Hidden Gems of Oregon 2020

September 24-October 3, 2020 • 10 Days • $3250

A brand-new, off-the-beaten path Walking Adventure featuring the Columbia Gorge, Wallowa Mountains, Hells Canyon, the Oregon Trail, Painted Hills, Smith Rock, McKenzie River, and Silver Falls State Park – among other surprising wonders!

Reserve your spot with a refundable $100 Registration deposit.

Hidden Gems of Oregon

Guide Scott Isom offers a quick introduction to our new Hidden Gems of Oregon tour, part of our Close to Home travel series.

Welcome to the second installment of a brand-new series we are calling “Close-to-Home”. Though out-of-staters are more than welcome to join us on this new Adventure, these trips are specifically designed for locals who would rather drive to the start/finish of the tour than hop on an airplane. Itineraries are crafted as loops that return to the same point allowing convenient return to your car or pick up by a friend or relative. Because we have local walkers in mind, in addition to the more familiar must-see sights, we have invested extra effort into featuring the great outdoors and finding the off-the-beaten-trail highlights of each state.

This tour is dedicated to exploring the Hidden Gems of Oregon, and is especially well-suited for those who live in the Pacific Northwest. But in truth, anyone who is curious about the scenic and historic wonders of our 33rd state will find this tour to be an eye-opening and exciting experience, requiring only a relatively short flight to Portland, our start/finish point.

The Adventure begins with a couple of scenic days along the Columbia River, continues in the remote and regal Wallowa Mountains, descends into North America’s deepest gorge at Hells Canyon, walks the Oregon Trail in Baker City, explores the Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds, hikes among the mesmerizing cliffs at Smith Rock, and wraps up with some very impressive waterfalls on the Metolius and McKenzie Rivers and at Silver Falls State Park.

This Close-to-Home Adventure promises to be a visual feast and an excellent way to finally get back on the trail after the COVID-19 pandemic. Our bus and hotel partners along the way are practicing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols and other safety measures to ensure a delightful and worry-free experience. WAI guides will also follow beefed up hygiene and wellness protocols to foster both good health and good spirits as we explore this magical state together!

Unique Aspects of this Tour

Traveling in only one state (Oregon) simplifies the logistics of our tour. In addition, the number of participants on this tour is limited to 24 walkers to enhance adequate distancing on the bus.

It’s a good idea to bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots and walking sticks; some of our trails have sections that will be more challenging, though easier options are usually available as well. Raingear is a good idea in case we encounter the wet stuff during the adventure. While we will mostly be on the drier eastern side of Oregon, there is always the possibility of an occasional rain shower.


  • All land travel as outlined
  • Tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
  • 9 meals: 8 breakfasts and 1 lunch as denoted (B) (L)
  • 13 walks
  • Fees for walking credit for at least 7 AVA sanctioned walks
  • WAI guide service throughout
  • All tipping for coach driver and any local guides
  • Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $580. We provide a roommate matching service for those interested.

Activities/Visits to:

  • Waterfalls of Columbia Gorge
  • Starvation Creek State Park
  • Viento State Park
  • Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
  • Deschutes River Recreation Area
  • McNary Wildlife Nature Area
  • Morgan Lake
  • Wallowa Lake Tramway
  • Hells Canyon Dam and Visitor Center
  • Hells Canyon Jetboat and Ranch Lunch Adventure
  • National Historic Oregon Trail Visitor Center
  • Bates State Park
  • Painted Hills at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
  • Smith Rock State Park
  • Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery
  • Sahalie and Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River
  • Silver Falls State Park
  • More fun stops than we can list!

Adventure Pace

Tour Pace: 1 2 3 4 5
Walk Challenge: 1 2 3 4 5

Important Info

Group Size

We’ll take up to 24 travelers on this NEW ‘Close to Home’ tour.


Tourist Class or better hotel accommodations


9 meals included: 8 breakfasts and 1 lunch


Travelers fly into and out of Portland’s International Airport (airport code PDX).



Traveler Age

Our travelers usually range from 50–75 years of age. All ages welcome!

Your Guides

Scott Isom

Scott Isom has had a passion for the outdoors ever since his childhood days spent exploring the waterfalls and outstanding hiking trails of the Columbia River Gorge with his family. Scott has led tours on all 7 continents and is one of WAI’s busiest guides and on-site Adventure planners. Scott looks forward to sharing the Hidden Gems of Oregon with you!

