As you well know, I am absolutely enthralled by my home state of Oregon. I didn’t want to fall into the trap that overcomes so many of us by overlooking the place I grew up, so over the past few years I’ve taken it upon myself to visit the best places in Oregon.
I tore through every Oregon book I could get my hands up, researched too many blogs to count and spend countless hours watching videos and scouring photos in search of these epic places.
Make no mistake, Oregon is an easy state to love. The diversity of landscapes and the incredible people make this a great place to call home.
So today allow me to brag a little. Allow me to share the most epic and life-changing things I’ve done in Oregon.
I hope this inspires you to explore our incredible backyard, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. I’d love to help out any way I can.
Tips for exploring the best places in Oregon
Practice Leave No Trace
- If you’re unfamiliar with Leave No Trace, it’s a measure to be a good steward of the land. You can read about the seven principals of Leave No Trace here.
You + Sunscreen = Best Friends (Forever)
- I swear by this sunscreen (and so do 5,000+ other people), I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. It works like a charm and doesn’t leave strange residue or smells, you’ll NEVER catch me without it!
Wear hiking boots with good traction
- Even though (most) trails are well maintained, exposed roots are common. It’s easy to trip on the trail, so set yourself up for success by wearing proper shoes. These are my hiking boots and I’d sleep in them if I could.
- Some trails require wilderness permits, if you see one at the trailhead make make sure to complete the form. Not only are Wilderness Permits FREE, but they’re helpful for tracking usage trends and assisting with search & rescue efforts. It is imperative that you complete them when you see them at the trailhead.
Stick to the main trail
- There are a lot of social hiking trails in Oregon (social trails are created by hikers going off the main trail). These trails cause damage to sensitive areas, so stick to the clearly marked trail to preserve delicate flora and wildlife.
Best Things to Do Oregon
#25. Visit the Hood River Lavender Farm
The lavender fields in France are known the world over for their stunning beauty and heavenly smell. But you know what? You don’t even need to buy a plane ticket to have an equally memorable experience in our own backyard.
Hood River Lavender Valley comes alive with pretty shades of deep purple during July and August for the enjoyment of visitors and bees.
Both flock to this area to take in the beauty of lavender growing at the feet of a charming old barn while Mt. Hood gracefully looms in the background.
You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Obviously, Hood River Lavender Farm needs to explanation — the picture speaks for itself.
This is one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.
Read More: 10 Enchanting Oregon Lavender Farms Worth the Drive
#24. Explore the Columbia 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. I guarantee this will 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 sunset over Mt. Hood.
Read: 18 Breathtaking Wineries in the Columbia River Gorge
#23. Hike Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake
Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake is, hands down, one of the best hikes in Oregon. It’s originally learned about this hiker through a local and are forever grateful.
But our naivety about this Oregon trail is not to say the trail is unpopular. On the contrary, this is one of the most popular hiking trails in Bend! It was completely full of hikers during our visit.
Offering sweeping unparalleled views of the beautiful Cascade Range, it’s no reason this is one of the most popular hikes in Oregon.
The high elevation of No Name Lake provides a unique vantage of the expansive Cascade Range as far as the eye can see.
Hiking to No Name Lake is challenging but completely worthwhile. Of all the Oregon trails we’ve hiked to date, this one always stands a mile above the rest.
In fact, we enjoyed this hike so much we wrote an entire post about it. Click here to check it out!
A permit is required to hike the Broken Top Trail in Oregon, permits can be purchased here by typing in the name of the trailhead in the search box.
NOTE: Hike this trail late summer to avoid snowy conditions. We hiked early August and had a blast.
#22. Hike 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 best spots in Oregon for nature lovers.
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.
#21. Visit Oregon’s ONLY national park
It’s probably no surprise that visiting the state’s sole national park would be considered one of the best things to do in 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.
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 and chance of rainfall is minimal.
