Oregon may not be the first state you think of visiting in March. March is the tail end of the snow season in the mountains and still a very active rainy season on the coast and it can make you wonder if it is a good idea to take a chance. We took a chance and we loved it!
Oregon has high elevated desert plateaus on the east, amazing lakes, mountain ranges, and forests through the middle of the state, and beautiful Pacific coast on the west. There are plenty of fun things to do in each of these areas everything from scenic drives to hiking, snowmobiling, ATV ride and sandboarding.
From Bend, you can hike to Tumalo Falls, visit Smith Rock State Park, Painted Hills or go snowmobiling or snowshoeing to visit some of the Cascade Lakes and go skiing on Mt. Bachelor.
On the coast there are just as many great things to do, hiking, riding ATVs on sand dunes, taking scenic drives on the coast, and stopping to see Thor’s Well, sea lion cave, Haystack Rock, and Astoria-Medler Bridge.
On the way out of Portland, you can take Historic Columbia River Hwy do a couple of easy hikes, or just stop for sightseeing of some waterfalls, the main one being Multnomah Falls. Take SR 35 out of Hood River south and enjoy great views of Mt. Hood on the way to Bend.
TOP Things To Do From Bend
Hike to Tumalo Falls
In March it is still snowing in this region and the road to the falls is closed, which means it requires a nice hike up to the falls. There is not much parking in the area where the road is closed and you may have to wait for someone to leave.
Once you are parked, it is an easy walk up to the falls, not heavily trafficked and it is approximately 6 miles out and back. The restroom is available close to the Falls viewpoint, where parking would be located during the summer months.
Visit Painted Hills
Even though this is a bit of a drive from Bend approximately 2 hrs. one way, the scenery is colorful and completely different than anything else in the Bend area. Feels more like it belongs in Utah.
Painted Hills get its name from different colors of soil: yellow, gold, black, and red depending on the light the hues can be different each time you visit. There are five short and easy hikes to enjoy at your own pace.
Crater Lake National Park
Another road trip is a 2.5 hr. drive to Crater Lake from Bend, and during winter months (Dec–March) north and west entrances are closed. Most of the hikes are covered in snow and inaccessible for hiking but walking around the lake at the visitor center is plenty rewarding on a clear day. From the visitor center, the west rim and east rim drives are unplowed and can be hiked to different viewpoints.
TIP: The lake is only visible 50% of the time so make sure if you are making a trip out here that it is on a clear day.
Smith Rock State Park
A world-famous climbing location is also a great park to hike. A combination of Chute, Misery Ridge, Mesa Verde and River Trail gives you a great feel for the park and amazing views of the Cascade mountain range. Keep your eye out for the wildlife too, we spotted two bald eagles.
Hike Deschutes River
This is an easy hike in the city of Bend along the river. The total trail length is over 12 miles, but it is easy to choose shorter segments to hike depending on if you just want to walk by the river, see waterfalls, or wined through the canyons. The five different segments of the trail are Awbrey Reach, River Run Reach, Pioneer Reach, Old Mill Reach, and South Canyon Reach.
There are many SNO-PARKS from which you can go snowmobiling if you have your own, for the tour we chose Central Oregon Adventures. At the time of our booking, they only offered a 2-hour snowmobiling tour that takes you around Mt. Bachelor and some of the most amazing views of the MT. Bachelor, Broken Top, Sparks Lake, and other highlights of the area.
By the time we visited, they started offering 4-hour snowmobiling tours on certain days of the week that go up to Elk Lake and back. If you are a first-time snowmobile driver, it is not an easy vehicle to control and it may be a better option to start off with a 2-hour experience.
Since many of the roads are closed in winter and some of the most beautiful summer hikes are not accessible in the winter, one way to see them is by snowshoeing.
Skiing Mt. Bachelor
Mt Bachelor is conveniently located right outside of Bend. It is a great spot for family skiing and not as expensive as some other ski locations.
Top Things To Do On Oregon Coast
Scenic Drive from Bend to Newport
Driving from Bend to the coast takes you through national forests with views of cascade mountains. Our path took us right between Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack with a stunning view of Mt. Washington and Black Butte. After cascade mountains and some more forests, you pass through Coastal Mountain Range and end the road trip with a view of the Pacific Ocean. If lucky you may spot some Elk and Deer.
Scenic Drive on the Oregon Coast
Any part of HWY 101 is a scenic drive. Every so many miles there is viewpoint pull out to pull over and take in the scenery. During our stay on the coast, we split our time between two different places, one in a central coastal town and one in a northern coastal town, to give us an opportunity to explore most of the coastline.
We traveled south as far as Sand Dunes outside of Florence and north all the way up to Astoria and could not get enough of the beauty.
Sand Dunes National Recreation Area
Located south of Florence, The Sand Dunes National Recreation Area stretches out for 40 miles and towers almost 500 feet above sea level. It is a great place to ride ATVs or hike through forests and dunes. Some other sand dunes in Florence are so pristine you can go sandboarding on them.
Sea Lion Caves
Located north of Florence on Highway 101 there is system of caves and caverns connected that sea lions frequent. If you take the elevator down to one of the caves you will witness a bunch of Stellar Sea Lions and California Seals hanging out and making a racket.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
This working 19th-century lighthouse is now home to a Bed & Breakfast. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean makes it picture perfect for all the visitors to stop by and find the best location to get a view of it. You can get a peak of it from the Sea Lion Cave.
Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well at Cook’s Chasm
In other words “ocean Geyser” and “ocean’s drainpipe.” These two phenomena in Cape Perpetua Scenic Area attract thousands of visitors every year.
A spouting horn is a cave through which waves funnel seawater and air, building pressure until the water explodes in a geyser-like fashion. On the other hand,
Thor’s Well is a deep hole over 20 feet deep that gives an illusion of the ocean draining as the water comes over it. There is a short trail that takes you to the beach from which you can see both wonders. It’s a must-stop while driving on Oregon Coast Highway.
God’s Thumb Trail
An amazing hike in Lincoln City approximately 5 miles out and back. Hiking all the way to the summit may not be for everyone as it does turn into a narrow ridge on the cliff, but the views of the summit and around it are stunning. Everything you need to know about this hike you can read in our Hike To God’s Thumb post.
Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain Trail
Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint can be reach from the north or south trailhead. North trailhead requires a little more elevation gain, but the landscape is a little more varied. But both offer amazing views from the summit on a clear day.
Known for its Haystack Rock and as one of the locations Goonies was filmed at, is also a cute little coastal town to visit. Lighting a bonfire on the shores of the long sandy beach while enjoying the sunset is a super popular activity.
Ecola State Park
Another location where Goonies was filmed is a state park that winds through a rainforest before merging on the coast with views of numerous rock formations and the capes and headlands. A popular location for surfers. There are a few short hikes to take in the park through the rainforest or on the beach.
Drive Over Astoria-Megler
Located at the mouth of the Columbia River stunning Astoria-Megler bridge takes you straight to Washington State. If driving over such a bridge gives you anxiety at least stop by to admire the structural masterpiece that it is. Astoria is also home to many microbreweries, as most places in Oregon are, with excellent food and a filming location of Goonies!
There is so much more to do in Oregon and we plan to return during summertime to explore more and these are just some of our highlights from our recent trip exploring Oregon in March.