Love beer? Obsessed with cheese? Need nature? Here’s why Oregon should be your next road trip adventure.
My heart is beating faster than mile 26 of the NYC Marathon. My stomach, in knots, is unexpectedly behaving thanks to the bland sandwich and decaffeinated tea from a down-home diner lunch.
I can’t risk heartburn today, or a headache, or really any state beyond absolute perfection because in just a few short minutes I’ll come face to face with the species I’ve been dying to meet:
The two-toed sloth.
Small-town Rainier, Oregon, is home to the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center’s Sloth Center, where visitors can interact, play with and learn about this adorable animal.
Therefore, Rainier, Oregon, may very well be the city of my dreams.
We visited the Sloth Center during a four-day road trip through Oregon. While the majority of this scenic trip revolved around breweries and the great outdoors, my biggest buzz of all came the second I pet a sloth. Isadora the two-toed sloth, to be exact.
The Sloth Center has about 10 sloths you can feed and play with (note, you may end up only meeting 7 because those sloths prioritize sleep over people). For all you sloth lovers, beer lovers and adventurers (you are MY PEOPLE, by the way!) here is the perfect Oregon road trip itinerary that involves drinking local, exploring nature and – you guessed it – feeding God’s gift to Earth, the sloth.
Portland, Oregon: You can’t go to Oregon without starting or ending in Portland – or, in our case, both. This is a mecca for beer lovers (Breakside, Hopworks, Cascade – oh my!), and those with a sweet tooth will also feel at home, as VooDoo Doughtnut offers pretty much every doughnut style imaginable. I went with the Fruit Loop Doughtnut, and suffered a massive sugar high in the hours following.
Tillamook Cheese Factory: What’s the best way to cure a sugar overload? Stuff your face with pounds upon pounds of cheese. It’s not science, but it worked for me. We visited Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour of the multi-story facility, then went on to sample half a dozen cheeses and – diet starts tomorrow – order home-cooked (and cultivated) grilled cheese and tomato soup. Stretchy pants most definitely recommended.
De Garde Brewing: My brother, the beer fanatic, was in craft beer heaven at de Garde Brewing, which is a quick drive from the Tillamook Cheese Factory. They had a number of rare beers on tap, and given this is quite off the beaten path, you definitely feel part of the “in crowd” once you arrive.
Cape Kiwanda: The Pacific Coast’s dramatic rock formations get even more dramatic the further north you go, which is why Cape Kiwanda along Oregon’s coast was a must-visit for us. (Especially after falling in love with California’s Lost Coast last summer!) Cape Kiwanda offers views of the iconic haystack, which can be enjoyed through a stroll along the beach or a pint at the shore-front Pelican Pub & Brewery.
Bend, Oregon: This quaint town is full of Birkenstock charm, and the perfect overnight spot for those trekking through Oregon. We stayed in a VRBO just outside downtown. Due to an unexpected snowstorm, we spent most of our time indoors at Deschutes Brewery (yum!), but it’s a spot I already can’t wait to further explore.
Smith Rock State Park: Rock climbers flock to this massive park, filled with sheer, dramatic cliffs and 1,000+ climbs. Nursing off a little hangover and headache, I was struggling to think clearly – let alone scale a cliff. Instead, we hiked, explored and photographed these unique towers of compressed volcanic ash, and let the cold air slap the hangover straight out of me.
Freebridge Brewing: Watching people rock climb can really work up an appetite. We refueled with lunch and, of course, craft beer before heading out on our merry way through the Dulles. The team at Freebridge is really friendly, and while a bit out of the way, this is one I’d absolutely recommend.
Hood River, Oregon: We spent our next night in Hood River, a quiet hill town along the Columbia River. While, again, we hit this one right after a snowstorm (hello, wet socks, shoes and everything), we enjoyed the nightlife and crowd at, perhaps my favorite brewery of the trip:
pFriem Family Brewers: Perhaps it was the feeling of victory once we arrived after 20 minutes trekking through the snow. Maybe it was the up close & personal bar seats that opened upon arrival. Whatever it was, pFriem welcomed us with open arms and delicious brews, making it a top beer stop that I hope to revisit again and again.
Historic Columbia River Hwy State Trail: If you follow TLC’s advice, this scenic route is not for you. But, if you’re a fan of all things waterfalls (me!) make sure this is on your itinerary. This route features five waterfalls, including the famous Multnomah Falls, as well as the Vista House lookout which overlooks the Columbia River. Fun fact: Bridge of the Gods, the place where Cheryl Strayed ended her amazing journey, is located along this route!
Sloth Sanctuary: I realize I don’t need to go into how the Sloth Sanctuary changed my life for the better, for ALWAYS, but do know this: Sloth encounters last about 40 minutes, and cost $100. You feed the sloths cucumbers while learning about their background and – if you haven’t had enough – you can even schedule a sloth sleepover. I didn’t get that far but believe me, it WILL happen.
I’m not sure how this was my first time in Oregon, but believe me – it’s definitely not my last. With cheese, brews and, um, sloths, we only scraped the surface of Oregon must-dos. If you’re planning your own Oregon road trip, check out the map below for a geographic look at our favorite spots.