Winner: Beverly Beach
Photo by Aubrie LeGault
All paths at Beverly Beach lead to the scenic walkway under Highway 101 out to the Pacific Ocean and a beach that stretches from Yaquina Head to the headlands of Otter Rock. Look for the giant, fossilized 14,000-year-old Sitka root or take a picnic lunch and watch the kids build sand castles. Agate seekers scour the rocky shore to the north, and fossil lovers tread south. Spencer Creek runs through the campground, which has hookups for trailers and RVs, 128 tent sites, twenty-one yurts and five group tent areas. Just a couple miles north is Marine Gardens, located on a gravel path off Third Street in Otter Rock. Best experienced during low tide, the tidal pools are full of life. Observe seabird colonies and harbor seal pups. In Newport, meander the waterfront and fishing port, or on a rainy day, spend hours at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. (oregonstateparks.org)
Runner-Up: Wallowa Mountains
Photo by Tyler Roemer
For a star-gazing, I’m-alone-in-the-universe experience, go to the Eagle Cap Wilderness in northeast Oregon. The price of solitude is making a long drive and schlepping a backpack deep into the backcountry, but it’s worth every blister and freeze-dried meal. (Through a couple of outfitters, you can hire a horse or let a llama do the heavy lifting.) The wilderness encompasses 360,000 acres in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and serves up alpine lakes, meadows and streams amid 9,000-foot peaks. Count on lots of wildlife such as elk, deer, black bears, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Trailheads are at Wallowa Lake and Hurricane Creek Road near Joseph, Lostine River Road, Indian Crossing near Hells Canyon, and Boulder Park on Main Eagle Road at the south end.