The Second Edition of Willamette Week’s Oregon Summer Hits Stands This Week

You can find the budget-conscious guide in more than 650 locations across the Portland metro area.

Steelhead Falls (Fontaine Rittelmann)

I didn’t expect much when I stepped onto the trail to Steelhead Falls.

If that sounds like waterfall snobbery…well, it probably is. We Oregonians are spoiled with a wealth of falling water, so how great could this 20-foot cascade really be? After all, Steelhead Falls never makes the list of must-visit Central Oregon landmarks like Smith Rock, Tumalo Falls and Lava River Cave. And the hike in—just a half-mile long—begins with a dull landscape of brown hills dotted with scrubby junipers at the trailhead.

Still, a sense of curiosity nudged me onto the path and, in just a few dozen feet, I realized how much I’d underestimated this stretch of land.

Flat at first, the trail quickly drops into a craggy rimrock canyon, bringing the Deschutes River into view. Before that, though, your eyes are drawn upward—caught by the cliff walls’ deep grooves in an ever-changing array of earth tones. It’s as if someone cut open the world’s tallest cake to show off its impressive layers. Then, of course, your eyes are drawn down toward the water, which dazzles in shades ranging from turquoise to powder blue.

I heard this hike’s most memorable moment before I saw it, when a giant splash pulled my gaze to a spot in the river where a bald eagle emerged with a fish in its claws. This scene felt so rare and significant my heart did a little flip. Even the two anglers nearby in the water, who were also trying to snag dinner, couldn’t help but let out a “whoop!” for the bird.

That’s the thing about our part of the world: Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something swoops in—quite literally at times—and surprises.

That spirit inspired this second edition of Oregon Summer, Willamette Week’s guide to getting the most out of the sun-soaked season by means of a series of trips to widely varying destinations throughout the state and across the Columbia River in Southern Washington. You can find it now in more than 650 locations—newsstands, bars, restaurants, hotels, grocers and convenience stores—across the Portland metro area. Look for it to be added to our website in the coming weeks.

This year, given stubborn inflation and concerns about the economy, we’ve designed our getaways with your budget top of mind. We want you to enjoy a carefree season without breaking the bank while you’re at it.

That’s why you’ll find more day trips in this issue—places that take less than an hour to get to, but feel a world away once you’re there—like a sprawling bird sanctuary in Ridgefield, Wash., and McMinnville’s charming, all-American Main Street.

Don’t have extra money to blow on gas? A number of these locations are accessible by transit, including Troutdale, the splashy gateway to the Columbia Gorge. Our trip to Portland’s western suburbs can be navigated entirely by MAX, proving you can get out of town for the price of a day pass and take advantage of free attractions.

If you’ve got a little more room in your budget for overnight travel, we’ve got options in this guide that will help stretch your dollar. For instance, in Tillamook, you’ll find complimentary samples of quality cheese at not one but two creameries, as well as acres of nearby wetlands, forests and sand to roam, and cheap pints of cold beer. Meanwhile, Bingen, Wash., is home to affordable luxury at The Society Hotel, where you get access to all its amenities for a fraction of the price by booking a bunk room.

And when you’re in the mood for some high desert scenery, skip Bend and head instead to Redmond, where the prices are a little cheaper and the main drag is a lot less clogged. But the spectacular view of Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters is on the horizon here, too—enjoyed with a cocktail at a rooftop bar. A stay in Redmond also means you’re a mere 20-minute drive from that spectacular trek to Steelhead Falls.

Once you’re back in Portland, we’ve included a few additional ways to squeeze the most out of summer in these pages. Sign up for one of the five featured tours, where you’ll learn something new about the city or gain appreciation for an overlooked neighborhood.

And on each trip, we’ve offered a suggestion for the best ice cream because: summer.

Whether you’re on a trail, sidewalk or river this summer, keep your eyes out for the unexpected—be it winged or otherwise. You never know what you’ll discover.

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