A visit to unknown scenic places in Central Oregon with a sense of adventure, road trip and RV stay experience.
I had found Smith Rock State park online which had an average rating of 4.9 stars with over 700 reviews. I looked at the pics and decided to visit it along with few other places around. I originally planned it for New Year’s eve but when I shared the plan with a hiker friend, she asked if we could go on the coming weekend (12/16/2017) and I agreed. I was quite impressed with the way she packed the food for us, not only she carried enough stuff to feed for 4 people, she ensured the freshness by storing it with the ice packs in a big carton. We left Seattle on Friday night and reached our Airbnb RV camper for the night. I had booked it since it was economical and also gave an opportunity to get a feel of an RV. I immediately fell in love with the amenities, space, ambience and enjoyed my short one night stay.
Day 1: Along the Columbia river, snow drive and Smith Rock State Park
We started our day with driving east to Vista House where we had amazing misty views of the Columbia river and the banks. We visited Multnomah falls and could see it only from a distance. I was aware of the closures in the area due to the summer fire, so I didn’t expect much anyway but still wanted to drive through the area which was a long pending one. But the weather held up quite nice and we had a nice time exploring the areas. A train route between the mountains and river caught my eye which immediately made it to my bucket list. We reached the junction of Hood river and drove south from there on. The towering Mt Hood looked stunning and that was the closest view I had of that mountain. We gained elevation while passing beside it and had an exciting snow drive before reaching the barren lands of Central Oregon. It was a stark contrast from the snow covered trees but my awe still maintained. It was very soothing to see variety of terrains en-route Smith Rocks state park. It was around 1:30 PM by the time we reached the park and we had lunch on the bench overlooking the tall rock face. It was clear and sunny yet quite cold. Glancing the top of the rock face, I wished to climb to the top. Fellow hikers there told us it was not that a lengthy hike, so we aimed for the top. A river bordered most of the rocky hills and the scenery was mesmerizing throughout the hike. We could see climbing hooks at many places and few climbers too. Once at the top, the distant snow mountains were visible. We were still not quite at the true top, so we scrambled around to get there. I was extra careful since I was still recovering from my recent ankle sprain but I thoroughly enjoyed the scrambled. This place was a scramblers and climbers playground. We explored more of the place by inching towards the edges at various places. There was one peculiar formation called Monkey face which was a thin rock tower with climbing hooks. We spent quite sometime figuring how to get down and finally decided to descend from the opposite side. It was sunset time and the Sun had painted an array of colors on the sky. It was a soothing walk back along the river and it was dark by the time we reached the car. It was a fantastic day with misty/snowy morning, sunny afternoon and a colorful evening. I ended it with a dip in the hot outdoor Jacuzzi at the motel.
Day 2: Painted hills, scenic drive, Mt Hood and Wind Mills
Painted hills was also a long time bucket list entry and I had thought that the hills looked so vibrant only in the photos. It was time to check out and we started for the hills after the breakfast. We saw few colored hills en-route and stopped for a quick survey. We then drove to the main area and were enthralled to see the bright shades of red on the hills. I think it looked exactly or even more beautiful with the plain eyes. Sun was out while we did a short hike to the overlook. The plains, deltas and hills looked so different that I imagined a mini world to be out there. It was also interesting to read about the geography – Apparently the hills were formed due to the settling of the volcanic ashes. I had seen a boardwalk between the red hills online, so I scouted all through the park and finally found it at the 4th attraction. It was not so shiny and vibrant but still a decent walk. There we could see more colors from the palette. We left the place after fully taking in whatever we could and started our drive back to Seattle where we were gifted with one of the most beautiful drive.
The stretch from Painted hills to Biggs junction in North was marked as Oregon scenic byway and we just happened to take that route. The first part was through a hilly semi-barren terrain and then through the fields. My favorite view of the evening was one with the fields and Mt Hood in the horizon – it just felt peaceful and idyllic. Shortly after we could see more mountains in the distance and there was a marker which pointed to the visible mountains. Then the wind mills started popping one by one and soon went beyond our counts. We saw the blinking red lights from the mills in dark and they were all over the place. Everything came together perfectly and the drive turned out be magical. We had driven for 8.5 hours for the day and I hardly felt it partly because I slept once it was dark. It was a fantastic weekend in Oregon finding the hidden gems.