#20. Take in the breathtaking Pacific ocean views from God’s Thumb
God’s Thumb via The Knoll is an iconic Oregon hike located at the beautiful Oregon Coast. The steep cliff that juts out towards the sea is shaped like a giant thumb, earning the colorful moniker “God’s Thumb.”
Knowing where to park your car is the most confusing part about this entire hike.
Here are the coordinates to the closest parking lot. If that lot is full, your best bet — to avoid getting cited or towed — is to park at Road’s End State Recreation Site and walk along the road until you reach the trailhead.
Note: None of the trail signs read “God’s Thumb” because this hike is officially known as “The Knoll.” Follow signs that lead toward The Knoll.
The trail meanders through a dense spruce forest known for being extremely muddy after rainfall. Continue down the trail until you reach the God’s Thumb viewpoint and soak in the views before beginning the sharp ascent to the summit.
From the top, you’ll be rewarding with unparalleled breathtaking views of Oregon’s vast coastline and large stretches of Lincoln City. It’s an incredible experience, which is why this is easily one of the best hikes in Oregon.
Note: Good hiking boots are a must on this hike because the trail is steep and gets slippery even during dry days.
P.S. Can you see me in the photo below? Believe me when I tell you the views are epic!
#19. Explore Mt. Hood National Forest
Ask any resident to list the coolest things to do in Oregon and most will undoubtedly mention exploring Mt. Hood National Forest.
Reaching an impressive height of 11,250 feet, Mt. Hood is the tallest volcano in Oregon and the forth 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 Oregonians think of this as 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.
Go during a weekday (if your schedule allows) or visit first thing in the morning to avoid the rush.
The trail passes by picture-perfect Mirror Lake and offers breathtaking panoramic vistas and arguably the most iconic views of Mt. Hood. It’s easy to see why folks love this Oregon hike so much.
Fun fact: Mt. Hood is the third most climbed mountain in the world.
#18. Feel the refreshing splash of Proxy Falls
Central Oregon is known for jaw-dropping waterfalls and Proxy Falls is no exception. Offering a spectacular treat for very little effort, this epic hike is one of the best things to do in Oregon for folks that love hiking.
The trail leads you through a healthy forest that loops around two waterfalls. The first waterfall on the hike is Proxy Falls.
When you reach the falls you may notice some folks getting really close to the base, the area is ripe for exploration just make sure you’re wearing proper shoes because it’s very easy to slip!
The massive log in front of the waterfall is a popular spot for folks to take photos but I was too nervous to get on it because it was so slick (ha!) but I saw plenty of other folks having a blast, the adventure is up to you.
#17. Take in the views from the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
If you find yourself at the south end of the Oregon Coast (right near the California-Oregon border), you would be mistaken to the most glorious overlook in Oregon.
Some people consider the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor to be one of the most beautiful places in Oregon, if not the entire country.
See what all the fuss is about by hiking the natural bridges viewpoint trail for sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
From this vantage point you will see the best of Oregon’s coast — the exemplary rocky coastline and miles of old-growth forests. It’s downright breathtaking!
Massive rock outcroppings adorned with towering trees pepper the rocky shoreline and create various bridges laden with moss.
This hike has grown in popularity thanks to Instagram. A lot of hikers choose to hike on top of the natural bridge pictured above but in my opinion the social trail is steep and dangerous and not worth the risk.
#16. Hike 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.
But what makes this one of the best spots in Oregon, you might be asking? Well it’s the deepest canyon in North America (deeper than the Grand Canyon by almost 2,000 feet!). Reason alone to visit!
#15. Explore Crack-in-the-Ground
Your first question might be, are you pulling my leg?
Nope. This area is really called Crack-in-the-Ground and you know what? Sometimes that’s all the creativity we can muster in Oregon but I’ll be damned if I didn’t tell you to visit.
Crack-in-the-Ground (again, no joke) is an ancient volcanic fissure that spans two miles at depths of 70 feet. Typically volcanic fissures are packed with rock and soil and impossible to pass through.
