22 Best Places to Visit in Oregon for Vino, Vistas and Outdoor Thrills

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With its tree-covered mountaintops, windswept oceans, lush forests and unparalleled vistas, Oregon is an outdoor lover’s dream. From hiking and rock climbing to wine tasting and cheese making, there’s something for all ages to see, explore and enjoy in this diverse and photo-worthy state. Get ready to take notes, because we’re sharing our list of the best places to visit in Oregon for your next Pacific coast getaway.

Growing up, I’d always associated the state of Oregon with the classic computer game, The Oregon Trail. Pretending to be a 19th century pioneer, I’d slowly travel along the Oregon Trail to the Willamette Valley while encountering various wildlife and changing weather elements. It was certainly a fun and memorable childhood experience, to say the least. But fast forward to today, my view of Oregon has completely changed.

Now I know Oregon to be an outdoor adventurer’s dream with some of the best mountainside and coastal views in the country. Hikers, rock climbers and water lovers will never tire of the extensive number of trails, caves, waterfalls and lakes to explore and conquer. History and art lovers can choose from a number of museums, gardens and galleries to learn about Oregon’s storied past and art scene. And the Willamette Valley has transformed into a wine lover’s paradise, representing some of the best pinot noir in America!

Whether you’re traveling with kids, adults only or traveling solo, there’s no shortage of fun things to do and see in the Beaver State. Here are 22 of the best places to visit in Oregon for your Pacific coast trip.

The main city in Central Oregon, Bend offers a lot of amenities & activities. Photo credit: Jennifer Keller

1. Bend

Located on the Deschutes River between Crater Lake and Columbia River Gorge sits the small city of Bend. Bend is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for hiking, kayaking and, for the adventurous ones, climbing volcanoes.

One of the coolest things about Bend are its volcanoes, both active and inactive. In town, you can hike a trail up to Pilot Butte, an extinct volcano. On the eastern edge of the volcanic Cascade mountain range, the Newberry Caldera, or Newberry Volcano, is about the size of Rhode Island. The Newberry National Volcanic Monument will take you into a huge lava tube called the Lava River Cave. Arrange for a volcano tour to earn your “Mom of the Year” badge from the kids.

Smith Rock State Park
Photo credit: Pixabay

2. Smith Rock State Park

Located in central Oregon’s High Desert, Smith Rock State Park is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for rock climbing enthusiasts. The park offers more than a thousand climbs through deep river canyons as well as seasonal camping and hiking trails. It is called “one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.”

A trip to Smith Rock State Park means breathtaking views of towering volcanic ash and potential sightings of eagles, falcons, beavers, otters and deer. Rock climbers visit from all over the world to conquer its many bolted routes of varying difficulty levels. There’s also plenty for the non-sport climbers to take advantage of such as hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding and skiing. You can even check out the Newberry Crater National Volcanic Monument where astronauts trained to walk on the moon! It truly is an outdoor adventurer’s playground.

3. Deschutes National Forest

The Deschutes National Forest is another place worth exploring while in Oregon. Located in the Cascade Lakes area, the 1.6+ acre forest features five wilderness areas, three scenic byways, a series of 12 lakes and two reservoirs on the eastern side of the Cascade Range. It is located west of Bend with seasonal camping and hiking trails.

While there, don’t pass up a visit to Paulina Lake Hot Springs, located near the Newberry Volcanic Monument. The area features several primitive hot pools with circular dugouts within the lake’s sandy banks. With a relatively remote location, it’s a great place for a relaxing escape.

Downtown Portland Oregon at dusk
Photo credit: Pixabay

4. Portland

Sitting on the Columbia and Willamette rivers below Mount Hood sits Oregon’s largest city, Portland. Known for its parks, biking trails, bridges and coffee shop culture, Portland is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for spending time outdoors and enjoying the lush scenery. However, its lushness is due to the fact that it rains frequently, so make sure you have an umbrella and raincoat with you at all times!

When in Portland, Washington Park is a popular place to visit. There you’ll find the beautiful Japanese Garden and the Oregon Zoo. The Columbia River Gorge and Multnomah Falls are great places to hike and see the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Portland is also full of microbreweries and coffeehouses and has a thriving music, theater and art scene. If you’d rather see Portland via a guided tour, a narrated sightseeing cruise is a great way to view all of what the city has to offer from a different perspective.

5. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

With spectacular waterfalls, diverse outdoor recreation and miles of orchards packing fresh fruits, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is one of Oregon’s seven state wonders. Its 4,000 deep canyon stretches for more than 80 miles, helping to form the boundary between Oregon and Washington State.

