I’ve been to a few parts in Oregon, but haven’t really discovered it too much. I wasn’t sure what all there was to do, so I haven’t made it a priority. After visiting Salem, Oregon, I have to say I was wrong. Oregon is full of beautiful places to hike, waterfalls to see, and places to relax.
Almost every time I drove somewhere I pulled off the side of the road to take a picture of something that amazed me. You could spend so much time discovering everything there is around here, but this is a short guide on how to explore the outdoors in Salem!
Silver Falls State Park
This park is beautiful, and you can either choose to just walk a little bit to see the waterfalls or do a hike several miles long each way. You can stop in the South Falls, walk behind the waterfall, and then continue on a trail that will take you to the North Falls. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the waterfalls!
After seeing the falls in the morning, head over to Mill City for some river kayaking. This quaint little town may look like there’s not much to do, but wait until you get in the river with eNRG Kayaking.
After a quick lesson about how to navigate in the rapids, we were off. Usually when I kayak I try to avoid water getting in, but there’s no way to avoid that going down rapids. It was exhilarating to make it through parts of the river that were moving so fast I didn’t think I’d be able to get through. Kayaking on a calm lake isn’t going to be half as exciting now!
Opal Creek Trail
While much of the Salem area is forested, to really get out there for a hike you’ll want to go to the Opal Creek Trail. It’s a little over six miles round trip and provides you with so much to look at, you almost forget you’re exercising.
This area used to be an old mining town and you can see remnants of it along the trail. Once you get a little over halfway through the trail, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. The houses from the old mining town in the 1920s are still standing and are now used for a summer camp.
The main gem of the hike are the amazingly blue waters of Jawbone Flats and Opal Creek. Unfortunately, my pictures made it turn out more green than blue, but the water is crystal clear. There’s also plenty of waterfalls along the way to stop and get pictures of.
I had a hard time staying focused on my trip because I kept stopping every 10 minutes to take pictures! This part of Oregon has so many rivers, bridges, and lakes that are just asking to get their picture taken. Take the time to drive around and see what you find.
For healthy food that actually tastes good, stop at Gather in Silverton. It was hard to choose from all the options, but I ended up with the quinoa and tofu salad. It was so filling that I could hardly finish it. When you’re done, there’s plenty of shops to walk around downtown.
If you go kayaking, you’ll want to stay in Mill City to fill up on some pizza. Giovanni’s is just behind eNRG Kayaking, so walk up the hill to place your order. I loved that it was filled with families who were laughing and couples who were also on a road trip. In the summer, grab a table outside to enjoy the weather.
If you’re going hiking, get takeout from Little Lois Cafe. They give you an insulated bag to take your meals on the go and have almost every dietary option you can think of, from vegan to gluten-free. After my long hike at Opal Creek, I couldn’t wait to eat my lunch.
Where to Stay
After a day of adventure, you’ll be ready to relax. Book a room at the Rushing River Retreat for a unique glamping experience. The one I stayed in had electricity, but others don’t so you can really feel like you’re camping. The couple that owns it is incredibly nice and the lady even hugged me as soon as I got there. It’s located right on the river, hence the name, which was exactly the view I wanted as I read by the river.
When I work on my computer, I always listen to music. This was the first time in years I didn’t need to do that because the sound of the river was so mesmerizing. I slept great, and in the morning was greeted with warm banana pancakes. If you’re driving through Salem, I highly recommend staying here.
For another very different experience, you should spend some time at Breitenbrush Hot Springs. The best way I can describe it is an adult summer camp that focuses on health. It’s up in the forest away from anything else, so it’s incredibly quiet.
There are a variety of places to stay, but I fell in love with these tiny log cabins. Even though you were surrounded by other cabins, I hardly ever heard anyone else. It poured the night I got there, which was the perfect lullaby to put me to sleep in the already comfortable bed. I was so relaxed that I slept in until 8:30 AM (I’m normally wide awake as soon as the sun comes up)!
They have their own hiking trails you can go on during the day. I loved that you didn’t even have to drive to get to them. Another big draw of the place is the hot springs you can go in. I will give you fair warning though – clothing is optional here! You can also go to the sauna to relax. It’d be fun to book a cabin here with a group of friends.
I couldn’t believe how much outdoor activities they had to do in such a short drive outside of the city. I loved exploring the Salem area and plan on coming back!
What are your favorite outdoor activities to do when you travel?
This post was in partnership with Travel Salem, but all opinions are my own.
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