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Oregon's state capitol is in Salem and the city (Oregon's third largest) really comes alive for the few months every other year when the state legislature meets. At other times, it's the not-very-exciting bureaucratic hub of the state. Even when the legislature is not in session, it's worth visiting the capitol building, which houses some striking art. (You'll be able to spot the capitol from afar by looking for the gold-leafed pioneer statue on its dome.) The other outstanding attractions are a little ways out of town. Silver Falls State Park has 10 waterfalls ranging from 30 to 178 feet high, and a great network of hiking trails connecting ...

Oregon's state capitol is in Salem and the city (Oregon's third largest) really comes alive for the few months every other year when the state legislature meets. At other times, it's the not-very-exciting bureaucratic hub of the state. Even when the legislature is not in session, it's worth visiting the capitol building, which houses some striking art. (You'll be able to spot the capitol from afar by looking for the gold-leafed pioneer statue on its dome.) The other outstanding attractions are a little ways out of town. Silver Falls State Park has 10 waterfalls ranging from 30 to 178 feet high, and a great network of hiking trails connecting the falls. The trails provide classic western Oregon hiking, with big old Douglas-fir trees, lots of ferns, and an abundance of moss. Nearby, in the town of Silverton, the Oregon Garden was planted in the 1990s to showcase the state's nursery industry and, after years of financial turmoil, was bailed out by a resort developer, who opened a posh hotel here in 2008. The garden is worth a visit not only for the flowers, but also to visit the Gordon House, Oregon's only house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (separate admission fee). Just a short drive north of Silverton, Mount Angel Abbey is a real gem, with a library designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Come here for a meditative stay in the simple guest house, to sit in the modernist library, or to search out the (stuffed) eight-legged calf in the abbey's museum.

Judy Jewell
About the Expert

Judy Jewell and W.C. McRae are frequent collaborators: together they have written Moon Handbooks to Montana, Utah, and Zion-Bryce and updated the Moon Handbooks to Oregon and Coastal Oregon. Judy wrote the Compass American Guide to Oregon.

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Judy Jewell for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Northwest corner of Oregon. Salem is the capital. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city.
  • Research: Salem, Oregon | Salem, Oregon
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Catch the legislature in the early months of odd-numbered years. A springtime visit means that the local iris gardens are blooming (it also brings killer allergies to the sensitive).