Most people have heard of Oregon’s famous Crater Lake, a crystal blue lake formed inside the caldera of an ancient volcano. Oregon is also famous for the Columbia River Gorge with its many towering waterfalls. Or perhaps the beautiful rock formations dotting just off the water’s edge on the coastline from Bandon, Oregon to the Olympic National Forest. The Pacific Northwest is filled with so many beautiful natural sites. Here are our top 10 you may not be familiar with and should be on your “must see” travel list:
The Oregon coastline:
Just off hwy 101 on the south end of Yachats, Oregon. This giant sinkhole sits on the edge of the ocean, shooting up sprays of water in dramatic fashion.
A thrilling collapsed cave on the Oregon coastline where you can actually walk down into at low tide. Located near Newport, Oregon.
Central & Eastern Oregon:
Oregon Painted Hills
There are a series of fascinating rock formations found in central/east Oregon including the famous Oregon Painted Hills – a series of softly mounding hills where the colorful minerals underneath the top layer have eroded to show layers of stained earth below. Follow a trail that leads you on an elevated boardwalk through the rusty red painted hills for an instagram-worthy photo. Details here on the National Park Service webpage.
The Blue Basin at Sheep Rock
Near the Painted Hills is the Blue Basin at the Sheep Rock where the exposed rocks shine bluish green in the right light conditions. Go for a walk along the path and feel you are on a different planet altogether. Get details about the John Day Fossil Beds and Sheep Rock on the National Park Service webpage.
Located in Central Oregon, the Redmond Caves are a peek into the underground world on the high desert. You can walk a path into some caves, or opt to just peer inside from a safe distance. A sensitive geologic site, tread softly and leave no trace of your presence. Get details on the Bureau of Land Management website.
Dee Wright Observatory
On the way to central Oregon before you get to Sisters, you’ll find the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit of the McKenzie Pass. Created by lava rock and overlooking a lava plain, you can see several mountains and get a feel for the violent, volcanic past of this region. Get details about visiting on the US Forest Service website.
Southwest & Eastern Washington:
This geologic wonder was once a giant waterfall thanks to the Great Missoula Flood. Step out onto the lookout platform for a tremendous birds-eye view and learn the history of how the great flood formed the Eastern Washington landscape forever. Get details here on the Washington Parks website.
No, there never have been apes here, these caves were actually named after a group of boy scouts. The caves were formed by volcanic eruptions and are old lava tubes. The caves are cold – dress warmly even in summer, and have trails divided between easy and difficult. You can find the caves between the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. St. Helens in SW Washington. Get information here on the US Department of Agriculture website
Columbia Basin Basalt Rock Columns
Found in Eastern Washington near the town of Othello at the Columbia Wildlife Refuge. These tall columnar rock formations were formed during an ancient volcanic eruption. Explore the Drumheller Channel columns and Elephant Rock on hikes not far from the highway. They are not currently managed parks. Even taller basalt columns can be found at Frenchman’s Coulee. See more about the Columbia Basin rock formations on Washington Dept of Natural Resources website.
Found in the central Washington area between Centralia and Olympia just outside Littlerock, the Mima Mounds are the remnants of ancient floods leaving small hillocks of mounded rock and dirt. Once thought to be perhaps burial mounds, they have been shown to be just very regular, round formations of dirt and stone, looking much like a giant sheet of grassy bubblewrap. Take a walk on the dirt trails that meander through the mounds for an interesting, easy hike. See more on the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve website.
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