Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Category: Oregon

3 Days in Oregon’s Tualatin Valley: Where to Eat, Drink and Explore

The Tualatin Valley comprises the vast area of land between Portland and the Oregon Coast. Among its rolling hills and sparse forests sit many amazing adventures including wine tasting, berry…

The Tualatin Valley comprises the vast area of land between Portland and the Oregon Coast. Among its rolling hills and sparse forests sit many amazing adventures including wine tasting, berry picking, and bike riding. Amie and I got a chance to spend three days there, and we collected our favorite spots in the below list of food, drink, and activities. Be sure to watch the video to see all of these spots and more in action and check out the Tualatin Valley yourself next time you are in Oregon.

Video

Here is a video I made of my time exploring the Tualatin Valley.

Eat

Tualatin Valley is full of great eateries scattered around the many towns along Highway 26. We tried a bunch of spots while we were there, here are our favorites.

Helvetia Tavern

Home to the jumbo burger, an old-school style cheeseburger that people drive from all over to try. Helvetia Tavern is a fun spot that seems like it is far from civilization with a relaxed atmosphere and hats hanging from the ceiling.

I recommend the jumbo burger here and the half and half onion rings and fries if you have someone to share them with (there are a lot of them).

Syun Izakaya

One of the top Japanese restaurants in the surrounding Portland area, Syun Izakaya is always busy, and it is easy to see why. The sushi here is inspired and top notch with excellent presentation and fresh fish. They also have lots of specials that change weekly, and that feature dishes like shrimp stuffed shishito peppers. It’s a small restaurant but it is worth the wait.

Oyatsupan Bakers

Oyatsupan Bakers is a Japanese breakfast spot with a selection of pastries that you pick yourself. You can find many of the traditional foods here like red bean paste and matcha inspired pastries, but you can also find donuts and croissants to go with them.

Cornelius Pass Roadhouse

Cornelius Pass Roadhouse was probably my favorite restaurant to visit in the area. The massive historic farmstead features many old barns and even a large farm home. It is two minutes off the freeway but it feels like a world away, and when you are there sitting by the fire and drinking whiskey from the Little White Shed Bar in the back you will forget you are still 5 minutes from a major city.

Be sure to plan some time for your visit here as there is a lot to explore and good food to be had at the restaurant, especially the appitizer green beans.

Ridgewalker Brewing Company

Ridgewalker Brewing Company was my favorite food spot in the area, with a menu of unique options and lots of great beers to go along with it. The interior is open and inviting with metal tones and a massive wooden table down the middle that was from one continuous cut of wood. I recommend getting one of the burgers, but my wife got the fish and chips with sweet potato fries and loved that as well.

Drink

Insomnia Coffee

Good coffee is easy to find in Portland, but it is satisfying to know that the Tualatin Valley has some as well. Insomnia is a gem in the area with fantastic lattes and great black coffee as well. We went many times during our trip and were not let down. Plus it is a cool spot to hang out, work a little or just relax.

Wine Tasting

With over 100 wineries in the area there are lots of great ones to explore, but here are a few of our favorites. Each of these wineries have fantastic views, which is what made them so great.

Alloro Vineyard

This winery feels like something you would find in Italy with a large home and views that stretch over the vineyard. It’s one of the smaller tasting rooms, but there are lots of spots outside to sit and relax with a bottle of wine.

Hawks View Cellars

Another favorite winery, Hawks View has a tasting room situated on a hill and surrounded by vines. I especially liked looking out and seeing the red barn in the distance as it was a beautiful spot for a photo. Great wine here as well with a carbonated red that was unlike anything I have had before.

Ponzi

Ponzi is the most famous of the wineries in the region, but it has earned that reputation through amazing wines. Ponzi was the last one we went to, and it was a great way to end our day of exploring with beautiful views and endless amounts of good wine. I imagine this being a fantastic spot at sunset especially (if they are open).

Sake Tasting at SakeOne

Not to be outdone by the wine, there is also a sake tasting room in Tualatin Valley. I can honestly say I have never given sake much thought in the past, but I enjoyed being able to learn more about it and find a few I liked during my tasting. It is not for everyone, but I recommend doing a flight here and seeing if you find any you like.

