Getting Around Oregon

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  • mtncorg's Profile Photo


    by mtncorg Updated Jul 28, 2015

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    There are several National Trails in the US which cover thousands of miles. The most famous is the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern US. Many start out each spring with the hope of walking its entire length. On the western side of the country, the Pacific Crest Trail mounts a challenge that is much more magnified. To do the entire length of this trail, from Mexico to Canada, one must have some mountaineering skills to deal with the deep snows found along the Sierra Nevada of California that one must encounter early in the season. Because of the arduousness and the massive amount of time needed for the entire trail, many will do large sections of the trail: ie maybe the Sierran section, the Oregon section or the Washington section. These subsets are major undertakings in themselves, taking a month or more to complete.

    For those of us lucky enough to live close to the PCT trail #2000, we can pick and choose the best parts of the trail, leaving the through-hikers to complete the long stretches that cover forested plains or hills. The PCT does cover some super ground, but not always. What the PCT does offer is the chance to get into some grand country and allows one for some fantastic side trips - many just a mile or less off the main trail. The through hiker simply does not have the time to do the side trips which is too bad as the experience could be even grander. But time is what we never have enough of.

    Many miles of the PCT, you will wander alone. I have walked much of its route in the northern Cascades of Oregon and never cease to wonder about the grandeurs lying along or just off the trail. The trail is just as fantastic in Washington and California, as well, though in these states, side trails or alternate routes exist as well - see the Sierra Club's book by Steve Roper 'The Sierra High Route' for one such idea that takes you into country far wilder than that of the John Muir trail (which the PCT is known as between Yosemite and Mt Whitney).

    PCT wandering through mountain hemlock forests Mt Jefferson from Jeff Park along the PCT
    Related to:
    • Camping
    • Mountain Climbing
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Interstate 5 in Oregon

    by glabah Updated Jul 2, 2015

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    [This tip is in progress, and has to do with Interstate 5 and things of interest along it.]

    From South to North:

    Please see my Willamette Valley Tip as it gives a bit more detail on the communities along Interstate 5 and nearby through the Willamette Valley (that is, Eugene to Vancouver, Washington).

    Ashland used to be a really interesting place, but my understanding is that it has mostly become a tourist trap since I was last there.

    Medford? Grants Pass? Roseburg? All of them are really suburbs of the freeway now anywhere near the freeway. You can find just as good along the coast. The scenery is nice from the California border to around Roseburg, but you can see better on the coast, and so much of what is along the freeway is now devoted to the freeway.

    Crater Lake National Park is a good place to go, but it is quite some distance from Interstate 5 and on slow roads that are closed very early in fall due to their high elevation and the snow that arrives very early in the season.

    Eugene has some interesting cultural things, including a few museums and so on.

    Eugene to Albany is almost completely void of anything. There isn't even a curve in the road for that entire distance. You can see some towns off in the distance, and on each side in the distance the Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains. Furthermore, the freeway here is only two lanes each direction. It can and does get very congested, though usually moves somewhat fast.

    Corvallis has some great small town cultural attractions including a local artisan's store, but it takes 20 minutes or so to get there from Interstate 5, and the highway from there to Corvallis is horribly ugly. It is suburban sprawl and billboards almost the entire distance, with perhaps one or two farm fields visible.

    Brownsville is famous for having been the location where many of the scenes in the movie "Stand By Me" were shot. (A number of others were shot in northern California and in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Those involving the steam locomotive were on the Sierra Railroad in California.) It isn't an especially notable place other than this.

    Salem has a decent farmer's market, but it only operates on Saturdays, and while good it isn't that large. It has a few parks and museums that may be of interest.

    Nearby places include Silverton and Silver Falls State Park, and the Antique Powerland Museums in Brooks (which are closed from November through March). Silverton has a nice downtown, and is the home of the Oregon Garden.

    Mount Angel is the home of a monastery, which is best known for making good chocolate. This is sold as a fund raiser for keeping the building operating.

