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A Perfect Road Trip Chasing Waterfalls and Coastlines through Oregon, USA

Written by Charley McRoberts

My best friend and I went to Oregon with one plan: to get to the coast. Traveling with no plan might seem super stressful to some but for us, it was AMAZING. We had the whole state open for exploring! As the water creatures that we are, we were naturally drawn to water and spent most of our time chasing waterfalls, lakes, and exploring the beautiful coast. It was the best feeling to wake up and think “Okay, where should we venture to today?”. Instead of feeling stressed about having to be at a certain place at a certain time, we could explore as we pleased. I’m so excited to share this journey of a lifetime with you! Scroll down to see and hear about my adventure.

Day 1: La Pine and Crane Prairie Reservoir

Getting to Oregon was pretty easy for us since we came from Idaho. We decided to head south towards Mount Bachelor and La Pine to camp for our first night. I grew up on free camping in our hometown so wherever we go, we always scout out the free campsites. We found some free camping along the southern shore of Crane Prairie Reservoir just outside of La Pine.

Pao Spot: Craine Prairie Reservoir

We got there a little later and all the campsites with good views were taken, so if you want an awesome spot make sure to get there early (we saw one that had an epic view of mount bachelor right on the lake)! We found a nice quiet spot towards the end of the road. We did about an 8 hour drive so we were totally burnt out and just went to bed. I tried hammock camping for the first time this night and let’s just say it didn’t go well lol. I’m a restless sleeper and my hammock did not keep me or my stuff in! I ended up setting up the tent at midnight because I was over it!!

Day 2: Bend, Watson Falls and Umpqua National Forest

We packed up the next morning and went straight into Bend to get some nice brecky! I didn’t take any pictures but we found the cutest little breakfast cafe called Strictly Organic. The food and coffee was amaze, and something I loved about this place was that it catered to vegetarians, dairy free, and other food allergens. It was a perfect spot to sit and make our plan for the day and next.

Pao Spot: Watson Falls

We made a plan to go to Umpqua National Forest which was only a 2 hour drive. Once we turned onto Highway 138, there was so much to do! So many hikes, lakes, picnic areas, and waterfalls! We stopped at Watson Falls, and wow I can’t even begin to explain the pure magic that lied here (okay all of Oregon is just magic, I’ll be saying this a lot). I actually felt like I was in some island paradise guys, it was so beautiful and majestic. After the hike, we scouted some camping near Umpqua Hot Springs, our first destination for the next morning.

Day 3: Umpqua Hot Springs, Crater Lake National Park and Coos Bay

Pao Spot: Umpqua Hot Springs

This was a LONG day but probably one of the best of the whole trip in my opinion. We started bright and early at 5 am to pack up camp, and head to the hot springs to beat the crowds. General tip: when going to natural hot springs, go early! If not, you will just be fighting for spots with a bunch of people. This hike took less than 15 minutes but it was steep AF! Arriving at these hot springs was incredible. I go to natural hot springs all the time but this place was unlike any other I have been to! There are about 7 pools that get colder as you go down, and the water is a perfect crystal blue. We spent 2 hours here and met the coolest people.

Pao Spot: Crater Lake

After the springs we went to Crater Lake National Park which I was pumped about because last time I was in the area, the park was closed due to fires. We stopped at the first lookout point we saw. I still am trying to find words to describe this blue water and the complete surrealness of the lake. I felt like I was just staring into this blue void and suddenly my existence seemed so insignificant but wildly beautiful at the same time. This trance was part of the reason I love traveling so much because it makes you realize how beautiful life is (sorry for getting all emotional, I just can’t help it…life is so cool!). Anyways, after this beautiful moment we walked around various trails in the area and stopped at a few more viewpoints.

Pao Spot: Coos Head Road

After Crater, we booked it to the coast. Since we started our day early, it was only noon when we left. The drive from Crater to Coos was only about a 3.5-4 hour drive. We got there late in the afternoon and searched high and low for any campgrounds, but most were already full. The only downside of traveling with no plan is that you can’t book camp spots in advance! We said screw it and just got a motel for the night. This wasn’t the preferred option but we still drove to the nearest beach, made dinner, and watched the sunset. Basically camping right?

Day 4: Florence and Cape Perpetua

Pao Spot: Tahkenitch Lake

Up the coast we go! This drive was super fun because we just stopped anywhere that looked cool. We detoured to the sand dunes for a bit and stopped at a nice lake between the Bay and Florence. Funny story: My friend was taking pictures of me on the dock, and I fell in the lake, blue dress, floppy hat and all. Thankfully the water was warm. It was actually hilarious but I’m sad she didn’t get a photo of it or else you know I would have to share it (shout out to the old couple who saw the whole performance lol).

Pao Spot: Cape Perpetua Lookout

We stopped in Florence and went tourist shopping on the Old Town Strip. Super fun! Our next destination was Cape Perpetua Campground near Yachats. I am definitely living in Yachats some day…seriously in love with this place. En route, we pulled over at some state beaches to get out and explore. My favorite was Neptune State Park simply because of the name (space geek over here)! We got to Cape Perpetua Campground around 2:00 and got one of the last spots available. Usually I don’t like to pay for camping but this place was totally worth it. It was right off Highway 101, seconds from the beach, and the lookout at the top of the road was insane! I could spend forever just sitting up there.

