All the Cool "Secret" Portland-Area Spots People Don't Want You To Know About

The places people get the maddest about sharing.

Part of what we do is tell people about cool stuff.

Not everyone likes this. For most of the cool stuff we post, we get one Facebook comment that gets an obscene amount of likes that says, "STOP TELLING PEOPLE WHERE THE GOOD STUFF IS, WILLAMETTE WEEKLY!"

But we like telling you about the good stuff, so here's some of the cool "secret" spots Portlanders (usually the ones who claim native status) don't want you to know about.

1. Bagby Hot Springs

Two and a half hours from Portland: From I-205, take exit 12A to OR-212 E/OR-224 E toward Clackamas. Drive east on highway 224 through Estacada. Just past the Ripplebrook Guard Station, the highway turns into Road 46. Follow this for four miles to the junction of Road 63, turn right and travel four miles to Road 70. Turn right and follow Road 70 for six miles to the Bagby Trailhead. The walk is 1.5 miles. $5 per person.

People get very territorial about this popular hot swimming hole. OK, so it's not really a normal swimming hole—don't dare plunge your head under this magma-hot water—but given Oregon's, ahem, very temperate summers, it's a nice option on a cool June day. The water comes out of the ground boiling hot and is fed through a system of log "pipes" into private log "tubs" inside log shacks made from timber in the dark and drippy forest surrounding these remote springs. Saturated rays pouring through high-pass filter look hyper-real, and even the odd dogs owned by odd people who congregate here seem like they popped out of the Great Northwest Novel.

2. McMenamins Kennedy School

5736 NE 33rd Ave, 503-249-3983,

Despite being part of the vast McMenamins empire, everyone feels like Kennedy School is their own secret soaking pool. Kennedy School is an adult wonderland for those with the power of imagination to make it one. Where is a better place to tackle head-on the ghosts of all your scolding public school teachers than in a warren of bars and guest rooms made up to be a perfect facsimile of your own elementary school? Where else can you bathe in a pool-sized hot tub, then go see a movie, then go chain smoke cigars without putting shoes on? (OK, you probably have to wear shoes, but still.) The nearly $6 beers are the price you pay to keep the staff quiet.


3. Blue Lake Regional Park

20500 NW Marine Drive, Fairview. 503-665-4995, 8 am-sunset daily. $5 parking.

If you like: Glamping, waxed F-150s, birthday BBQs.

Pro tip: Go via Marine Drive for a scenic ride; take I-84 if you need to buy floaties from Target.

Blue Lake Regional Park is a near-perfect circle of manicured fields and paved walking paths bordering the man-made lake. It is the type of nature area with a paved fountain area, so kids can get wet without dirtying their feet. For summer sports, it's unbeatable, which is why people get angry when we tell more people to go there. Every soccer, baseball and volleyball area has a bathroom, covered barbecue patio and beach within sight. Kids have their pick of sandboxes, play structures and a sandy swimming area, while parents barbecue, play disc golf or fish. Don't let the many monster trucks and toddlers in the sandbox deter you; there's plenty of space.

4. The Skidmore Bluffs

2206 N. Skidmore Ct.

Yes, it's an officially designated city park called Mocks Crest, patrolled by park rangers. Yes, seemingly half of North Portland is up here every time the sun sets, making disgusting goo-goo eyes at each other in the soft light while staring out at horizons beyond the trainyards. No matter. Every time we mention the Skidmore Bluffs in the paper, we get e-mails asking us to stop ruining Portland—because for some reason, no matter how many people come to the Skidmore Bluffs, each one who comes for the first time believes it belongs to them and them alone.

This, perhaps, is the magic of the Skidmore Bluffs—their ability to inspire anger.

5. Lewis and Clark State Park

1 Jordan Road, Troutdale, 503-695-2261. 6 am-10 pm daily. Free.

If you like: Shade, wading, families with juice boxes.

Pro tip: The gravel parking lot closest to the freeway looks shitty, but it has shade. The swanky, paved lot farther down does not.

