Top 11 Places in Oregon to Visit on a Road Trip
With 362 miles of coastline, thick forests, craggy mountains, hot springs, flowing rivers and waterfalls, there's no arguing Oregon is absolutely breathtaking. Beyond the beautiful landscapes, Oregon is home to some of the coolest small towns in the nation and has endless amounts of adventure.
Whether you're passing through Oregon on a West Coast road trip, or you're lucky enough to call this state home, we've put together some amazing things to do and places to see.
If you don't already have an Oregon Bucket List, now's the time to start making one!
We road tripped through Oregon in our converted campervan that we built on our own. We drove that van all around the western US for a summer and made a video of our time exploring. A lot of our footage was from our days in Oregon. Check out our West Coast Campervan Road Trip Video:
Want to try out Van Life while visiting Oregon?
If you don’t have the time (or interest!) in building your own conversion but you still want to give van life a test drive, we’ve got an idea for you! We’d recommend getting a rental vehicle from Escape Campervans. They have 12 different locations across North America (including one in Portland, OR as of May 1st, 2019) and come fully loaded with all the gear you need for an epic road trip. Plus, their rates are fair and affordable.
BONUS: We’ve partnered with them to give you a 10% off discount when you use the code WANDERING10.
1. Portland, Oregon
Let's start with the obvious. Portland.
Did you know that Portland has more microbreweries than an other US city? That's enough of a reason to head to Portland. And for the fact that they boast they are "Weirdest City in the USA" makes it so intriguing. We could sum up Portland in just a few sentences, so we created an entire article on things to do in Portland.
Here are some of the highlight:
Hike to the Witch's Castle
Explore the Mississippi Neighborhood
Read up at Powell's City of Books
Taste Portland's Best Donuts
Satisfy your ice cream cravings
Go chasing waterfalls in the Columbia River Valley
Visit the International Rose Test Garden
For more information on Portland, check out things to do in Portland.
2. Cannon Beach, Oregon
One of the more popular towns on the Oregon coast, Canon Beach is still worth visiting. The cedar shingle houses give the town a charming, albeit a bit touristy, feel and the stunning sea stacks are iconic for a reason. They are absolutely stunning.
Next Read: Eco-friendly travel gear for traveling around the US.
Things to do in Cannon Beach, Oregon
Sample Clam Chowder at Driftwood Restaurant – Get there for happy hour 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for $6 Chowder Bread Bowls and $6 glasses of wine.
Ecola State Park – Just north of Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park. $5 per car to enter, but the viewpoints are incredible overlooking the long beaches spotted with sea stacks. You can explore the tide pools here if you make it down to Indian Beach.
Explore the tide pools around Haystack Rock – get a time table from the visitor center and make sure you're in town for a low tide so you can explore the tide pools. There are so many little sea critters that come out when the waters are low. Be careful of where you step so you don't crush and living rock clams. Only step on solid rock or sand, and watch when the tide starts to come back in.
If you need a caffeine fix (or good WiFi), we enjoyed Insomnia Coffee Co. for it's cozy feel, friendly staff and strong coffee.
3. Tillamook, Oregon
If you're making your way north on Oregon's coast, make a quick stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory to learn a little bit about how they make their famous dairy products. Oh, and did we mention you can SAMPLE all the cheeses and then get a delicious ice cream cone? (The only bummer is there are so many yummy flavors to choose from that you'll with you could try them all!)
4. Hood River, Oregon
Water Sports on Hood River
The Columbia River is home to some of the best windsurfing in the world, and Hood River is the prime place to be. If you are just a beginner be sure to take a class at Big Wind.
You can also try kite boarding, stand up paddle-boarding, water skiing or simply rent a kayak and explore the river. If you want to go whitewater rafting on the White Salmon River (north of Hood river in Washington state), check out Wild Water River Guides. The river is best mid-July to end of August, but be sure to book early.
Hood River Breweries
Recommended to us by our master brewer friend, pFriem Family Brewers creates artisanal award-winning beers that will give you flavor explosion in your mouth. The food there is pretty good too. Another large brewery in town is Full Sail Brewery. You can find their beers in pretty much any grocery store in the PNW. Try their IPA, it's one of their flagship beers (see what I did there?!).
5. Mount Hood
On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood from Portland, but we think driving up to the really thing is totally worth it.