SheBuysTravel contributor Catherine Parker visited the Columbia River Gorge with her family and recommends stopping at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles where you’ll learn about the history of the Oregon Trail as well as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She considers it a must-visit for families. She also recommends a visit to the town of Hood River and the Fruit Loop with more than 35 miles of country roads and endless fruit stands to sample. Not to be missed are the spectacular lavender fields and waterfalls along the way.

Mount Hood's snow-capped peak in Oregon
Photo credit: Pixabay

6. Mount Hood

Located roughly 50 miles from Portland along the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood (or Mt. Hood) is the highest point in Oregon and also a semi-active volcano. It is one of the best places to visit in Oregon to view glaciers and to take part in year-round skiing.

Mount Hood features six different ski resorts though only one operates year-round. For avid skiers and snowboarders, summer skiing at Timberline Lodge offers rustic elegance. In fact, to some it is a bucket list ski destination. There you’ll also find a scenic area with seasonal fruit stands, lavender fields and stunning waterfalls taller than most buildings.

7. Washington Park

When visiting Portland, you won’t want to miss a visit to Washington Park. With so many different things to see and do, it is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for families with children. Plus, just two miles from the downtown area, it is easily accessible by car or light rail.

The 410-acre Washington Park is home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, a forestry museum, the International Rose Test Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in the world. It also has an amphitheater, archery range, tennis courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, numerous trails and memorials. Did I mention that all of it is surrounded by more than 5,000 acres of beautiful wild forest?

Multnomah Falls is a must visit in Oregon
Photo credit: Pixabay

8. Multnomah Falls

While all of the waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge offer spectacular hikes and envy-worthy photo opportunities, you won’t want to pass up a visit to the most well-known waterfall, Multnomah Falls. With a ribbon of water that plummets 620 feet, it’s Oregon’s tallest waterfall and the second highest year-round waterfall in the USA.

Just 30 miles from Portland, Multnomah Falls is a popular tourist attraction for all ages. Its two-drop cascade is fed by rainwater and melted snow, making it a year-round attraction. Hike to the Benson Bridge (just a .25-mile hike from the visitor center), or the 1.2-mile hike to the top of the falls. Wheelchair-accessible viewing platforms are also available.

Don’t leave without a visit to the Multnomah Falls Lodge at the bottom. Built in 1925, it’s a great place to catch your breath or to enjoy the view while having a bite to eat.

9. Astoria

Astoria is a sleepy, small town located near the Pacific Ocean on the Columbia River. SheBuysTravel contributor Catherine Parker visited with her two boys and found Astoria to be a great day trip from Portland. She especially recommends it for fans of the coming-of-age 80s classic “The Goonies” since it is the site of many of its scenes.

One of the most prominent sites to see in Astoria is the Astoria Column, a towering monument with panoramic views of the area as well as murals that tell the history of the area. History lovers will want to add the waterfront Columbia River Maritime Museum to the list of places to visit, showcasing the area’s fishing and military history. Meanwhile, the Flavel House Museum and mansion will take you back to the Victorian era with its period furniture and Queen Anne-style architecture.

10. Newport

Located on the Central coast of Oregon, Newport is one of the best places to visit in Oregon if you’re looking for a variety of things to do for all ages and interests.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is great for families with young children. They have touch pools, animal feeding times, underwater walkways and a seabird aviary. The Yaquina Bay State Park is a must visit with a basalt rock beach marked with beautiful cliffs and coves. And the 1871 Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is another highlight and photo-worthy part of the park. However, there is a height requirement for children to climb to the top of the lighthouse (they cannot be carried).

SheBuysTravel Tip: The entire state park, but especially the area by the lighthouse is very windy and cool. Even in mid-July, pants, sweatshirts and even light jackets might be needed.

Read More: Sylvia Beach Hotel: A Book-Lover’s Retreat in Newport, Oregon

11. Tillamook

If you love cheese, Tillamook is one of the best places to visit in Oregon to get your fix! Located in the heart of the Oregon Coast dairy country, this beautiful, scenic city is home to the century-old Tillamook Cheese Factory (which, by the way, has daily tours and tastings).

But Tillamook isn’t all about the cheese. It is also an excellent destination for outdoor recreation with numerous hiking trails and more than 800 miles of waters between its three rivers (Tillamook, Trask and Wilson) for kayaking, fishing and crabbing. It’s also a great place to visit for history buffs, with an aviation history that dates back to World War II. In the Tillamook Air Museum you’ll find historic planes, blimps and pilot equipment. At the end of a busy day exploring, cool down with a visit to the Tillamook Creamery, another one of the most popular attractions in town and a great place to get some delicious ice cream.

