Destinations, Musings, Oregon

Seven Wonders of Oregon

April 24, 2014

By some great fate, I am an Oregonian. I grew up with Pacific Northwest air in my lungs, Oregon dirt between my toes and under my fingernails, and a vantage point to watch the world start new each day with the sun rising over the Cascade Mountains.

The place is in my blood. While living adventures on pinpoints of foreign maps, Oregon hovers behind my shoulder or calls from the far horizon, an instinctive true north on my internal compass.

Three Sisters Wilderness Area: 1999 (Yep, that’s a pre-Instagram, scanned film photo, people.)

I grew my appreciation of the world’s beauty right here in my native patch of earth: triumphantly summitting Oregon mountains, learning to fish in Oregon lakes, hiking caverns behind Oregon waterfalls, poking my finger into ice green anemones of Oregon coast tidepools, following wagon trail wheel ruts carved in Oregon stone, and learning my identity in the web of Oregon ancestry in the midst of deeply nurturing friends and family.

And now, six(ish) continents later, as I shared in a recent comment to a reader, I’ve come home and fallen even more in love with this place; I know without doubt how special of a spot Oregon actually is. Like anywhere, it has its faults and blemishes, but for locals and visitors with a curious heart and an appetite for nature’s beauty, delicious foods, and friendships with genuine people, this land is absolutely rife with riches to be discovered and treasured.

For all these reasons and more, I’m in this midst of a mad, mad crush on our state Tourism Board’s current campaign: The Seven Wonders of Oregon.

Image Credit: Travel Oregon

This place on the planet stamped its mark on me from the very beginning, and I’m more proud than ever to see Oregon showcased with such class and style.

“We see your Wonders, world. And we raise you seven of our own.”

The campaign is a reportedly $3 million dollar investment in capturing the world’s attention and sharing the diverse beauties of our beloved state. So far, through TV and print ads, blog posts, Instagram feeds, and various splashes around the internet, I’d say they’re doing a fantastic job.

“The videos are a homegrown effort, directed by Portlanders Christian Sorenson Hansen and photographer Chantal Anderson, and with music by Bryan John Appleby Eric D. Johnson of local band The Fruit Bats. They were shot over the course of 14 straight days by a rag-tag team of 15 people driving more than 3,000 miles across Oregon—often sleeping in tents.” -Portland Monthly Magazine

The city of Portland gets so much limelight these days, but as a Willamette Valley girl at heart, I’m happy to see regions beyond the metro area getting a proper chance at taking center stage.

The Seven Wonders Anthem

Whoever named the 7 Wonders of the World must have never seen Mt. Hood.
They certainly didn’t explore the Oregon Coast.
We’re confident they missed the grandeur of the Columbia River Gorge.
The exposed earth of the Painted Hills, Smith Rock’s towers of volcanic ash and the alpine peaks of the Wallowas were overlooked as well.

All we can figure is whoever came up with the 7 Wonders of the World never actually set foot in Oregon.
Because even Crater Lake was left off their list, which is a shame, because standing high atop the rim of the deepest lake in America you can see what a wonder our earth really is.

So we see your Wonders, world.
And raise you 7 of our own.
And we invite you to visit them.

Not just to see them. Our Wonders aren’t just for taking pictures of.
To truly say you’ve seen our Wonders, you have to get out of the car, hike down from the scenic vista and feel them beneath your feet.
Just remember: This is Oregon. So how you go about doing that is entirely
The 7 Wonders of Oregon. See one or better yet see them all.
-Travel Oregon


1. Mt. Hood

The highest point in Oregon (11,239’/3426 meters) and second-most climbed mountain in the world (after Japan’s Mt. Fuji!).

“Dawn” – The sunrise over Mt. Hood from my family’s home.
“Dusk” – The sunset over Mt. Fuji on our Christmas flight home to Oregon.

2. The Coast

Traced by the infamous Hwy 101 and scattered all along with secret spots and famous landmarks, the 363 mile long stretch of land dubbed “The People’s Coast” is a favorite destination of ours.

“Endless Sea” – a family spot on the Central Oregon coast
“Yachats, Manzanita, & Astoria” – among our 2013 travels
Coming soon: Our 2014 Trip to Cannon Beach, a return to the spot where I paused, One Month from Departure.