Do

The Tualatin Vally is an outdoor playground, with one of the best bike trails in Oregon running through it. Even without that though there are still many fun adventures to be had in the area, here are a few of my favorites.

Brew Methods Class

Dapper and Wise is the company that owns Insomnia Coffee, and they have a room for classes right next door. We took the brew methods class when we were there where they brewed the same coffee through five different methods, and we got to try the subtleties of each. It was a lot of fun to learn more about coffee and confirm my favorite method for making it. They also have a latte art class that I would love to take in the future as well.

Smith Berry Barn

Since the area is known for its fruit, be sure to head out to one of the u-pick farms. We went to Smith Berry Barn and enjoyed picking fresh strawberries (the only fruit in season when we went).

Don’t forget to feed the goats on the property as well and you do not want to leave without having a fresh berry milkshake.

Bike the Banks-Vernonia State Trail

The Banks-Vernonia Trail is 21 miles, and it was created after the removal of an old railroad line. I only biked 7 miles of it, but it was terrific with lush green trees lining the path and old train trestles you could ride over. If you get a chance, be sure to check it out and head to Banks Bicycles to rent a bike to take on the trail.

Top Golf

Top Golf has become a popular attraction around the USA, but I hadn’t done it before we came here. It was a blast, and I wish California had one as I would love to go more often. If you haven’t been, basically it is a driving range with large targets, and you compete against your friends to see who can hit the balls into the goals and score the most points. You pay by the hour and it’s a blast to play.

Rice Museum

The Rice Museum was the last attraction we went to in the area, and it is a museum of rocks, but don’t knock it until you visit. This museum is part of the Smithsonian network and it has a crazy amount of cool rocks and fossilized trees. I was blown away by how many unique rocks they had here ranging from gemstones to crystals. The fossilized trees also have a unique range of colors, and styles as well and you will want to plan at least 45 minutes to walk around and explore it all.

Stay

I stayed at the Aloft Hillsboro when I was in Tualatin Valley, a brand new hotel that is only a year old. It was a beautiful spot with large relaxing rooms and an excellent location next to many of the above spots (2 minutes from Insomnia Coffee). If you are looking for a beautiful place to stay, check it out.

So there you have it, my favorite spots in the Tualatin Valley. If you are in Portland, then be sure to get out and explore some of these places and let me know what your favorite spot is that I left off in the comments.

No Comments on 3 Days in Oregon’s Tualatin Valley: Where to Eat, Drink and Explore

Columbia River Gorge: Nine Places to Explore on Your Drive

The Columbia River Gorge is a fantastic area to explore in Oregon with a countless amount of adventures. Everything from waterfalls to dams to breweries can be experienced along this…

The Columbia River Gorge is a fantastic area to explore in Oregon with a countless amount of adventures. Everything from waterfalls to dams to breweries can be experienced along this stretch of road. Here are my nine favorite stops along the Columbia River Gorge, let me know what yours are in the comments.

Vista House

This building is over 100 years old, and it is a fantastic first stop on your way into the gorge. The views are unprecedented, and you can see why they chose this location to build the famous house. You can get a great view of it from many viewpoints around the area, or you can walk up to the second story deck and look down on the gorge. Read more about it here

Multnomah Falls

I am sure you have probably heard of the famous Multnomah Falls before, and it is worth the acclaim it receives. This two-tier waterfall is incredibly impressive in person and the old bridge that was built to give you a closer view adds to the majesty.  Be sure to go on a weekday if you can because it can be packed on the weekends.

Horsetail Falls

Located only little ways up from Multnomah, Horsetail Falls is another trendy waterfall because you don’t have to do any hiking to see it. The waterfall is about 50 feet from the parking lot, but it is still impressive and worth a quick visit.

Elowah Falls / Upper Mccord

Elowah Falls is the second tallest waterfall in the Columbia Gorge area, so it is a great stop along the drive. The waterfall is accessed by a 1 mile each way hike, which stops many people from visiting it. I have been at the waterfall by myself before, and you can’t do that at many of the other popular spots. You can extend this hike by another mile and go up to the Upper Mccloud Falls as well, which are not that tall but are still impressive.

Wahclella Falls

This waterfall is one of my personal favorites. It is accessed by a 2-mile hike as well, but the waterfall has a lot of unique viewpoints to look down on it from. It has been getting a lot more popular recently from Instagram, but on the weekdays you can still have some solitude on the hike.