Walking Adventures Guide Sierra SuitsSierra Suits has a head for details and the heart of an explorer! As a part-time guide and full-time tour planner in the office, Sierra spends much of her time pulling together the ins and outs of WAI Adventures. Sierra believes that all destinations have the power to teach and transform, and she looks forward to assisting Scott on our new Hidden Gems of Oregon tour!


Click on each day to reveal more details. BL refers to breakfasts and lunches included.

Day 1-Sep 24: Arrive Portland, OR

Travelers arrive today into Portland, Oregon’s “Rose City”. Our starting hotel is located about 9 miles east of Portland International Airport (PDX), or about a $15 Uber ride. Several dining options are available nearby for you to enjoy before we gather briefly this evening for a Welcome Orientation.

Day 2-Sep 25: Portland – The Dalles, OR (B)

Columbia Gorge – Starvation Creek Walk – 3 km, 2B
Columbia Gorge – Mosier Tunnels Scenic Walk – 7 km, 2B

Beginning our clockwise loop around our nation’s 33rd state, we marvel at basalt cliffs and towering waterfalls plunging toward the Columbia, one of the West’s great rivers. While we will make picture stops at the more famous cascades and viewpoints, our featured walks today take us along two different abandoned sections of the Historic Columbia River Highway, now converted to hiking and biking paths. Built between 1913 and 1922, the Historic Columbia River Highway, a National Historic Landmark, was the first planned scenic roadway in the United States and offers magnificent views of the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge that separates Oregon from Washington. We wrap up this scenic day in The Dalles, near one of several hydroelectric projects that produce power from the Columbia.

NOTE: Breakfast is not included this morning but our hotel serves a no-host breakfast in their restaurant.

Day 3-Sep 26: The Dalles – Hermiston, OR (B)

Deschutes River Walk – 7 km, 2C
McNary Wildlife Nature Walk – 3 km, 1B

Continuing east along the mighty Columbia, our morning walk features the Deschutes River, a northward flowing tributary that is famous among Oregonians as a rafting destination as well as a world-class steelhead and trout fishing stream. Our loop walk begins with the Blackberry Trail along the river’s edge and finishes with the Riverview Trail along a terrace above the river. An afternoon journey takes us further up the Columbia for one last stop at McNary Wildlife Nature Area. A short and easy stroll here takes us among wetlands and offers the possibility to encounter deer and migrating birds. We settle in for the night in Hermiston, a small riverside town famous for its watermelons.

Day 4-Sep 27: Hermiston – Enterprise, OR (B)

Morgan Lake (La Grande) Walk – 3 km, 1B
Wallowa Lake Tramway Walk – 4 km, 2C

After passing through Pendleton (known for its 110-year old Round Up rodeo), we ascend the Blue Mountains, paralleling the Oregon Trail route, on our way to La Grande, where we enjoy a serene walk above town at Morgan Lake. Following a lunch break, we drive to our second scenic mountain range of the day, the Wallowas, which are often called the “Alps of Oregon.” The grandeur of these northeastern peaks is best experienced by taking the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard, where a series of inviting trails beckons us to soak up the views! Following our Wallowa mountain high, we spend tonight in the fun little town of Enterprise.

Day 5-Sep 28: Enterprise – Baker City, OR (BL)

Prepare yourself for a remote, wild, and scenic day as we venture into North America’s deepest canyon! Taking in lofty views from the Hells Canyon Overlook and descending all the way to the Snake River for a jet boat adventure gives us a top-to-bottom perspective on this impressive gorge that separates Oregon from Idaho. During our jet boat expedition through the rapids, we stop to savor an included lunch at Sheep Creek Ranch, an isolated historic homestead that dates back to the 1880s. Following a mid-afternoon return to Hells Canyon Dam, we ascend the scenic byway, bound for a night at Baker City.

Day 6-Sep 29: Baker City – John Day, OR

Oregon Trail Walk – 6 km, 2B
Bates State Park Walk – 4 km, 2C

From the 1840s through the 1880s, thousands of hearty souls made the arduous journey from Missouri to Oregon’s Willamette Valley along a 2,170-mile-long wagon route that became known as the Oregon Trail. Portions of that famous route are clearly visible at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, where we spend the morning walking and learning about the importance of this historic corridor. In the afternoon, we venture west through the Blue Mountains for an interesting and scenic walk at Bates State Park. Set in a lush valley fed by three rivers, Bates was once the site of a thriving lumber mill with its adjacent company town. We spend this evening in the geologically-rich, Eastern Oregon community of John Day, nestled along its namesake river.