The best view of Mount Hood is from Lost Lake which is located deep in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Be sure to have a full tank of gas and 4-wheel drive (Vinny our campervan barely made it). It is about an hour drive from Hood River but it's so worth it.
You can spend the day there hiking around the lake or rent a kayak and paddle to the middle. There are plenty of cabins and campsites around too, but you'll have to book at Lost Lake Resort well in advance.
Tip: The America the Beautiful Annual Park Pass covers entrance fees to over 2,000 Federal recreational sites (including Mt. Hood National Forest!) as well as all the US National Parks. You could save a lot of money on entrance fees if you are planning to visit multiple parks in the upcoming year.
On your way to Lost Lake, be sure to stop by the beautiful Hood River Lavender Field just outside of Odell, Oregon. They have lavender soaps, essential oils, sachets and of course fresh lavender for sale. You are free to walk around the fields for a photo op, but be respectful.
Mount Hood Skiing
Boasting some of the best conditions in all of Oregon, Mount Hood has two major resorts: Mount Hood Meadows and Timberline. Both are great resorts, but Timberline has one of the longest ski season in the United States from mid-November to typically June 1st.
6. Williamette National Forest
Only a hour and a half drive east from Eugune or west from Bend, you can make it into the heart of the Williamette National Forest. There are so many things to do in this part of Oregon, we only scratched the surface.
Cougar Hot Springs
The setting of Cougar Hot Springs (also known as Terwilliger Hot Springs) is something that you would find at a luxurious spa, but it's so much better because you are only surrounded by nature. There are 5 rock-walled pools that could fit about 8 people comfortably. Be sure to arrive early as it gets busy later in the day. Entrance Fee is $6/day and the trail starts on the west side of the Cougar Reservior.
Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool)
No filters were used in this photo -- the water really is that blue! And oh, so cold! Seriously, even on the hottest summer day, jumping in this spring-fed pond is sure to cover your body in goosebumps. But it is totally worth it, and feels amazing when you dry off in the sun.
Tip: Be careful that you don't jump in with anything in your pockets or sunglasses on your head. While we were there, a couple guys decked out in scuba gear were diving for all the valuable items people lose in the depths of the water (aka GoPros, watches, designer sunnies, wallet, etc.). Don't be that guy (or gal!).
Trailhead: Be sure to start from the proper Tamolitch Trail Head and hike the McKenzie River Trail north to the Blue Pool. We hiked south from the Carmen Reservior and it took us twice as long. The hike is relatively flat, but be careful for tree roots and slippery rocks.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls
These two large waterfalls are only 10 minutes walk apart from each other and worth a quick stop. I know you can easily get sick of waterfalls in this region, you shouldn't miss these. Park the lot next to Sahalie Falls and hike south to Koosah.
7. Bend, Oregon
If we were going to move to Oregon, we would without a doubt relocate to Bend. Like, we've already talked about it and looked up real estate... It is the perfect size town (in our opinion) — not too big, not too small.
There's a perfect Brewery-to-Green-Space ratio, cute shops, healthy restaurants, yoga studios and a river running through town. And with plenty of outdoor adventures just outside the city limits, you may just find us living here someday.
Things to do in Bend, Oregon
Grab a pint – There are loads of micro breweries and craft beers all within walking distance from each other that is just begging for a bar crawl. There are some big name breweries in town like Deschutes Brewing and Bend Brewing Company that are a must. A few distilleries are popping up as well, so be sure to check out
Humm Kombucha Taproom – For an alternative to beer, head to the popular Humm Kombucha to either get a kombucha on tap or fill up a growler.
Drake Park – This riverside park is a beautiful place to take a stroll in the evening right before dinner.
Day Trip to Sisters – Sitting at the foothills of the Oregon Cascade Mountain Range, Sisters is the perfect launch pad for any adventure activities you want to do in the mountains. Outfitters in town can gear you up with mountain bikes, fishing gear, backcountry hiking equipment or horseback rides. It is a small town so if you do plan to stay overnight, be sure to book you accommodation early.
8. Crater Lake National Park
Between the deep blue color and the fact that this lake is inside a sleeping volcano, you jaw is sure to drop at the sight of Crater Lake.
With a depth of 1,949 feet (594 m), Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the 3rd deepest in the world (for average depth; 9th in the world for maximum depth). Crater Lake has been entirely fed by rainwater and snowmelt, and it's known for its unsurmountable clarity.