Bonneville Dam

While you may not think that a dam sounds like a fun stop, this historic dam is well worth it. Seeing the powerhouse and the massive spillway is not something you see often and add to that the visitors center which has underwater windows for looking at the fish and the area becomes a unique and worthwhile stop. Hopefully, you will see the creepy lamprey fish when you are there as well, but be warned, they may give you nightmares.

Bridge of the Gods

In the Cascade Locks area of the gorge, the Bridge of the Gods is an impressive man-made attraction. You can drive across it into Washington for $2 or just park below it and look up at the imposing old bridge.

Hood River Breweries

When you get to Hood River, be sure to stop by one of its three breweries to try some craft beer. The biggest is Full Sail, but I like Double Mountain Brewery since they have good beer and great pizza. If beer is not your thing, then check out one of the many coffee shops. My favorite is Stoked.

Hood River Bridge

This is another impressive bridge on the drive. It is at least four times as long as Bridge of the Gods, and you can drive it over to Washington as well. There are a few trails down by the water that let you see the bridge from below while stretching your legs.

Rowena Crest

For my last recommendation on this drive, be sure to head over and see the famous curved road at Rowena Crest. This is another spot that has become popular because of Instagram but is still fun to see in person. There is a viewpoint that you can park at and look down on the road. I was there for a while and watched deer cross the street as well which was pretty cool. There are hikes you can take in the park, and it is a popular biking spot, but most people just look at the view.

So there you have it, ten recommendations for exploring in the Columbia River Gorge. What did I leave off this list? Let me know in the comments.

No Comments on Columbia River Gorge: Nine Places to Explore on Your Drive

Elowah Falls: Second Tallest Waterfall in Columbia River Gorge

As the second largest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, Elowah Falls 290 foot drop is an impressive sight to behold. Since this waterfall is accessed by a 2-mile round…

As the second largest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, Elowah Falls 290 foot drop is an impressive sight to behold. Since this waterfall is accessed by a 2-mile round trip hike, it is not as popular as some other ones in the gorge. That is a win for all who make the trek though as this waterfall is incredible, here is all the information.

Details

  • 1.75 miles round trip
  • 400 feet of elevation
  • Can also do Upper Mccloud Falls when there
  • Located in John B. Yeon State Park
  • Trailhead location: 62100 NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Getting There

Heading east on Highway 84, you will take Exit 35 and proceed onto Frontage Road. This road parallels the freeway, and in about 4 miles you will see the small parking area for the trailhead, right before getting back on the highway. There is a small parking lot, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Trail

After parking, make your way to the trailhead and begin the uphill journey.

The trail is shaded and beautiful with lots of greens and moss covered trees. As a Southern California hiker, this is always impressive.

It heads uphill on a series of switchbacks as you gain elevation quickly. Eventually, you will reach a split in the trail, with one direction heading to Elowah Falls and the other heading to McCord Creek Falls. I recommend doing both, and you can read about McCord Creek Falls here.

From the split, you will start heading downhill, which is where you get the additional uphill on the way back. The trail can be muddy and slippery if you go when it is raining but just take your time as you go through the downhill portion.

When the trail flattens out, you will be about 40 feet above the creek, and you will start to see the waterfall poking through in the distance. It gets more pronounced and amazing as you get closer to it.

When you reach the base of the falls, you will be in the middle of a large canyon with a large rock wall and the cascading waterfall coming down over the rocks.

It reminded me a little of how Mooney Falls fell in Havasupai; it’s just an impressive waterfall. Here is connects with another trail that you can also use to reach it, but I haven’t gone that way myself.

After taking it all in, proceed back the way you came. If you are up for it, continue to Upper McCord Creek Falls, but be ready for more uphill as this waterfall is above and behind Elowah. Read about it here.