    Salem to Wilsonville is dead flat and not that interesting. There are two curves in Interstate 5, and a factory store mall in Woodburn that has the same nonsense you can buy anywhere.

    Just south of Wilsonville you may find the exit from I-5 labeled "Aurora Historic District". There are some antique stores here, as well as some interesting restaurants and one candy store that is extremely good.

    There are a few places

    Related to:
    • Road Trip

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    Amtrak Cascades service in Oregon

    by glabah Updated Apr 14, 2015

    There is only one route traversed by regular passenger trains in Oregon, and that is a north-south route from Vancouver, Washington through Portland to Eugene, with a single daily train continuing south to Klamath Falls and into California.

    Most of the Portland to Eugene service is part of the Amtrak Cascades service, which is operated in partnership with the State of Washington. Currently the state of Oregon funds two trains per day between Portland and Eugene, with a number of buses adding supplemental service. The connecting buses and the trains are all ticketed through the Amtrak web site.

    An additional train is the long distance Coast Starlight, operating through Oregon between Seattle and Los Angeles.

    As with most transportation services in the USA, the ticket price increases as the tickets are sold, so the earlier you plan ahead the better.

    Usually, the trains have wifi service on them, but it can be slow if there are a large number of other passengers using it and it may be best to try to use cellular service instead. The wifi service on the train limits the type of data due to the capacity issue, and thus video content and other high bandwidth services are not allowed.

    Seat types on the Cascades trains are business class and regular coach. The coach seats include electrical outlets and five of the trains currently in service have reasonably comfortable seats. The two trains sets owned by the State of Oregon have less comfortable seats, including the fact that they do not recline and they do not change direction. So, half the seats are always facing backwards.

    There is a bistro car (a snack bar car) and a lounge car. Passengers needing to make some noise, such as longer cell phone conversations, are asked to use the lounge car.

    The Coast Starlight includes larger seats and bedrooms are available as well, but there really is no need for that level of accommodation for shorter distance trips.

    As these trains share a service with Washington, please see my Amtrak Cascades tip for Washington as well for some additional photos.

    Stations are, from North to South:
    Vancouver, Washington (just north of the border, and possibly more convenient for some travelers in Portland than Portland itself)
    Oregon City

    Chemult and Klamath Falls are the two additional Oregon stations served by the Coast Starlight on its way south of Eugene to California.

    Connecting bus services are available at many stations, allowing Amtrak to sell tickets to many areas of Oregon that do not have passenger train service. The number of places is too numerous to list but includes Cannon Beach and Astoria in the northwest, and Bend and Burns on the east side of the mountains.

    The scenery from the train is varied. As opposed to Interstate 5 you see the downtowns of a few small Willamette Valley towns, as well as close up suburban sprawl, industrial facilities and other things that are pretty much the same from Interstate 5. The line isn't too far away from Interstate 5 for most of the distance between Eugene and Portland, but it is far enough that what you see from the train is a bit different. In my opinion it isn't quite as boring as Interstate 5 scenery, but at the same time the Willamette Valley is mostly flat farmland with views of the Coast Range to the west and the Cascades to the east. It doesn't have scenery that is vastly different from Interstate 5.

    Amtrak Cascades train near Albany, Oregon Amtrak Cascades Train at Oregon City, October 2004 Mt Jefferson and Cascades Foothills from Train
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    Northwest POINT: Portland to Northwest Coast

    by glabah Written May 15, 2012

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    Communities on the Oregon Coast tend to be somewhat cut off from the rest of the state due to the major north-south transportation corridor (by road or rail) being located in the Willamette Valley - some 100 miles to the east of the coast itself.

    Years ago regular passenger train service and commercial bus routes to the area around Astoria and Seaside did exist, but slowly services were cut back to the point of being nearly impossible to use.

    In order to provide basic transportation services and a link to the outside world, the state of Oregon now funds Northwest POINT bus service from Portland to Cannon Beach, Seaside, and Astoria. Currently this service operates two round trips every day.

