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Situated on the US north-western coast, Oregon is an interesting state to visit, brimming with amazing places and things to do. In this post, travel writers and Oregon experts share their favorite places to visit in Oregon.
Oregon boasts some amazing geographical features, with natural parks, impressive waterfalls, dramatic coastlines, and postcard-like beaches it’s a piece of paradise for outdoors lovers.
However, let’s not underestimate the brilliant cultural scene of quaint cities such as Portland or Bend.
There is so much to do and see for any kind of travelers from solo explorers to families or couples getaways.
State of Oregon Facts
- Oregon Capital city: Salem
- Oregon’s Largest City: Portland (2.4 million people)
- Oregon Total Population: 4.2 million people (2019 est.)
- Oregon Extention: 254,800 km² (98,379 sq mi)
- Nick Name: The Beaver State
- Oregon Landmarks: Crater Lake: the deepest lake in the United States
- Highest peak: Mount Hood (3,428.8 m or 11,249 ft), a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.
- Borders: Oregon’s borders are defined by the Colombia River with Washington state in the north; the Snake River with Idaho in the east, and the 42nd parallel north defines the borders with California and Nevada in the south.
The 15 best things to do in Oregon and places to visit
PLACES TO VISIT IN OREGON
1. Visit Portland
by Dan Bagby @ Honeymoon Always
Portland is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for good reason. In the popular city you’ll find a well-established food scene that continues to grow in notoriety and diversity, natural beauty, plenty of things to do, and the famous “Keep Portland Weird” vibes.
The city is easy to get to with the largest airport in the state and serves as a great place to visit before or after exploring more of the Pacific Northwest.
During your visit, enjoy the greenery Portland is known for by visiting the parks and gardens like Washington Park which includes the Portland Japanese Gardens and International Rose Test Gardens beside the quirky Portland neighborhoods of Nob Hill and downtown.
Just out of the city is Multnomah Falls which you can hike to the top of with a short hike. The Pittock Mansion is also worth visiting to learn of the history, see a beautiful home and get an amazing view of the city.
Get excited about the food in Portland! The city takes brunch seriously with an overwhelming amount of options. I recommend Tasty & Alder and Sanborn’s for the German Pancakes to get you started. The food carts offer an amazing variety of foods at low prices.
To get a great variety of all the food and learn history along the way there are tons of food tours that will give you a local’s take on the city. You can also venture to the Willamette Valley to visit the vineyards not far from Portland.
2. Silver Falls State Park
by Erika Bisbocci @ Erika’s Travels
Silver Falls State Park is known for its collection of beautiful waterfalls. The state park lies near the town of Silverton, amidst the Willamette Valley’s rolling farms and vineyards.
It is Oregon’s largest state park and a popular day trip destination from Portland, Salem, and Eugene.
Silver Falls is often regarded as the crown jewel of Oregon’s state park system.
A sprawling emerald wonderland, it contains an elaborate trail network that winds past dozens of waterfalls and traverses moss-clad forest.
The park’s highlight is the 8.7-mile Trail of Ten Falls. The loop trail is a waterfall chaser’s dream.
Over the span of fewer than nine miles, the hike passes by no less than ten stunning cascades. South and North falls are the park’s two main attractions.
They lie at opposite ends of the loop and both allow you to walk behind their silvery water curtains.
If you’re looking for a shorter hike, there are tons of alternatives to the full trail. An abridged 5.1-mile loop omits North Falls and Twin Falls.
If you’re looking for something that is stroller-compatible and wheelchair-friendly, consider the 0.7-mile paved loop around South Falls.
Aside from the Trail of Ten Falls and its many variations, other hikes in the park include the Maple Ridge Loop and Buck Mountain Trail.
3. Multnomah Falls
by Debbie Fettback @ World Adventurists
When exploring the gorgeous outdoor paradise of Oregon, visiting Multnomah Falls is a must. Cascading down 635 feet, over three major drops, it is the largest and one of the most iconic natural wonders of Oregon.
Easy to reach, it is a short five-minute walk, from the parking lot to the viewing platform at the base of the falls.
If you want to see the falls from a different perspective, take the moderate 2.2-mile hike (700 feet elevation gain).
The iconic Benson Bridge is part of what makes Multnomah Falls so memorable.
Built by Italian stonemasons in 1914, it was named after a businessman who owned the falls when the bridge was built. The bridge is located halfway up the falls.
Being so popular and easily accessible, the falls can get extremely busy, especially during the summer months. Go early, or in the off-season to escape hordes of tourists. You can visit Multnomah Falls year-round.
The falls do not dry up during the summer months since it is fed from rainwater, underground springs from Larch Mountain and snowmelt.