Visiting Crater Lake will surely be a highlight of your time in Oregon.
What to do at Crater Lake
If possible, get here early as the crowds can be crazy and it will be hard to find a parking spot.
Viewpoints - The Rim Village Visitor Center has a nice overlook of the lake, but I wouldn't say it was our favorite angle. Head to the east side of Crater Lake to Watchmans Overlook to get a good view of Wizard Island up close.
Hike to Watchman Peak - Only accessible in the summer time, the fire lookout at Watchman's Peak is our favorite viewpoint of Crater Lake. It's best in the afternoon or evening. It's a 3 mile hike round trip.
Swimming - Don't forget your bathing suit because you can take a dip in the waters, but it's only for the brave. Crater Lake water is only rain and snowmelt so it will be cold. You can hike down the Cleetwood Clove Trail to the boat launch and practice your cannonballs.
9. Umpqua National Forest
With lakes, waterfalls and mountains, Umpqua National Forest is well worth a visit. Located in Oregon's southern Cascade Mountains, we fell in love with this area and wished we had longer to explore.
A short drive off of Highway 138, you can park your car and go for a short walk to the waterfall viewpoint. This massive two tier waterfall is a major symbol of the region. Be careful on the trail, the rocks can be slippery.
Umpqua Hot Springs
There's a good chance these hot springs have shown up in your Instagram feed in the recently. There are about 7 or 8 small pools big enough to fit 2 to 4 people. The hotter pools start at the top and they get cooler as the water flows down. As with all hot springs in the area, nudity is acceptable and to be expected. Just to give you fair warning so you don't feel uncomfortable.
Not a far drive from Toketee Falls, Watson Falls is a nice 0.6 mile hike to a 272 foot waterfall. It's an easy walk with not too many people when we visited. The first part you walk by a mossy babbling creek that leads up to the towering waterfall. You get a whole lotta nature within such a short hike.
Campground Lemolo Forebay 2
This dispersed campsite has 5 spots and is first come first serve, with a vault toilet. This was one of our favorite campsites in all of Oregon because it was tucked away from everything else and it felt so peaceful here.
Stop off at Diamond Lake for a view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. If you have time, you can drive 12 miles all the way around the lake or take a paddle boat out from the resort.
10. Bandon, Oregon
With just over 3,000 residents, this tiny oceanside town is a picturesque and laid-back place to stop during a road trip along Oregon's coast. Wander past cute shops on the main street, enjoy amazing seafood and see a unique art exhibit that will both disgust and inspire you.
Things to do in Bandon, Oregon
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint: Discover tide pools at low tide or watch the sunset behind these beautiful sea stack rock formations.
Washed Ashore: With the tag line "art to save the sea", Washed Ashore builds and exhibits artwork made from trash that has washed up on the beach. Their intention is to educate the public about plastic pollution in our oceans and inspire people to make positive changes. How cool it that?!
Sample the local seafood at Tony's Crab Shack or Bandon Fish Market. Both restaurants are highly rated and long-time favorites. We chose Tony's because they specialize in fresh seafood while Bandon Fish Market has more deep fried menu items. We ordered a crab sandwich, clam chowder and steamer clams in a butter, garlic, and white wine broth at Tony's and thoroughly enjoyed our meal, though the portions were a bit small in our opinion.
Grab a local brew at Bandon Brewery. We enjoyed the beer, pizza and live music at this cozy joint.
Watch the sunset at tiny beach with Bandon Lighthouse view.
If you like the vibes of Bandon, head north on highway 101 and you’ll pass through all sorts of cute little oceanside towns like Florence, Oregon (not Italy, silly!) and Newport, and explore more!
11. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Just across the border from California, lies Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, which is well worth a stop if you find yourself in the south of Oregon. With interesting sea stack rock formations and hiking trails, you can easily spend a day getting lost in the beauty before your eyes.
There are many turnouts, some with parking lots, that are worth stopping at. The Natural Bridges is a short hike with some pretty spectacular views. Secret Beach is a short hike down to the sandy beach when there is low tide. The trailhead for this is just north of Miller Creek on Highway 101.
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Are you ready for your Oregon Road Trip? Where are you planning to go? Would you add anything to our list? Let us know in the comments below.