At the convergence of the Columbia and Sandy rivers, Lewis and Clark is the ideal ending point for a long day's float. The whole park is 54 acres of camp spots and hiking trails leading up to Broughton Bluff. You're here for the waterfront, where realty is at a prime on hot days. Waders enjoy the shade under rickety iron bridges that crisscross over the water, and picnickers nestle into the flat, dirt spots under intertwining trees on the waterfront. While the beach is small, the water is wide, and it's 4 miles by river from Dabney Park. By this time you're a few radlers in, so sitting in the shallows sounds fine.

6. Oxbow Regional Park

3010 SE Oxbow Parkway, Gresham, 503-663-4708. 6:30 am-sunset daily. $5 parking.

If you like: Floating, sand castles, hot dogs without dogs.

Oxbow is a NorCal river beach, minus the empty Monster cans and Rainbow flip-flops. The sand is as wide as the river and perfectly flat, meaning prime sprawl area for your floating gear or if you plan to spend the day on the beach, where dogs are outlawed but kids run free. While "Sandy River" is an abbreviation of Lewis and Clark's ominous name, "Quicksand River," the winding waterway is docile here, where you can wade halfway across before getting your armpits wet.

7. Viento State Park

Take Exit 56 off Highway 30/I-84. 541-374-8811. 8 am-5 pm. $5 parking, $17 campsite.

If you like: Privacy, getting wet only up to the ankles, skipping rocks.

Pro tip: Wear real shoes. And if a train is passing, you'll wait in the parking lot to cross to the beach.

Billed as a campground, Viento may be the worst camping park in the Gorge, stuck between the freeway and active train tracks in the middle of nowhere. The swimming spot, however, is the most serene and picturesque on the Columbia's southern shores just west of Hood River. In the undiscovered cove, a full-sized teepee made of driftwood and a picnic table are the only landmarks on a beach of large, smooth rocks. The water is shallow until at least 10 feet out, where windsurfers take advantage of the consistently breezy spot ("viento" means wind in Spanish). Most days, it's empty, the panoramic view from Hood River to the Cascade Locks unimpeded by children or floaties.

8. Hood River

Hood River is a city an hour east of Portland. There's kite-surfing, vineyards and some of the state's most famous breweries. It's where Full Sail Session is brewed, for God's sake, but people don't like when we tell them to visit.

Here's where we suggest you go anyway:


707 Portway Ave., Suite 101, Hood River, 541-321-0490,

Pfriem's industrial-chic pub seems to be in a continuous state of expansion, and it isn't hard to see why. Waterfront views, beer-steamed clams and some of the best beer in the state make this a must-hit. Snack pairings run the gamut from a Pilsner with house-cut fries to the Belgian Strong Dark with bacon blue cheese dates.

Double Mountain

8 4th St., Hood River, 541-387-0042,

The best food in Hood River is nearly always at brewpubs, and Double Mountain brings its knowledge of Wyeast yeast to bear on its char-crusted, New Haven-style, brick-fired pizzas that rank highly even among Portland's best. Pair the Jersey Pie—with hot capicola and Mama Lil's peppers—with one of a raft of seasonals, whether Devil's Kriek, Pale Death Belgian Imperial IPA, or an anise-richroot beer blend for kids.

9. Mosier

Mosier is a small town near Hood River. You may know it for being the town where the oil train derailed last year. There's also a very good cidery and pizza shop that we like to tell people to go to:

Rack & Cloth

1104 1st Ave., 541-965-1457,

Yes, Double Mountain has the booze-and-pizza game locked down in Hood River. Next time, drive five miles east to a tiny cidery and pizza shop in the town of Mosier (pop. 433). The flagship cider is an admirably dry and quaffable drop called Stony Pig. The bare-bones menu listed on a posterboard is always in flux, but on our visit included a very nice hummus plate, a sturdy broccolini salad and a very nice pizza of roasty eggplant, feta and basil.

10. Astoria

Astoria is a beach town that's recently gotten very hip. We found a bunch of cool stuff there for our 2016 Coast Guide, which received lots of angry responses, particularly for one article titled: "Secret Beaches, Hidden Features and Easter Eggs of the Oregon Coast. #SryNotSry.

Here are cool things to do in Astoria and on the North Oregon Coast anyway.

Snap a selfie in front of the Goonies House…

368 38th St., Astoria. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365.25 days a year.

