Oregon is always a fabulous destination for family vacations or weekend road trips. But traveling when you or someone with you has a mobility issue, whether temporary crutches, a medical walking boot, or the use of a cane or walker, can be challenging. You don’t have to let the lack of mobility cut back on seeing the beauty of Oregon – it just takes a bit more planning. We’ve gathered the 12 top sites you can still see to give you a good feel for Oregon’s beauty.
1. Oregon City Outdoor Elevator
The Oregon City elevator is a very unique American site – the oldest working municipal elevator in the United States, and only one of four in the world. The current structure was completed in 1955, replacing the wood framed structure that stood there since 1915. The spaceship-looking design includes a viewing platform at the top and a level, paved walking trail at the top with spectacular views of the Willamette River. You can practically drive right up the the entrance at the bottom or the top, so access is easy. There are benches at the top to sit and relax in the small park. It is located in Oregon City, just off of I-205 on the east side of Portland, with plenty of nearby restaurants and coffee shops. Read more history of the elevator on the city’s website at: Oregon City History
2. Champoeg Historical Museum
Located in the heart of the Willamette Valley between Salem and Portland, the Champoeg Historical Museum is a small, easy-access museum showcasing the pioneer history of the area. Found on the grounds of a State Park, the well designed visitor’s center has a small museum telling the story of the settlers who landed in the mid-Willamette Valley over 150 years ago. There is paved parking for easy access not far from the visitor center entrance. While the outdoor living history areas might prove too difficult for some, the free museum is still worth a stop.
Champoeg Historical Visitors Center
3. The Astoria Column
While you may not be able to climb to the top of the column, the Astoria Column sits atop a hill and has amazing views from almost all directions. The column itself is a work of art with historical images painted all the way to the top. You can even stay in the parking lot and have wonderful views. It is worth visiting.
More information at: The Astoria Column
4. Lan Su Chinese Gardens
In the heart of downtown Portland is a little oasis of a one-square block garden that can transport you to another country. The Chinese gardens include lovely level walks, flowers, landscaped gardens, a tea house, and often will have music. Other gardens in the Portland area include the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, and the Portland International Rose Test Garden. All are worth a visit, but would be more difficult with limited mobility.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
5. Wildlife Safari
In Southern Oregon is a surprise that can transport you to a completely different place. Without ever getting out of your car, you can drive the loop that takes you past cheetahs, bears, elephants, giraffes, zebras, and many more. The animals are living in surroundings closely resembling their natural habitat and can be a great way to show animals to youngsters other than in a zoo.
See more at: Wild Life Safari
6. Oregon Historical Society Museum
In downtown Portland is the museum to learn about the history of Oregon in its entirety beyond the pioneers. Its current focus is on history – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not a white-washed version of history, the latest exhibits show parts of history that many would like to forget, but should not. Oregon residents can also use the research library acessessed via elevator upstairs. The museum has rotating exhibits and also is right across the street from the Portland Art Museum, if you are up for a larger museum visit. Plenty to see in easy walking distance.
Find out more: Oregon Historical Society Museum
7. The WAAM Museum
The Western Antique Air and Automobile Museum is located in Hood River, Oregon. With 5 acres of displays, you will not have to travel far to get up close to vintage aircraft and beautifully restored automobiles. The hangar’s flat, even surface is ideal when you have limited mobility.
Western Antique Automobile Museum
8. Columbia River Scenic Highway
The drive East from Portland has two routes – the straightforward freeway I-84, or the slower, smaller Historic Columbia Scenic Highway – a beautiful winding road built between 1913-1922 taking you past the many waterfalls and up to Vista House – an iconic viewpoint that gives stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge (and often pretty windy!) You pass several waterfalls, the most famous of course is Multnomah Falls. The parking lot for Multnomah Falls is a fair walk away from the Falls itself, but doable if you are in a walking boot, or even on crutches. It would be a long haul for someone with a walker. Have someone drop you off close to the tunnel to limit your walking. The Lodge has a very nice restaurant from which you can sit and have a great view of the falls while you eat breakfast or lunch. The restaurant is easily accessible by elevator.
Check out lodge details at: Multnomah Falls Lodge
9. High Desert Museum
Just outside of Bend is a fantastic museum – a wildlife and natural history museum showcasing the unique biodiversity and geology of the high plains desert of Central Oregon. A family-friendly museum with more than enough to keep the little ones fascinated, the museum is also very mobility-friendly.
Get details about the High Desert Museum
10. Sahalie Falls
Oregon has many beautiful waterfalls, but some can be more of a hike than you want, or have uneven trails to get there. One of your best choices would be Sahalie Falls on the McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway east of Eugene/Springfield. Sahalie Falls is a powerful waterfall, yet not far from the parking lot. It has a paved path that takes you to a viewing point up close for great views. The McKenzie Pass and Sahalie Falls are open seasonally. Check to make sure roads are open before you leave with the US Forest Service.
11. Devil’s Punchbowl
Who could come to Oregon and not see the ocean? With so many beaches to see, there are some accessibility considerations when choosing which beach to see. All Oregon beaches are open to the public and there are multiple public footpaths you can access the beach and waysides from which you can see the beach. Most public footpaths would be too difficult for someone in a boot or on crutches. The waysides would be your best bet. The overlook at Devil’s Punchbowl is spectacular and has a parking lot right near the edge. The Punchbowl is especially amazing at low tide, so if you get a tide schedule and time it right, you will be well rewarded. Other recommended beaches where you can get up close include Pacific City (have lunch at the Pelican Brewpub and sit outside,) Seaside, with it’s wide, paved promenade along the beach where you can easily view the ocean sunsets, or Boiler Bay Scenic Viewpoint. Tierra del Mar is one of the very few beaches you can actually drive your car onto the beach. There is a paved area that extends out into the sand, but it is not recommended to drive any further without risking becoming stuck.
Several Oregon beach visitor centers are now offering beach-accessible wheelchairs you can borrow for free. Call the Manzanita, Cannon Beach or Seaside visitor centers for more information. Oregon has done a wonderful job with many scenic viewpoints off Hwy 101 for viewing the spectacular Ocean coastline. Don’t miss the bypasses such as the drive between Pacific City and Netarts – a nice little side trip along the Three Capes Route.
12. Tillamook Air Museum
Step inside the largest clear-span wooden structure in the entire world to explore a unique museum set inside an historic structure. The structure was originally built to house blimps which were deployed to spot enemy submarines up and down the Oregon Coast. The expansive interior is filled with unique WWII memorabilia, vintage airplanes, helicopters, trains, and more. It is not a bright and glossy museum, it has more of a nitty gritty working hangar feel to it. The museum will bring to life the true risks and fears the Oregon coast faced from possible invasion during WWII.
More information at: Tillamook Air Museum