NOTE: Breakfast is not included this morning but our hotel serves a no-host breakfast in their restaurant.

Day 7-Sep 30: John Day – Sisters, OR (B)

Painted Hills Walk – 4 km, 2C
Smith Rock State Park Walk – 6 km, 3D

Today’s westward journey brings us to two of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, starting with a walk at the Painted Hills, so named for the colorful layers of red, yellow, black and gold that correspond to various geological eras. The area is also rich with plant and animal fossils dating back 30 million years! In the afternoon, we hike at photogenic Smith Rock State Park, a high desert outdoor wonderland considered by many to be the birthplace of American sport climbing. While we won’t be roping up for a vertical ascent of these visually stunning climbing routes, hikes of varying difficulty are available to show off this impressive set of rocks along the Crooked River. In the evening, we enjoy our lodge in the delightful, little western-themed town of Sisters, beautifully set in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains.

Day 8-Oct 1: Sisters – Springfield, OR (B)

Wizard Falls Metolius Walk – 5 km, 2C
McKenzie River Sahalie Falls & Koosah Falls Walk – 5 km, 2C

We transition today from the drier eastern side of Oregon to more lush and green western environs on our way to the Willamette Valley. Beginning on the eastern slopes, a dazzling walk along the brilliant blue Metolius River, takes us to Wizard Falls and a fun little fish hatchery. In the afternoon, crossing the Santiam Pass offers panoramic mountain views as we descend to western slopes and the crystal-clear McKenzie River. A loop walk past Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls takes us through an emerald forest to gaze in wonder at these powerful cascades. Our day concludes in the town of Springfield, near the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers.

Day 9-Oct 2: Springfield - Portland, OR (B)

Silver Falls State Park Walk – 12 km, 2B

We complete our Oregon loop today with a lovely drive north through the Willamette Valley, stopping about 20 miles east of the state capital (Salem) in Silver Falls State Park. This largest state park in Oregon is an absolute gem and chock full of scenery. Our featured walk takes in ten different waterfalls, several of which offer the unique sensation of walking behind the falls!  In the afternoon, we take scenic back roads to Portland, passing through small towns and going by Oregon City, western terminus of the Oregon Trail, before finishing our day at the same hotel where our journey began.

Day 10-Oct 3: Portland - Home (B)

Our Hidden Gems of Oregon Walking Adventure draws to a close this morning.  Exploring well-known highlights and less-explored surprises of the “Beaver State” in early autumn is an absolute treat! We hope you return home filled with outstanding memories to share with the ones you love. Thanks for experiencing this diverse and spectacular state with us!

NOTE: Breakfast is not included this morning but our hotel serves a no-host breakfast in their restaurant.

More Details

Click on each heading for more details.

How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?

To save yourself a spot on this Adventure, contact us to register with a refundable $100 deposit for the tour. Our group size for this particular adventure will be no more than 24 travelers.

Modified Payment Terms

Cancellations received in writing by August 10, 2020 will receive a full refund. The final payment is due August 11, 2020 and all tour funds are then nonrefundable. No refunds will be made on any unused or cancelled services once the tour has commenced.

Please view our updated General Tour Conditions for more details on our policies and cancellation terms.

General Tour Conditions and Registration Forms

To finalize your official registration, a completed and signed copy of the Registration Form is necessary. Please be sure to read all the fun stuff (the fine print) in the General Tour Conditions!

No Traveler Discounts

No traveler rewards or discounts are available for this tour.

Walk Ratings

We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. In most cases, we are not “strolling.” We are walking at a relaxed but steady pace. Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Because these are guided group walks, the success of the walks is predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness in order to ensure that we are walking at a somewhat similar pace. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to both enjoy the trip and avoid medical issues due to overexertion. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please talk with our office at 1.800.779.0353.

We are using the America’s Walking Club walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:


1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing.
3. Some significant hills or stair climbing.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing.
5. Many steep hills.


A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky/rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.

Walk Difficulty

Walks on this tour vary greatly in difficulty level, ranging from 1B (easy) to 3D (a bit challenging!), with most walks falling into the 2B/C range.

  • In several cases, you will be able to choose between an easier and a harder option, so even if the walk rating for a particular walk may look too high for your comfort level, on most walks we can usually find a suitable alternative for you.
  • On most days, we will not do a full 10 km at one walk site due to the need to drive to our next location, or because of multiple walks in one day. We will usually offer at least 7 km (4.5 miles) of walking and will average about 9 km (5-6 miles) per day for the 8 days of activities.
  • In almost all cases, these will be guided walks, with your WAI guide taking you on a group walk experience.  But there may also be times when you can walk freely on your own so long as you are aware of the time and place to meet for departure.
  • Walk stamps for most walks should be available along the way for those that wish to receive them; in some cases, we may be using the Online Start Box (OSB) to register and receive AVA credit for walks.

