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Five Best State Parks to Enjoy in Oregon

1. Cape Lookout State Park. Located centrally on the western coast of Oregon, about 80 miles west of Portland, this 2,014-acre park positioned on a sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean, has the best of Oregon -- from towering old growth forests, several miles of beach, and a stunning cape that looms 500 feet about the ocean. More than 8 miles of hiking and walking trails wind through the forest while the Cape Lookout Trail follows the headland for more than two miles, with a beach at the end. Consider the Nature trail too, which provides up-close viewing of native trees and plants, easily marked for interpretation. The campground includes 38 full hook-up sites, 170 tent sites, 12 yurts, 6 deluxe cabins, meeting hall, restrooms with showers, and a dump station. Learn more at: Cape Lookout State Park.

2. Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area. Located in northeast Oregon, about 15 miles southeast of Pendleton, this 63-acre park was a favorite spot in the middle of the 19th century for emigrants traveling west on the Oregon Trail to refresh their water supplies, spend the night, and trade trinkets for fish with the Native Shoshone Indians. The campground is perched near the summit of the Blue Mountains, and nestled in an old-growth forest. While there, check out the Springs and Nature Trails. The park is the perfect base camp to explore the surrounding area, including the Blue Mountain Crossing Oregon Trail interpretative park, or the Pendleton Woolen Mills, as well as the Union County Museum, the Baker County Museum, and the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The campground includes 18 full hook-up sites, 32 tent sites, 6 rustic log cabins, restrooms with hot showers, an dump station, community building, outdoor small amphitheater, and a horse camp with 7 sites. Learn more at: Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area.

3. L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. Located about 34 miles northwest of Portland near the town of Buxton, this 1,800-acre must-visit park offers something for everyone, including trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback-riding; an 18-hole disc golf course; 3-hole put-put course; 5 campgrounds, including one hike-in only and one horse camp (which some say is one of the best in the state), with about 90 full hook-up sites; and access to the 21-mile amazingly beautiful Banks-Verona State Trail, which passes right through the park and has its Buxton trailhead just south of the park. Named for L.L. "Stub" Stewart, a legend in Oregon logging, as well as a major supporter and adviser to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, championing outdoor recreation and preservation. Check out the rolling hills, forest glades, and gleaming streams and ponds on one of more of the 25 miles of trails, including Boomscotter, Barberchair, Bark Spud, Widowmaker, and Hares Canyon. Possible side trips include nearby Tillamook State Forest and Clatsop State Forest. Learn more at: L.L. Stub Stewart State Park.

4. Oswald West State Park. Located on the northwest coast of Oregon, about 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, this 2,374-acre park offers breathtaking views of mountains, ancient forests, ocean caps and coves, , 13 miles of trails, and is perhaps one of the top state parks in the country. Walk along secluded sandy beaches, or deep into one of the best preserved coastal rainforests (home to massive western red cedars, western hemlocks, and Sitka Spruces. The park includes two prominent headlands, Cape Falcon and Neah-kah-nie. Access the park through one of four parking lots along Highway 101. Besides offering plenty of trails throughout the park, a 13-mile stretch of the 382-mile long Oregon Coast Trail cuts through the park. Named for Governor Oswald West, who opened 400 miles of Oregon shoreline to the public by declaring the beaches a public highway. No camping is permitted, but you can find a campground just to the south at Nehalem State Park, a must-see on its own merits. Go north too, to Ecola State Park. Learn more at: Oswald West State Park.

5. Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint. Located in southwest Oregon, about 45 miles northeast of Medford, and just outside the town of Prospect, this small (14-acres) and heavily forested park packs a trifecta for waterfall lovers. Many of the locals know the two biggies: Mill Creek Falls offers a 173-foot sheer drop onto the Rogue River gorge; and Barr Creek Falls, which falls 240 feet in three cascades. A third waterfall is Pearsony Falls, which at about 15 feet, is rather small, but beautiful still. Trails from the park will take you to all three waterfalls, and along the way, you'll have the chance to see beautiful woodland scenery and wildlife. One other geological wonder not to miss is the Avenue of Giant Boulders on the Rogue River, best seen on Mill Creek Drive; these boulders were thrown from Mount Mazama -- more than 20 miles away -- when it erupted almost 8,000 years ago and created what is now Crater Lake, which is a must-visit side trip well worth your time. Learn more at: Prospect State Scenic Viewpoint Park.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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