    About my only complaint with the service is that it would be nice for it to leave downtown Portland a little earlier in the day on its first trip, as it makes doing a day trip to the coast a bit short. However, the fact is it doesn't work out economically as the same driver is used for both round trips, and working any longer hours would be impossible - thus two drivers would be required if the service operated any other schedule.

    The route taken is: Portland to Interstate 405 to Highway 26 west to Cannon Beach, then after the stop in Cannon Beach north on US Highway 101 to Astoria. This is not the most scenic trip to the coast, and in fact from Portland to Banks most of the scenery is suburban sprawl, and west of Banks to Cannon Beach it is forest land that has either been cut down and exists only as a field of stumps or is tiny second growth trees. North of Cannon Beach it is mostly suburban tourist trap sprawl. However, it is possible to get to some scenic places from here.

    The typical buses that are used are reasonably comfortable, with seats that recline enough to be obnoxious to the person behind you if you recline all the way. Many of the seats have electrical outlets for whatever device you may want to bring, and there is usually WiFi service available in many places (some places in the Coast Range lack cell phone coverage or other communications connections to the outside world, and thus the bus lacks them in those areas). The head rests do rise up if you push them up, but most people don't do this.

    The overhead bins are quite small, and nothing larger than a day backpack is likely to be crammed into this space.

    This service is, as of this writing, incorporated into the Amtrak ticketing system so that it is possible to reserve a seat and buy a ticket through Amtrak's web site or 1-800 number.
    ( or 1-800-USA-RAIL)

    From Portland, the buses depart from the "Thruway" bus connection departure area of Portland Union Station. This is through the doors of the station on the north side of the main waiting room, into the baggage service room. When you reach the baggage claim area, turn left and head towards the doors to the outside at the end of this wide corridor. There is usually at table there with baggage identification tags on it, and be sure to label your luggage, especially if you are putting it under the bus. There will also be times when the bus stops at the Grayhound bus station just south of Union Station before going to Union Station, so if there is no bus there waiting for you just wait as it may not have arrived yet.

    Other than in Portland, most "station" stops along the route are either bus shelters or simple bus stop signs. Most of these are near a small convenience store of some sort that can be used as a landmark.

    As of this writing, the current contractor for this route is OC&W Coachways, but this service is handled on a bid basis so it may be that some years a different contractor winds up operating this route with somewhat different equipment. However, OC&W seems to work pretty well at this service so I hope they continue for some years to come.

    Northwest POINT bus at Portland Union Station Interior of Typical Northwest POINT bus Typical seating. Note Power Outlet near Floor
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Beaches
    • Budget Travel

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    by mtncorg Written Oct 20, 2011

    The “Wahkiakum” has been running across the main channel of the Columbia River between Puget Island and Westport, Oregon since 1962 making its ten minute crossing every hour. It is the last of many car ferries that used to run across the river between Oregon and Washington. The boat has a nine car capacity – get here early on weekends or you’ll have to wait for the next hour’s ride. The ferry connects on the Washington side to a road – State Route 409 - which bissects Puget Island and runs up to Cathlamet across the Julia Butler Hansen Bridge. Many local workers use the ferry to commute to work at the Wauna mill on the Oregon side just downriver from Westport. The ferry is the only way across for cars between the Astoria-Megler bridge and the Lewis & Clark bridge between Longview, Washington and Rainier, Oregon.

    Cars and motorcycles crowded on the Wahkiakum Pulling away from Puget Island Crossing the main channel of the Columbia Mill at Wauna used by many ferry commuters Get aboard now or what an hour for the next ride!
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    • Motorcycle
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip

