As a lover of wine, farm-to-table food and adventures in nature, I was struck by the wealth of things to see and savor in Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Although a sophisticated region of Oregon that produces some of the world’s best pinot noir, it is also a relaxing destination with many small towns to explore. Oregon’s Willamette Valley spoils visitors with its decadent landscapes and simple pleasures.
Trail of Ten Falls
I was really excited for my hike along the Trail of Ten Falls. Located in the Central Willamette Valley near Salem at the Silver Falls State Park, this spectacular display of Mother Nature is known as the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system. The hike isn't too difficult but will definitely get your heart pumping. The 11 km trail includes 10 waterfalls and even allows you to walk behind the 53-metre-tall waterfall located at the famous South Falls section! I was completely swept up by the beauty of this magnificent place.
Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Fall State Park, Oregon
Willamette Valley Vineyards
After a great hike, I decided to check out one of the wineries in the region famous for its world-class pinot noir. Willamette Valley Vineyards is a very chic place, where an entire afternoon or evening can be spent enjoying the property’s beautiful tasting room, foodie-focused menu and fantastic patio. I had such a beautiful walk throughout the vineyards among the grape vines. I then headed up to the tasting room for some exceptional pinot noir – rated over 90 points! – paired with some yummy small plates, in particular a delicious crab and artichoke spread. I was in heaven here!
Entrance to Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon
Albany and Brownsville: Small-town Charm
There is so much history, charm and culture to see that is specific to this region. A lovely little town that demonstrates this beautifully is Albany. Founded around 1848, it is filled with parks, hiking trails along the Willamette River and some beautiful historic architecture. My favourite venue to see is the Historic Carousel and Museum, where artists within the community are working with local sponsors to create sculptures for the Albany carousel. A kindly gentleman took the time to explain the entire process and even taught me how to use the carving tools required to create such beautiful sculpted installations. I had never seen anything like it in my life. This was really special and not to be missed.
Downtown Brownsville is another nearby historic town that has beautiful architecture and cool little shops to check out. Be sure to take a walk over the Calapooia River Bridge right into downtown for some shopping and lunch.
Master Carousel Carver in Albany, Oregon
Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway
Cyclists should take the opportunity to ride the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway from Wilsonville to Eugene. This is the first official scenic bikeway in the United States, offering spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains and the coastal range. I loved seeing all of the farms with animals grazing happily in the grass. As I biked along the route, the farm fields stretched out before me with old barns and houses.
This region of Oregon is lush and romantic in its temperament, yet relaxed in its tone and vibe. Be sure to plan a vacation here. There is so much to discover and savour!
Barn along Willamette Scenic Bikeway, Oregon