A Hike and a Movie: Your Literary Guide to the Oregon Outdoors

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is a popular destination for fans of The Goonies. It's also just a few miles from Neahkahnie Mountain, one of the most beautiful hikes on the Oregon Coast.
Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is a popular destination for fans of The Goonies. It's also just a few miles from Neahkahnie Mountain, one of the most beautiful hikes on the Oregon Coast. Misserion
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You may not realize it, but you may have seen the Oregon outdoors in your favorite movie. Maybe one of the TV shows on your DVR was shot or set in Portland. Perhaps the lush, green forests or bleak rainfall inspired your favorite author to set his or her book in our (literal) neck of the woods. The Goonies," "Grimm," Ken Kesey's novels, and other popular literary works have long been set in Oregon, thanks to the state's boundless natural beauty and stunning scenery.

Luckily, most Oregonians don't have to walk the red carpet for a Hollywood experience. Rather, some of the state's high-profile cameo appearances are readily accessible to even casual outdoor enthusiasts. Check out these five outdoor adventures, each of which has had brushes with literary and Hollywood fame, from the iconic Haystack Rock on the Oregon Coast to the overwhelming forests deep within the Cascades.

1. Neahkahnie Mountain

The windswept summit of Neahkahnie Mountain requires hikers to tackle a quick rock scramble; those who do will enjoy views of nearby Manzanita.
The windswept summit of Neahkahnie Mountain requires hikers to tackle a quick rock scramble; those who do will enjoy views of nearby Manzanita. Thomas Shahan

Given that Haystack Rock isn't  quite  visible from this Neahkahnie Mountain , we'll admit to cheating a bit with this one. But it's one of the closest hikes to Haystack Rock, where the thrilling climax of The Goonies was filmed in the early 1980s, and it's one of the most beautiful hikes on the Oregon Coast.

Most Portlanders pass Cannon Beach and its famous rock en route to Neahkahnie Mountain, which is about 10 miles south of the landmark. Two trails take hikers to the mountaintop: The northernmost trailhead challenges hikers with a steeper, longer ascent through an open meadow and dense forest, while the southernmost trailhead lets hikers bypass most of the grueling climb in favor of a shorter jaunt. Whichever hike you choose, you'll appreciate the stunning views of nearby Manzanita and the expanse of the Pacific Ocean from the windswept summit.

Oh, and one of the best ways to enjoy Haystack Rock after the hike? Park at Tolovana Beach State Recreation Area at the southern edge of Cannon Beach and, if the weather cooperates, walk about 20 minutes along the shore, north toward the landmark. You probably won't find any of One-Eyed Willy's leftover treasure, but it's a more scenic and less crowded—albeit longer—route than simply parking in downtown Cannon Beach.

2. Ramona Falls

Ramona Falls sits along the Pacific Crest Trail, which served as the setting for Cheryl Strayed's bestselling book, "Wild."
Ramona Falls sits along the Pacific Crest Trail, which served as the setting for Cheryl Strayed's bestselling book, "Wild." Howard Kang

Cheryl Strayed set out on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995, hiking through much of California and all of Oregon before finishing at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. She documented that trek—and the transformative effect it had on her—in her best-selling memoir  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail , which was adapted for the big screen in 2014.

Much of the film was shot in Oregon, with Crater Lake and the Columbia River Gorge making scene-stealing cameos. Hikers looking to walk in Strayed's footsteps (or those of Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed Strayed in the film) can check out Ramona Falls near Mount Hood. The easy hike, which overlaps with the Pacific Crest Trail in this area, gains about 1,000 feet in 3.3 miles, and the falls themselves are among some of the most photogenic in all of Oregon.

Hikers should take caution: The seasonal bridge over the Sandy River washed away in 2014 (killing a hiker in the process) and hasn’t been replaced, which necessitates a river crossing. If the water appears to be too high or too difficult to cross, stay safe and don’t chance it.

3. Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge's iconic exterior was filmed for outdoor shots in The Shining. 
Timberline Lodge's iconic exterior was filmed for outdoor shots in The Shining.  Darin Barry

Most movie buffs outside of Oregon remember the Stanley Kubrick-directed classic thriller for Jack Nicholson's mesmerizing performance and infamous lines like "Here's Johnny!" and "Red Rum". Oregonians, on the other hand, remember The Shining  for its exterior shots of Mount Hood's iconic Timberline Lodge, known in the movie as the Overlook Hotel.

Ordinarily, we'd recommend hikers take a stroll along the Paradise Park trail for close-up views of the lodge—the hike, after all, starts in the Timberline Lodge parking lot. But given Mount Hood's early snowfall this season, why not go cross-country skiing in the surrounding forest? The Mount Hood National Forest hosts several stellar trails, including the five-mile Trillium Lake loop, White River Sno Park, the 12-mile Teacup Lake excursion, and the Crosstown Trail near Government Camp.

Once you've gotten a good workout, head back to Timberline Lodge for a look at the famous lodge. Or pop in for a bite while reminiscing about your favorite Shining moments.

4. Jefferson Park

Mount Jefferson, Oregon's second-tallest peak, is visible from throughout the surrounding Cascades. Jefferson Park's scenic trails reward hikers with views, as well.
Mount Jefferson, Oregon's second-tallest peak, is visible from throughout the surrounding Cascades. Jefferson Park's scenic trails reward hikers with views, as well. Oregon State University

None of Jon Krakauer's 1995 book, Into the Wild , actually took place in Oregon. But filmmakers found a lot to love about the state while adapting the book for the big screen in 2007; portions of the film were shot in Portland and Astoria, as well as the Oregon Cascades.

Filmmakers probably didn't capture footage in Jefferson Park proper, but it's emblematic of the region's beauty and showcases the Oregon Cascades in ways that can't be captured on screen. Numerous alpine lakes line the trail, thick forests provide cover, and a handful of Cascade peaks—including that of majestic Mount Jefferson—are visible along the way. (As an added bonus, the trail intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail, also of Wild fame.)

But a word of caution for hikers: Given its altitude, Jefferson Park can be much colder than nearby hikes at lower elevations. Check first to make sure conditions are favorable, and pack proper gear in case of inclement weather.

5. Opal Creek Wilderness

The Opal Creek Wilderness hosts beautiful forest scenery and is easily accessible from Salem.
The Opal Creek Wilderness hosts beautiful forest scenery and is easily accessible from Salem. Donaleen

Given his contributions to Oregon's literary canon, it would be folly to compile this list without giving a nod to Ken Kesey. His seminal tome, Sometimes a Great Notion , followed a stubborn logging family in a fictional town near the Oregon Coast (the movie adaptation was largely shot in and around Newport), and his 1962 novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , was set at an Oregon psychiatric hospital. (The Oregon State Hospital in Salem gained fame as the filming location for the 1975 film based on Kesey's book and is home to a museum  today.)

Adventurers who visit the Salem area to check out the museum or simply take in the sights would do well to head east and hike around the Opal Creek Wilderness. Hikers won't stumble across an escaped Chief Bromden enjoying his hard-earned freedom in the old mining town of Jawbone Flats, but they'll appreciate the seemingly endless expanse of old-growth forest, the crystal clear Opal Pool, and abandoned mining equipment along the way. At least until the snow falls, the Opal Creek Wilderness—about 50 miles east of Salem—is one of the state's most scenic gems.

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