Willamette Valley Wine Country
Southwest of Portland, on Highway 99W, lies Willamette Valley Wine Country. Boasting two of Oregon’s wine regions, North Willamette Valley and South Willamette Valley, 440 wineries call the valley home and produce 78% of Oregon wine and 87% of Oregon’s Pinot Noir. Many wineries are small “mom and pop” type setups, usually with no tasting room.
There are still plenty of bigger wine producers with wineries that offer tastings. Right off of Highway 99W are signs to some of these big wineries for the region, many with tasting rooms in the downtown areas. In the city of Newberg is Rex Hill Vineyards; one of the largest wine producers in Oregon. One handicapped parking space is available right near the door to the tasting room, which is large and heavy. At the tasting bar there is no lowered section for wheelchair users but there are a number of tables at which staff is happy to give tastings. A handicapped accessible restroom is also available inside.
Also on Highway 99W is the town of Dundee where the Argyle Winery tasting room is located. This award-winning winery specializes in the best sparkling wine in Oregon. Hungry? Dundee Bistro, also in the town of Dundee, is a tasty option. Further on Highway 99W is the quaint town of McMinnville and in its downtown on Main Street is a wine tasting room for R. Stuart & Co, a maker of fine wines with clean and crisp varietals.
Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
Downtown McMinnville has a lot of cute local shops and places to eat on Main, 2nd and 4th Street. However, the biggest attraction in this town is the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. This museum houses an abundance of aircraft vehicles including one of the biggest Howard Hughes H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose.” Impressively, there was a lift to the “Spruce Goose” so those with limited mobility could see inside like the rest of the paying customers. The layout is very wheelchair friendly but the museum is large, consisting of three buildings, one of which is a theater. When needed elevators and accessible restrooms are available as well as ample handicapped parking. A large parking lot separating the buildings and the pathway is smoothly paved, but for some this can be a long push.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail, is a scenic 21 mile paved bike trail (42 miles there-and-back) approximately 50 minutes west of Portland. The two most accessible trailheads are the Tophill and the Buxton. The Tophill Trailhead has no designated handicapped parking spot and moments into the trail are large hills in either direction. The Buxton Trailhead has a larger parking lot with one handicapped spot but both parking lots are made of gravel rocks, which is challenging for a manual wheelchair to roll through. Both trailheads also have an accessible equestrian loading platform.
For those using a power wheelchair or scooter it is very well possible that the entire trail is accessible. There are hills in some areas making it difficult for manual wheelchairs to conquer alone. Out of the two trailheads, the Buxton Trailhead offers the most accessible route for manual wheelchair users. However, access to this part of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail at the Buxton Trailhead requires going up (and down) a medium-sized steep slope. This can be avoided if you park on the road instead of at the parking lot. One direction is almost level for a while until there is a large hill. I turned around as my energy level was not willing to take on this challenge and headed South on the trail. This way is much easier and very scenic through the trees and ferns. Along the way many locals gave friendly greetings as they passed by. The trail was ever so gradually sloping downwards so I paid attention to how much I would have to push back.
Columbia River Gorge
Highway 84E runs along the Columbia River which separates the states Oregon and Washington. A section of this is known as the Columbia River Gorge and is about an hour away from Portland. If you take the Bridge of the Gods over to Washington you can participate in zip-lining with Skamania Lodge Zip Tour, and this crew is fully capable of accommodating wheelchair guests. Right by the Bridge of the Gods is Stevenson WA, a small town where many people go kite sailing, which is fun to watch. You can also pick up some good produce, like berries and pears here. Associated with the Columbia River Gorge is the Vista House, where you can get an incredible view of the Columbia River.
The Columbia River Gorge is known for a plethora of waterfalls. On the Oregon side alone there are 77. Most of these waterfalls are not accessible for the wheelchair traveler but two definitely are and a few others can be see right from the road. The area that you are aiming for is Ainsworth State Park off Highway 30. Highway 30 used to be the main highway but today is a scenic side route. The two wheelchair accessible waterfalls are the Horsetail Falls and Multnomah Falls. Each attraction has two handicapped spots available.
Horsetail Falls is the lower key of the two. A short, paved trail takes you from the parking lot to the vista area where you can soak in the beauty and gentle mist of the waterfall. There is no restroom at this falls. Multnomah Falls, on the other hand does have an accessible restroom along with a lodge and gift shop. This falls is an extremely popular stop for tourists, so expect crowds and no parking spots. Coming in the early morning may give you a better chance of getting one of the handicapped parking spots. The hike to Benson Bridge is a short ¼ mile on a paved trail. This trail is at an incline so those in manual wheelchairs may face challenges.