Outdoor Activities and Adventures in Willamette Valley

Outdoor Activities and Adventures in Willamette Valley
The Pacific Northwest’s gorgeous Willamette Valley is a veritable paradise for nature lovers. With its endless outdoor activities, beautiful landscapes, lush forests, flowing rivers, luxurious wine vineyards, and trendy breweries, the Willamette Valley offers countless opportunities to enjoy the world outside. Debbie Brand, a local real estate expert, has provided a detailed list of the top things to do in the Willamette Valley. Read on to learn about some of the most fun activities in this picturesque valley.

Wineries and vineyards galore

Perhaps more than anything else, the Willamette Valley is recognized worldwide for its exceptional wineries and vineyards. Wine tastings and vineyard tours are unmissable experiences and absolutely rank among the top outdoor activities in the Willamette Valley. The valley is a wine-lovers paradise with over 750 vineyards to its name. The region is known for its pinot noir, with several wineries providing tastings of the famous grape variety.

Renowned wine regions within the Willamette Valley include the Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, and Eola-Amity Hills, promising picturesque scenery. A few of the area’s fantastic local wineries include the award-winning Cardwell Hill Cellars in Philomath, Lumos Wine Co., Harris Bridge Vineyard, and Willamette Valley Vineyards. Each is superbly run and a great place to kick back, relax, and explore at your own pace.

The abundance of local growers comprises vineyards with cozy tasting rooms, live music, and wine-adjacent businesses. From rustic wine tours at Willamette Valley Tour to wine walks in Portland, the local vineyards have become one of the valley’s defining features.

Cross-country recreation

The Willamette Valley boasts endless trails, each offering tremendous opportunities for immersion in the great outdoors along with stunning views. With warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters, Willamette Valley is ideal for outdoor adventures at any time of the year.


The valley’s plant life is sustained by frequent rain that consolidates in sparkling waterways and waterfalls. Head to the Willamette River Greenway trail for a scenic trek by the riverside. The beloved Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park brings adventurers past beautiful waterfalls and through dense forests. Locals love Mary’s Peak (the tallest mountain in the Oregon Coast Range) for its panoramic views and endlessly beautiful hiking trails. The most intrepid adventurers can go white-water rafting and visit the valley’s many waterfalls.

Skiing and snowboarding

During winter, skiing and snowboarding take center stage. Willamette Pass Resort, at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, boasts a total skiable area of 555 acres and 29 trails. Just east of Portland, Mount Hood is famous for its year-round skiing and snowboarding excursions. And closer to Eugene, Mount Bachelor is another excellent place to catch a thrill as you ski or snowboard down the slopes. Its 56 kilometers of top-tier snow trails give way to exciting mountain biking and hiking trails in the offseason.

Biking and cycling

Famous for its bike-friendly culture and lovely cycling routes, the Willamette Valley provides plenty of adventure for those who love the sport. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway extends 130 miles through the charming countryside, offering magnificent views of vineyards and elegant towns. Area bikers relish taking a breather at the many wineries, breweries, and farm stands lining the Bikeway. There’s even a cycling wine tour where you can sample wine selections as you cruise along the winding hills and roads. Meanwhile, mountain bikers flock to Oakridge, where singletrack and downhill trails abound through the Willamette National Forest.

Horseback riding excursions

Equestrians can trot through many of the valley’s beautiful trails on horseback. Riders of all experience levels are welcome at stables like Willamette Coast Ride in Carlton and Yarnhill’s Fiddlestix Ranch, where you’ll find guided trail rides that promise endless fun for the whole family. You can even tour wineries by horseback courtesy of Carlton-based Equestrian Wine Tours.

Water sports

The Willamette River flows through the Willamette Valley and provides a wealth of opportunities for aquatic recreation. Residents are often seen kayaking and canoeing on the weekends, enjoying and exploring the river. Tackle a boating or fishing trip at the E. E. Wilson Wildlife Area or Fern Ridge Reservoir.

Admiring the flora and wildlife

A lush green plain bordered on three sides by mountains, the Willamette Valley hosts abundant and diverse wildlife. The valley saw gradual industrialization following its inclusion on the famous Oregon Trail. Lumber industry notwithstanding, the valley remains a forester’s dream, populated with Douglas Firs and other conifers, the youngest being over 100 years old. Even residential areas like Salem are graced with abundant trees, from towering elms to stately oaks.

Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts adore the Willamette Valley for the premium its residents place on wildlife preservation. Birders can find waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge — the perfect place for a hiking trip or a photography session in nature. Check out Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, a historically beautiful region that serves as a wintering habitat for the Canada goose. William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is another incredible sanctuary for endangered species. Besides birds, you might also spot deer, beavers, elk, reptiles, and various amphibians at these refuges.

Camping and RVing

The Willamette Valley is a haven for camping and RV adventures. The region has numerous public and private campgrounds where outdoorsy types can spend their evenings underneath a canopy of stars. Silver Falls State Park features looping hiking trails, shimmering waterfalls, campsites, and over 35 miles of backcountry paths for equestrian use, hiking, and mountain biking. Willamette Mission State Park promises endless recreation, with 1,300 acres of stunning landscape, bike paths, equestrian trails, and lakeside shores. Champoeg State Heritage Area in St. Paul is another popular camping destination along the Willamette River.

Hot air ballooning

Hot air balloons offer one of the best vantage points of the Willamette Valley. You can book a ride with local companies like Vista Balloon Adventures and Portland Rose Hot Air Balloons for a thrilling experience as you soar through the sky. Relish the view from above, taking in the valley’s glorious landscapes, vineyards, and countryside scenery.

Truffle hunting adventures

Yes, it’s true — you can hunt for truffles in Willamette Valley. Companies like Prestige Wine Tours will take you deep into the forest on a proper truffle hunt led by a trained truffle dog. Guests find this to be a memorable, hands-on, and educational experience to find this elusive fungi species. Not only will you discover all there is to know about the art and science of truffle hunting, but you’ll also get to eat and keep truffles.

Explore the lavender farms

Journey into the fragrant, soothing world of lavender by touring the valley’s lavender farms. Wayward Winds Lavender Farm in Newberg offers tours and operates charming shops selling lavender products, essential oils, and tasty treats. From lavender syrup to spice blends and bath bombs, you can find unique gifts for your loved ones here. Touring a lavender farm is a unique sensory experience where you can spend the afternoon strolling the rows of blooming lavender and learn about their cultivation and varieties.

Team up with a professional

Are you ready to move to the Willamette Valley and explore its outdoor wonders? Contact trusted broker Debbie Brand to get started on your journey.

I am renowned for the exceptional service and goal-oriented approach she brings to her clients. With my assistance, you can find beautiful homes varying from spacious Victorians to quaint farmhouses on the Willamette Valley real estate scene. Now is the time to make your dream move to the Willamette Valley and enjoy the treasured outdoor experiences and adventures this close-knit community knows and loves. Reach out to me today!

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock


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