Mt Hood to Silver Falls to the Coast

Head out of Portland as early as you can. Take either Highway 84 (which is faster but equally beautiful) or the Scenic Columbia Gorge Highway 30. Both will swing you by multiple waterfalls. If it’s not too crowded, stop at Multnomah Falls to at least peak at the most famous and most photographed waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. If you are feeling ambitious, hike to the top for a different view.

Continue your journey with a stop in Hood River. Once you have explored Hood River, continue on Highway 35. Head south and find a campsite at Trillium Lake, Frog Lake, or Clear Lake.  On a clear day, a visit to Timberline Lodge always impresses with the view. If you are energetic, take a high alpine jaunt along the Timberline Trail to the Zig Zag Canyon overlook.

Complete your circumnavigation of Mt Hood and drive through Sandy on US 26. To get to Silver Falls take Highway 211 through Estacada and Molalla. Milo McIver State Park is right along the river and makes a good stop if you are there in the late afternoon and evening and don’t want to push on to Silver Falls. Otherwise, head south via Highway 213 to Silver Falls State Park. You will want reservations for your time here. There are many waterfalls and hikes and you could easily spend 2 days exploring this lovely spot.

Once you have had your fill of the waterfalls, take Highway 22 to Highway 18 to the coast. Go south on 101 to Beverly Beach State Park. Explore Newport or just to relax at the beach. Don’t miss the Yaquina Lighthouse and Devils Punch Bowl which are both nearby. When you are ready to head north, a sweet spot to aim for is Cape Lookout. Along the way, stop at Cascade Head and Cape Kiwanda to stretch your legs and gaze at the Pacific from a beautiful headland trail. There is also lots to explore in the Three Capes scenic area. You could even rent a small boat and try your hand at crabbing in Netarts.

Then don’t miss Oceanside Beach with the tunnel to a truly magical beach sometimes covered with agates and peppered with sea stacks. Rosanna’s has been around for decades and serves a great meal. While you are on the Three Capes Loop - Visit Cape Mere’s Lighthouse and the Octopus Tree. You can make a stop in Tillamook at Blue Heron Cheese Company or the Tillamook Factory before returning to Portland.

This blog was written by Chris Beard, owner of Tilly Jane and Mr Mike, and GoCamp's resident concierge.

(Side note: This trip can be done in 5-6 nights, though several spots warrant 2 nights - such as the lakes near Mt Hood, and you could spend a whole week at the coast. How long you spend in each spot depends on how much you want to hike and explore. The beauty of camper vans is that set up is easy so you can maximize your exploring time.)

Sweet 16 on the Ohanapecosh -- oh my gosh!

My daughter turned 16 this week so we headed off in the van called Tilly Jane to celebrate. We spent two nights in Mt Rainier National Park at the Ohanapecosh Campground and did lots of hiking and swimming. The Silver Falls Trail starts and ends in the campground and on a hot summer day you can cool down after the hike by jumping in the river. Brace yourself though, it's cold! We also really enjoyed the Naches Peak Loop Trail just up the road from the campground. It connects with the famed Pacific Crest Trail and offers magical views of the park and surrounding area. Plus there was a mountain lake, so more swimming. 

Beyond the hikes and great views, the best part about this trip was just spending time with my daughter. A classic teen, she was out the front door with a quick "see ya, gotta go" about 10 minutes after we got home. But she gifted me the video below as a thank you for the trip, so I forgive her for not helping me unload the van. You're welcome Zoe.

Bird's Eye View of the Pacific Northwest

Jamie, Tom, and Nick, from Apertunity Productions, rented the van we call the Rogue this spring. It was a bit of a last minute rental so we didn't know much about them. When they picked up the van they said, "We're photographers."

Jamie, Tom and Nick with the Rogue at Crater Lake.

Jamie, Tom and Nick with the Rogue at Crater Lake.

Indeed they were. And videographers too. There were drones in those duffle bags in turns out.

The three were from Australia and determined to see as much of the Pacific Northwest during their five day rental as possible. If the video below is any indication, it would seem they covered the entire state of Oregon. We love the bird's eye perspective offered here of Oregon's forests, waterfalls, lakes, snow covered mountains and beaches.

And the van called Rogue looks pretty sweet too!

Special thanks to Apertunity Productions for this awesome video.

The Big Trees -- Not as Far as You Think

For the last 24 years my job has required me to work every other weekend, so I only have half as many weekends to play as most people. That means I feel compelled to make the most of every one of them. Recently I had Thursday and Friday off and it wasn’t my work weekend. That gave me four whole days for a trip, which felt like plenty of time to really do something.

Because I’ve recently altered my definition of “not that far,” we decided to go see the Redwoods. Yes, we decided to go all the way to California from Portland to see the big trees in four days. According to google maps, it is only 322 miles to Jedediah Smith State Park; the drive time is 5 hours and 22 minutes via I-5. Now google didn’t accommodate for the obligatory stop at K&R Drive-In in Rice, Ore. for burgers and shakes -- K&R is an Oregon institution off exit number 148, offering 38 different flavors of Umpqua Dairy ice cream -- but we still made it by early evening and settled into our campsite by dusk.

Howland Hill Road beckons and it is hard to resist.

Howland Hill Road beckons and it is hard to resist.

Jedediah Smith State Park, set along the turquoise blue Smith River, is the first in a string of Redwood parks along the Redwood highway. It’s a great first stop, but we continued further south to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park across the border in California. We were fortunate and found a site in the grassland loop next to a meadow. Nearby dozens of elk milled about enjoying a meal. While we chose the loop with open sky, there are big trees and a rushing creek in the other loop, which looked perfect for another time.

We popped the top, got the Westy set up, strolled the campground, and marveled at the trees, the elk, and the sun. After cooking dinner, we settled into our evening routine of reading and planning the next day. When my kids were little, they took turns reading aloud to each other in the top bed, which is a sweet memory.  

In the morning we packed up and headed off to walk among the big trees. Howland Hill Road is an unpaved single lane gem that winds through the trees deep in the park. Access is north of Crescent City or just adjacent to the park entrance if you are coming from Oregon. Along the way, you have the option of a short loop stroll through the Stout Grove or a hike to the Boy Scout tree - a 5 mile walk through many stands of  huge and impressive trees. Both are magical not to be missed experiences.

The drive between Prairie Creek and Jedediah takes you through the not-so scenic town of Crescent City and then puts you back into the Redwoods on a two lane road with lots of turn outs for groves with names like Simpson-Reed Grove, Leffert and Ellsworth Trail and Hatton Trail. You can stop at one or many as you make your way along.

We spent about 36 hours in the Redwoods, which of course isn’t nearly long enough. But it really isn’t that far from Portland and we all agreed the magic of the Redwood forest on a sun dappled day was worth it.

(Note: This post was written by Chris Beard, the owner of Tilly Jane and our resident GoCamp concierge.)


Shakedown Success

The "shakedown" is a common occurrence among camper van owners. When people say they "took the van out for a shakedown last weekend" it's like saying they went out on a test camping trip to make sure the systems worked for all the real camping trips they intend to do.

Every van on GoCamp goes out for a shakedown before being made available to rent. Maupin went out with GoCamp friends John Fenger and Jessica Tomforde for his shakedown last weekend.

All systems are go for Maupin.

All systems are go for Maupin.

John and Jessica are avid mountain bike riders so they took Maupin to the Lower Lewis River Falls area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to hit the trails. Sounds like they covered lots of miles by bike and by van. The report? Shakedown success! Maupin heads out on his first rental next week and boy is he ready!