3. The Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River divides Washington State and Oregon, slicing through canyons, revealing waterfalls, and presenting vista after jaw-dropping vista to visitors heading east and west. Prior to construction of Interstate 84, travelers navigated the Gorge by way of “The King of Roads” (The Historic Columbia River Highway), constructed from 1913-1922.

My past work as a landscape architect included a spot on the team compiling the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail Plan, outlining the final 11-mile connection between Wyeth and Hood River that will complete the full 73 miles stretch of hiking/cycling following the historic route between Troutdale and The Dalles.

In September of last year, the Oregon Department of Transportation completed and dedicated the second to the last segment, and I look forward to one day taking my family out to see the full project when funding and construction are complete.

“Sam Hill” – The Special on Oregon Public Broadcasting
“The King of Roads” – The history of the Historic Columbia River Highway

4.The Painted Hills

A rock-lover’s heyday in the land of Oregon’s ghost towns and fossil beds.

“Shaniko” – A little Instagram stop.
“Richardson’s Rock Ranch” – It’s been about two decades, but I have childhood memories of pretty fantastic thunderegg hunting (stretching our legs after long family road trips) not too far from the Painted Hills…

5. Smith Rock

Central Oregon’s mother of all rocks – the spot that “gave birth to American sport climbing.” (You may remember from a recent post: My mom has a tale from college about hiking all the way to the top in her flip-flops…)

“Three Stories Up: A Lookout Tower Weekend” – A photo essay from our Central Oregon trip (a.k.a. first travels with a baby).
“Growing Pains in El Chalten” – Okay, so not about Oregon, but with so many similar ties to climbing, to nature, and to high desert grandeur, I think the links to this famous climbing destination in Patagonia make a worthwhile comparison.

6. The Wallowas

One of my favorite early childhood memories: a family trip to Wallowa Lake. I remember spotting deer in the campground, riding the gondola to the top of Mt. Howard, spending time on the lake shore with my brothers and parents.

When Ted and I were scouting out honeymoon ideas, we toyed with the idea of a cabin rental in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. (We ended up on a downtown Portland > Mt. Rainier > Vancouver Island route instead…but I’m still holding out for a future getaway tucked up in the Northeastern corner of our state.)

Even if you’ve never been to Oregon, you may recognize this place without realizing it: the beautiful Wallowas serve as backdrop to the bittersweet 2007 best-seller, The Shack.

7. Crater Lake

If I had 25 cents for every time I’ve carried Crater Lake in my pocket… 

No, really, our state’s crowning National Park marks the back side of the Oregon quarter.

Dad would point out Wizard Island when we’d stop at Crater Lake on family road trips, and I’d imagine the exploding volcano and the crash of the mountain’s peak falling back in its own crater and the water slowly filling up the basin…

“Crater Lake Under the Stars” – Please, go watch this 1:33 video right now. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve watched it at least 37 times. The beautiful time lapse video is a creation of Ben Canales, the super-nice Oregon photographer who also won National Geographic Traveler’s 2011 Photography contest with his nighttime shot of Crater Lake.

(Also: does anyone else see Cristo Redentor in the “t” in Crater Lake? No? Just me.)

This spring, Travel Oregon invited a series of guest to experience our Seven Wonders and share Instagram photos along the way. Each traveler takes over the @travelOregon account and posts their best photos and videos from their explorations. A few to keep an eye on:

@worksologyJoshua, Jessa, and Jack are headed for the Painted Hills at this very moment. I started following them last year when they passed through Oregon in their Airstream trailer, and I’m so excited that they’ve returned…

@beersandbeans — Beth(any!) and Randy will soon make a beeline for Crater Lake (because who doesn’t love being lured with coffee and Oregon hazelnuts?).

@traveloregon — Check their feed for past photos from the other five Wonders, and your own favorites from around the state to the #travelOregon hashtag.

So, have you seen our Seven Wonders?

Fellow Oregonians — Which are your favorites? Any surprises on the list?

(I gotta say, I could’ve pitched Rogue Creamery as the eighth wonder for coming up with the Oregon Blue, the first blue cheese made on the west coast, and Rogue River Blue, a taste bud defying blue wrapped in Syrah grape leaves macerated in Clear Creek Brandy…but perhaps that should be another post: my Seven Foodie Wonders of Oregon.)

Fellow Travelers — Have you spent time in Oregon? Which Wonder tops your wish list?