Pao Spot: Thor’s Well

There are also many hiking trails right in the campground and at the lookout spot! A famous attraction just seconds down the road is Thor’s Well, a sinkhole that swallows and spits out the ocean water. Make sure to go at high tide to get the full effect, it’s amazing!

Day 5: Newport and Lincoln City

We headed North on the coast and drove to Newport to explore the beaches and marine life. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is a great tourist location because you can go into the lighthouse but I have done that so many times so we took a pass on that this time. Cobble beach is a beautiful beach in the area with rugged coastline and so many sea creatures. There are numerous beaches with abundant sea life to explore all over Newport. Some of my personal favorites are South Beach, Beverly Beach, and Moolack Beach. Moolack beach is famous for gem hunting (Oregon Agate), so if that sparks your interest it’s something so fun to do.

Pao Spot: Beachfront Manor Hotel

After hitting the beach, we went into a cute antique shop that we saw off the side of the road because who doesn’t love thrifting! After a successful thrift, we went to Lincoln City and stayed at the Beachfront Manor Hotel because we were feeling boujee. It was $120/night and felt like a 5 star hotel for two 21 year old roadies! It was clean and complete with a tv, gas fireplace, mini fridge/microwave and full bathroom. Living large over here! We went for some sushi at Momiji Express. Not the best sushi in the world but a good price for what you get! We watched the sunset on the beach in front of our hotel, and then relaxed in the room.

Day 6: Drift Creek Falls and Camping

Pao Spot: Drift Creek Falls

We had a nice morning and early afternoon chillaxing on the beach and then went to scout for some crystal shops in the area. We found the most mystical crystal shop called The Crystal Wizard, suitable for all your spiritual needs! After getting some new crystals and spiritual goodies, we made our way to Drift Creek Falls. It’s about a half hour outside of Lincoln city and a 4 mile round trip hike! After spending about an hour at the base of the waterfall soaking in the beauty, we headed back to find a camp spot. Note to travelers: you will see signs for Drift Creek Camp. This is NOT a public multiple site campground, and is in fact a private camp resort that groups of people or families can rent out. Do not make the mistake of driving 5 miles in like we did only to be told we can’t camp there! We ended up finding a free spot about 500 ft away from the official site and it was great!

Day 7: Portland, Starvation Creek, and La Grande

Pao Spot: Washington Park International Rose Garden

We woke up so early and packed up camp because we made it our mission to head back east to Idaho the next day. We tried to make the adventure last as long as possible! Our first stop was Portland. We frolicked around the Rose Garden and ate a yummy fruit bowl breakfast in Washington Park. We aren’t much of city gals so we weren’t even in Portland for a full hour but we really enjoyed the nature while we were there!

Pao Spot: Starvation Creek Falls

After Portland, we headed east on I-84 Towards La Grande. A lot of the waterfall hikes that we were trying to do were closed, but we found one that is an exit off the interstate, super short and still stunning. Starvation Creek Falls is a wonderful spot to have a picnic and get your legs moving after being cooped up in a car for hours. We met some beautiful people here who were generous enough to share their food with us and they kept us awesome company. Just another reason why I love traveling… the people you meet are always so kind!

Pao Spot: National Forest Development Road 21

After the falls we drove a little over 3 hours to my favorite campsite of the whole trip. Probably because it reminded me of home. Forest Service Road 21 is just an exit off the freeway and it has beautiful, dispersed campsites all along the road! We were lucky enough to find a spot that was a bit more off the road and secluded. It was the perfect space to end this wonderful week of adventuring!


Meet Charley!

Pao Username: @flyhighbutterfly

Bio: Happy hippy finding peace and love through the beauty of mother nature! Exploring this beautiful earth one road trip at a time.

Fun Fact: During July, I visited 9 states in 3.5 weeks and drove over 3,500 miles. Loved every second of it 🙂 

Fav Part of PAO: I love sharing the places I have gone in a community that loves travel, while also being inspired to go to new hidden gems every day!

Download Pao now to start exploring Charley’s Oregon spots and beyond!

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Anna Zervos

CEO

Anna graduated from UCLA in 2017 where she studied psychology and cognitive science. Her passion for travel, design, and psychology fuel her passion for Pao. On the Pao team she is in charge of feature development, business strategy, UI/UX, and big picture marketing strategies. Anna has been to over 40 countries and plans to keep that number growing. She hopes to inspire people to get outside their comfort zones and eventually give back to people who aren’t able to.

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Tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas

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The 1975

Favorite movie genre

Psychological horror/thriller

Favorite hobby

Singing and playing guitar

Favorite place in the world

Antipaxos, Greece

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CFO

Sara is has a PhD in Economics and spent 22 years in the finance industry managing teams and over $20bn in assets. She is Pao’s CFO and CTO, and also spearheads business development and AI initiatives. She has traveled to over 57 countries, adores animals and the outdoors. Sara loves to connect with people and help them learn and strive to be their best selves.

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Peanut Butter

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P!nk

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Sci Fi

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Salsa Dancing

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