As we finally neared the west coast after two months on the road, we were delighted by our final landlocked adventure along the border of Washington and Oregon.
On our first day, we left Lewiston, Idaho very early to get to the Umatilla National Forest to hike the Oregon Butte Grand Loop Trail. The road to get there (aptly named “Blind Grade Road” was a little dicey with steep grades, but we made it!
The trail itself is a 16 mile loop comprised of a few different trails and features the fire tower on Oregon Butte, though the trails are all in Washington. Warning: there is absolutely no signage and multiple “secret trails” for locals. We suggest you download the topo from Alltrails.com to help you stay on the right network! We ended up getting a little lost and hiking just over 19 miles! But the views were worth it!
That evening, we stayed right at the trailhead, which is open to dispersed camping!
On our second day, we needed to rest our feet after so much intense hiking, so we chose a few short and easy hikes in the Tri-Cities area. First we explored the McNary Wildlife Refuge Nature Loop. The area is really lovely and they provide a full color pamphlet with all the animals you may see. The two mile loop affords ample opportunity to see the current bird population (in our case red wing blackbirds, seagulls, and egrets).
Next, we visited a local favorite: Badger Mountain. There are a few options for hiking to the top, but we chose the most straightforward way. The trailhead surprisingly leaves from a suburban neighborhood, but there is plenty of parking for this popular hike. From the top, you can see all of the Tri-Cities area, as well as Rattlesnake Mountain, apparently the highest treeless mountain in the world!
That evening, we drove on to Bickleton, Washington to stay with a delightful Boondockers Welcome host. The property was filled with wildlife, such as doves, turkeys, and mule deer.
On our third day, we drove along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. We were excited about the fact that we arrived on a National Park Free Day, so we didn’t have to pay for parking at the trailheads. We were concerned there might be too many crowds out, but we were fortunate!
We began with a hike on the short but stunning Horsethief Butte Trail. There are two options: river walk and butte walk. We did them both. The first provides gorgeous views of the gorge and the second allows visitors the opportunity to climb around on the butte. There was actually a rock climbing class happening on the butte when we visited.
Next, we climbed the beautiful Coyote Wall Trail. This was honestly one of the prettiest hikes we’ve done. The views of the gorge from the top (especially along the knife edge) are spectacular. It was a tough elevation gain, but well worth it! Do look out for bikes though!
That evening, we crossed into Oregon and stayed at a campground in Corbett.
On our fourth day, we decided we wanted to kayak on the nearby Sandy River down to the Columbia River. The water was incredibly low, so it was very safe…but perhaps a little too safe. We chose to paddle from the Sandy along a rivulet to the Columbia and back around, but the water was too low and we had to portage a mile or two back up the river. In hindsight, we recommend just paddling down to the Columbia and back along the rivulet. It was very pretty up to that point! Especially with the morning fog!
That afternoon we headed into Portland, a city we’ve always wanted to visit! We parked the camper at an incredibly hospitable Boondockers Welcome host right in the middle of the historic Mississippi neighborhood and began our explorations of the area, starting with a walk of the neighborhood and a pit stop for some beverages at the Stormbreaker Brewery.
The next stop was the Pittock Mansion. Dogs are allowed on the grounds, so Reuben walked Chip around the gardens while I explored the house. The house on a hill was built by Henry Pittock, the owner of the Oregonian newspaper. I honestly love walking through old homes to see how people lived.
A couple of more miles on the Wildwood Trail deposited us in the Hoyt Arboretum and then on to the International Rose Test Garden, home to over 10,000 rose varieties! You should definitely plan to stop and smell the roses here!
It wouldn’t be a visit to Portland without a stop at a food cart. We selected Chez Dodo downtown because we read it was the only Mauritian restaurant in the entire United States! Mauritius is an island off the coast of Madagascar and the food there is delicious, at least according to what we sampled!
Nearby, we walked to the riverfront to see the Willamette, but also visit the smallest park in the world, Mill Ends Park. It was originally supposed to be a light pole, but quirky Portland saw an opportunity and made it into a tiny little park!
That evening, we spent time with some old friends who moved to Portland about a year ago. They made us an incredible meal with fresh Oregon dungeness crab!