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Road-Tripping In Central Oregon

Updated on November 26, 2015
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Raye was born in New England, grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, spent college out West, and presently publishes Hubs from the Pacific Northwest.

At last, a new State!

After many years of traveling around Nevada with one of my best friends, we had the opportunity to do some camping in Oregon: Woo-hoo! Road-trip in a new state!

This hub is going talk mostly about Central Oregon, as that's where we did the bulk of our travel. However, we had so much fun, chances are there will be more trips in the future. We used the same formula we've used for trips in the past: easy to drive chunks of travel, low-cost campgrounds, a mix of eating out and cooking for ourselves, attractions that we both find interesting and theme music mix lists on our iPods for in the car.

The Columbia Gorge is a gorgeous part of Oregon
The Columbia Gorge is a gorgeous part of Oregon | Source

Oregon Travel

Fodor's Oregon (Full-color Travel Guide)
Fodor's Oregon (Full-color Travel Guide)

Most people approach travel to Oregon in two ways: the coast or east of the mountains. In the summer it's important to remember the coast can be breezy and damp at times, while the valleys and inlands do tend to be hot and sunny. If you need forest vistas, just about any part of the state will suit you.

For those who like an urban base from which to explore, I personally recommend Portland or Eugene as excellent starting points. Further south, Ashland makes a good place to locate while checking out wine country.


2009 was a Theme Road Trip

My friend and I were going to meet up at a camping event for an online school in which we are both enrolled. She drove to Oregon from California, and I took the train down from Washington State to meet up with her. The main event was going to be at Silver Falls State Park, where we'd be for about five days. We wanted to have a few days on the road before we both went home, so that gave us the timeframe for our road trip, and our starting point in Central Oregon.

Interestingly, as I researched places to go, the trip sort of developed a movie theme. Once we had a few spots picked, we kept looking for other movie-related places to continue the trend.

  • Salem - "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" was filmed here.
  • Silverton - location used for "Bandits" starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton
  • Silver Falls - location used for "Twilight"
  • Brownsville - location for much of "Stand By Me"
  • Sisters - location for "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues"
  • Government Camp - location of the Timberline Lodge, featured in "The Shining"
  • Portland - location for "My Own Private Idaho" and many others

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Dee Wright Observatory is made entirely from lava rockThe North and Middle Sisters MountainsThe Timberline Lodge played the exterior of the hotel from the movie "The Shining"You can see Mt Hood above the clouds from the Timberline Lodge
The Dee Wright Observatory is made entirely from lava rock
The Dee Wright Observatory is made entirely from lava rock
The North and Middle Sisters Mountains
The North and Middle Sisters Mountains
The Timberline Lodge played the exterior of the hotel from the movie "The Shining"
The Timberline Lodge played the exterior of the hotel from the movie "The Shining"
You can see Mt Hood above the clouds from the Timberline Lodge
You can see Mt Hood above the clouds from the Timberline Lodge

Our Road Trip Route

show route and directions
A markerSalem, OR -
Salem, OR, USA
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B markerSilverton, OR -
Silverton, OR, USA
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C markerSilver Falls State Park, OR -
Silver Falls State Park, Silverton, OR 97381, USA
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D markerBrownsville, OR -
Brownsville, OR, USA
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E markerMcKenzie Pass, OR -
McKenzie Pass, Blue River, OR 97413, USA
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F markerSisters, OR -
Sisters, OR, USA
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G markerMadras, OR -
Madras, OR, USA
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H markerGovernment Camp, OR -
Government Camp, OR 97049, USA
get directions

I markerPortland, OR -
Portland, OR, USA
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The Oregon Adventure

So... We started the adventure in Salem, with me arriving via Coast Starlight from Seattle. I pretty much slept most of the way, which made it go a lot faster. Once my friend and I got all my gear loaded into the car with hers, we headed slightly northeast out of Salem. Our first destination was Silverton, where our goal was to visit a local grocery store and get fresh fruits and veggies, and a big block of ice.