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    Getting away from the crowds

    by hindu1936 Written Sep 24, 2011

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    For those who have eagerly awaited the magnificent insights I am sure I would have given as we traveled around the world, that trip was postponed. Some idiot who has the gall to call himself a cardiologist said I was not sleepy when I fell down but had had a massive heart attack. Idiot then said I should rest, blah blah. So after giving him all of my bubble gum wrappers, two paper clips and my can of Copenhagen, he shrugged and opted for the other hand with my money. So, we are back to working 6 days a week and saving again. In the meanwhile, we went fishing for a few weeks this past summer. It was wonderfully peaceful. Eastern Oregon always is. More than 10 people in one spot is a crowd. We visited some of the old friends, saw places where I had fished as a child, camped out, ate well and rested a lot. I am well, healthy and ready to go when the bank notifies me that I have the 85 cents saved needed for the airfare. Probably in June of 2012.
    The distances between towns and fuel in E. Oregon can be enough to get you stranded and don't count on a passing vehicle to stop. In 129 miles we saw one car. Between Adell and Denio --176mile, there is NO service of any kind. no houses, no phones, nothing. take water, gas, blankets, and make sure your cell phone is charged. You might get lucky and get a connection. There are numerous lakes and all of them are good fishing except the one I went to. I caught one fish. Lake Paulina. The Dept of fish and wildlife has put in fish eagle nest poles, and there are ducks, rabbits, coyotes, all around. Not too far is Summer Lake with lodging, mud baths, etc. Campgrounds are never crowded.

    The nerve wracking traffic jam east of LaPine, Or It was too cold but I did catch one. An eagles nest USDFW Summer Lake Hot Springs Camping west of Adell.
    Related to:
    • Camping
    • Budget Travel
    • Photography

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    Empire Builder

    by etfromnc Written Nov 24, 2009

    As a long time lover of trains, I often lament the decline of railroad travel in the US but during my Lewis & Clark reminiscence, I got to ride part of one of the last great railroad routes left in our vast country. I thought first about driving and then even thought about hitchhiking along the return path of the Lewis & Clark Expedition but finally decided to approximate their route back to southeastern Washington by taking the train. A great decision!! It was faster than driving and probably safer than hitchhiking but slower than flying, except that there is no commercial air service between Portland and Pasco, Washington. Modern trains provide very smooth, quiet rides, although I really used to enjoy the rhythmic "clickety-clack" of iron and steel as wheels rolled over rails. The Portland Amtrak station is near the north end of town and is a beautiful and historic building, but I cannot understand why the free bus service ends about two blocks from the terminal. The ride from Portland to Pasco took just over four hours, much of which was along the shores of the beautiful Columbia River. You can also watch for at least a half hour as Mt Hood approaches, passes, and then recedes toward the sunset. (The week that I was there, there were three climbers lost on Mt Hood so I concentrated my gaze upon the mountain with sure certainty that I would find at least one of them as we glided by.) The topographic and geological metamorphasis from coastal plain to foothills of the Rockies may also be an item of interest as you flow eastward and upward. The total fare for this trip in May of 2006 was $33, much cheaper than a rental car.

    Related to:
    • Budget Travel
    • Family Travel
    • Trains

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    driving around Oregon is a joy

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 29, 2009

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    The United States is no front runner in the world of mass transit and while Portland is one of the few cities in the country to buck that trend, getting around the state is not much better than elsewhere in the US. This is especially true if you want to visit scenic areas like National Parks.

    We were on a six month camping trip around the western US so a car was very much a necessity. Typical distances: Portland to Seattle-175 miles/2.5 hours. Portland to San Francisco-600 miles/10 hours. Portland to Oregon Coast-70 miles/1.5 hours.

    Roads are generally not crowded and well-maintained. It is a pleasure to drive around this beautiful state.

    drive around Crater Lake
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    • Camping
    • Road Trip
    • Budget Travel

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    Ride the Astoria Trolley

    by wkmoku Written Oct 30, 2008

    The Astoria Trolley is a good place to start or stop, whether you first arrive in Astoria, or you've been there all day. The Trolley is not only a good deal, but a great venue for you to learn about Astoria, where to go, where you might eat dinner, what to see and do. The Volunteer Conductors are very nice, will stop the Trolley just about anywhere. The trolley safely navigates this small river side town. There are many stops where you can get on and off all day, or pay a for a single ride. Locals and tourist happily wave at Trolley passengers from outdoor cafes, the piers, and the streets. The best part is when the Trolley has to change direction. I won't tell you how, you will have to experience the ride. Ding! Ding! Hop aboard the Trolley, sit and let the Conductors do the talking.

