Think snow — try winter cabin camping

Winter walloped many of us with a blast of ice and snow last week, catching everyone by surprise. We can’t complain — some of our eastern Oregon parks are most peaceful when blanketed in snow. Consider a midweek visit for even more solitude.


Take Emigrant Springs, located near the summit of the Blue Mountains that was once a pioneer stop along the Oregon Trail. The campground’s six heated cabins (No. 1 allows pets) are cozy and dry so that you can stay toasty warm while you take in views of the bucolic winter wonderland outside. The one-room cabins sleep five on a futon couch and bunk bed, and they are just a short snow-booted stroll to a hot shower. A little secret: No. 5 is our favorite with its privacy and proximity to the restroom.

After preparing a hot breakfast in the cabin’s outdoor propane stove and oven, strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit 20 miles of trails. “You can literally punch right out of the cabin loop and enjoy 10-20 miles of rolling hills through mature mixed conifer forest,” says Park Manager Clay Courtright. The park also boasts two popular sledding hills and a new one opening later this winter. Additional cross-country skiing trails, tubing hills and snowmobile parks are nearby.

Farewell Bend cabin

Further east on the Oregon Trail, the two cabins at Farewell Bend will stay open this winter. Late fall and early winter they draw hunters and birders (each fall, migrating birds stop at Brownlee Reservoir en route south and again in early spring when they return north). The cabins are also a relaxing place to disconnect and curl up with a good book.

Cabin camping in the winter begs for a good book. We recommend The Jump-Off Creek by Portland author Molly Gloss, about a widowed homesteader struggling to settle in the rugged Blue Mountains in the 1890s. The descriptions of a brutal eastern Oregon winter will feel very real.

In Central Oregon, enjoy deluxe cabins with private bathrooms at  Prineville Reservoir (we like the reservoir views from cabins No. 1 and 2; No. 5 is pet friendly). The Cove Palisades also has cabins, but they’re closed through February 2015 for utility upgrades.

LaPine’s five deluxe and five rustic cabins are a popular jump-off point for winter sports. On site, explore by foot (or possibly snowshoe) the 10 miles of trails that wind along the Deschutes River and through forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pine. You’ll see bald eagles, osprey, deer, elk and maybe even a coyote.

Cabins at state parks are popular on holidays and weekends, so be sure to book in advance here. With winter rates of $40-$44 for a rustic cabin and $64-$67 for a deluxe cabin, this seasonal adventure is a steal.

Season’s tidings

Come to an Oregon State Park to celebrate the season.

Shore Acres Holiday Lights


Each year, volunteers and local businesses help string the lights.

Nov. 27 – Dec. 31
4 -9:30 p.m.
Shore Acres State Park

Stroll through the garden wreathed with 300,000 lights arranged on sculptures, trees and shrubbery. Look for the life-size leaping orca and gray whale. The 28th annual event includes a bed & breakfast raffle, music and refreshments. The event is free. Day-use parking is $5. Visit the Friends of Shore Acres website for more information.

Camping (yurts at both!) is available at Sunset Bay State Park and nearby William M. Tugman State Park.

Watch for an early December story of a first-time visitor’s impression and more photos.

Champoeg Holiday Gathering

Dec. 6
1-4 p.m.
Champoeg State Heritage Area, Visitor Center

Join us for an old-fashioned French Prairie Christmas featuring 19th century ornament making, wreaths and decorations. Try your hand at popcorn and cranberry stringing and cutting out paper snowflakes.  Music guests include Heart Strings and a reenactor makes an appearance as Dr. John McLaughlin playing Father Christmas. The event is free. Day-use parking is $5

Tryon Creek Forest Market

Dec. 6-7
10 a.m-4 p.m.
Tryon Creek State Natural Area, Nature Center

Featuring arts and crafts created by local artisans. Browse the selections of turned wood bowls, bags, hand thrown pottery and wood cutting boards. Proceeds benefit the Friends of Tryon Creek education and restoration programs. The event is free.

Alsea Bay Candlelight Bridge Walk

Dec. 13
5-7 p.m.
Alsea Bay Historic Interpretive Center

Come for the music, face painting, dog costume contest, guided bridge walk and more. If the weather is good, head to the beach for a bonfire. Schedule Sponsored by the Waldport Chamber of Commerce. The event is free.

Silver Falls Christmas Festival

Dec. 13-14
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Silver Falls State Park, South Falls Day-use Area

Make your own wreath and bird boxes at the 37th annual Christmas Festival. You also can make your own decorations, including gingerbread houses and festive ornaments. Local music includes tunes by the RoundHouse Band, bagpipes player James Haskell, Livingstone Adventist Academy Handbells and the Muller Family Choir. Get cozy around the historic South Falls Lodge’s rustic fireplace and listen to wintry tales by Gordon Munro. See the schedule at the Friends of Silver Falls blog. The event is free. Day-use parking is $5.


Ice Ice Baby

Originally posted on Columbia River GORGEOUS:

For those of you who have wisely chosen to stay away this past week while the Gorge pounded out its first windy ice storm of the season, I thought we’d share a whip of the tempest.

Ice in the Parking Log

The sun’s reflection on the ice that coats Rooster Rock’s parking lot.


The effect of that ice.  An accident on I-84 that sent rangers scurrying home.


Weather changes quickly in the Gorge. On November 7, our big leaf maples looked like this.

Snow and Maple Leaf

By the following week, the trees sat naked, leaves lodged in snow.

Ice on Cliff

Icicles form at water seeps along the Columbia River Highway.

Shepperd's Dell and Bridge

Trails and bridges are coated with ice . . . and will be slow to thaw in the shadows of the Gorge walls.  This is a look at Shepperd’s Dell.

Shepperd's Dell

Shepperd’s Dell hourglass waterfall.

IMG_1298 The trail at Latourell is closed due to ice, but you can still admire the contrast of the…

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