How High Are We Going?

Altitude is a significant factor only once on this trip, and our hotels are all located at relatively low elevation, which means you are sleeping at manageable elevations. One walk on the Wallowa Lake Tramway Trails takes place at over 8,000 feet above sea level, but we are not at this elevation for a long time.  Available routes here are relatively short and self-paced, and if you feel the altitude having an adverse effect on you, it is always possible to take the tramway back down to a lower elevation.

How Is Airfare Arranged?

The official start and finish point for the Hidden Gems of Oregon Adventure is our hotel near Portland International Airport (airport code PDX).  If you choose to drive to the tour start point, our starting and finishing hotel offers complimentary parking for the duration of our adventure.

If you plan to fly into Portland, the hotel is about 9 miles east of the airport and is about a $15 Uber ride at the time of this publication. We recommend that you contact Laura Pfahler, the travel agent we work with, to help book your flight arrangements. In this age of airfare complications and airport uncertainty, using a travel agent is a good investment! More details about flight arrangements and travel agent contact information will be provided by email after you register for the Adventure.  Please do not book your airfare prior to receiving these flight details from us!

Travel Insurance

WAI believes strongly in the importance of travel insurance for financial and medical protection from any number of unforeseen circumstances that can arise before departure or during your Adventure. This is now especially true in the era of COVID-19, which is typically treated like any other illness for travel insurance purposes. Many travel insurance providers are available for you to consider. Laura Pfahler and Sharon Mitchell of World Travel Inc. are travel agents who provides air travel and insurance services to many WAI travelers.

Check out Insurance Tips from World Travel for a short introduction to travel insurance. (NOTE: WAI receives no commission or financial remuneration from World Travel Inc.).

As always, do some shopping to ensure you are getting the best value. Using the squaremouth.com website can be a good way to compare pricing.

Other options include:

  • Allianz
  • Betins
  • Travel Guard
  • Travel Insured International

NOTE: We suggest purchasing from a reputable, well-established insurance company (avoid buying insurance from an unknown company found only online). Travelers interested in purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance coverage should be careful to check pricing and terms BEFORE they register for a tour. Recent changes in the international travel landscape has caused changes in the policies of some insurance companies, and made the purchase of this particular type of policy even more time-sensitive.

COVID-19 Policies and Procedures

This COVID-19 Policies and Procedures document identifies and explains Covid-19 mitigation policies and procedures WAI is using as a starting point for our fall 2020 tours. Because the knowledge base about COVID-19 changes daily, we review these policies and procedures on an ongoing basis, and will, of course, notify travelers on tour of updates as we approach the departure date of your tour.

Contact our office with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].

COVID-19 Travel Waiver

During this age of COVID-19, WAI evaluates worldwide reports and conditions on an ongoing basis. Please read our COVID-19 Policies and Procedures document before signing the COVID-19 Travel Waiver. Participation in this tour requires your signature on the COVID-19 Travel Waiver.

Contact our office with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].

Tour Cancellations

Walking Adventures International reserves the right to cancel any tour departure with fewer than 15 participants, in which case registered participants will receive a 100% refund of payments received. This refund policy contains one exclusion related to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a condition of booking services, deposits WAI makes to suppliers become non-refundable as we get closer to our date of departure. There may be cases where COVID-19 related circumstances force us to cancel the tour. Due to suppliers’ non-refundable policies, WAI cannot guarantee a 100% refund under these circumstances. In cases where full refunds cannot be obtained for a cancelled tour, we will do our best to transfer unrefunded money as traveler credits to be applied to a future tour to that destination.

View our full Coronavirus FAQ for more details.

What happens next?

Upon registering for this Adventure, you will receive a welcome letter and initial invoice. An email with critical information on flight arrangements will be sent soon after, with important information about steps to take in the months before your trip. Please do not buy your airline tickets until you review the Flight Arrangements email. Final payment for the program is due August 11, 2020, and you will receive a final billing about 3 weeks prior to that point. Then, about 3 weeks before departure, you will receive a final packet with all the details of the program, including hotel names and contact information, a list of fellow travelers, and a more detailed daily schedule.