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Fun and Interesting Places to Visit in Oregon

1. Cape Meares State Park. Located in northwest Oregon, the 232-acre park sits atop Cape Meares, a 217-foot high bluff, with sheer cliffs dropping into the Pacific Ocean. Besides the views, you'll also find a historic lighthouse and several miles of trails. You'll see some of the last stands of native Oregon old growth forest, including Sitka spruce and hemlock. And bird lovers will enjoy watching the many that flock to the area. When done visiting the state park, head next door to the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge (one of six National Wildlife Refuges in the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex.) Consider including the Three Capes Scenic Drive when done, a 35-mile stretch that offers views of dunes, the ocean, and quaint seaside towns.

2. Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. Located near Allegany, Coos County, Oregon, in the southwest portion of the state, in the dense coastal forests to the east of Highway 101. The 24-mile drive along Coos River Highway 241 from Coos Bay is a bit of a drive, but the drive takes you winding along the Millicoma River. The final three miles are a bit rough, but you'll find parking and picnic area along the banks of the Glenn and Silver Creeks. Lots of hiking trails through scenic canyons and vistas of waterfalls, including views of old growth firs and cedars. (Side trip idea; Stop at Elliott state Forest while it is still public land.

3. Indian Mary Park/Hellgate Canyon. Located about 16 miles northwest of Grants Pass(along Merlin-Galice Road) in southwest Oregon, this park sits between the Rogue river-Siskiyou National Forest (to the west) and the Umpqua and Winema National forests (to the east). The 61-acre park, which borders the Rogue River, overlooking Hellgate Canyon, is part of the Josephine County Parks system, is named after Mary Peters ("Indian Mary"), who applied for squatters' rights for land on which her father, Umpqua Joe, had built a cabin. For 25 years, it was the smallest Indian Reservation in the U.S. -- until it was converted into a county park. Located about 40+ west of Crater Lake National Park. Great campground!

4. Sea Lion Caves. Located along the southern coast of Oregon along Highway 101 in the Siuslaw National Forest, about 11 north of Florence. The Sea Lion Caves, a privately owned wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary, consists of a series of connected sea cave and caverns open to the Pacific Ocean -- and home to the Steller sea lion. Take an elevator from the gift shop down to the caverns below. Note: Sea lions are not always found in the cave, so plan your trip accordingly. Lichens, algae, and mineral stains paint the cavern walls with greens, pinks, purples, tans, and reds, forming on the rough surfaces such easily distinguishable figures as Lincoln's Head, the Indian Maiden, and Goddess of Liberty. Consider a side trip to Heceta Head Lighthouse, one of the most photographed lighthouses in Oregon, located in Heceta Head State Park, just two miles to the north.

5. Smith Rock State Park. Located in central Oregon's High Desert, between the Willamette National Forest (to the west) and Ochoco National Forest (to the east), just northeast of Terrebonne, off Highway 97, along the Crooked River, the park includes sheer cliffs of welded tuff and basalt. The 650-acre park, at about 3,000 feet in elevation, has views of massive walls and spires up to 550 feet tall. A picnic area and campground can be found at the top of the rim rock. Hiking trails offer impressive views of the surrounding area, with trails ranging from a short walk along the river, to trails that traverse over ridges and into canyons. The park is internationally known rock-climbing destination. Smith Rock is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Possible side trips include, just to the west, the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint; and just to the north, Cove Palisades State Park (including Lake Billy Chinook).

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