One of my favorite things about living in Portland, Oregon is the city’s proximity to natural wonders. I’ve called this lively city home for the past 20+ years and have definitely learned a thing or two about the best day trips from Portland.
There’s no denying that Portland is a city made for outdoor enthusiasts. At any given moment, you’re a short car ride away from award winning wineries, breathtaking waterfalls, jaw-dropping vistas and striking mountain peaks.
I mean, what’s not to love?
Honestly, the hardest thing about planning a day trip from Portland is agreeing on the destination. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of activities to choose from. With that said, let’s jump right in, shall we?
The Best Day Trips from Portland
(2 hours or less from Portland)
#1. McMenamins Edgefield
Time & distance from Portland: 16 miles, 20-minute drive.
This is the shortest day trip from Portland and one of my favorite ways to spend a warm summer weekend.
McMenamins Edgefield is a 74-acre property sitting atop farmland near the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area a mere 20-minutes from downtown Portland. The property was originally built in 1911 and used as the county poor farm until such practice was deemed inappropriate.
The property was abandoned and neglected until the McMenamin brothers (famous for rehabilitating historical properties in Oregon and Washington) bought the property in the 1990’s and took on the arduous task of transforming it into a whimsical place for the people of Portland to enjoy.
The history alone is what makes this one of the best day trips from Portland!
If you’re visiting during the summer months try to catch a concert in the great lawn — they’ve had some big names perform!
When we first discovered McMenamins Edgefield, we liked it so much we came back three times within a month (seriously). We invited a bunch of friends to join and had a grand time eating burgers and drinking brews while exploring the expansive grounds.
Take your time strolling through the gardens and enjoy the sweeping scenery. You’re welcome to stroll the entire estate with wine or beer in hand — plus, the artwork really pops after a few glasses! 😉
#2. Hood River (for the Wineries)
Time & distance from Portland: 62 miles, 1.5 hour drive.
We can’t talk about the best day trips from Portland without mentioning the quaint town of Hood River, Oregon. This charming town is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and relaxers all the same.
In many ways, taking trip to Hood River feels like escaping to the South of France. The greenery, the calm valleys and the blushing fruit trees have a way of transporting you back to simpler times.
If you’re looking to escape the bustle of city living, you need not look further than a day trip to Hood River.
Things to do in Hood River, Oregon
- Relax at a winery. This past summer, I spent most of my weekends trying new wineries in Hood River (Read: 18 Best Wineries in the Columbia River Gorge).
- Try your hand at windsurfing. Hood River is the windsurfing capital of the world, reason alone to visit but heads up: your abs will be sore for days!
Partake in Hood River’s Fruit Loop (Seasonal)
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 day trip from Portland.
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.
#3. Mount Hood National Forest
Time & distance from Portland: 63 miles, 1.5 hour drive.
Is there anything more iconic than the looming mountain that is Mt. Hood? The best part? Timberline Lodge is a mere 1.5-hour drive from the city center, making it a great trip from Portland any time of year.
Reaching an impressive height of 11,250 feet, Mt. Hood is the tallest volcano in Oregon and the fourth tallest in the Cascade Range.
But fret not, the volcano is dormant and doesn’t pose a threat (or so they say…). What’s more, Mt. Hood is home to America’s only year-round ski resort!
As you can imagine, every inch of Mt. Hood National Forest is bound to impress but make an effort to visit McNeil Point, Paradise Parks and Elk Meadows to see why Oregonians find this area one of the most beautiful in Oregon.
Fun fact: Mt. Hood is the third most climbed mountain in the world.
#4. Columbia River Gorge
Time & distance from Portland: 30 miles, 40 minute drive.
In terms of best day trips from Portland, it doesn’t get better than 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.
Less than a one-hour drive from the city, the Columbia River Gorge makes for a great day trip from Portland even if you only have half a day to spare. The gorge is chock-full of famous waterfalls and is bound to impress you and your out of town guests.
The best way to explore the Columbia Gorge is by car and trail. Take the Historic Columbia River Highway, known as the “King of Roads” was the first scenic highway in America to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Regardless of the area you choose to explore within the Columbia River Gorge, it’s hard to go wrong. Spend an entire weekend exploring the charming town of Hood River or sipping your way through the various wineries at the gorge.
#5. The Oregon Coast
Time & distance from Portland: 80 miles, 1.5 hour drive
Nothing scream Pacific Northwest like the striking Oregon coastline. A scenic 1.5-hour drive from Portland will lead you directly to the salty sea. If you’re pressed for time, make Cannon Beach your top priority.
Oregon’s nearly 400-mile coastline is famous national-wide for good reason. The striking shoreline is lined with massive rock formations, the largest coastal sand dunes in America and a breathtaking view 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 everyone).
Thanks to the Oregon Beach Bill from 1967, it is unlawful for any entity to privatize any stretch of Oregon’s shoreline.
What’s more, you’ll be able to tour up to 11 lighthouses (9 of which are historic) and visit 79 state parks.
There’s definitely something for everyone, which is why a road trip down the Oregon Coast this is one of the best day trips from Portland.
Yet when most folks think of the Oregon coast they instantly picture the most iconic features, which is Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.
