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Exploring the Willamette Valley's Ales and Trails With the Journal of Lost Time

By Matt Wastradowski

Over the past few months, our friends at The Journal of Lost Time (a digital publication showcasing memorable experiences around the world) have spent a few weekends exploring the Willamette Valley-hiking and biking its trails, drinking our locally made beer and cider, and getting a feel for the history of this dramatic region.

Along the way, they've produced a series of short videos showing off the valley, all centered around a common theme: "The Willamette Valley feels like home." (You can learn about the first two videos, and follow in the team's footsteps, here.)

The Journal of Lost Time's latest videos head to the northern reaches of the Willamette Valley and West Cascades, with stops at some of our most popular parks and bustling beer gardens. So if you'd like to follow in The Journal's footsteps and have your own "only-in-the-valley" experience-connecting with the people, places, and products that make the Willamette Valley such a special place-we've prepared an overnight itinerary that begins at Silver Falls State Park. We hope you feel at home in the valley as the Journal of Lost Time team did.

Silver Falls State Park is considered the "crown jewel" of the Oregon State Parks system-so what better way to experience the park's beauty than by waking up in the park's cabins?

Fortunately, you have two options for doing just that.

The first option is to stay in one of the 14 cabins (seven of which are pet-friendly) at the massive Silver Falls State Park campground. Each well-kept cabin includes a table, four chairs, electrical outlets, electrical heat, lights, and two beds-along with a picnic table, campfire ring, and covered porch outside.

And at the southwestern edge of the park, Smith Creek Village rents out a variety of adorable cabins, cottages, duplexes, and lodges for cozy weekend getaways and larger family gatherings alike. The area used to be a youth camp but has been converted into a luxurious lodging experience. 

With a good night's sleep behind you, it's time to explore Silver Falls State Park.

If you brought your mountain bike, consider a morning ride on the six-mile Catamount Trail, the forest of cedar and Douglas fir whooshing by in a blur. The trail is part of a wider network of mountain biking paths within the park, with something for riders of all skill levels.

If you didn't bring your bike, stretch your legs with a hike through the park's towering forests. Chances are good you've heard of the Trail of Ten Falls, which offers views of (you guessed it) 10 waterfalls-but that loop represents just eight of the 45 miles of trails within the park. 

The quiet Perimeter Trail, for instance, passes in the shadow of 400-year-old Douglas fir trees and through colorful wildflower blooms in late spring and early summer. And the three-mile Smith Creek Trail showcases big-leaf maple trees, which put on dazzling displays of red, orange, and yellow every autumn.

What better way to end a hike or mountain bike trip than with a cold beer? Head northwest for about 45 minutes via Oregon Route 219 and highway 99E to TopWire Hop Project-one of the most creative beer gardens anywhere in Oregon. Photo Courtesy of Autumn Schrock. 

The first thing you'll notice about TopWire is its location. The outdoor beer garden, housed in a converted shipping container, sits surrounded by acres of hop bines at Crosby Hop Farm (which operates TopWire). By July, the bines around TopWire can reach 10 feet or taller.

And then there's the beer. Crosby Hop Farm grows and ships hops to craft brewers all over the United States-and the TopWire tap list reflects that, pouring a selection of ales and lagers using hops grown on the very fields surrounding you. Once you've grabbed your beer, you can spread out on the grass or belly up to shaded tables with your pint in hand. Beer is also available to-go if you want to enjoy some at your hotel, campsite, or back home.

A few things to note: TopWire is open May-October; if you're visiting in those months, call or check the TopWire website or Instagram feed to see whether the beer garden has opened for the season. Leashed dogs are allowed, and water bowls are available if your furry friend needs to cool off. Food delivery from Luis's Taqueria in nearby Woodburn is available, and a rotating cast of food trucks shows up on some weekends.

For more, check out our story on the history of hops in the Willamette Valley-and how TopWire is part of a tradition that dates back more than a century.

Play 18 holes surrounded by oak groves at Champoeg State Heritage Area. Photo courtesy of Autumn Schrock.

By this point in your day, you've already worked up a sweat, relaxed with a post-ride pint, and are ready to enjoy another beautiful afternoon in the Willamette. From TopWire, head north about 10 minutes to Champoeg State Heritage Area-whose claim to fame is being the site where Oregon's first provisional government was established in 1843.

That history is all well and good-and, not for nothing: members of the Kalapuya tribe had hunted, fished, foraged, and gathered camas bulbs on this site for thousands of years before that-but you're here to play disc golf on one of the most fun, easy-going courses in the Willamette Valley.

Champoeg hosts an 18-hole course that sits surrounded by a grove of oak trees (the likes of which once dominated the Willamette Valley). Some holes on the well-signed course feature multiple pins, with a fun mix of par-3 and par-4 holes to accommodate disc golfers of all ages.

Elsewhere around the park, you'll find a large, well-maintained campground (with yurts and cabins, as well as tent and RV sites), several miles of biking and hiking trails, easy access to the Willamette River, and several historic structures that showcase the various groups who've called the area home.

Want to know where else to hit the proverbial links? Check out our story on 5 can't-miss disc golf courses around the Willamette Valley.

Earlier today, you spent time on a hop farm; now it's time for another kind of farm-but more good beer. Continue your journey northward for about 15 minutes to Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg.

Wolves & People sits on a farm (the childhood home of brewery founder Christian DeBenedetti) and pours a variety of European-inspired beers-such as small-batch grisettes, saisons, and farmhouse ales. You can enjoy these beers outside, right on the farm-where honeybee hives produce honey for the brewery's best-selling IPA, where rose hips and apple trees provide the yeast for a variety of farmhouse ales, and where hazelnuts are key ingredients in a nutty porter. Whatever you order, chances are good that at least one ingredient was produced within eyesight of where you sit.

The patio is heated and outfitted with umbrellas and picnic tables for a laid-back experience-especially after you've just wrapped up a surprisingly competitive game of disc golf.

Learn more about how Wolves & People (and other Willamette Valley breweries) use local crops in their beers. 

Sip on a variety of European-inspired beers at Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery. Photo courtesy of Autumn Schrock.

Sip inside or walk around the pond, creek, or on-site orchard at Salt Creek Cider House. Photo courtesy of Autumn Schrock.

If your day's travels take you south and into the mid-Willamette Valley, end your day with savory sips at Salt Creek Cider House-just outside the cozy community of Dallas. Since 2016, the cider maker has earned well-deserved acclaim for crafting creative, semi-dry hard ciders from farm-grown fruit.

The family-owned-and-operated outfit sits on a homestead outfitted with a picturesque barn-where the cider is pressed and poured. The same growing conditions that make our wine scene so celebrated also make it possible to grow great apples-thanks to a unique combination of landscapes (rolling hillsides), climate (relatively mild), and a relatively close proximity to the Pacific Ocean (whose marine breezes keep the orchard cool-even on balmy summer weekends). You'll taste that quality in each of Salt Creek's impressive ciders.

Whether enjoying a flight or grabbing a growler, you're tasting fruit from the farm around you-as well as from orchards from throughout the Pacific Northwest. If you stick around, note that visitors are welcome to walk around the pond, creek, or on-site orchard-and to keep an eye out for migrating birds and other wildlife (since Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge sits less than three miles away).  

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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