Willamette Valley: How to Explore Oregon's Prime Wine Country

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Oregon's Willamette Valley
©Barberstock
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Willamette Valley Oregon
©David Loveall
Wine Trails

Meander through the Willamette Valley and roll all its charms into one on a wine trail. Low-trafficked streets and rollicking hills make for a relaxing journey.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Rick Obst/Flickr, Creative Commons
Flower Gardens

The valley's fertile soil makes it a hotbed for flower growth, and thousands of Heirloom roses are grown here each year. View them, along with dahlias, hibiscus, conifers and more in the 20-garden strong Oregon Garden.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©George Gentry/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Wildlife Refuges

The valley also teems with wildlife, and blue herons, songbirds, black-tailed deer and elk are on view at the Finley National Wildlife Refuge. It was established as a protected winter habitat for the dusky Canadian goose. 

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Christian Heeb
Ballooning

Take flight and get a bird's-eye view of the valley's wineries on a hot-air balloon tour. McMinnville, Newberg and Salem are great starting points for these aerial tours.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Bill Origer
Historic Districts

The small town of Albany is home to 700 historic buildings, the most in the state. This varied collection of architectural styles from the 1840s to the 1920s spans an area of 100 square blocks.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington
Wilderness Areas

Tucked into the Cascade Mountains, the Table Rock Wilderness Area bursts at the seams with Douglas fir, noble fir and western hemlock. Two endangered plants—Oregon sullivantia and Gorman's aster—also grow here.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Sumio Koizumi
Sparkling Waters

Oregon is known for its pristine lakes and streams; Clear Lake is so named for its swimming pool-clear water. Though you may be tempted to swim here, the water is frigid (35-45 degrees), so fishing may be a better option. 

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Gregory Westergaard
Pinot Production

Pinot noir is Oregon's most important grape. Its vines cover 14,417 acres throughout the valley, which harvests 81 percent of Oregon's pinot noir production annually.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Sionnie Lafollette
Postcard-Perfect Towns

Its collection of small towns makes an excursion through the valley feel like a walk through a scrapbook. One of the many charming towns is McMinnville, known for its quaint Main Street and many parks and woods. 

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Covered bridge
©Barberstock
Covered Bridges

Oregon has the most covered bridges of any state in the nation. The cheerful Office Covered Bridge is the state's longest and the only with a separate pedestrian walkway.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Leslie Kehmeier
Mountain Biking

Take on the whopper of all biking trails on the Oregon Timber Trail: the route runs across the state of Oregon from California to the Columbia River Gorge. The 670-mile trail's four tiers offer up distinctly different landscapes.

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Willamette Valley Oregon
©Barberstock
Waterfalls

Oregon's waterfalls number into the hundreds. Don't miss Silver Falls—in Oregon's largest state park—five types of owls have been known to roost here.

By Jennifer McKee

The landscape of Oregon's Willamette Valley is picturesque and serene with fertile soil that produces an abundance of flowers, forests and grapevines. Unspoilt lakes and streams are a haven for fisherman and water enthusiasts; its roads and trails pristine and uncrowded. It's Oregon's love letter to the wine industry: Willamette is home to more than 500 wineries, and is lauded for its pinot noir production. Go on a journey through its quaint towns, covered bridges and waterfalls and discover this Northwestern paradise.

Jennifer McKee
About the author

Jennifer is the Managing Editor of Morris Visitor Publications, where she has worked since 2005. She grew up in small...