    Ride the Astoria Trolley!
    Related to:
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Family Travel
    • Road Trip

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    String Of Pearls

    by IncogNeat-0 Updated Jan 28, 2008

    January 2008

    It has often been said (by myself) that it is not possible to design an entirely utilitarian object without at the same time creating a work of art. "Jeweled clasps in a wonderful string of pearls" is how Oregon's master bridge builder, Conde B. McCullough, described some of his best efforts on Oregon's section of the Pacific Coast Highway (US 101).

    This "string of pearls" has been much in the news in recent months. It has been getting most of the print, but all of McCullough's 600 or so statewide masterpieces are beginning to show fair wear & tear. Some of the little used backwater bridges are almost certain to be blocked off & abandoned entirely for lack of funds.

    I would guess from some of the superstructure & underpinning Google pix show of the MuCullough Memorial Bridge (Coos Bay) that MuCullough was a very pious man. It may even be why that particular bridge was selected to be renamed in his honor.

    ELEGANT ARCHES, SOARING SPANS by Robert W. Hadlow ~ Recently updated.

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    Coast Highway 101

    by IncogNeat-0 Updated Jan 28, 2008

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    January 2008

    There isn't any sun most of the time. Oregon has some of the best beaches in the world, but wind & water suck. Stay in the car. Enjoy the scenery.

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer on the Oregon Coast." As a consequence, it is not my favorite place, and if the weather is good, traffic may be bumper to bumper. Summer does not really start in Portland until after the Portland Rose Festival in early June, when it rains on our parade more often then not, and coast weather is usually a tad worse then inland.

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    I-5 is Borrrrrrring!!!!

    by IncogNeat-0 Updated Jan 28, 2008

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    Janurary 2008

    Interstate 5 will put you to sleep in a trice. Take the old route, US 99, whenever possible for a more realistic appreciation of countryside & cityscape, and you will be more apt to meet real people, not cardboard cutouts common to the tourist trade everywhere. Oregon, unlike Washington or California, is entitled to two 99's. Heading North it splits into 99E & 99W at aptly named Junction City, just north of Eugene.

    Barber Boulevard is the 99W western southbound escape exit from Portland; McLoughlin Boulevard is the 99E eastern southbound PDX escape exit.

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    Hire a car to roadtrip through Oregon.

    by worldkiwi Written Jan 10, 2007

    I hired a small Toyota sedan in Seattle from Hertz. I actually booked my car from home, through my travel agent. Home is New Zealand and the cost of the rental was considerably cheaper than if I had hired it over the internet directly with Hertz in the US!
    Driving on the other side of the road can be a bit odd at first (if you're from the Commonwealth - except for Canada). You get used to it, however. American drivers (or those in the Pacific Northwest anyway) are also very considerate and patient, though they go pretty fast on the motorways (freeways).
    Having a car allows total freedom and I absolutely enjoyed my roadtrip from Seattle to San Francisco. By the end of the trip I didn't want to give up my nice little car!
    One thing to be wary of on American roads is truck tyres. They are often left inconsiderately on roads and make nasty driving obstacles. Apart from that, American roads are wonderful to drive on, especially highways like 101 down the Oregon Coast.

    My trusty steed down the Pacific coast.
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    Plan Of Searching For Parking

    by mcpangie Updated Apr 15, 2005

    The parking is horrible. I had to drive for upwards of 15+ minutes to find parking that was still blocks away from where I needed to be.

    As you can see, some people didn't care about no parking zones. I saw a lady who had been at Nordstrom's grab off her parking ticket and just stuff it in her bag like she planned it.

    The Fish Car
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    Biking, biking, biking...

    by moremaga Written Sep 23, 2004

    Portland has some nice places to ride bike. There is a loop around the waterfront area that goes on both sides of the river. If you like mountain biking thre are trails around Forest Park in the NW hills area.

    Related to:
    • Cycling
    • Study Abroad

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Oregon Hotels

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