Five ways to enjoy Oregon’s forests in winter
01.09.2024

Winter is a crucial time for Oregon’s forests. The season’s cloudy, wet and cold days foster the explosion of new growth we see in spring forests by invigorating trees and plants with plenty of moisture. Winter is also the height of tree-planting season in Oregon’s forests. This timing capitalizes on the cool weather conditions that promote the root development of newly planted seedlings. 

While winter is a dormant time in the forest, it can be just as magical as other times of year – from seeing the trees dusted in snow to watching the mist rise from the canopy, or hearing the pattering of raindrops as they make their way through the branches above. Here are five ways to enjoy the winter forest experience during the coming months:

Evergreen trees with snow on the ground.

Hiking 

Make your way into the Cascade Range to enjoy abundant snowfall, and marvel at the natural beauty and serenity of winter. The western Cascades boast towering Douglas-fir trees while the eastern side is dominated by ponderosa pine forests with their striking orange trunks. Both regions are likely to receive snowfall at higher elevations, so you’re likely to experience a winter wonderland. The Mt. Hood, Willamette, and Deschutes national forests along the mountains have beautiful trails open during this time of year, making the perfect day-trip hike. Just be sure to be prepared to drive in winter weather, and check road conditions and for trail closures before you head out. 

 

Dog running in front of two people snowshoeing.
(Photo by Ruffwear)

 

Snowshoeing 

While you’re in the snow-covered mountains, why not give snowshoeing a try? Most ski shops rent snowshoes at affordable prices. With snowshoes, hiking snowy trails becomes easier than ever. Visit this link from Travel Oregon for more information on snowshoeing through the Cascade Mountains.

 

Waterfall surrounded by snow and evergreen trees.

Waterfalls

Winter rains replenish our watersheds and river systems, and waterfalls burst with new might from all the rainfall. Smaller waterfalls can be found in almost any forest with keen enough eyes. Multnomah Falls, Sahalie Falls and Tumalo Falls are a few popular destination waterfalls in Oregon’s forests. We recommend visiting these early in the morning or in the evening, as their popularity means traffic and parking can be challenging. Silver Falls State Park, east of Salem, is a standout with its famous Trail of Ten Falls

 

Lone skier on a snowy slope.
(Photo by Donnie Ray Jones / CC BY)

 

Skiing 

Drive along any road in the Cascades during the winter, and you’ll be sure to find Sno-Parks and resorts that are prime for skiing. The abundant snowfall during the winter creates dense, thick snow perfect for hitting the slopes. Mt. Bachelor is just one popular ski and winter outdoor recreation resort near Bend. A few Sno-Parks are prime spots for snowmobiling – if that’s how you roll! Most Sno-Parks and forests have a website where you should check weather conditions and allowed activities before adventuring out. 

 

Hiker and dog walking in snow along tree-lined road.
(Photo by Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB)

 

Visiting an urban forest

Winter can be a difficult time to travel to forests in remote areas of our state. Luckily, many Oregon cities have lots of forested or tree-lined trails that you can visit in urban areas. Take a walk along Portland’s Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, or a bike ride through Eugene’s Alton Baker Park. Or, you could bundle up and venture into Forest Park in Portland or Mt. Pisgah outside of Springfield. Most urban forests feature paved paths and well-designed forest management by urban foresters for easy public access.

Whether you’re a seasoned forest adventurer, or just looking to enjoy the cool breeze and mist, Oregon’s forests are full of surprises all year round.

Trey Pokorney
Social Media and Outreach Intern