The coronavirus pandemic has forced travelers to either stay at home or find more creative ways to satisfy their wanderlust. With travel restrictions throughout the country finally easing up somehow, going on a trip is becoming possible once again.
Still, it’s better to stay safe than sorry. If you feel the need to go on a trip after almost a year of self-isolation, you must choose a destination where you won’t run a huge risk of catching the Covid-19 virus. That means socially distant outdoor destinations, outdoor places where crowding isn’t as likely.
This article is the first in a series, where we pick some of the best socially distant outdoor destinations in the US. We start with those you’ll find in Oregon.
The city of Cannon Beach enjoys a reputation as one of the most picturesque cities in the US. It’s home to Haystack Rock, one of the most iconic rock formations on the Oregon coastline. Haystack Rock itself is highly Instagram-able. It’s also a great place to watch seabirds such as puffins, gulls, cormorants, and the occasional bald eagle and peregrine falcon. The waters at Cannon Beach are notorious for their rip currents, though, so you should only attempt it if you’re a strong swimmer. But if you’re up for a picnic at the beach, hiking the surrounding woodlands, and enjoying marine life and wonderful coastal views, Cannon Beach is a fabulous destination.
Just like most resort towns, Cannon Beach greatly experienced the negative effects of coronavirus closures. While it’s slowly reopening, it remains limited with regards dining and shopping options. The city also imposes safety protocols such as social distancing and wearing face masks.
Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge is a scenic canyon that forms a natural boundary between Oregon and Washington. Running 80 miles long and 4,000 feet deep, this river canyon offers dramatic views of the Cascades. Moreover, the gorge has 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side alone, including the iconic Multnomah Falls. Various forests and woodlands surround the gorge, as well as grasslands and meadows.
Columbia River Gorge is open to visitors, although the rangers impose guidelines on wearing face masks and social distancing. While they don’t have a set limit for the number of visitors allowed, the rangers may turn you away if a specific trail or area has become too crowded.
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Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is the only national park in Oregon. It’s definitely one of the most stunning places in the country. Its main feature and namesake is Crater Lake, a large body of water that formed in the caldera of a dormant volcano around 7,700 years ago. The lake is famous for its deep blue color and is considered to be one of the most pristine bodies of water in the world. Surrounding Crater Lake are other volcanoes and mountain peaks, wildflower meadows, and old-growth forests.
Crater Lake NP is open 24 hours daily, and its rangers don’t limit the number of visitors entering the park. However, the visitor center and stores are closed, and ranger-guided activities are currently suspended.
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Silver Falls State Park
The magical Silver Falls State Park is the largest and considered to be the crown jewel of Oregon’s state parks. Its main draw, the one that attracted local and international visitors alike before the pandemic, is its Trail of Ten Falls. The trail features ten magnificent waterfalls, four of which have natural amphitheater formations that allow hikers to pass behind the cascades.
Silver Falls State Park is open for overnight camping and daytime activities. As a precaution against Covid-19, the park closed its shower areas and group camps, as well as suspended its ranger programs. The Nature Store is only open on weekends and at a limited capacity.
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Wildlife Safari lets you get up close and personal with the wildlife without even getting off your car. This open-air zoo and conservation center lets you drive along a 4.5-mile road so you can encounter the animals that call this zoo home. There are over 600 animals belonging to 100 species in Wildlife Safari. Some of these animals, including zebras, giraffes, and wildebeests, have free rein within the zoo. Others, such as lions and bears, are separated within enclosures. Wildlife Safari also won international renown for its successful cheetah breeding program. Cheetahs are an endangered species.
The Safari is open seven days a week, and the shops and restaurants in its Safari Village remain operational. The only restriction the place imposes is visitors are not allowed to drive motorbikes and open-top vehicles through the park.
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If you’re in Oregon or planning to visit Oregon, these five places are some of the best socially distant outdoor destinations you can check out. Have a safe trip!