Elowah Falls is a great hike in the Portland area and one that all nature lovers should do. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

No Comments on Elowah Falls: Second Tallest Waterfall in Columbia River Gorge

Upper McCord Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Upper McCord Creek Falls sits above the beautiful Elowah Falls and is accessed by a nice, but very much uphill, trail to a beautiful set of two parallel falls. What sets…

Upper McCord Creek Falls sits above the beautiful Elowah Falls and is accessed by a nice, but very much uphill, trail to a beautiful set of two parallel falls. What sets this waterfall apart is the fact that it has two separate cascades with a moss covered rock section in the middle. Also, since it is hard to get down to the falls, this is an awesome one to photograph without many people in it, which is rare in the Columbia River Gorge. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • 2 miles or 3 miles with Elowah Falls
  • 700 feet of elevation
  • Trailhead location: 62100 NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Getting There

Heading east on Highway 84, you will take Exit 35 and proceed onto Frontage Road. This road parallels the freeway, and in about 4 miles you will see the small parking area for the trailhead, right before getting back on the highway. There is a small parking lot, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Trail

After parking, you will leave from the same trailhead that goes to Elowah Falls. If you have the time you need to do that one as well, you can read more about it here.

The trail immediately heads up and it will go up pretty much all the way to the waterfall.

The muddy switchbacks sit under a canopy of green trees with moss covered branches. The trail is beautiful, and after about a half mile it will reach a split where the trail to Elowah Falls breaks off. From here you will head right and continue up the set of switchbacks.

Eventually, the trail crosses a series of old pipes, and you will start to break out from the tree level and get some views of the gorge behind you.

Heading on will take you to the trail carved out of a large rock wall. This part can be a little sketchy if you are afraid of heights, but it is impressive to photograph.

As you hug the rock wall, be sure to look down into the canyon below you where you can see Elowah Falls from above.

This is an impressive way to see the second largest waterfall in the gorge so don’t miss it.

After you leave the rock wall, you will be back in the forest and will be about 2 minutes from the waterfall.

The trail goes around the right side of the falls and gives you many different angles looking down on it.

The hillside is overgrown, so there isn’t any real way down to the base, which is OK since the views of the falls from here are breathtaking. I walked all around it but didn’t continue along the trail as I was not sure where else it went.

After hanging out for a while, I started the downhill hike back to the trailhead. Be sure to check out Elowah Falls if you have a chance when doing this hike as it is an impressive waterfall to see from the base. Let me know what you think of this hike in the comments.

No Comments on Upper McCord Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge Vista House

With over 100 years of history, the Columbia River Gorge Vista House is still welcoming travelers to its breathtaking views daily. This staple of the Columbia River Gorge area is…

With over 100 years of history, the Columbia River Gorge Vista House is still welcoming travelers to its breathtaking views daily. This staple of the Columbia River Gorge area is situated on a tall hill overlooking the highway and the river below. It is somewhere that you must visit on any trip along Highway 84 and here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • Parking can be tough on the weekends, but there is overflow
  • Road up to it is windy

Getting There

Driving east on Highway 84, you will get off on Corbett Hill Road and take this south, up into the hills. From here you will connect with Historic Columbia River Highway and will head east. This road will take you past the turn for the viewpoint below and eventually to the Vista House itself.

Alternate Viewpoint – Portland Women’s Forum

On the way up, make sure you pull over at the Portland Women’s Forum viewpoint. This area is across the canyon from the Vista House and it gives you an appreciation for the amazing spot the building sits on. Once you take in the views here, proceed onward for the 5 minute drive to the vista house.

The Vista House

After securing parking, proceed into the circular building where there are three floors.

The upper floor is the most popular as it has the outside deck with 180 degree views of the river below.

After checking this out, head back down to the second floor where you can see some information on the ongoing management of this building and talk to the docents.

On the lower level there is a small cafe and a gift shop if you want to grab some souvineers.

They also have a hallway of old photos that I found especially interesting as it shows many views of the building over its century of history.

After taking it all in you can continue your drive along the Columbia River Gorge. Check out some of my favorite spots here and let me know what you think in the comments.

No Comments on Columbia River Gorge Vista House

Highway 101 Washington Coast Road Trip Itinerary Day 4: Forks to Seattle

This is the last day on Highway 101, and it is mostly along the Olympic Peninsula before heading inland to Seattle. There are so many fantastic things you could do…

This is the last day on Highway 101, and it is mostly along the Olympic Peninsula before heading inland to Seattle. There are so many fantastic things you could do out on this portion of the drive, but you need multiple days to fit them all in. If you are trying to reach the Northwesternmost point, then you especially need to plan for a long day as it is about 3 hours out of the way round trip in addition to hiking. There are a lot of fun stops to see though and here are a few of my favorites. Also, note that if you are heading to Seattle, you can opt to take the ferry if you want instead of driving all the way down to Olympia and back up to complete Highway 101.