The people who bought Mikey's house are sick of visitors. After hordes descended on the Goonies House for the film's 30th anniversary, owner Sandi Preston tells anyone who'll listen she'd prefer that fans stop parking in her neighborhood and traipsing over to her driveway to take a selfie in front of her Victorian, which looks pretty much exactly as it did in the film. She even got Yelp to say it's "closed." Eh, fuck it. Would Data and Chunk heed a polite request not to exercise their legal right to stand in the middle of a public street and gawk? MARTIN CIZMAR.

Put together your metal-dude starter kit…

1126 Marine Drive, Astoria, 503-468-0865, Noon-7 pm Wednesday-Sunday.

You can take the hesher out the basement, but if he's like Metal Head owner John Gentner, he'll just go and make the basement his business. Metal Head occupies a sliver of real estate in Astoria's commercial district and resembles a headbanger's subterranean man-cave, with tapestries of naked warrior women affixed to slatted wood walls, a Megadeth cassette blaring from a chunky '80s boom box and a humble marijuana plant sprouting out of a pot on the floor. Functioning as a metal-lifestyle emporium, this is where aspiring dirtbags can pick up a sleeveless denim vest, a new piece and a copy of Iron Maiden: From There to Eternity on VHS, then plop down in an old leather chair and flip through a back issue of Playboy. The vinyl selection is small, but serious aficionados of the heavy arts will surely be pleased by the discerning supply of unreadable fonts found among its racks. (There's also a section devoted to a hodgepodge of not-quite-metal items, like Rush's Caress of Steel and Onyx's "Slam" cassingle.) It all raises an obvious question: How the hell is there not a place like this in Portland—that's open to the public, at least? MATTHEW SINGER.

Go record shopping in Astoria…

1167 Marine Drive, 503-325-0268

For a town of fewer than 10,000 people, Astoria has a crazy amount of record stores. Well, it has four, but still, that's a lot given the population. Other than Metal Head, there's Commercial Astoria (1269 Commercial St., 503-701-4261), a gift shop with a small but snobbishly cool vinyl section—go here if you're looking for Nick Cave, Radiohead or Big Star. Christie's Mallternative (1167 Marine Drive, 503-325-0268) is a pawn shop hiding stacks of folk, soul and punk in its cluttered back room. And then there's Bach 'n Rock (1606 Marine Drive, 503-338-6376), a fully nonprofit operation that's funded the Spay and Neuter Association of Clatsop County for four decades. With a makeshift botanical nursery in one corner, a pungent cologne of soil and incense clogs the air, contributing to the feeling that you've stumbled into an old hippie's garage. It's a big room, with an almost overwhelming inventory of classical, classic rock and soundtrack music. It's the sort of place that feels like it has gems hidden everywhere—provided you can stop petting Bonnie, the Australian shepherd that wanders the aisles, long enough to search for them.

Quaff a Voodoo-Rita…

1114 Marine Drive, Astoria, 503-325-2233, 5 pm-close daily.

There's a new head at the Voodoo Room. He's got a bushy black beard, flat nose and sleepy eyes, and sits between a bucktoothed grotesquerie and a disembodied alien demon. A regular patron recently purchased the severed movie prop at a store in Ilwaco, Wash., and donated it to the downtown Astoria club and lounge. Now it sits among the explosion of other folksy bric-a-brac lining the bar's walls: Ouija boards and taxidermied antelope heads, kabuki masks and accordions, beaded necklaces and decorative skulls and road signs. Opened in 1980 by a chef who still spends most of his time in New Orleans, in a complex that also includes a punky cafe and movie theater, the Voodoo Room is probably the most distinctive bar on the Oregon Coast. Draped with blue curtains and lit by a faint neon glow, it has the atmosphere of a David Lynch set piece—and pretty good margaritas. On weekend nights, bands perform on the small stage in the corner. Many of them are from Portland, but if you walked in to find Dr. John and Tom Waits duetting on the True Detective theme song, it wouldn't be surprising. MATTHEW SINGER.

11. The Basement at Next Adventure

426 SE Grand Ave., 503-233-0706,

For some reason, people get angry when we tell them that a very visible outdoor store does, in fact, have a basement. The top two floors have a wealth of new gear, but look for us in the basement of used gear—some nearly new, some maybe salvageable. If you’re shopping around, it’s a must-visit given the encyclopedic collection of goods—there might be a heavily discounted sample from Arc’teryx in your size right now.

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