Places to Love: Oregon Family RV Trip
What could be better season finale than ending with an all-American family RV road trip throughout the State of Oregon? I’ve always wanted to do an RV trip, and especially while the kids are still young. You only get 18 summers with your kids, after all!
For us, RV travel offered so much flexibility. As a contained unit, we could pivot at a moment’s notice. There was no packing and unpacking! No need to go back to the hotel for naps; the hotel and your car are one. And getting around is really half the adventure. On this trip, we explored Hood River, Fossil and Bend, Oregon. Move over, Clark Griswold! There’s a new mom at the wheel! Er, more accurately, there’s a new mom riding shotgun, trying to figure out how to read a map while dad drives.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Driving the Mt Hood Fruit Loop
Did you know Oregon is home to the nation’s top pear growing region? Me neither. Located in the Columbia River Gorge scenic area, the aptly named Fruit Loop is a scenic, 35-mile road that’s home to numerous orchards, berry farms, wineries and farm stands. You can easily spend a day leisurely driving the route (map here), stopping for snacks, fruit picking and wine sampling. Best part? Our RV had a fridge, so we could buy whatever produce we wanted and not worry about it!
We made sure to pay a visit to Kiyokawa Orchards. Founded in 1951 by Mamoru and Michiko Kiyokawa, the orchard is now run by their son Randy Kiyokawa, a 3rd generation orchardist. This farm grows 120 distinct varieties of apples, pears, and Asian pears. Apple lovers adore their pink fleshed apples, which boast a distinctly pink hue on the apple’s inside. Pick your own fruit, take a hay ride, and enjoy a picnic on their beautiful grounds.
Camping at Toll Bridge Park
With towering trees and a river running through it, Toll Bridge Park near Parkdale, Oregon was the perfect spot to park the RV for the night. We played with the kids in the river, threw stones, and two of the four of us decided it would be fun to make sand angels. Take a wild guess whether that was the parents or four-year-old twins.
One of the greatest aspects of traveling via RV is the fact that in the evenings, we can pop in a movie for the kiddos while mom and dad sit outside with a bottle of wine and actually have a grown-up conversation. It felt like date night, without having to pay a babysitter!
IF YOU GO
Check out Apple Valley BBQ in nearby Parkdale. They’re known for their smoked pork ribs, but it’s their pear slaw that makes this spot distinctly Oregonian in nature.
Toll Bridge Park
7360 Toll Bridge Rd
Mt Hood, OR 97041
Explore scenic Hood River in a Model T
It’s pretty easy to spend a day or two in Hood River. This quaint town (population: 7,167) alongside the Columbia River offers breathtaking views, great food and access to all sorts of outdoor sports.
On our trip, we stopped at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum, better known as WAAAM. This living museum features hundreds of cars, airplanes, motorcycles, camper vans and more. The craziest part? Just about everything here works and is run regularly. Yes, even the antique airplanes! I had the great pleasure of taking a Model T driving lesson with Dale Nicol. I’ve been driving for many, many years, but quickly had flashbacks of my first day behind the wheel. A Model T drives nothing like a minivan!
IF YOU GO
Sign up for a Model T driving lesson in advance. They fill up quickly, and it’s no wonder why—it was so much fun!
1600 Air Museum Rd.
Hood River, OR 97031
Visit the Oregon Trail at Wilson Family Ranch
At Wilson Ranches Retreat Bed & Breakfast, the Oregon Trail isn’t just some computer game. It’s a way of life that you can still almost touch and taste—except this 9,000 acre working cattle and hay ranch offers indoor plumbing and you’re probably not going to die of dysentery.
Located in the beautiful Butte Creek Valley, three miles west of the small town of Fossil, the bed and breakfast is housed in a 1910 Sears Roebuck Ranch House with six pristine ranch style guest rooms. Hosts Kara and Brian were kind enough to take me out on a horseback ride, complete with a cattle drive!
IF YOU GO
Stay overnight! Not only does the property offer adorable rooms, but you’ll eat breakfast with the Wilson family—complete with biscuits, gravy and a generous helping of entertaining stories.
Wilson Ranches Retreat
15809 Butte Creek Road
Fossil, OR 97830
Dig for fossils in Fossil
My kids weren’t quite ready to saddle up at Wilson Ranch, so my husband brought them to nearby Wheeler High School. No, they’re not ready for high school either, but they were ready to visit WHS’s fossil beds. For a nominal fee, you can collect fossils from the thinly-bedded rocks, once the bed of a shallow lake that existed here about 33 million years ago. The Oregon Paleo Land Center will hook aspiring archeologists up with all the necessary gear, including interpretive information to help you understand and identify your finds.
IF YOU GO
Filled with interactive hands-on exhibits, there are many great things to see at the Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery. Check out a variety of interactive, hands-on exhibits in the field center, including exhibits on the area’s dinosaur fossils, volcanoes and ancient life.
333 West Fourth Street
Fossil, OR 97830
Phone: (541) 763-4480
Visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monuments
Oregon’s high desert region is full of jaw-dropping views, but Painted Hills National Monument stopped me dead in my tracks. The hills get their name from the delicately colored stratifications in the soil and the yellows, golds, blacks and reds. The Painted Hills are best seen in the late afternoon. If you’re into hiking, take a stroll down one of their five trails
(check out the trail details here). In the summer, pay a visit to Cant Ranch, established in 1910 by Scottish immigrants James and Elizabeth Cant.
IF YOU GO
Snap the perfect family photos at the monument’s Painted Hills Unit.
The monument encompasses 14,000 acres in three geographically separated units: Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno. The Painted Hills Unit is located 9 miles northwest of the town of Mitchell.
Kick back in Bend, Oregon
Tucked between the snow covered peaks of the Cascade Mountains and the high desert plateaus of Central Oregon, Bend evolved from a sleepy lumber town to an international mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. But I’ll be honest. After a four-day trip with the kids, my husband and I were more after Bend’s other claim to fame: breweries.
Bend is home to the US’s highest concentration of breweries per capita. With so many to choose from, picking one can overwhelm. We ended up at Bend Brewing Co. and absolutely loved it. Overlooking the Deschutes River, this locally owned and operated brewery and pub offered the perfect setting for our family to recap our trip, and for mom and dad to high five over checking this bucket list worthy vacation off our list. It may have been our first RV trip, but it certainly won’t be the last.
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IF YOU GO
Nothing quite pairs with beer drinking than delicious homemade pretzels. BBC’s version is made locally using their own spent grains. Served with a Hefeweizen cheese sauce, it’s simply delicious.
Bend Brewing Co.
1019 NW Brooks St.
Bend, OR 97703