If you want to see the falls at their maximum force, go during March when the snowmelt provides the extra power.
To view the falls covered by snow and ice, visit between November and February.
Multnomah Falls is a short half-hour drive from Portland. Travel east on Interstate 84 and take exit #31, Multnomah Falls.
4. Cannon Beach
by Katie Diederichs @ Two Wandering Soles
With wide-open beaches and quaint fishing towns, taking a road trip on the Oregon Coast is one of the most memorable things you can do in the state. If you don’t have time to drive the entire coast, one of the best towns to visit in Oregon is Cannon Beach also considered one of the best beach towns in the US by National Geographic,
This picturesque oceanside town is packed with charm and things to do, giving you a good taste of what the Oregon Coast is all about.
Situated 1.5 hours northwest of Portland, Cannon Beach is a popular weekend getaway from Oregonians as well as out-of-state visitors, and it’s easy to see why. The town is made up of beautiful cedar-shingled houses, most of which seem to have million-dollar views of the Pacific Ocean.
Wander the streets and you’ll find a mix of cute coffee shops, restaurants serving up fresh seafood, souvenir shops, and art galleries.
If you’re up for some light hiking, nearby Ecola State Park shouldn’t be missed. With thickly forested trails and secluded beaches, you’ll feel as if you’ve jumped inside a postcard.
From just about anywhere in town, you can walk to the expansive beach that features the iconic Haystack Rock, made famous by the 80’s classic The Goonies and more recently, Instagram.
During low tide, you can explore the tide pools which are filled with colorful sea anemones and starfish.
Just be careful where you step! As dusk approaches, build a bonfire on the beach and watch as the sun sinks beneath the ocean for an evening you won’t soon forget!
5. Blue Pool
by Allison Boyle @ She Dreams of Alpine
The stunning sapphire water of the Tamolitch Falls Blue Pool is something you truly need to see for yourself to appreciate, making it a must-visit in Oregon.
Located about an hour west of Bend, the unique turquoise Blue Pool was created over 1,600 years ago by a lava flow that partially buried the McKenzie River.
The hike to the Blue Pool is very doable for most people at only 4.2 miles out & back (with just 300 feet of elevation gain). But the trail is very rocky, so even though you’re heading to a lake, you should wear hiking shoes with good traction, not flip-flops.
Also, be prepared to share the trail with lots of other people, since this is an extremely popular hike, especially in the summer.
If you visit the Blue Pool in the spring, you might be lucky enough to see the waterfall of Tamolitch Falls running strong. Autumn is another great time to see the Blue Pool, with the fall colors contrasting against the beautiful blue water.
Visiting the Blue Pool is one of the very best things to do in Bend, and you should absolutely add it to your Oregon bucket list!
6. Visit Bend, Oregon
Nick & Val @ Wandering Wheatleys
Bend is a quaint little mountain town located in Central Oregon. It’s about a 3-hour scenic drive from Portland or a 30-minute flight to the small airport in nearby Redmond.
Bend attracts thousands of tourists every year – from all over Oregon and the rest of the country – who want to experience the amazing outdoor activities that the city is known for.
Skiing on Mt. Bachelor, rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park, floating down the Deschutes River, or attending an outdoor concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater are just a few of Bend’s highlights.
If you’re looking for even more reasons to visit Bend, it’s also known for its craft breweries and impressive foodie scene.
Deschutes Brewery is probably the most famous, but there are countless other breweries to visit during your visit.
Crux Fermentation Project has delicious beer and a large outdoor space with food trucks – the perfect spot to meet new friends in the warm summer months.
And if we still haven’t sold you on why Bend is one of the best places to visit in Oregon, note that there are still countless other amazing activities yet to be mentioned.
Bend has a darling downtown area with boutique shops, art galleries, and a monthly wine walk event. And there are hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails right in your backyard. Plus Bend residents are known as being super friendly, outdoorsy, and welcoming.
If you’re traveling to Oregon and want to experience the gorgeous landscape that the state is famous for, you absolutely must book a few nights in Bend!
By Anjali Wadhwa @ Cheerful Trails
Florence is one of the prettiest small towns located on the Oregon Coast.
It offers various scenic sights which include the historic Siuslaw River Bridge, splendid sand dunes, dramatic beach shores, interesting hike trails, and wildlife exploration sights.
Florence is home to the largest Sea Lion Caves in the United States where you can see sea lions and other sea animals lounging on the rocky cliffs of the caves.
To cater to your adventurous streak, rent a dune buggy or go sandboarding over the sand dunes at the Sand Master Park.
To soak in some incredible views of the Oregon Coast, take a hike to the historic Heceta Head Lighthouse. You can also stay at the Lighthouse Keepers home which provides a bed and breakfast facility.