Details

  • Length: 140 Miles
  • Approximately 4 hours of driving and a ferry

Video

Here is a video with highlights of the entire trip before jumping into Day 4.

 

Rialto Beach

Before leaving Forks make sure to head out to Rialto Beach. If you are blessed to have a sunny day, which doesn’t often happen then get out there early to see the sun coming through the trees, it’s amazing. The beach is long and has lots of driftwood and rocks. You can also grab a coffee in town and head out to the beach to drink it like we did.

Twilight Movie Locations in Forks – Outfitters, City Hall, Swan House, Cullen House & Bella’s Truck

Twilight is the reason why Forks is on the map and depending on what you think of this story will determine how much you want to see the above things. You can get a map of all the spots for the visitors center, and it takes about 30 minutes to see it all.

John’s Beachcombers Museum

My favorite attraction in Forks is John’s Beachcomber’s Museum on the outskirts of town. As a labor of love from one man for over 40 years, this museum is his collection of things he has found washed up on the beach. It’s amazing and includes everything from a motorcycle to stuff that washed ashore from the Japanese Tsunami. Easily worth the $5 entry fee.

Cape Flattery – Northwesternmost Point

If you want to visit this point and see the lighthouse, then this is where you would do it. The drive out to the Cape is about an hour each way, and then there is a hike at the end. I really wanted to do it but wasn’t able to fit it in my day, let me know if you go in the comments.

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent is probably my favorite stop on this day of the drive. The huge mountain lake is stunning in beauty, and you will be driving along it for at least 15 minutes. There are multiple turn outs for hikes and view points, or you can just drive slow and take it all in.

Madison Falls

If you are looking to get out of the car, stretch and experience the national park, then be sure to stop at Madison Falls. This waterfall is .1 miles each way and it is wheelchair accessible. The waterfall itself is about 90 feet, and it is stunning.

New Day Eatery

I recommend stopping for lunch in Port Angles which has a lot of great options. I am a particular fan of New Day Eatery which has home made chips, smoothies, and great sandwiches. You can call in a to-go order or sit down in the decent sized restaurant.

Olympic Game Farm

The Olympic Game Farm is a relatively polarizing spot along this drive because it features a lot of animals in captivity. I for one enjoyed my time here though as it was very unique. You pay to drive into the park then you stay in your car and feed the animals who stick their heads into the car for food. The bears even wave as they are old show bears with each one being over 25 years old. There is a small trout aquarium here and a barn with set pieces from old Disney movies that were filmed with the animals back in the day.

Fat Smitty’s

This is a fun strange place to stop if you are hungry or if you just need a drink. They have a bunch of sculptures and statues outside and if you go inside the entire walls and ceiling are covered in dollar bills. They told me there was over 10,000 of them. It’s a crazy place for a quick stop or a burger.

From here you can continue down to Olympia and complete Highway 101, or you can take the ferry over to Seattle. I recommend the ferry as it is a long way around to go to Seattle the other way and the ferry is a lot of fun.

Ferry to Seattle

I recommend getting on the ferry at Bermington as this will take you right into downtown Seattle which is the most fun place to dock at. The ferry takes about an hour, and you drive your car onto it. Once on, you can walk around and take pictures or have a coffee. If it is clear, then you can even see Mt Rainier in the background which is amazing. As you approach Seattle head to the front of the boat so you can watch the city come into view.

Serious Pie

For dinner in the city, I would recommend heading to Serious Pie which is one of the most popular food places in the city. The pizza here is pricy but it is so good, and it has a lot of fun options like Clams, eggs, and potatoes to put on your pizza.

I would recommend exploring the city of Seattle for a few days as it has a lot to offer, but if you want to head on to the Canada border then I will be writing more about that one a later post.

Thanks for going on this 4 day road trip with me and be sure to let me know what I left off in the comments.

No Comments on Highway 101 Washington Coast Road Trip Itinerary Day 4: Forks to Seattle

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search