Portland - Off the beaten track
Columbia River Gorge
Only 45 minutes from Portland, the Columbia River Gorge is a geological wonder. The mile-wide river has carved a 3000-foot-deep (900-metre-deep) chasm through the Cascade Range, and boasts over 70 waterfalls, and among them, the nation's second highest. For added historic value, take the Columbia River Highway (US 30), a byway featuring Florentine-style viaducts crafted by Italian stonecutters in the first years of the 20th century. It's frequent turnouts make the most of the breathtaking views.
Hood River is the area's most dynamic city as well as its recreational hub. When the conditions are right (and they often are) it's windsurfing nirvana.
Portland's East Side offers a rich variety of public parks, gardens and other green space. Laurelhurst Park is a beautiful urban park with a small lake, towering conifers, flocks of ducks and geese, playgrounds and picnic areas. Heavily forested Mt Tabor Park boasts of being the only city park in the country that's also an extinct volcano; it's a great place to picnic or to unleash pets and kids. Crystal Springs Lake, near idyllic Reed College, is popular in early spring for the amazing display of flowering shrubs at its Rhododendron Garden. There are more than 2000 full-grown rhododendrons and azaleas here. The park winds past duck-filled ponds and streams.
The Grotto - a religious retreat also known as the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother - is the grounds of the Servite Monastery. In addition to an outdoor shrine, the grounds are maintained as a public sanctuary. Streamside Leach Botanical Park is a lovely 5ac (2ha) estate now aintained by the city for its collection of rare plants.
International Rose Test Gardens
The International Rose Test Gardens is one of the main reasons behind Portland's 'Rose City' moniker. Among the nation's oldest rose gardens, the park sprawls across acres of manicured lawns, fountains and flower beds. More than just a beautiful public park, the rose gardens are also the testing grounds for the American Rose Society and All-American Rose selections. Over 400 rose varieties are contained in the permanent gardens, including many old and rare varieties. From June to September, the scent and colours are seductively overpowering.
This former elementary school is now a McMenamins-run B&B (plus bar, restaurant and cinema), serving up Gen X irony, comfort food and regional brews. Guest rooms still feature the original chalk boards and cloak rooms. Out-of-town guests join locals who come to smoke cigars in the Detention Bar, sip port in the Honors Bar, or check out a film in the auditorium. Very Portland.
Around 56mi (90km) east of Portland on US 26 is majestic Mt Hood. This is the highest peak in Oregon and boasts the US' longest ski season at 345 days per year. It's a favourite destination for skiers, hikers, mountain climbers, fly-fishing devotees and those who come to pay homage to the WPA-era Timberline Lodge. Completed in 1937, the project employed over 500 workers who handcrafted almost every element, from quarrying local stone for the fireplaces to hand-looming coverlets for the beds. Apart from its Cascadian style and social ideals, Timberline has a quirkier side. Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining was shot here - the easily-spooked should stay well clear of room 217.