It’s a unique experience to stay near the lighthouse and explore the many hiking trails, tidepools, and viewpoints.
Take a stroll at the vibrant Old Town, the narrow lanes of which take you across many historical buildings and art galleries.
From the riverside of the Old Town, you can see the iconic Siuslaw River Bridge which is a significant landmark of Florence.
Florence can be conveniently reached from the Eugene airport through a one-hour scenic drive that boasts spectacular views of Oregon’s coastline.
8. Hood River
Jessica @ Unearth The Voyage
One of the best places to visit in Oregon and should definitely be on your list is the Hood River area. There are so many most fun things to do in the Hood River area such as take a tour of the Fruit Loop.
The Fruit Loop is located in Hood River Valley just outside the actual town of Hood River. It is a collection of local wineries, fruit stands, cideries, distilleries, and lavender fields.
Driving around to the different locations on the Fruit Loop is a ton of fun because the scenery is absolutely gorgeous and on a sunny day you will have breathtaking views of Mt. Hood.
Besides exploring everything the Fruit Loop has to offer there are lots of other fun things to do in this area such as go hiking, eat at one of the many restaurants or breweries, and see the famous Columbia River Gorge.
Hood River is located about an hour’s drive away from Portland and is conveniently located just off Interstate 84.
If you enjoy getting out and exploring on a nice sunny day, Hood River is a great place to spend an afternoon or even a weekend!
9. Columbia River Gorge
by Daria Bachmann @ The Discovery Nut
Located about 30 miles east of Portland, Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Oregon and one of the largest scenic areas in the entire United States.
While it might not be as famous as some West Coast national parks that draw millions of tourists, it is worth a stop on your itinerary.
One of the best ways to see this scenic canyon is by taking a drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway, a 75-mile drive that connects small towns Troutdale and The Dalles.
What’s great about taking this road is that you will be able to stop at many scenic overlooks including the Bridge of the Gods, Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon, and the Vista House, a point that provides a panoramic overlook of the entire gorge.
Don’t forget to visit Hood River, a small town where you can stroll the streets and grab a bite after a day of exploring.
Located not far from Mount Hood, this quaint town boasts Hood River County Fruit Loop, a spectacular drive where you can see local farms, vineyards, and cute country houses.
A great alternative to driving along the gorge is taking a bike ride along the gorge, where sections of the highway are dedicated specifically to bicyclists.
The entire area is a bicyclists mecca as it features many technical trails with switchbacks in addition to smooth runs.
10. Oregon’s Painted Hills
by Kay @ The Awkward Traveller
Oregon’s Painted Hills are actually part of a larger National Monument, John Day Fossil Beds.
However, they are easily the most recognizable unit of the National Monument, aptly named for its large sweeping hills painted with orange, red, gold, and black hues.
If you have time, the two other units of the National Monument, Clarno Unit and Sheep Rock Unit, are about an hour away each.
The big draw to the Painted Hills is to walk amongst the colorful landscape, with five main trails from the paved parking lot.
All of the trails are under 2 miles, with most only a quarter of a mile and wheelchair and stroller accessible, making it one of the most accessible outdoor places to visit in Oregon.
For dinosaur enthusiasts, you can also find plant and animal fossils. Or head to the nearby Thomas Condon Paleontology Center for complete exhibits on fossils in the area.
The Painted Hills are about two hours from the city of Bend, making it one of the best day-trips from Bend, even if you are just in the area for the weekend.
A few things to note for your visit to the Painted Hills: although there is a shaded picnic area, there is no other shade along the trail, as well as no water available and no visitor center.
The restrooms are vaulted (no flush), and bring your own snacks (and sunscreen!) for the trip.
11. Rowena Crest
By Brianna @ Casual Travelist
The Columbia River Gorge is full of gorgeous spots and one of the most spectacular is Rowena Crest (also known as Rowena Plateau). Located 78 miles from Portland Rowena Crest makes for a great day trip or as part of a larger road trip itinerary.
Rowena Crest is accessed from the scenic and historic Columbia River Gorge Highway and a stop here will reward you sweeping views of the Colombia River in all directions, as well as a very photogenic horseshoe bend curved road.
As part of the Tom McCall Nature Preserve there are several easy to moderate hikes you can take. Walk along the edge of Rowena Plateau Trail for amazing views of the Columbia River and the basalt cliffs of the gorge.
This out and back trail is about 2 miles round trip with a gentle 250-foot change in elevation.
The Tom McCall Nature Preserve Trail over 1000 feet and is 3.25 miles round trip with great views of the famous horseshoe bend, Rowena Plateau itself, and 270-degree views of the Columbia Gorge to the east and west.
Rowena Crest is always open but I feel the wildflowers of spring the colors of fall make these seasons the best time to visit.