Entrance to the Fifth Street Public Market in Eugene OR Best Places to Visit in Oregon
Hungry? Don’t skip the Fifth Street Public Market in Eugene. Photo credit: Melanie Griffin / EugeneCascadesCoast.org

12. Eugene

Located on the Willamette River between Portland and Crater Lake National Park, Eugene is the third largest city in the state. It is best known for being the home of University of Oregon.

One of the must-visits while in Eugene include the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, located within the University of Oregon. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, is known for its collection of Asian art.

Outdoor lovers have plenty to do between the extensive riverside trails for hiking and biking in Alton Baker Park, as well as a rhododendron garden in Hendricks Park.

The Fifth Street Public Market is a great place to relax at a cafe or do some shopping in locally owned stores. If you’re up for a road trip, head west for an hour and a half to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation area to view wind-sculpted sand dunes that tower up to 500 feet above sea level.

13. Yachats

Pronounced “YAH-hots”, Yachats is one of the most beautiful places to visit on the Oregon coast. It is also one of the best places to visit in Oregon for beautiful, Instagram-worthy vistas.

Although located right on the coastline, it isn’t considered a gem for sandy beaches. Instead, it is known for its rugged black basalt. In fact, its name translated from the Siletz language means, “dark water at the foot of the mountain.” Some of its most popular landmarks include the terrifying Devil’s Churn, the dramatic Spouting Horn and the popular tourist attraction Thor’s Well. The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is the highest point of the Oregon Coast and is great for hiking and sightseeing. The town itself is also home to beautiful hotels, gift shops and art galleries.

14. Thor’s Well

Located at the edge of the Oregon Coast near Cape Perpetua sits the natural wonder, Thor’s Well, also known as the “Drainpipe of the Pacific.” Although not actually bottomless, its incredible appearance as a bottomless sinkhole that drains the ocean away is what makes it one of the best places to visit in Oregon.

Thor’s Well is best seen at or near high tide, preferably an hour before the high tide to first see it without water and then witness how it slowly fills up. It is also a spectacular site to see during storms, although not recommended because of its dangerous, sudden torrents.

Cannon Beach is one of the top places to see in Oregon.
Cannon Beach is a must visit in Oregon. Photo credit: Pixabay

15. Cannon Beach

Located roughly 90 minutes from Portland, the town of Cannon Beach is a charming village popular for its long, sandy shore. However, it is even more popular for Haystack Rock, one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks. Because of this looming and extraordinary rock formation in the middle of the ocean, Cannon Beach is named one of the world’s most beautiful places by National Geographic.

Cannon Beach offers incredible coastline vistas as well as delicious restaurants and luxurious oceanfront accommodations. It is also known to be one of the top art towns in the country. Haystack Rock is a popular location for bird watching and for spotting starfish in its colorful tidepools. You may even recognize Haystack Rock from television programs and classic movies such as “The Goonies” and “Kindergarten Cop!”

16. Ecola State Park

Stretching across nine miles of coastline, Ecola State Park is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for beautiful hiking and beach-going. The park offers a gorgeous seven-mile trail with incredible views, making it an ideal location for sightseeing.

Part of Ecola State Park’s network of trails includes a segment of the Oregon Coast Trail, as well as a 2.5 mile historical interpretive route, the Clatsop Loop Trail. Because of its vistas of the Pacific Ocean, Haystack Rock, the Sitka spruce forest and coastal mountains, hiking is a popular activity to do in the park. You can even spot an abandoned lighthouse from its cliff sides.

However, there are a number of other outdoor recreations that can be enjoyed by visitors including surfing, picnicking, tidepooling and spotting wildlife. Indian Beach is a secluded sandy beach popular among surfers. From the beach you can view wildlife such as deer, eagles and sometimes even migrating gray whales!

17. Oregon Coast Trail

If long distance hiking and picturesque views are what you are after, the Oregon Coast Trail (also known as the OCT) is where you need to be. Taking you along Oregon’s 362 miles of lush and scenic coastline, it is certainly one of the best places to visit in Oregon for an unforgettable hiking experience.

