Oregon is split into two climate zones by the north-south Cascade Mountains. In general, west of the Cascades has fairly heavy precipitation and moderate temperatures. East of the Cascades, the high desert can have very cold winters with considerable snowfall in the upper elevations. Summer days are very hot and the nights cool. Annual rainfall ranges from less than 20cm in the plateau regions to 508cm in the upper western Coast Range. The highest elevations of the Cascades receive 760 to 1,400cm of snow annually.
When to fly to Oregon
The peak season is May through October, and the height of the season is July when most travellers book flights to Oregon. Portland and Ashland are booked solid in summer, and many wineries are open daily during the summer months.
The abundant winter snow brings downhill and cross-country skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers to the mountains. Travellers looking for cheap plane tickets to Oregon during the winter should book well in advance. Mount Hood is crowded summer and winter, and the Timberline snow lasts into summer.
Spring and fall generally have good weather, fewer crowds, and lower airfare prices. Late March through April is the peak fishing season.
Many vineyards begin wine tasting in November, but most are closed in January and February.
Between October and May, Oregon flights and hotel rates are lower, but you need good rain gear if you're heading to the state.
Getting around Oregon
Probably the best way to tour Oregon is with an RV or car. Before venturing into remote areas, fill up the gas tank—Oregon is a large state, and gas stations are few and far between in some areas. Regional airports are situated so you can get flights to other parts of the state. There is train service in the western part of the state and regular bus service to larger towns. Along the rivers, upscale and more moderate tours are available.
Public transportation can get you around Portland. The Tri-Met operates buses, streetcars, and light-rail trains. The Central City streetcar line runs through several areas including downtown and Portland State University. The MAX light-rail trains run between tourist destinations such as the airport, downtown, the zoo, and the Rose Garden Arena. Taxis are available and driving is a reasonable undertaking.
Hiking is a great way to see the natural wonders. The Pacific Crest Trail goes through Oregon, the Timberline Trail circles Mt. Hood, and beach walks take you along the coast.
Oregon has been creating bicycling routes for over 30 years, and the Oregon Coast Bike Route is still considered the best way to tour the shoreline.
Oregon insider information
- The Sea Lion Caves in Florence is the largest sea cave in the world.
- Heceta Head Lighthouse is beautifully situated in Lane County, America’s most photographed lighthouse (it is claimed) sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and beach below.
- It is said that Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state in America. These ghost towns don’t have spooks, they are rather towns that have either been abandoned or are greatly diminished. Shaniko is Oregon’s best known ghost town.
- There are several places along the Oregon coast from which to watch whales including Winchester Bay. There are two times of year to see the whales. During the winter migration (see the whales between Dec 26 and the start of Jan) the mammals travel south to the breeding grounds in Baja, California. The spring migration occurs in March and is when the whales swim by with their calves on their way to the Alaskan feeding grounds.
- The Willamette Valley is the heart of Oregon’s agriculture country. During spring and summer, roadside stands and farmers’ markets in the towns sell produce. There are more than 200 wineries producing several types of wine including pinot noir, pinot gris and riesling.
- Mount Hood is the highest mountain in Oregon and is easily accessible from Portland. There is just a 90-minute drive to get to the skiing or snowboarding areas.