12. Umpqua Hot Springs
by Jessica Schmit @ Uprooted Traveler
Umpqua Hot Springs is a gorgeous series of cascading pools, carved into a cliffside in a densely wooded forest and overlooking a rushing river. You can access the dreamy hot springs, located in southwestern Oregon in Umpqua National Forest, by a short, but steep 0.8-mile round trip hike, so be sure to bring some sturdy hiking boots and some water.
It’s also a good idea to get here early – the photogenic springs have become quite popular over the last couple of years and to snag a spot in one of the small pools (or even the parking lot!), you’ll want to stop here earlier on in the day.
Another thing to note- many hot springs in the Pacific Northwest, including Umpqua, are considered clothing optional– so don’t be surprised if you see some folks sans swimsuits here!
Once you’re done relaxing in these natural hot tubs, which run from about 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit, please be sure to follow the leave no trace principles and pick up any trash you may have generated- the springs have been closed in the past due to litter and waste issues and we should be sure that other soakers can enjoy these beautiful springs for years and years to come!
13. Cape Kiwanda
by Jessica Schmit @ Uprooted Traveler
Cape Kiwanda is one of the most famous and photogenic beaches along the Oregon coast.
Located in Pacific City in Northern Oregon along the Three Capes Scenic Route (along with Cape Meares and Cape Lookout), the beach is renowned for its sea stack, known as Haystack Rock.
Rising above the ocean at 327 feet, Haystack is almost 100 feet taller than, perhaps, the more famous Haystack Rock, located at the nearby Cannon Beach.
The rock stands a little more than a half-mile offshore and has a moody quality that makes it impossible to tear your eyes away.
Beyond its stunning sea stack, Cape Kiwanda is great for hiking to the top of the beach’s sand dunes to admire the pounding waves and sandstone escarpments jutting out into the ocean.
Hikers won’t be the only ones admiring the waves, though- this is a hotspot for surfers, who don wetsuits year-round to enjoy some of the longest waves along the coastline.
For a more family-friendly activity, you can also try tide pooling, where, in low tide, you can observe up close seastars, anemones, and other sea creatures that live in the Cape’s tidepools (friendly reminder look at, but not touch the critters you find in a tidepool!).
Whether you’re looking for beautiful views or possibly even some adventure, Cape Kiwanda definitely deserves a spot on your Oregon bucket list.
14. Crater Lake
by Jenny Kotlyar @ Limitless Hiker
Crater Lake is a stunning national park that’s highly underrated. Not only is the geographical history there fascinating, but the deep and bright color if the lake is mesmerizing. Photos do not do this place justice.
Crater Lake was formed when a volcano collapsed into itself and formed a crater. This lake is special because it’s entirely created by melting snow, there are no outlets that feed this lake. This is how it gets the sparkling and clear deep blue color.
Crater Lake is beautiful in any season, it just depends on the experience you’re looking for.
In the winter, the park receives an average of 42 feet of snow per year and the north entrance road and Rim Drive are closed to wheeled vehicles in the winter. In the summer the entire drive is open along with all of the trails.
In the summer months, the park will be the most crowded, but you’ll have lush evergreen trees surrounding this beautiful lake.
You can also hike around the lake to get an even deeper experience inside this park. A section of the Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike also runs through.
If you’re not looking to do any hiking and mainly want to experience this park from easily accessible points, you can drive the Rim Drive around the lake which is roughly 33 miles long.
Each one offering a stunning view of the lake below and the little island in the middle which is called Wizard Island and is the volcanic cinder cone.
By Anjali Wadhwa @ Cheerful Trails
Eugene, the third-largest city in Oregon is a paradise for nature and outdoor adventure lovers. Located at the edge of Willamette Valley, the city is close to many wineries known for the world-class pinot noir.
Perched atop a hill, the King Estate Winery serves a variety of wines for sampling. Enjoy a hearty meal at the King Estate restaurant’s outdoor seating space while soaking in some gorgeous views of the wineries and valley.
The beautiful Alton Baker Park is home to picturesque shores of the Willamette River that has paved paths and bridges for biking trails, fishing spots, boat launches, and other recreational facilities.
For nature lovers, the Owen Rose garden is an eye-soothing haven that showcases 4000 different varieties of roses.
The 209 acre Mount Pisgah Arboretum has many family-friendly trails through which you can see the best of nature in the southern Willamette Valley. Visit the Cascades Raptor Center to see many kinds of bird species.
Having various museums and art institutions, Eugene is also rich in culture. The Hult Center for the Performing Arts is a host to many entertaining events throughout the year.
The Museum of Natural and Cultural History also holds significant exhibits including fossils related to the evolution of the ecosystem.