Let’s talk about the Seven Wonders of Oregon, because it probably comes as no surprise that Oregon is a great place to live. How great? Immeasurably so, especially if you’re a sucker for natural splendor.
My husband and I are nature nuts and made it a goal to see the 7 Wonders of Oregon for ourselves, and holy cow do I have a story to tell.
But look at me already getting ahead of myself.
Read on for everything you need to know about the 7 Wonders of Oregon.
What are the Seven Wonders of Oregon?
In 2013, playing off of the well-known Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Travel Oregon launched the 7 Wonders of Oregon campaign.
The campaign featured seven epic natural wonders with the intention of encouraging locals and visitors to experience Oregon’s mesmerizing landscapes.
As you can imagine, choosing only seven natural wonders in Oregon is a fool’s errand, but the campaign proved successful and every year folks flock to these areas in hoards.
What are the 7 Wonders of Oregon?
- Crater Lake National Park
- Mt. Hood
- The Oregon Coast
- The Painted Hills
- The Wallowas
- Columbia River Gorge
- Smith Rock
Who am I and why should you trust me?
Fair question, and don’t worry – I don’t offend easily. My name is Antonina and I’m a lifelong Oregonian. I was raised in Portland and spent most of my childhood exploring the natural wonders of Oregon.
Shortly after meeting my husband we embarked on a whirlwind tour of Oregon state — visiting every corner and popping off at every small town we passed.
My husband films national parks and forests for a living (I know, I can’t believe that’s a real job either) and so we hike a lot.
We both thoroughly enjoy hiking (and living in Oregon) and took it upon ourselves to explore Oregon’s 7 Wonders to share with anyone interested in planning a trip to our beloved state.
The 7 Wonders of Oregon
#1. Crater Lake National Park
Why Crater Lake is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: Clocking in at an astounding depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America and the ninth deepest lake in the world.
This iconic lake formed thousands of years ago when a volatile volcano by the name of Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed. The cooled caldera filled with rainwater and snow melt and eventually formed the lake we see today.
If that’s not impressive enough, Crater Lake is also one of the purest and clearest lakes in the world. There’s no inlets feeding the lake, so neither sediments nor mineral deposits enter the lake, keeping it pure.
Fun fact: Crater Lake is deeper than the One World Trade Center in New York City is tall. In fact, if the entire building were submerged in the lake, there would still be 200 feet of water above the One World Trade Center.
Considering the One World Trader Center is the sixth tallest building in the world, it definitely puts the impressive depth of Crater Lake into perspective.
Things to do at Crater Lake National Park:
- Drive the scenic 33-mile Crater Lake Rim Drive and pop off at interesting spots along the way for interesting vantage points.
- Swing by Watchman Overlook and take in the views from the most popular viewpoint in the park.
- Hike the Cleetwood Cove Trail to reach the lake and take a dip, but heads up: the water is chilly!
Did you know that you can fish at Crater Lake National Park?
Fish were introduced to the lake in 1888 and have become self sufficient. If you’re interested in fishing at Crater Lake, here’s what you need to know.
Best time to visit: Crater Lake National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit is between July – September when the temperatures are favorable, there’s less snow on the ground and the chance of rainfall is minimal.
Location: Klamath Falls, Southern Oregon
#2. The Painted Hills
Oregon’s Painted Hills are part of the three units that make up John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
The hot and arid conditions aren’t enough to keep visitors away, everyone eager to get their eyes on the colorful hill formations in the high desert of central Oregon.
It’s no wonder that such a breathtaking and unique sight would be considered one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.
Well, stratification is the name of the game here.
The colors on the hills are attributed to ancient eruptions that caused ash layers to deposit over many years and caused different minerals to reach and solidify into various colored bands over time.
I know, talk about mouthful, right?
But the Painted Hill are special because they are a window to the past. The rock layers have been ardently studied to determine geological time scales of these ancient hills and some of the soil is believed to date back millions of years.
Why the Painted Hills are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: The geological wonderland that is the Painted Hills is unique to the Pacific Northwest.
There’s only a handful of other places in the world that have colorful hills akin to the Painted Hills, the fact that they’re in our backyard is hard to believe.
Visit during sunset to see the hills come alive with vibrant hues of dusty oranges, muted greens, vivid purples and brick-tinted reds. It’s a sight you won’t soon forget.
Things to do at the Painted Hills:
- Hike the Painted Cove Trail, arguably the most popular trail at the Painted Hills. A short wooden boardwalk meanders through jutting hillsides that engulf you in their splendor.
- Hike the Painted Hills Overlook Trail to get sweeping views of the entire valley below you.
Location: Mitchell, Central Oregon
#3. The Oregon Coast
Oregon’s nearly 400-mile coastline is famous nationwide for a reason.
Our striking shoreline is lined with massive rock formations, the largest coastal sand dunes in America and seemingly endless sweeping views of the chilly Pacific Ocean.
But what makes the Oregon Coast so special? Well, for starters, every inch of the coastline is public property (and therefore freely accessible to all).
Thanks to the Oregon Beach Bill from 1967, it is unlawful for any entity to privatize any stretch of Oregon’s breathtaking shoreline.
