massive wildfires through that area last year (Estacada) and I'm not sure how scenic it might be. For efficiency, I'd instead cut up through Oregon City (my hometown) and over to Sandy and up around Mt. Hood. The drive between Gov. Camp and Hood River is called the "Fruit Loop" with lots of produce stands (though you'll be a little early for apples). I also suggest staying in Hood River and make the day trip up to Maryhill. On the way there, drive on the historic Mosier-Rowena Highway 30 to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint for one of the best gorge views. Before you go to Maryhill, be sure to do the quick side trip to the Stonehenge - it's quite unusual and has good views. I've not been there but there is a winery in Maryhill that serves food. You could drive back on the Washington side and cross back into Hood River.

Hood River to PDX
The historic Columbia River highway is a delight (and very narrow!) but is in a constant state of unexpected construction or closure. Check for the latest info. Tons of hiking opportunities, but this area was burned in a wildfire several years ago (sense a theme?) and some trails may not be fully accessible. If you stop at Multnomah Falls (or any trailhead) make sure nothing valuable is left in the car - break-ins are sadly very common.

As always, PM me if you have questions. I kind of like it here :)

Posted by
238 posts

Sorry, I just noticed your previous thread. Since you enjoy national and state parks, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park would definitely be a good place to explore while you are in Astoria. June weather can be iffy, but we've been to Fort Clatsop on a drizzly day and it was fine--gives you a little more of a feel for what it was like back in Lewis & Clark's day. And Ecola State Park south of Astoria offers lovely coastal views and good hiking opportunities. The nearby town of Cannon Beach has some very good restaurants and , though it does tend to be very crowded in the summer it isn't too bad on a weekday before school lets out for the summer. And as previous posters have mentioned, Silver Falls State Park is considered to be one of our best!

Posted by
3039 posts

I suggest, in strongest possible terms, a detour to visit the visitor center at Mt. St. Helens to see the mountain and eruption that took place there and a hike or 2 if you have time.

Posted by
6915 posts

Only two food suggestions. If you like fish & chips do check out the Bowpicker in Astoria, some of the best f&c on the coast - they use tuna rather than cod or tilapia.

Other suggestion has been mentioned already - Pelican Pub and Brewery in Pacific City. Great food, great craft brews, and great views of the sea stack and sand dunes (Cape Kiwanda). Hopefully weather will cooperate and you could eat out on the deck overlooking the Pacific.

Posted by
3961 posts

As of 2 days ago, this was the latest update of Covid-19 restrictions in Oregon. In WA State we may be rolling back to phase 2 as soon as 5/4/21 in King and Snohomish County due to high Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. This was reported by Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health Seattle, per K5 News. Keeping our fingers crossed for all of us who have plans to travel.

Posted by
30 posts

We just visited the Oregon Coast aquarium in Newport this weekend. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance. You cannot buy them at the ticket window. And some days do sell out. It is a great aquarium so I highly recommend it.
There is still indoor dining in Oregon. The amount available is dependent on the that county’s current risk level. There are lots of places with outdoor dining options and lots of picnic options as well.
You’ll probably have to reserve a spot at the wineries in advance as well. They are very popular on the weekends. It’s hard to be spontaneous right now.

Posted by
6177 posts

Looks like a good plan. I agree with Lane about the best route from SEA to Astoria. Fort Clatsop is a little way from Astoria, could be part of your Astoria day or a stop on the way to Depoe Bay. I think it's a great depiction of how those explorers spent the cold rainy winter (even though you'll be there in June).

I also agree with Lane and others about Hood River as a better overnight than The Dalles. It's a smaller place but more scenic and I think with better lodging and dining options. The Columbia Gorge Hotel, just west of Hood River, would be a great choice if your budget allows. There's also a big Best Western on the east edge of town next to the river.

You've allocated a day for the Maryhill Museum, but the museum itself probably won't take more than a couple of hours. It's about a hour's drive from Hood River, and less from The Dalles, so you may find yourself with extra time that day. The Stonehenge "replica" won't take long. The Dalles has a visitor center focused on the Oregon Trail, and one of the major dams on the river (another is Bonneville, on the way back to Portland).

The nice thing about driving the Gorge is being able to choose between the interstate and the historic highway depending on how fast you want or need to go. The less nice thing is that the interstate sort looms over the historic road, so it's always within sight and sound. Multnomah Falls is very good. So is the Vista House at Crown Point, though it involves a detour. If your flight is leaving PDX that evening, allow plenty of time to get there.

Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
330 posts

Don't miss Newport--in fact, overnight there instead of Depoe Bay. The Sylvia Beach Hotel is literary themed, and it is not to be missed! Local Ocean on their waterfront is one of my top 5 restaurants in the entire world, and the sea lions in the harbour are as close as you will ever get. The aquarium is good. If you can, go just a touch beyond Newport to the Devil's Churn and Thor's Well at Cape Perpetua. You won't be sorry. I'd do that over the aquarium any day, and I love aquariums. Thor's Well is one of those sights that pops up on obscure natural wonders websites.

Posted by
220 posts

People have given you lots of good info. I concur: stay in Hood River; drive I-84/hwy30 so you can stop at the various falls & Cascade Locks (to view the sturgeon in the pools); bypass Tillamook Creamery only if you absolutely hate icecream and cheese; and 101 south of Tillamook is not scenic. Enjoy your trip.