By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Trying to find a great place to hike in the valley

I’m looking for answers.

The questions I’m asking aren’t tough, but they’re still ones that have been burning for a while, and the summer is the perfect time to dig for information.

With beautiful blue skies pretty much the norm for the next couple of months, it’s only natural for the outdoorsy types to get the urge to go exploring. Many head for the lowlands, with sandy beaches or lakes that are easily accessible for boating fun. But for the more adventuresome among us, my question is this: Where can you hike within the borders of Yamhill County?

As a true believer of the deity Google, I started there. The usual hike Oregon websites popped up, and a lot of forums did as well. I just never felt like they were giving me the best information. One standout was, curated by author William L. Sullivan. He has written 10 books about hiking in Oregon, and his interactive map of hikes on the North Coast is probably the closest thing to a list of hikes near McMinnville as I will get.

Still, I wanted to reach out to the readers. No one knows this county better than you. I want to hear from you about your favorite weekend jaunt. When you need to put a few miles in and escape for an afternoon on a warm summer day, where do you go? Where’s the place that you won’t find in any guidebooks, but all the locals know?

This topic took over my brain a few weeks ago when I was hiking Angels Rest in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s approximately an hour and half drive from Mac to the trailhead outside Corbett, and the entire way I was thinking I was probably overlooking at least one decent hike in our great county that would have saved me a few miles. Don’t get me wrong, Angels Rest is a must-do hike for any Oregonian — the views of the Gorge and mountains in Washington are spectacular — but for someone who has lived in Mac for almost three years, I realized I wasn’t as familiar with local topography as I’d like. Yes, the views will probably be more of the sprawling Willamette Valley than of in-your-face-mountains, but that’s the beauty of living where we do. There’s diversity, and honestly, you really don’t have to get all the high up to have at least a portion of your view filled with a snow-capped peak.

Speaking of our proximity to the Cascade Range, it is easy for anyone to pack up for a weekend above the tree line. We’re two hours away from Mount Hood, and as you go down the spine of Oregon to the center part of the state, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters poke through.

I recently was able to spend some time in the Three Sisters Wilderness, traipsing around South and Middle Sister. It was a bit of a trek from Mac, but leaving at 2 a.m. was well worth it. We embarked from the trailhead at Devils Lake an hour after sunrise, and weaved our way up between two ridges to a sort of plateau. We emerged from the trees to a breathtaking view of South Sister looming in front of us, Broken Top to the east and Mount Bachelor to the south. As we climbed higher on South, views of a myriad of alpine lakes unfolded, as did clear areas of old lava flows. Near the summit, a small glacier lake sat, its waters the bluest I have ever seen.

Finally, on top of South — all 10, 358 feet — a dazzling panorama to the north came into view. Almost close enough to tough was Middle Sister and just a bit further up North. It was a brilliantly clear day, so looking up the Cascade Range we saw Mt. Washington, Jefferson and all the way to Hood.

A certain inner-clarity always accompanies the moments following a successful summit — whether it be 12,280-foot Mt. Adams or the 1,480-foot Angels Rest. There’s always a feeling of overwhelming success, but also a feeling contentment, like there is no place you’d rather be. Later that night, staring up at the mountain from my tent, that feeling returned and with it another: We live in a pretty neat state that can offer us opportunities such as these.

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