There’s so many fun ways to explore the Oregon Coast. You can start by driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, which is considered one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Pop off at every charming coastal town and make time to visit the 11 lighthouses found on the coast.
Arguably the most iconic town at the Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach, people flock here to see the iconic Haystack Rock and it’s definitely worth a visit.
But don’t miss the splendor that comes with riding a dune buggy through the incredible sand dunes in Florence or the jaw-dropping views from the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor.
Why the Oregon Coast is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: The Oregon Coast is home to the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the country. Spanning an impressive 40-miles in length, it’s one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the entire world, with some dunes rising to heights of 500 feet!
Things to do at the Oregon Coast:
- Rent a dune buggy in Florence, Oregon
- Visit Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
- Explore Cannon Beach (Haystack Rock)
- Rent a boat and spend the day crabbing with friends
#4. The Wallowa Mountains
During my visit to the Wallowa Mountains I couldn’t help but notice how much the sweeping mountain views reminded me of the breathtaking alpine wilderness in Switzerland.
For first timers, I suggest exploring the Eagle Cap Wilderness where alpine meadows and granite peaks engulf you and transport you to paradise.
With breathtaking alpine landscapes like this it’s no wonder this is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon!
Do yourself a favor before visiting the Wallowas and read up on Chief Joseph, the beloved Native American Chief of the Nez Perce tribe who led his tribe through the darkest periods in Native American History.
The story of this compassionate and important leader is just as fascinating as the land you will be exploring.
Why the Wallowas are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: The Wallowas are easily one of the most scenic landscapes in Oregon. From alpine summits to the high desert and Wallowa Lake – there’s something for everyone.
Things to do in the Wallowa Mountains:
- Hike to Maxwell Lake (the views are jaw-dropping)
- Visit the M.Crow General Store
- Explore Wallowa Lake by boat
- Wallowa Lake Tramway
Location: Joseph, Eastern Oregon
Land Acknowledgment: I acknowledge that the land we currently call the Wallowas belonged to the Nez Perce tribe. Joseph, Oregon occupies the ancestral and traditional Lands of the Nimiipuu, Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla peoples.
#5. The Columbia River Gorge
Few know that the Columbia River Gorge is America’s largest National Scenic Area. And once you drive through this stunning landscape it won’t take long for you to realize that the honor is well deserved.
Take the Historic Columbia River Highway, known as the “King of Roads,” which was the first scenic highway in America to be designated as a National Historic Landmark, an incredible achievement.
The Highway was constructed with the intent of working with the natural wonders of this area, not against them and the end result is a beautiful thing.
The highway hugs the Columbia River and passes numerous cascading waterfalls. This is bound to be one of the most beautiful drives you’ve ever done.
Make sure you pop off to see Multnomah Falls otherwise no one will believe you were actually here!
I should also confess that the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge is one of my favorite day trips from Portland, because there’s no shortage of adventurous things to do.
I especially like spending warm summer days at the numerous award-winning wineries in Hood River while sipping cold Chardonnay and watching the sun set over Mt. Hood.
Why the Columbia River Gorge is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: The Columbia River Gorge is the largest National Scenic Area in the country.
Things to do at the Columbia River Gorge:
- Visit Multnomah Falls
- Hike to Oneonta Falls
- Partake in the Hood River Valley Fruit Loop
You might enjoy reading: 20 WILDLY Beautiful Oregon Waterfalls Completely Worth the Effort
Bonus Points: Hood Valley Fruit Loop
The Hood River Fruit Loop is one of the best things to do in Oregon during the summer and fall seasons when the various farms open their doors to eager u-pickers and offer seasonal fruits and veggies.
Visitors are encouraged to go on a self-guided 35-mile scenic driving tour and pop off at 29+ fruit stands and farms along the way.
Not all of the stands are open at the same time since some of these farms are seasonal, so make sure you check out this resource before heading out.
Located in the heart of Hood River Valley, you won’t find a more scenic way to spend the day.
My favorite season to enjoy the Fruit Loop is the fall when the weight of crisp apples and ripe pears hanging from trees are an invitation to pick too many and make pie for friends.
#6. Smith Rock State Park
Volcanic activity is the culprit behind a fantastic rock outcropping called Smith Rock, that juts seemingly out of nowhere, smack dab in the middle of the arid desert landscape that is Central Oregon.
My favorite hike at Smith Rock State Park is the beloved (and very popular) Misery Ridge Trail Hike.
The trail takes hikers past Monkey Face, which is considered one of the toughest rock climbs in the world. It attracts thousands of avid rock-climbers annually.
The first mile of this scenic Oregon hike is challenging, but you must preserve because the views from the summit are worth the effort. Think jaw-dropping and sweeping views of the Cascade Range in full display.
If you’re not in the mood for a high elevation hike near Bend, I suggest the River Trail because it offers phenomenal views and lacks elevation.
The landscape in this part of Oregon is so beautiful. An early morning wake-up call is well worth the effort to avoid crowds.
We hiked the Misery Ridge Trail at sunrise and watched a hot air balloon take in the splendor of the sun greeting the valley floor. Hot air balloon ride over central Oregon? Now that’s an idea I can get behind!