From Silverton it was a very short drive southeast to Silver Falls State Park. Our group has a couple of the spots in the group camp area. It was easy to find level spaces and there were great trees all about so the tents could be pitched in shady areas. This makes them much cooler in the days. No matter what type of year you go to Silver Falls, be ready for rain. We got lucky and were blessed with just a few sprinkles mostly at night.

When we left Silver Falls we saw some stunning controlled burns-in-progress. That sure made for some freshly scorched earth. From Silver Falls we went back to I-5 and headed south. Our destination was Brownsville, OR. This tiny town was used for most of the exterior scenes for the 1986 movie "Stand By Me" and they have a little festival for this in August. In summer, you can camp in Pioneer Park for just $10. Lots of people were there besides us. They have a cute, self-guided walking tour of the filming locations.

From Brownsville, we continued east into Central Oregon.  Our goal was to head over McKenzie Pass to see the Dee Wright Observatory.  The campground host at Brownsville told us that just a few weeks prior (July 21st), he and his wife had wanted to go through that pass but it was still closed for snow!  We felt that since it was August 14th, we'd take our chances and if we had to turn back and go around, so be it.  The road goddesses were with us, the pass was open AND we totally missed the striping crew at work doing repairs.  McKenzie Pass is at 5,960 ft so if you want to get out and check out the Observatory, bring a jacket!  The 360-degree views are stunning and set in the middle of a huge lava field.  It's like being on an alien planet.

From McKenzie pass we continued back down into Sisters, OR.  Cute town, lots of options for lunch, but not before 11:30am.  However we had more on our schedule that day and pressed on to Madras, heading northest out of that town to get to the Richardson Rock Ranch.  We got there a touch too late to be able to effectively dig our our thundereggs, but they've got more than enough for the rockhounding enthusiast at their shop.

From the rock ranch, we headed northwest to Government Camp and the Timberline Lodge.  Remember the huge hotel from the horror movie "The Shining?"  This is the place they shot the exteriors.  It's a huge ski lodge built in the 1930 and you can see Mount Hood above the clouds way in the distance from the front parking lot.

The last leg of our trip took us into Portland where we decided to indulge in a classic urban pleasure:  shopping at Powell's Books.  This is one of the best new and used bookstores I have ever visited and it's very easy to find yourself having spent a few hours in what seems like a few minutes.


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    • CharterJetService profile image

      CharterJetService 8 years ago

      I grew up on the coast of Oregon, Brookings, as well as having lived in Bend for several years. I have not been back in years but am going in just a few weeks. Your hub made me home sick, lol. Very nice hub and I am glad you enjoyed the experience.

    • TheMountainMan profile image

      TheMountainMan 8 years ago from USA

      Oregon, is one of those states I feel I must see, otherwise I'd feel that I was missing something special in life. Just checked out one of your ads-"Oregon Gallery", beautiful pictures! Now I know I definitely need to visit Oregon.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Been through Oregon a few times, but it has been years. Great hub.

    • myawn profile image

      myawn 8 years ago from Florida

      I would love to go there sometime when I can for a much needed vacation. A very interesting hub and nice photos. Thanks!

    • BJC profile image

      BJC 8 years ago from Florida

      Never been there but hope to someday. Great hub.

    • Tesa Adams profile image

      Tesa Adams 8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I hope to visit Oregon sometime in my life. I have always heard that it is a beautiful place and the people are super friendly. Thank you for this hub and the great photos.

    • Cathy profile image

      Cathy 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      I've moved around the globe most of my life until settling in Oregon and I'll be here till they bury me. Have you toured the coast, done some crabbing? We're heading out after Labor Day and I have a Hub brewing in my busy mind. Nice Hub!

    • E. A. Wright profile image

      E. A. Wright 8 years ago from New York City

      Visited the Timberline lodge this year. I was more impressed with Mount Hood than with the building, nice as it was.