Mom and Dad — thanks for packing all of us kids up so many times to take to the roads and show us our home. I hope Ted and I can do the same for our little Oregonian. (And brothers — when are we taking the RV for our Oregon-Trail-in-Reverse 20 Year Reunion Tour?)

xx Bethany

Connect with me on Twitter (@twoOregonians), see photos on Instagram (@bethanyrydmark), and get notices of new blog posts by Subscribing or (my favorite, actually) Following on Feedly.

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  • Reply CJ April 24, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Hmmmmmm…. Not only feeling inspired to explore all that Oregon has to offer, but to also come up with my own list for Alberta.
    You’re totally right about following up with a Foodie list too! X

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

      CJ, I’d love to see your list for Alberta! I’ve never been, and I know so very little about that part of the world. I bet you could recommend some pretty fantastic hidden spots along with all the regulars?

      I’ll keep you posted about the Foodie list… ;)

  • Reply Joel April 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Columbia River Gorge gets my vote for best, but mostly because it has Multnomah Falls, which I don’t even mind being an obvious choice because as a native I’m entitled to it ;)

    Also, though, Silver Creek Falls should get some mention. And as much as hate Burns, that whole area’s pretty sublime under snow.

    I’m up for the RV reunion tour. Just say the word.

    Your opening paragraphs put me in mind of TS Eliot’s Little Gidding, where he says, “we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Again, an obvious choice, but too good to pass up.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 27, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Yes, I think Silver Creek Falls got the short end of the stick. (Or maybe it just fortuitously escaped becoming overrun by visitors?) We should go back this summer. Part of our larger waterfalls circuit oss.

      Also, I love your TS Eliot quote. Also, also, I just went and re-read Chesterton’s The Riddle of the Ivy. So good.

      You can be in charge of asking Dad for the RV keys ;)

  • Reply heather April 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    This makes me SO happy and excited and you know why ;)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 27, 2014 at 8:49 am

      YES! I do know why, and it makes me so happy, too!

  • Reply Alicia Morris April 24, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    I love with this ad campaign as well. I’ve been all of these places except one, and I told Chris he *had* to take me to The Painted Hills after I saw these commercials. As a transplant, I still fall in love with Oregon everyday. I love my home state, and honestly never imagined that i would ever live anywhere else. But… I will officially have been an Oregonian 20 years in October. That’s worth celebrating! I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

    On another note: we have an ad campaign running (it was in the works before this one – happy coincidence!), called #exploreoregon. Look for our commercials – they are pretty cool :)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 27, 2014 at 8:58 am

      Alicia, I agree, 20 years calls for a party! ;) (Or at very least that trip out to The Painted Hills??)

      I will definitely keep an eye out for the new Rivermark campaign. Yet another reason to love our state — all the great local businesses and neighbors helping neighbors.

      Thanks as always for reading the blog, and thanks for leaving a note! xx

  • Reply Jane Sadek April 25, 2014 at 5:35 am

    I’ve seen four of the seven and that’s pretty good when you consider I was only there for 12 days. I’m still pretty blown away by White River Falls and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens, but I never find anyone else who has seen them.

  • Reply Carmel April 26, 2014 at 10:57 am

    We haven’t done enough exploring in our own state! Definitely a goal of ours upon our return.

    It’s amazing that it’s taken us going away for so long to *truly* appreciate how much we love our home state. I’m Seattle born and bred, but Oregon truly won over my heart.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians April 27, 2014 at 9:10 am

      Oregon has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? Winning people over. ;) It’ll be great to hear what you two love discovering in Oregon when you return and start a new chapter of exploring.

      I mentioned it in my comment above to my brother, but G.K. Chesterton’s short piece The Riddle of the Ivy makes me smile when I think about the process of leaving to explore and then coming home to see a familiar place with new eyes. I’m sure it resonates with you as well.

      Safe travels! xx

  • Reply Jane Sadek April 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I adore Oregon and plan to come back – I’m just not sure when. Darn that time and money thing. I’m a dyed in the wool Texan, but I’m convinced God liked Oregon better.

  • Reply Lesley Peterson April 27, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Years ago I rode up the coast to Portland at night. Must return and do it by day (preferably several days)! The photo of the Oregon coast here is gorgeous. What a beautiful state — and inspiring campaign.

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