And while yes, Haystack Rock is worth a detour, there’s other phenomenal features at the Oregon Coast you must see.
You can spend years exploring the coast and feel a calling to return, which is why this is one of the best things to do in Oregon, regardless of how often you visit.
My childhood is freckled with memories of summer at the Oregon coast, so I’m definitely biased. It took my husband a few visits to fall under the coast’s spell, but as soon as he discovered crabbing and clamming – he was hooked!
Things to do at the Oregon Coast:
- Hike God’s Thumb
- Visit Haystack Rock
- Explore Ecola State Park
Further Reading: 12 Charming Oregon Coast Towns You Can’t Help But Love
#6. Willamette Valley
Time & distance from Portland: 48 miles, 50 minute drive.
Everyone knows that Oregon is an outdoor enthusiasts dream. The drastic (and diverse) natural landscapes can keep anyone entertained for years with miles of hiking trails and sweeping vistas.
But what’s the point in hiking without a proper reward afterwards? Well, Oregon has you covered in that department as well — in fact, Oregon is the 4th most wine producing state in the country.
And of all the notable wine regions in Oregon, perhaps none is more famous than Willamette Valley because it is home to 500+ wineries.
Sitting at the same latitude as France’s notable wine regions, Willamette Valley is known for producing knock-out award-winning Pinot Noirs that can hold their own in worldwide competitions.
Sipping a chilled glass of Chardonnay in the summer (or robust glass of award winning red in fall) while overlooking rolling hills of healthy vines? Just name a time and I’ll be there.
If you’re up for an extra-fun time, stay at a nearby hotel and allow the good times to linger longer!
P.S. The weather in Willamette Valley is downright lovely, so if Portland is drizzly and gray during your visit head south – you won’t be disappointed.
#7. Mount Saint Helens National Monument
Time & distance from Portland: 70 miles, 1.5 hour drive.
Much less popular than Mt. Hood but goodness – Mt. St. Helens is so cool! Technically on the Washington side, but only 1.5 hours from Portland — this Portland day trip is a no-brainier, especially if you’re looking for spectacular hiking opportunities.
Mount St. Helens made national headlines when it erupted in 1980, releasing so much ash (520 million tons!) that it reached the stratosphere, can you imagine?
The massive eruption created a horse-shoe shaped crater on the south face of the mountain that now welcomes adventurous hikers to try their hand (feet?) at the summit.
Things to do at Mount Saint Helens:
- Hike the Norway Pass Trail (4.5 miles)
- Visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory
- Hike Harry’s Ridge Trail (8-miles)
- Explore Ape Cave (largest lava tube in the contiguous US)
Fun fact: Mount Saint Helens is still considered the most likely volcano in Cascade Range to erupt next.
Best Day Trips from Portland
(2+ hours from Portland)
#8. Bend, Oregon
Time & distance from Portland: 163 miles, 3 hour drive.
During your visit, don’t skip breakfast at McKay Cottage and lunch at Spork (both so good – worth the drive alone). Oh, and don’t even get me started on the phenomenal breweries — I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
#9. Mt. Rainier National Park
Time & distance from Portland: 156 miles, 3 hour drive.
Depending on which side of the mountain you plan to visit, the quickest trip from Portland takes 3 hours. I’m adding Mt. Rainier to the list because after more than 20 visits, it’s still spellbinding.
Fun fact: Mt. Rainier is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 states.
I’ve visited this national park more than 40 times, so I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about the best hikes in the area. Make sure to read Best Hikes at Mt. Rainier National Park before visiting.
#10. Seattle, Washington
Time & distance from Portland: 170 miles, 2.5 hour drive.
Every year, without fail, I head north to Seattle to spend an evening in the lovely city because it’s the perfect day trip from Portland. My favorite time of year to take a day trip to Seattle is autumn – the fall color is spectacular!
Make sure you don’t miss a visit to Pike’s Place Market (it’s worth the Hype) and make sure to grab dinner at Serious Pie! Oh, and the Starbucks Reserve Room is worth a visit (and I don’t even like Starbucks!).
Best Portland Day Trips (Post Summary)
In short, the best day trips from Portland are:
- McMenamins Edgefield
- Columbia River Gorge
- Hood River, Oregon
- The Oregon Coast
- Willamette Valley
- Mt. Hood National Forest
- Mount Saint Helens
- Bend, Oregon
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Seattle, Washington
Map of the best day trips from Portland
Love Portland? Here’s some articles you may find interesting
- 20 HONEST Pros & Cons of Living in Portland
- 25+ EPIC Things to Do in Portland (+4 Tourist Traps to Avoid)
- 12 Stunning Parks in Portland, Oregon
- 20 Interesting Facts About Portland You Probably Don’t Know
- 10 Epic Portland Viewpoints to Check Off Your List
- 10 Adventurous Day Trips from Portland
- 30 Weird, Free & Cheap Things to Do in Portland
- Let’s Talk: Portland, Oregon Vs. Portland, Maine
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And that’s a wrap, pals. Hope you enjoyed this list of the best day trips to take from Portland. Always feel free to reach out with questions!
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Until next time,