Extending from the coast of Oregon at the Columbia River all the way to the California border, the Oregon Coast Rail takes hikers across beaches, forests, headlands and 28 coastal towns. From there you can spot rugged sea stacks, rock formations and a variety of marine life, wildlife and sea birds. History buffs have the opportunity to tour lighthouses with incredible vistas and unforgettable stories. And of course, there are the coffee houses, breweries and mouth watering restaurants along the way. It’s perhaps one of the best ways to get acquainted with Oregon and all it has to offer!

18. Crater Lake National Park

Known for its namesake Crater Lake (the deepest lake in the USA), Crater Lake National Park is located in the Cascade Mountains in southern Oregon. It is the best place to visit in Oregon if you want to learn how a volcano becomes a lake (which is exactly what happened at Crater Lake when Mount Mazama collapsed).

Also part of the park is Wizard Island, a cinder cone on the western edge of the lake. Rim Drive, which surrounds the lake, is a 33-mile road that offers incredible views of the park and its volcanic formations.

Scenic Crater Lake Overlooks:

  • Discovery Point
  • Phantom Ship Overlook
  • Pinnacles Overlook

The park also has numerous trails including Sun Notch, offering views of the Phantom Ship island.

The park is popular, especially from late June through the end of summer, when all the park roads open for the season. Make lodging and scenic boat tour reservations as early as possible since it is a popular national park destination.

19. Sea Lion Caves

If you want to check out the largest sea cave in America, you’ll want to make a trip to the Sea Lion Caves in the town of Florence on the Oregon Coast. Although it is a very touristy destination, it is one of the best places to visit in Oregon to view sea lions in their natural habitat.

The priceless experience comes at a steep price. The admission expense may or may not work with your vacation budget.

Vineyard vines in Oregon's Willamette Valley, a fun place to visit
Photo credit: Pixabay

20. Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley is one of the best places to visit in Oregon for wine lovers. Home to more than 700 wineries, this 150-mile long valley in northwest Oregon is recognized as one of the premier producers of pinot noir in the world. The bonus? Many wineries are just an hour from Portland, making wine tasting just a quick road trip away.

The Willamette Valley has so much to offer for all ages (in addition to its incredible wineries) that it is split into four regions. The north region features beautiful rolling hillsides, family farm stands and charming boutiques. In the mid-region, you’ll find scenic hiking trails, colorful gardens, quiet waterways, farms and bustling cities. The south region is full of fern-covered forests and historic bridges. And last but not least is the West Cascades region known for its world-renowned biking and hiking trails, hot springs, wildflower fields, fishing and whitewater rafting.

21. Wallowa Lake State Park

Wallowa Lake State Park is one of the best places to visit in Oregon if you enjoy outdoor activities and camping in scenic, beautiful places. Located at the southern shore of Wallowa Lake, the park is surrounded by 9,000 foot tall snow-capped mountains and a large lake, popular for fishing and boating.

A day at the park can be spent hiking or horseback riding on the wilderness trails, playing a game of mini-golf or riding a tramway to the top of one of the mountains. Water lovers can canoe or have a fun time in the bumper boats. The town of Wallowa Lake sits right next to the park and is a gateway to Hells Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in north America.

22. Silver Falls State Park

If you’ve ever wanted to see what a curtain of water looks like from behind, the Silver Falls State Park is one of the best places to visit in Oregon to fulfill that dream. There you’ll find a 177-foot waterfall that you can walk behind as well as more than 35 miles of backcountry trails for hiking, bike riding or horseback riding.

Located about 20 miles from Salem, Silver Falls State Park is the largest park in Oregon and is often regarded as the “crown jewel” of Oregon’s state parks. Spanning across more than 9,000 acres, it has more than 24 miles of walking trails, a four-mile bike path and 14 miles of horse trails. The trail to the famous South Falls is part of the Trail of Ten Falls, a nationally recognized hiking trail that passes through a series of waterfalls and rocky canyons. You can hike the trail yourself, or for some added adults-only fun, join a hiking and wine tour!

Kimberly Miles Avatar
Kimberly Miles is a mother of one and an experienced solo and single mom traveler. So far, she has traveled to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Dubai, Bahamas, Aruba, Mexico, and several places in the U.S. Kimberly was born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, but in 2018 she took a leap of faith and made the beautiful beach town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico her home with her young son. In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Kimberly ghostwrites blogs on a variety of topics. She also provides marketing consulting services and business guidance to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporations via her independent business KNM Virtual Solutions. When she’s not traveling or writing, you can find Kimberly working out, eating tacos, dancing the night away, or spending time at the beach with her son. You can read more of her work at Travel Unapologetically.
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