In most places, a warm sunny day means putting on your bathing suit and heading to the beach. However, here in Oregon, locals prefer to strap on their favorite pair of hiking boots and hit the trails—and for a good reason—Oregon is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to picturesque views of dense forests, rocky coastlines, plunging waterfalls, sleeping volcanoes, and majestic peaks, it’s easy to become captivated by all that Oregon has to offer. Whether you are a state local or visiting for the weekend, there seems to be a limitless supply of excellent hiking spots at your disposal. According to AllTrails, there are approximately 1,027 moderately challenging trails in Oregon, with some measuring as great as 1727.6 km long and 2,913 meters above sea level. As an avid outdoorsman, Peter Lowes divides his spare time between leisurely strolls along the coastline and more strenuous treks to some of the highest summits in the state.
Originally from Scotland, Peter moved to Long Beach, California, in 1982. Some years later, he relocated to Bend, Oregon—a locale that better suits his natural disposition towards wildlife. Here, he started the Compass Commercial Real Estate group with three other partners, before founding the Lowes Group Full Service Residential, Commercial & Property Management Real Estate Company in 2007. Earlier this year, he and his partner Christie Glennon repositioned Lowes Group to become Knightsbridge International Realty. Today, the Knightsbridge team is considered ‘the best of the best’ in the local real estate market, as evidenced by their long history of satisfied clientele. As a devoted environmental advocate, Lowes recently established the non-profit foundation called TEA Together, which stands for Teaching Environmental Awareness. While his entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavours keep him busy, Lowes spends much of his free time adventuring outdoors. Below, he shares some of his favorite hikes to inspire your next journey to the Pacific North West. For the most difficult of trails, Lowes also shares some expert tips on how to stay safe during each climb.
Mount Scott Trail
Starting the list off with a moderately difficult climb, the trek up the Mount Scott Trail offers stunning panoramic views that are sure to leave hikers awestruck. This path is located at Crater Lake National Park, roughly 70 miles north of Klamath Falls. For readers that are unfamiliar with Crater Lake, it’s famous for being the deepest lake in the United States with a depth of 1,943 feet and for its intense blue colour. Nearly 7,700 years old and fed exclusively by rain and snow, Crater Lake is one of the purest bodies of water in the world. If this isn’t impressive enough, Mount Scott is the highest point in the region, providing visitors with a clear view of the entire lake and it’s surrounding landscape. While the journey starts off easy, the trail begins to steepen once hikers reach the southern side of the Cascade Range. As visitors climb through the forest, the path upwards continues before coming to a ridgeline and turning northwest up the mountain. The switch-backing trail zigzags between two ridges until the trail levels out, and hikers reach a fire lookout at the summit. “Be prepared for a steady uphill climb and take breaks as needed,” suggests Lowes, “the view from the top will be well worth your efforts.”
Trail of Ten Falls
Located at Silver Falls State Park, the Trail of Ten Falls is a 7.2-mile loop that takes you above, beside, and beneath ten spectacular waterfalls—including two that are more than 100 feet tall. Often called the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system, Silver Falls is the largest park in Oregon at 9,200 acres with roughly 1.1 million visitors annually. Interestingly enough, the park opened in the early 1930s during the peak of the Great Depression. While the region was once was home to more than 200 residents and several shops, it was converted into a massive park that now offers hiking, horseback riding, biking, fishing, camping, and more. The Trail of Ten Falls is one of Lowes’ all-time favorites. Although it’s rated as moderately difficult, the hike includes 800 feet of elevation gain on mainly unpaved ground. The best time to visit this site is during the spring when the rain and melted snow fill the waterways causing the falls to crash at a deafening level. “Keep an eye out for drop-offs and slippery surfaces that could cause injury if you aren’t cautious and wear a waterproof jacket,” he advises.
“This next trail is only for experienced hikers,” warns Lowes, “Munra Point is a non-maintained trail with a good chance of getting injured if you aren’t prepared for the trek.” To avoid serious harm, whether you are taking a picture or stepping out to get a better view of below, always leave a comfortable distance between yourself and the edge of a cliff. Avid hikers love this trail because it offers jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the Columbia River Gorge. This six-mile round trip starts at the John B. Yeon Trailhead. As you approach the one-mile mark, you will pass the base of Elowah Falls, a beautiful waterfall cascading over a cliff on McCord Creek. Once you pass the falls, the trail will be adjacent to a noisy freeway with rockslide scenery until you approach a sign that reads ‘Gorge Trail #400.’ Keep following this trail until it meets the pavement at the Moffet Creek Bridge. Soon after, you will commence the more vigorous portion of the hike. “Remember to stay hydrated—this hike is just as much mental as it is physical,” exclaims Lowes. Observable from Interstate 84, Munra Point looks like a green shark’s fin sticking out above the trees. While you are free to visit year-round, excursions here are the safest during dry weather, providing you with the opportunity to witness some of nature’s prettiest wildflowers.
God’s Thumb via the Knoll Loop
Once a treasured secret, “God’s Thumb” (aka. The Thumb) is becoming a popular tourist attraction in Oregon. The basalt peak extends above the ocean like a thumbs-up, intriguing locals and visitors alike. There used to be two routes leading to The Thumb, both utilizing unmarked roads to help hikers reach the top. The shorter path, located at the end of Logan Road, is now private property, and trespassers are not tolerated. Be careful in this region, as officials are extremely strict about camping and deviating from established routes. According to Lowes, the longer 4.4-mile scenic loop offers the most impressive views anyways. “The Knoll Loop will not disappoint,” says Lowes, “It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and there are plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos.” Albeit, the trail to God’s Thumb is a challenging trek for the average person. First things first, wear proper hiking attire and boots as you will come across muddy areas, cliff edges, and have to trudge uphill for a while. In the beginning, you will walk up a grassy ridge, which will ultimately lead to a spectacular view of Devil’s Lake and Lincoln City. During the hike, you will pass through mossy damp foliage that makes up a majestic rainforest—so take your time soaking it all in. “You can climb to the top but watch your footing because there is a very steep drop-off,” cautions Lowes. This land formation won’t last forever due to erosion caused by crashing waves, so it’ll pay to be one of the few that get to witness this natural wonder.
Oregon Coast Trail
If you are looking for a challenge, then consider the Oregon Coast Trail for your next outdoor adventure. The Oregon Coast Trail is 382 miles long but will vary in length depending on the specific route you take. For instance, if you decide to ferry across bodies of water, you can trim quite a few miles off of your journey. The trail commences at the northernmost tip of Oregon, in Fort Stevens State Park, and ends at the border of California in Crissey Field State Recreation Site. However, those that choose to embark on this trail should be prepared for a path that passes through public beaches, small towns, and state parks—and is thus not purely a wilderness experience. However, this is what most people love about it. In addition to a healthy dose of nature, hikers get the chance to explore small towns and meet interesting people along the way. If you are a serious hiker and plan to thru-hike the trail, you can complete the trek in roughly four weeks. On the other hand, if you don’t mind taking your time, consider staying overnight in coastal towns and enjoying the local entertainment.
There are so many hiking trails throughout Oregon that Lowes had a hard time choosing just a handful to name here. Whether you are an experienced hiker or a beginner, make sure to check the difficulty level of each hike before setting out on your climb. For instance, the hiking trails detailed above are either moderate or challenging. Finally, no matter what trek you choose, Lowes reminds us to take a rest at the top of each summit to appreciate the natural beauty the world has to offer.