However, since this gem is found in such an barren region, the crack remains freed, ripe for exploration.
A two-mile trail leads visitors along the bottom and offers an experience similar to the uber-famous narrows in Zion National Park, but without the crowds.
What’s more, the temperatures on the trail can be up to 20 degrees cooler than on the surface, how’s that for geology!
#14. Hike to Toketee Falls
Oregon is the land of waterfalls, make no mistake about it. And we definitely have our fair share of jaw-dropping waterfalls to choose from but for me personally, none is more notable than Toketee Falls in Douglas County, Oregon.
The name Toketee stems from a Chinook word meaning “graceful” or “pretty” and there’s no denying this is an aptly named waterfall.
This two-tiered waterfall cascades an impressive 113 feet into a pool of pristine aqua-colored water. It feels like a scene from a fairy tale, which is why I consider this one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.
#13. Explore the largest temperate dune field in North America
Of all the cool places in Oregon I’ve shared to far, none is more dear to my heart than the Oregon Coast.
I spent most of my childhood summers at the coast and am convinced it is the true culprit of my insatiable love affair with Oregon.
But enough about me, let’s talk about one of the coolest things about the Oregon Coast. Did you know that the Oregon Coast is home to the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the country?
At 40-miles in length, it’s one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the entire world. Some dunes rise to heights as great as 500 feet!
The best part? It’s yours to explore. All 40 glorious miles of it and you’d be making a mistake by skipping this incredible experience.
#12. Hike the Misery Ridge Trail
Unstable volcanic activity can be a beautiful thing, no?
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.
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!
#11. Visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
It seems like attending a tulip festival in the Netherlands is high on most people’s bucket lists. Yet so many folks make the mistake of overlooking Oregon’s breathtaking Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival held in the spring.
Originally started by a married couple, the tulip festival offers visitors an opportunity to frolic through 15 acres of densely planted vibrant tulip blooms.
Try visiting when the hot air balloons are out for an extra-special experience.
Read More: Visiting the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
#10. Visit Multnomah Falls
Arguably the most famous waterfall in a state known for waterfalls, Multnomah Falls is one of the most visited spots in Oregon for good reason.
Dropping a staggering 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.
Visitors are allowed to hike up to an overlook bridge for a better vantage point of the towering falls.
The trail is one of the best hikes in Oregon because it gets you up close and personal with the state’s most famous waterfall.
The trailhead is located a mere half-hour from downtown Portland and since seeing Multnomah Falls is on everyone’s bucket list when they visit Portland, you can expect crowds on this popular Oregon hike.
Passing by the rushing force that is Multnomah Falls, the paved trail turns into roughly 11 switchbacks that are easy to follow and not too taxing on the knees.
This is one of the best family-friendly hikes in Oregon, so if you have kiddos feel free to bring them along.
#9. Visit the Alvord Desert
I was so surprised the first time we visited Alvord Desert because it was hard to believe that such a striking desert landscape could be located in the state home to the towering Cascade Range.
But lo’ and behold, the Alvord Desert is not only real, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.
Home to fascinating light shows, referred to as The Happening due to their inexplicable nature, the Alvord Desert is a photographers dream.
#8. Partake in the Hood River 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.
#7. Explore the Owyhee Canyonlands
If you’re looking for solitude, look no further than Owyhee Canyonlands in the southwest corner of Oregon, considered the Grand Canyon of Oregon.
It doesn’t get more remote than this and very few Oregonians take the time to visit, which is why this is one of the best things to do in Oregon for anyone looking to escape crowds.
There’s so many interesting hiking opportunities in the region and chances are good that you won’t come across others on while hiking the numerous trails. In fact, this is one of the least crowded places we’ve explored in Oregon.
We plan to return to Owyhee Canyonlands again soon to explore it in depth because there’s so much to see. We were ill-prepared for the sheer amount of recreational opportunities and the breathtaking scenery — trust me when I tell you, this is one of the most beautiful places in Oregon and you won’t want to miss it.
