Last-Minute Winter Road Trips Before Spring Sets In

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Pacific Northwest winters are magical and provide families with more opportunities for adventure than they can possibly pack in to the season. With an early spring quickly approaching, now is the time to squeeze in a couple of last-minute winter road trips for your cold-weather loving crew. Load your family into the SUV and scroll down. We’ve rounded up the best winter road trips to fit in before the season ends.

Black Butte Ranch via Yelp


Between its countless opportunities for mountain biking, fishing, hiking, beer-tasting, and rafting the Deschutes River, it’s no secret that Bend is a beloved summer destination for Portlanders of all ages. But it’s also an ideal place to have a family-friendly winter excursion. Got some little skiers in tow? Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort features 3,700 acres of lift-accessible terrain, a free beginner chair lift, the Snowblast Tubing Park and an unbeatable deal that allows children 12 & under to ski for free with the advance purchase of a three-day adult lift ticket. Planning to visit Bend during the holidays? Be sure to book a horse-drawn sleigh ride along the Deschutes River at the Sunriver Resort, just 17 miles south.


About three hours southeast of Portland, or half an hour north of Bend, you’ll find quaint Sisters, Oregon in the shadow of Black Butte and the Three Sisters. This winter road trip will make you feel like you’re a world away with the old-fashioned storefronts and natural beauty of the surrounding area. Your family can ride horses at Black Butte Ranch or hole up with movies at a Camp Sherman cabin, or both. Sisters is also a great launching pad for ski areas like Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo!


Photo by jacly via yelp 

Sun River

There’s a reason this resort community outside Bend (190 miles from Portland) remains a favorite summer destination among families. Make that several reasons, including the High Desert Museum with its hands-on exhibits that feature local wildlife and the area’s rich history, and SHARC, the amazing indoor/outdoor year-round waterpark that’s a day’s activity all by itself. While this location is amazing during the summer, it’s downright magical throughout the winter months. Located only 20 minutes from Mt. Bachelor ski area it’s a great basecamp for the mountain. But, right in Sunriver there is ice skating, snow tubing and plenty of trail to snow shoe on!


A mere hour South of Portland, Salem has a whole new world of winter fun for kids making it an awesome winter road trip for Portland families. Stay a few days to take advantage of nearby day trips like a hike in Silver Falls State Park,. In Salem, spend some time wandering around the Oregon Garden  (Check ahead of time for COVID closures and rules). The whole family will learn a lot about state history when they tour the capitol building, and the whole family will love the the beautiful Riverfront Park on the Willamette River. 


photo: OCVA via flickr

Depoe Bay

Just an hour-and-a-half away, Depoe Bay is the place to catch a glimpse of the titans of the sea. Gray whales swim to the warmer waters of Baja California in December through mid-January. Like anyone headed on vacation, they’re in bit of a hurry to get where they’re going and don’t lollygag around too much, but about 30 whales pass by whale watching sites each hour during peak times from mid-March to the end of May with multiple spots from Brookings to Astoria to help you sight these fascinating travelers. Bring your binoculars, warm clothes, and a little patience, and you might catch a glimpse. If not, there’s always storm watching, snuggling, relaxing, and tidepooling.


In the warmer months, seven miles of pristine sand make the town of Manzanita (an hour and forty minutes away), a perfect locale for sunbathers, kitesurfers and boogie-boarders. But the Oregon coast can be equally thrilling through the winter months. Much like Depoe Bay, 18,000 grey whales—or nearly 30 each hour—migrate south along the coast to reach their breeding grounds in Mexico. So you can grab a nearby perch at the Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker on Highway 101 or Ecola State Park 18 miles north—you might just catch a glimpse of a spout or a breach. Not in the mood for whale-watching? Keep in mind that the winter months are also a wonderful time for beach-combing at nearby Oswald West State Park and piping hot pizzas at Marzano’s Pizza Pie right in town.


photo: Doug Kerr via flickr


Hey you guuuys! Head to Astoria, just two hours from Portland, to re-trace the steps of The Goonies. Before you head out of town, grab a copy of the movie if your kids haven’t seen it a million times already. Once you arrive, do the Truffle Shuffle at the Goonies House or re-create the “jailbreak” at the Oregon Film Museum, a great cold-weather retreat for the whole family. Once you’re done exploring outside, try one of Astoria’s family-friendly breweries like Buoy Beer, which offers up a kids’ menu along with floor-to-ceiling windows for a fantastic view.



photo: Mt. Hood Territory via flickr

Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge is an inviting home base, only an hour-and-a-half from Portland, for a short showshoeing adventure. Rent show shoes there, or back in Portland at your favorite outdoor store. Then try out the 3/4 mile trail above the lodge for stunning views. It’s not exactly easy going, so your kids should be prepared for a hike. Come back to the lodge to warm up with a heated outdoor pool, game room, and lending library.

When you’re ready to go back out to brave the snow again, ask for the snowman kit ($20). A black top hat, felt scarf, carrot nose, cookie eyes, and a licorice mouth are for your snowy friend, and the thermos of hot chocolate, coffee, tea, or hot apple cider is for your crew.


—Annette Benedetti


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