To start my vacation, I needed to head from Portland to Crater Lake National Park, but I had a day to get there. So, I decided to devote my first day in Oregon to a place where I had always wanted to go: Silver Falls State Park. The best way to get there from Portland involved a scenic drive on the Silver Falls Tour Route, through the idyllic farmlands and rolling hills east of Salem.
The Silver Falls Tour Route is designed to connect Silver Falls State Park with Interstate 5 – both north and south of Salem. If you’re headed south, like I was, you’ll take Exit 271. Follow Route 214 through Woodburn, Mount Angel, and Silverton. If you’re northbound on I-5, take Exit 248, then Delaney Road eastbound to Turner, Mill Creek Road to Aumsville, then 1st Street and Shaw Highway to Route 214, which will take you into the park.
I drove straight through Woodburn without stopping, but once I reached Mount Angel, I found plenty of reasons to get out of the car and explore.
You know you’ve reached Mount Angel when you reach this traffic triangle. Highway 214 veers off Main Street to the left — but you’ll want to take an even sharper left turn, to end up in the center of town.
Mount Angel owes its most notable features to immigrants in the late 1880’s. Some were from Bavaria…
… which will explain the obvious Bavarian theme here (complete with maypole).
Benedictine monks also arrived in the late 1800’s, and they established a monastery, and this church. St. Mary’s Catholic Church is easy to find, since it overlooks downtown Mount Angel from the actual “Mount” of Mount Angel.
Back in town, I admired the water fountain…
… and tried to take some nice pictures of the grain silo and railroad cars. But, smoky air from dozens of wildfires in August, 2015 made everything look hazy.
After spending time exploring Mount Angel, I continued down Route 214, and passed through Silverton without stopping (although it was probably worth a visit). Check out the Drivelapse video, below, to see it for yourself.
I’ll show you all the sites in Silver Falls State Park on the next page. After I left the park…
… it was getting closer to sunset, and I couldn’t decide whether the smoky air would help or hurt my efforts for a good picture. This view, off of Route 214, would have been much prettier if the skies were blue.
Here’s a panorama taken from another spot along the drive back to Interstate 5.
With the day dwindling, I needed to cover some serious mileage. My overnight stop was reserved in Roseburg, Oregon — two solid hours of driving south of Salem on Interstate 5. I only stopped once, to try to take a photo of the sun as it fell below the horizon.
The Bottom Line
The scenery during my drive was marred somewhat by smoke from the prolific wildfires of 2015. Despite the haze, it was still a beautiful drive, with a handful of interesting towns along the way. Plus, the reward is the excellent Silver Falls State Park, which I’ll explore on the next page.
Here’s the time-lapse video showing the drive south through Mount Angel and Silverton…
… and westbound through Aumsville and Turner: