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If you’ve been considering a trip to the Pacific Northwest, this Oregon travel guide is exactly what you need. It’s a magical state with a wealth of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and urban culture.
Whether you’re looking to explore rugged coastlines, hike through ancient forests, or indulge in delicious local cuisine, Oregon caters to multiple tastes. We believe that everyone should get to visit Oregon at least once.
- Best Things to Do in Oregon
- 1. Take in the Scenery of Owyhee Canyonlands
- 2. Explore Crater Lake National Park
- 3. Visit Wonderfully Weird Portland
- 4. Drive the Oregon Coast to See Beaches, The Haystack Rock Formation, and See the Countryside
- 5. Watch Windsurfers or Go Hike at Columbia River Gorge
- Where to stay in Oregon
- How to Get Around in Oregon
- Travel Tips for Visiting Oregon
- Plan When It’s Good So You’re Covered If Things Go Bad
- Get Yourself in Shape to Fully Explore the Outdoors
- Bring Several Layers and Rain Ponchos
- Plan Out a Roadtrip
- Pack It In, Pack It Out, Be Respectful
- Skip The Chain Restaurants and Fast Food
- Bring Your Best Camera
Best Things to Do in Oregon
1. Take in the Scenery of Owyhee Canyonlands
This truly hidden Eastern Oregon gem should be near your bucket list. Tourists often overlook Eastern Oregon, but it has so much to offer. This massive park also spills into Idaho and Nevada, meaning you can spend days or weeks exploring it and still not see it all.
This place feels otherworldly, and it is so stunning to see. Here, you’ll find jagged cliffs, rugged landscapes, deep canyons, winding rivers, desert climates, and massive rock formations.
These canyons are 250 to 1,000 feet deep, with stark rhyolite pinnacle formations. You won’t want to forget your camera for this one!
This underrated country area has seen few human effects, meaning you can see and experience what the untouched American West used to be like before colonization. The Owyhee River Wilderness is ideal for hiking the river’s edge, looking at hidden waterfalls, camping under the stars, rafting, and taking horses out for scenic trail rides.
Another visitor favorite for Owyhee Canyonlands is taking 4×4 trucks and SUVs out for drives on the rough, wild, and unpaved roads that meander through this beautiful landscape. If you’ll be in southeastern Oregon, make time for the canyonlands.
2. Explore Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to southwestern Oregon. Located in the southern part of the state, this park is home to one of the most stunning natural wonders in the world: Crater Lake. It is the deepest lake in the United States, famous for its brilliant clear-blue water.
One of the most popular hikes is the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which leads down to the deep lake’s edge and offers a chance to swim in crystal-clear waters. Another great hike is the Wizard Island Trail, which takes you to the top of a volcanic island in the eastern central section of the lake. From there, you can take panoramic views of the lake and surrounding Cascade mountains.
For those who prefer to stay on land but off the trail, many scenic drives offer stunning views of the lake and surrounding landscape. The Rim Drive is a 33-mile road that circles the lake and offers many pullouts and viewpoints for taking in the views and snapping epic photos.
When visiting Crater Lake National Park, it’s important to be prepared for the weather. The park is located at a high elevation, and snow can be present even in the summer months. It’s also important to bring plenty of water and sun protection, as the sun can be intense at this elevation.
3. Visit Wonderfully Weird Portland
While some people are discouraged by the near-persistent rain of the Pacific Northwest, especially the Portland area, it is a welcoming, warm, and cozy place with a fantastic vibe and aesthetic.
Portland is best known for unusually good coffee shops, diverse people, talented artists, art galleries, bookstores, and an overall eco-conscious mindset. If you love all things cozy and strange, you’ve got to lean in and embrace the city of Portland.
One of the must-visit destinations in Portland is the famous Powell’s City of Books. This bookstore is the largest independent bookstore in the world, with over one million books on its shelves.
It’s a book lover’s paradise and a great place to spend an afternoon browsing. Don’t be afraid to shop, either. Oregon does not have a state sales tax!
Another popular destination is the Portland Saturday Market, which is a weekly outdoor market that features local artists, craftspeople, and food vendors. It’s a great place to pick up unique souvenirs and gifts, and the atmosphere is lively and fun.
Into epic cycling? Take the Bike Portland guided bike tour. For those who love the outdoors, there are many parks and gardens to explore in Portland.
Washington Park sits on the west side of Portland. It has a zoo, a rose garden, and the Portland Japanese Garden. The Portland Japanese Garden is a serene and beautiful space that offers stunning views of Mount Hood. The International Rose Test Garden is another must-see destination inside Washington Park, with over 10,000 roses on display.
And of course, you can’t forget the smallest park in the world, Mill Ends Park. It’s a one-tree park smack dab in the middle of SW Naito Parkway in the downtown area. It’s just two feet wide and truly reflects Portland’s weird but intriguing eco-friendly personality.
Foodies will love the many cafes and food carts in Portland. The city is known for its farm-to-table cuisine, craft breweries, and artisanal coffee shops. Some must-visit restaurants include Pok Pok, Tasty n’ Alder, and Le Pigeon. Doughnut lovers have to take the underground donut tour.
Lastly, if you’re looking for an epic view of Mount Hood, the Willamette Valley, and the Willamette River, head to Pittock Mansion. You can find the best views at the back end of the mansion’s backyard for the best angle of the city and the surrounding landscapes.
Of course, this mansion is more than a beautiful place; it also has regular tours and tons of information on the area’s rich history.
4. Drive the Oregon Coast to See Beaches, The Haystack Rock Formation, and See the Countryside
Driving the Oregon Coast is a breathtaking experience that offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged coastline, and picturesque towns. One of the most popular stops along this scenic drive is Cannon Beach, a charming seaside town home to the iconic Haystack Rock formation.
Cannon Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Oregon. The town has a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, with many art galleries, boutiques, and diners to explore.
The Haystack Rock formation is a natural wonder that rises 235 feet above the beach, and it’s a great spot for bird watching, tide pooling, and taking in the ocean views. This rock is iconic, especially when the sun sets and turns the coastline warm and golden in the evenings.
Another great stop on the Oregon Coast is the many wineries that dot the landscape. The Willamette Valley, located just inland from the coast, is known for its Pinot Noir and other varietals. Many of them in the area offer exceptional tastings and tours, so it’s a great way to experience the region’s rich wine culture.
Some of the most popular vineyards in the area include Adelsheim Vineyard, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, and Sokol Blosser Winery. These places offer stunning views of the valley, and many have outdoor seating areas where you can relax and take in that beautiful western Oregon scenery.
Even though it’s common to drive south down the coast, don’t forget that driving east from the coast to the center and then the east side of the state is lovely, too. Every region of the state is different but wonderful in different ways, so don’t feel like you have to vacation in just one area of Beaver State.
5. Watch Windsurfers or Go Hike at Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge is a stunning area filled with beautiful views, wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and the excitement of many adventurous activities and sports. It’s on the north side of the state, and this river is the boundary between Oregon and Washington State.
Columbia River Gorge is world-renowned for its perfect windsurfing conditions. With the perfect combination of strong waves and heavy wind that cuts through the gorge, it’s ideal for every windsurfer, whether a beginner or an advanced athlete. Head to Spring Creek Fish Hatchery to see some of the most talented windsurfers.
If hiking is more your thing, you’ll love the trails here. Columbia River Gorge offers miles of breathtaking trails past more than 90 natural waterfalls.
One of the most popular hikes is the 2.6-mile out-and-back Multnomah Falls Trail, which takes visitors on a scenic journey through the forest to the iconic Multnomah Falls. This two-tiered waterfall drops 620 feet and is one of the most photographed attractions in Oregon.
Other popular hikes include the Eagle Creek Trail, which offers stunning mossy views of waterfalls and basalt cliffs, and the Horsetail Falls Trail, which takes visitors on a 3.1-mile journey through the forest to Horsetail Falls. Some of these trails are open for mountain biking too. Of course, you can also go fishing in the River while enjoying the view looking north into Washington State.
There are some amazing tours in this region for you to check out, like the Columbia River Gorge Morning Waterfalls Tour. If you want to kick up the adventure, book a private air tour to see Multnomah Falls.
Where to stay in Oregon
Oregon has a healthy range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to charming bed and breakfasts. Depending on your preferences and budget, there are many great places to stay throughout the state.
Visitors to Portland will find many modern and stylish hotels in the city’s center. At the same time, those looking to get away from it all may prefer a rustic cabin or cozy lodge in one of Oregon’s many scenic parks or forests. Coastal towns also offer a variety of accommodations, from beachfront resorts to charming bed and breakfasts.
- The Nines in Downtown Portland
- FivePine Lodge and Spa in Sisters, Oregon, near the Cascade Mountains
- Cambria Hotel Columbia, in Columbia at Columbia River Gorge
- Stone Lizard Lodge at Blanding, near Canyonlands National Park
- HI- Portland Northwest Hostel in Portland
- Rogue River Retreat Vacation Home in Gold Beach, in Southern Oregon
- Inn at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Airport, by the Portland International Airport
- Alsea Fishing Cabin in Little Switzerland
- Columbia Cliff Villas in Hood River, Oregon
How to Get Around in Oregon
Oregon is a state best traveled with a rental car, preferably one with high clearance and 4×4 capabilities. If you plan on sticking strictly to the City of Portland, you can forgo transportation. The public transportation is great, plus it has a high walkability score with the option to bike or even mountain bike through the city.
But if getting into nature, checking out the mountains (don’t miss the Wallowa Mountains), driving the coast, or touring some of the delicious local wineries matters to you, you’ll need a rental car (or an SUV or a truck).
Travel Tips for Visiting Oregon
Our Oregon travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a few insider tips to help you get the most out of your next trip! Let’s get into it.
Plan When It’s Good So You’re Covered If Things Go Bad
Sometimes, trips get derailed, and plans have to be pushed around or postponed. The best way to protect yourself and your epic Oregon trip is to get the proper insurance.
Get Yourself in Shape to Fully Explore the Outdoors
Oregon is such a natural beauty. This state is adorned with majestic snowcapped mountain destinations, glimmering rivers, winding roads, rolling vineyard hills, jagged cliffs, picture-perfect coastlines, and epic hiking trails.
While you can appreciate the beauty from a window or the road, it is best enjoyed by getting into the thick of it. If you condition yourself to be in shape, you’ll get much more out of your trip to Oregon.
Bring Several Layers and Rain Ponchos
Oregon has fluctuating weather conditions but is notorious for cold-cutting breezes and heavy rains. Pack lots of layers for the changing weather and bring along some protection from the rain so you can stay nice and dry.
Plan Out a Roadtrip
Oregon has many scenic drives that are perfect for a road trip. Consider driving the Pacific Coast Highway (the Oregon Coast Trail), the Columbia River Highway, or the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway for breathtaking views.
Oregon does have cell service, but this can be spotty at times, especially in the county when you’re away from the cities. It’s best to equip yourself with a real paper map, atlas, or a GPS to ensure you always have good directions at your fingertips.
If you’re going on a road trip, don’t forget maps for specific regions like Central Oregon, Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Western Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington.
Pack It In, Pack It Out, Be Respectful
Remember the Leave No Trace Rules. With gorgeous natural areas like Mount Hood, the snow-capped Wallowa Mountains, the pristine Deschutes River, and towering volcanic mountains, you should do everything possible to protect this state’s natural beauty when exploring.
Skip The Chain Restaurants and Fast Food
Oregon (especially Portland, Eugene, Bend, and Salem) is chock-full of delectable cafes, coffee shops, and diners. Escape from the mundane to be more adventurous on your Oregon vacation– eat local!
Bring Your Best Camera
Plus, Oregon has some picture-perfect dunes, crystal clear lakes, campsites, cities (Portland, Eugene, Lincoln City, etc), and several mountains, like Steens Mountain, which are perfect for novice and experienced photographers to document.
- About the Author
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.