Northwest Oregon

Photo by Bob Wick/BLM

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

The Oregon Coast is a well-known tourist destination. But just inland is a vast green land of rolling hills, beautiful forests, hidden waterfalls and more. Parts seem they could double as Mirkwood from Tolkien’s Middle-earth, such is the thickness of the foliage and lack of sunlight reaching the forest floor.

Speaking of fantasy: for years, a rumor has persisted parts of The Empire Strikes Back were filmed near Forest Grove (B-roll for the swamp planet Dagobah). While this seems unlikely, it’s not hard to imagine the foggy, tree-strewn landscape as a mysterious, alien world from the Star Wars galaxy.

The poster child for this is a spot where you might not bat an eyelash if sparkly vampires (parts of Twilight were filmed nearby) appeared – or Sasquatch (alleged Bigfoot sightings have been a part of local lore for decades). Ki-a-Kuts Falls was supposedly uncharted until 1993. The roaring ribbon of water tumbling down mossy basalt cliffs wouldn’t look out of place in Jurassic Park.

The falls are a short hike from Highway 6, one of the main routes cutting through the region. The drive is magical – towering evergreen trees line the often-winding road like skyscrapers in a city. Clouds frequently blanket the pavement, like portals visitors pass through to leave the everyday and enter this realm.

A sense of unreality permeates northwest Oregon. Daytime feels dreamlike. It’s that beautiful. Even with all your senses engaged, it just doesn’t feel real.

Otherworldly indeed.