Photo credit Willamette Week
#6. See the Painted Hills in person
Oregon’s Painted Hills is one of three units in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The area is comprised of striking colorful hill formations in the high desert of central Oregon.
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. This makes the Painted Hills a study in stratigraphy (the study of rock layers to determine geological time scales).
An other-worldly planet is the best way to describe Oregon’s Painted Hills. The closest comparison I can think of is the breathtaking landscape of an African desert.
All this to say, the area is very interesting to explore and one of the coolest things to do in Oregon if you’re visiting central Oregon.
#5. Get your waterfall fix at the Trail of Ten Falls
Suffice it to say that Oregon is known for waterfalls. Both locals and visitors LOVE searching for the best waterfall hikes in Oregon and it’s hard to find a better trail than the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park.
Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon (9,000 acres) and considered the crown jewel of our state park system. The best way to explore this area? Hiking past 10 waterfalls in the span of less an 8-mile loop, of course!
So if you’re looking for the best waterfall hikes in Oregon, the Trail of Ten Falls simply can’t be missed!
Note: Dogs are prohibited on the Canyon Trail portion of this Oregon hike — which is where the waterfalls are located.
#4. Go wine tasting in the Willamette Valley
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.
#3. Take a road trip to the Oregon Coast
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 things to do in Oregon.
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!
Further Reading: 12 Charming Oregon Coast Towns You Can’t Help But Love
#2. Spend a weekend in the Wallowa Mountains
During my visit to the Wallowas 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.
If you plan to visit for yourself, make sure to check out the charming towns of Joseph and Enterprise during your visit. Exploring the Wallowas is easily one of the best things to do in Oregon.
If you’d like to see my photos from our 4th of July trip to the Wallowas, read more here.
#1. Visit Portland
Chances are good that if you’re looking for the best things to do in Oregon you will probably fly into the biggest airport in the state, which is located in Portland.
So I hope it is safe to assume that you plan to explore Portland during your visit. If not, I highly suggest adding it to the list.
There’s a plethora of activities to do and even more places to eat. Portland is known for great brews, coffee and restaurants and you should definitely make the effort to see it.
If you’re interested, here’s my personal list of the best things to do in Portland.
Best Things to Do in Oregon (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the best spots to see in Oregon:
- Visit Portland
- Spend a weekend in the Wallowa Mountains
- Take a road trip to the Oregon Coast
- Go wine tasting in the Willamette Valley
- Hike the Trail of Ten Falls
- See the Painted Hills in person
- Drive the Hood Valley Fruit Loop
- Visit Multnomah Falls
- Visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
- Hike the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock
- Explore the largest dune fields in North America
- Hike to Toketee Falls
- Explore Crack-in-the-Ground
- Hike Hells Canyon
- Sam Boardman Corridor
- Visit Proxy Falls
- Explore Mt. Hood National Forest
- Hike God’s Thumb at the Oregon Coast
- Explore Bend, Oregon
- Visit Crater Lake National Park
- Hike the Steens Mountain
- Hike Broken Top Trail to No Name Lake
- Explore the Columbia River Gorge
- Visit the Hood River Lavender Farm
- Explore the Alvord Desert
Map of the best things to do in Oregon
Love Oregon? Here’s some articles you may find interesting
- The Breathtaking 7 Wonders of Oregon (+4 More We Should Add ASAP)
- 20 Jaw-Dropping Places in Oregon You Have to See to Believe
- 12 WILDLY Beautiful Oregon Waterfalls That Are Completely Worth the Drive
- 11 Iconic Lighthouses on the Oregon Coast (+Brief History Lesson)
- 12 Legendary Oregon Lakes Perfect for Escaping the Summer Heat
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And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best things to do in Oregon, as written by a local. I hope you enjoyed the post!
Until next time,
Thanks Antonia, this is quite a list. I love getting things like this printed out and checking then off with my family. I’ve done a few of these but done I’ve never even heard of.