“Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow…”
This is how Robert Frost opens his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The poet contemplates the natural world and its contrast and separateness from society and how the winter season provides the quietness and opportunity to ponder such depths. With winter’s arrival, the summer hikers, bikers, river rafters, and ocean swimmers recede as the snow crowns the Oregon mountain tops, dusts its mighty pines, and blankets the valleys. Out come the downhill and cross-country skiers, snowboarders, storm watchers, and winter birders. Investigate winter in these small Oregon towns that come alive during the snowy season.
A small town near Bend, Sisters gets its name from the nearby Three Sisters mountains. Sisters in the winter remains sunny, with mild snowfall, but its proximity to the mountains gives visitors easy access to all the winter sports. On the southside is Sisters State Park with its landscapes full of pine trees and mountain peaks. There are many hiking trails through dense forests. The park offers camping, rock climbing and horseback riding. The Metolius River is one of the largest spring fed rivers in the region. Its clear waters are popular with white water rafters and Flyfishers. The river is surrounded by ponderous pines. The downtown of Sisters has an old-western vibe.
The village of Hood River lies along the Columbia River Gorge and is bounded by the Cascades. Hood River is near Mount Hood, which is the highest mountain in the state. Mount Hood Skibowl offers 30 runs and the Mount Hood Meadows ski resort boasts over 2,000 acres of skiable ground. Trillium Sno-Park has groomed trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoe walkers leading to vistas, frozen waterfalls, and Trillium Lake. The Catherine Creek Trail, which is a short distance from the downtown, has views of rock arches, Mount Hood, and the Columbia River. The Columbia River is a popular spot for birdwatching. The county has over 30,000 acres dedicated as protected forest land. The town was incorporated in 1895 and has a long history of logging and agriculture.
Part of Jackson County, Ashland lies along the 5 Interstate, roughly 16 miles from the California border. In the mid-1800s the town was part of the gold rush era. Ashland is home to South Oregon University and is probably best known for their annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The north end of town is graced by North Mountain Park, a nature center with herb and butterfly gardens. On the southside of town is Lithia Park with access to Ashland Creek, trails, rose gardens and ponds. At the base of the Cascades, Siskiyou range and nearby Mt. Ashland with its ski resorts, the town of Ashland offers a playground for winter adventure seekers.
On the eastern side of the Cascades, in the heart of Oregon, is the high desert town of Redmond. The days are sunny, and the nights can be cool, with the high desert climate. Frank and Josephine Redmond established a homestead here in 1904 and the town was incorporated in 1910. Today one can enjoy the Heritage Walk, a walking tour in downtown Redmond, where one will find period buildings and learn about the town’s early days. During the winter in Redmond Plaza, there is Redmond’s Ice-Skating Rink, surrounded by the quaint downtown and twinkling lights. Nearby Smith Rock State Park is where the rock climbing sport got started in the US. Cove Palisades State Park with its towering cliffs and scenic river views, is just a short drive away, as well.
On the southern slopes of Mt. Hood, the unincorporated community of Government Camp (aka “Govy”) sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet. This small town is “Mt. Hood’s Alpine Village” and is the ideal base for outdoor adventure. The Mount Hood Cultural Center and Museum is the place to explore artifacts of winter and mountain sports. Nearby one will also find the Barlow Road branch of the famous Oregon Trail. This place is brimming with natural history and is close to Mirror Lake, Trillium Lake, White River Sno-Park and is surrounded by forests. The area is known for its skiing and Cosmic Tubing, which offers thrilling tube rides down the slopes with flashing lights and music.
Often thought of as a summer destination, Lincoln City lies on the central coast. However, this is one of the best locations in the state to storm watch. The rugged beaches and headlands of Lincoln City, its access to the Pacific, the D River and Devil’s Lake State Recreation Area and campgrounds offer lots of natural beauties and water activities in the spring and summer months. However, the arrival of King Tides in the winter brings severe storms and attracts storm watches, who like to experience the power of nature and the ocean, up close. Storm watching can be dangerous because of “sneaker waves”, as locals call them. Winter beachgoers are often caught by surprise and swept off their feet by these waves that seem to come out of nowhere. Once the tides recede, it is considered safe to stroll the beaches again and discover the treasures the ocean has left behind, including shells, petrified wood, and antique glass float.
Oregon Winter Towns
There is something magical that happens to Oregon in the winter. Its dense forest trees are heavy with snow, the smell of pine and a burning fireplace, its mountain peaks white in the distance, its rivers and lakes are frozen, as a winter wonderland opens before residents and visitors. It just feels like Christmas. Robert Frost leaves us with these parting thoughts on the winter woods. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep…” One’s promises will be kept for a weekend, at least, so make some plans to discover the enchantment of Oregon’s winters for yourself.