Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crossing the Cascades - A Scenic Drive From Portland to Sunriver

On our Oregon vacation, Matt and I wanted to see more than just the Portland area.   I thought it would be fun to show Matt the high desert and pine forest of Central Oregon that is so different from New Hampshire's wet, temperate climate.

We've had a fantastic time in Central Oregon, but one of the best parts of the trip was the stunning and expansive views along the way.  Our travels revealed that Oregon is a diverse and unique state with a new view and adventure around every turn.

Mount Jefferson as seen from Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood.
We were able to throw snowballs on Mt. Hood, stare down a gaping 300 foot canyon, watch lizards sunbathe on volcanic rock, and eat Maple Bars the size of footballs.  

Here is how to recreate this adventure...

We left from Portland, Oregon at 8:30 am and got to Sunriver, Oregon around 4 pm.  It usually doesn't take that long to get there, but we took many stops along the way.

Stop 1:  Huckleberry Inn, Government Camp
This diner is an iconic spot in Government Camp - a town near the base of Mt. Hood.  We've always enjoyed stopping here for a cup of coffee, hearty breakfast, piece of huckleberry pie, or the BEST maple bar in the state.  On this stop, we got two Maple Bars to split between four people.  They are large and in charge. . . and delicious.  

Huckleberry Inn, Government Camp

Maple Bars from Huckleberry Inn

Stop 2:  Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood
No trip to Oregon would be complete without meeting the great mountain.  We took a side trip to Timberline Lodge.  It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed walking the trails around the lodge, seeing the craftsmen's touches inside the building, and watching the summer skiers shred the slopes.  Don't forget to pet one of the lodge's St. Bernards before you leave!

Timberline Lodge with Mt. Jefferson in background

Summer skiers on Mt. Hood

Stop 3: Lower Deschutes River Picnic Area, Warm Springs
We stopped here to get a glimpse of the the river, tall buttes, and stretch our legs.  It's easy to imagine the early Native Americans standing on top of one of the tall buttes, surveying the river and valleys below.  It's a popular stop for picnickers, anglers, and rafters.  We enjoyed the view and cool water of the Deschutes River.

Lower Deschutes River

Stop 4:  Black Bear Diner, Madras
Our fourth stop was around noon.  We paused in the town of Madras, Oregon.  The Black Bear Diner has a clean, friendly atmosphere and serves good diner food.  They serve breakfast all day so we all enjoyed morning meals - even though it was lunch time.  The portions are quite large, so unless you are very hungry, you might want to split a meal.  

Stopping for lunch at the Black Bear Diner in Madras

Stop 5: Peter Skene Odgen Scenic Viewpoint, Terrebonne
This is a must stop along US-97.  Basalt cliffs fall 300 feet into the river below.  A walking bridge allows you to get a view in the middle of canyon and see the Three Sisters Mountains in the distance.  Leave pets in the car and watch small children carefully.  Picnic areas, grass lawns, and bathrooms are available with tall juniper trees providing shade on a hot day.

Peter Skene Ogden Viewpoint

300 foot cliffs

Stop 6:  Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne
This stop would make any sport climber drool.  A mecca for rock climbing, this stop provides majestic rock spires towering over the Crooked River.  Hiking trails criss cross the landscape.  Smell the sage and look for lizards among the rocks.  Red pumice and coarse volcanic rock will crunch under your feet as you explore the grand view at Smith Rocks. 

Smith Rocks and Crooked River

Scenic View at Smith Rock State Park

Stop 7:  Bend
We stopped in Bend before going into the resort community of Sunriver.  Off the highway, you can get last-minute groceries. 

Central Oregon barbed wire

Our drive to Sunriver provided us with a picturesque snapshot of Oregon's multiple ecosystems.  It's a shame that so many people head to the resort town without taking the time to stop and enjoy the diverse viewpoints along the way.  I recommend all the stops listed above to the Central Oregon traveler.

We arrived at our Sunriver house with the taste of maple bars on our tongue, the chill from Hood snow in our hands, and the coarse Smith rocks in our sandles.  I reflected on our drive and realized there was truth to Ralph Waldo Emerson's saying, "Life is the journey, not a destination."

Mt. Hood through the trees
Please leave comments and questions below...