Location: Terrebonne, Central Oregon
Seven Wonders of Oregon Road Trip
Interested in extending your adventurous Seven Wonders of Oregon road trip? May I suggest adding the Deschutes National Forest after your stop at Smith Rock State Park?
My husband was commissioned to create a video on the forest and it features some of the most breathtaking hikes near Bend.
You might see an appearance from yours truly. 😉 Hope you enjoy!
#7. Mount Hood
Reaching an impressive height of 11,250 feet, Mt. Hood is the tallest volcano in Oregon and the fourth tallest in the Cascade Range.
As you can imagine, every inch of Mt. Hood National Forest is bound to impress but make a special effort to visit McNeil Point, Paradise Parks and Elk Meadows.
You’ll instantly see why visitors consider this one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.
Make sure to hike the Tom, Dick and Harry Trail while exploring Mt. Hood National Forest, it’s my favorite hike in the area.
Tom Dick and Harry mountain is located near Government Camp, 11 miles from Mount Hood. Due to the hike’s close proximity to Portland, Oregon, crowds are all but guaranteed during the summer months.
Fun fact: Mt. Hood is the third most climbed mountain in the world.
Why Mt. Hood is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon: The rich volcanic soil that lines the Hood River Valley is considered one of the largest regions in the country for growing pears, berries and apples.
Things to do near Mt. Hood:
- Catch sunrise at Trillium Lake
- In the summer, participate in the Hood Valley Fruit Loop
- Go apple picking at Kiyokawa Apple Orchard
- Get a Christmas Tree from Mt. Hood National Forest, here’s how
Seven Wonders of Oregon Map
Additional Natural Wonders of Oregon
Listen, I get it. With only 7 places to choose, competition is fierce. But I’ll let you in on a few gems that definitely would make the “11” Wonders of Oregon list.
#1. Tamolitch Blue Pool
Why it should be one of the wonders of Oregon: First, the clear topaz-blue color of the water is truly unbelievable (you’ll know what I mean when you see it in person).
The glass-like water is misleading — making it seem like the pool is only a few feet deep (when in actuality it reaches depths of 30 feet).
Secondly, when you reach the Blue Pool you might ask yourself where the water comes from, since it appears to pool up out of nowhere.
Believe it or not, the Tamolitch Blue Pool is where the McKenzie River rises to the surface through underground lava tubes – how cool is that?
#2. The Oregon Dunes
As I mentioned earlier, the Oregon Dunes are the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America. Surely we shouldn’t overlook the treasure we have in our own backyard.
#3. Waldo Lake
It’s no surprise that the second largest freshwater lake in the state should be a contender for the uber-prestigious designation as a Wonder of Oregon, no?
The wild Cascade Mountains offer a stunning backdrop to this high-elevation lake that is easily accessible by car. This nearly 10-square-mile Oregon lake is one of the purest lakes in the world (nearly as pure as distilled water).
There are no inlets carrying nutrients to the lake, therefore plants don’t grow – which is the reason for the lake’s clarity. On a calm day, you can see to impressive depths of 120 feet.
To preserve the purity of the water, motorized boats were banned in 2010.
#4. Hell’s Canyon
The name is intimidating but the landscape is sheer bliss, which is why I think everyone should make an effort to see one of the most beautiful landscapes in Oregon.
Found on the border between Oregon and Idaho, the Snake River cuts through Hells Canyon and offers visitors ample outdoor recreational opportunities in the deepest canyon in North America (deeper than the Grand Canyon by almost 2,000 feet!).
#5. Steens Mountain
Steens Mountain is the highest point in southeastern Oregon and it has a hold on visitors that few can explain. Once you visit, you will instantly feel compelled to return.
Looming at an elevation of 9,733 feet, Steens Mountain feels like an island in the surrounding desert landscape — a sight few can fathom.
Various trails lead to breathtaking viewpoints that make you feel like you’re at the edge of the world.
The other-worldliness of Steens Mountain, coupled with the isolation and solitude makes this one of the prettiest places in Oregon to me.
The road leading up to Steens Mountain Gorges Loop is considered the most spectacular road in Oregon so you can believe the views from this Oregon trail will not disappoint.
The “gorges loop” portion in the trail’s name refers to the connection between the two gorges — Big Indian Gorge and Little Blitzen Gorge.
And there you have it! A round up of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Looking over this list makes me realize how fortunate I am to call this beautiful state home.
If you have any questions or would like to offer your two cents, let me know in the comments below. It’s always nice to hear from you!
The Epic Seven Wonders of Oregon (Post Summary)
To summarize, the Seven Wonders of Oregon list includes:
- Crater Lake National Par
- Mt. Hood
- The Oregon Coast
- The Painted Hills
- The Wallowa Mountains
- Columbia River Gorge
- Smith Rock State Park
Love Oregon? Me too. Here’s some articles you may find interesting
- 20 JAW-DROPPING Places in Oregon You Have to See to Believe
- 20 Wildly Beautiful Oregon Waterfalls That Are Completely Worth the Hype
- 12 Legendary Oregon Lakes Perfect for Escaping the Summer Heat
Until next time,
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