The Top 10 Things to Do in Oregon Outdoors
For our family vacation in 2018, we drove out to the Pacific Northwest on a 14-day road trip. After spending a day in Glacier National Park and four days in the Seattle area, we drove south to spend the next several days in Oregon. It is an outdoor-lover's dream and one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. Here is a look at the top 10 things to do in Oregon outdoors.
1. Visit Beautiful Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is beautiful and amazing. It is known for its four-mile-long sandy beach with the iconic Haystack Rock rising 235-feet high out of the water. At low tide at Cannon Beach, people can walk right up to the Haystack Rocks. It is an awe-inspiring view like something out of a painting. Sunsets are spectacular there as the sun reflects off of the rocks.
We visited on a foggy morning in late July and needed sweatshirts as the breeze was blowing in off the Pacific. It was amazing to watch the rocks come in and out of view through the fog. I will not soon forget the beauty of Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach.
2. Visit Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park is unique and spectacular. It formed when Mount Mazama erupted which caused the summit to collapse. Thousands of years of rain and snow have filled Crater Lake with breath-taking deep blue water. The color of the water is due to its purity. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. For the outdoor lover, the park has many things to do from hiking, fishing, star gazing, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Crater Lake National Park also offers boat tours and is a great place to watch sunsets and sunrises. Another great way to explore the park is to drive on Rim Drive. There are plenty of viewpoints with spectacular views.
Unfortunately, we had to cut our visit shorter than we wanted because several wildfires were burning further south where we had planned to stay the night. Plus, there was a fire burning inside the northern boundary of the park, but thankfully was limited to a remote area. I highly recommend visiting the Sinnott Memorial Overlook which is behind the Rim Visitor Center. The overlook is in the caldera ledge and offers magnificent views of the lake. Crater Lake is a must see when visiting Oregon.
3. Explore the Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is an outdoor lover’s paradise with plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls, amazing views of the gorge, and more. It runs 85 miles and serves as the dividing line between Washington and Oregon. I want to highlight the best places to visit in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Columbia River Gorge boasts the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America. Most of which are in the western end of the gorge on the Oregon side. The most magnificent waterfall is Multnomah Falls at 620 feet tall. It is the most popular tourist destination in Oregon. Other great falls include Latourell Falls (249 feet), Wahkeena Falls (242 feet), Starvation Creek Falls (225 feet), Elowah Falls (220 feet), and Horsetail Falls (176 feet).
We were only able to visit Multnomah and Latourell Falls due to the Eagle Creek Fire, but both were spectacular. As of the middle of December 2018, most of the other falls have now reopened, though the Forest Service urges caution.
Take in the Beauty of the Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is the largest National Scenic Area in the United States. There are many great places to enjoy its natural beauty. Vista House is an architectural marvel built in the shape of an octagon on a cliff 700 feet above I-84. The view of the gorge is spectacular in all directions.
Another great place is the Rowena Crest Viewpoint, which is on the eastern end of the gorge. It is famous for the horseshoe-shaped road that leads to the viewpoint. A third place to view the Columbia River Gorge is from the Bridge of the Gods. It is a toll bridge that crosses the Columbia River near the midway point in the gorge. Take a walk across the bridge for the best views.
4. Explore Portland Outdoors
Portland is a unique place surrounded by gorgeous landscapes. It is a diverse and vibrant city, and there are so many things to do. Here is a look at the best things to do outdoors in Portland.
Visit Washington Park
Washington Park has something for everyone. It is home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, International Test Rose Garden, World Forestry Center, Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial, Oregon Holocaust Memorial, and Portland Children’s Museum. There is limited parking at the park, so I recommend taking either the Red or Blue MAX light rail lines or bus #63.
In the summer months, there is a free Explore Washington Park shuttle that stops at all the park’s major attractions. I highly recommend the International Test Garden. It is spectacular to see the sea of colors.
Visit Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a 30-acre park along the Willamette River. It is a great place to view the Portland skyline, walk along the river, take a picnic lunch, or just hanging out on a beautiful day. Tom McCall Waterfront Park is also home to many annual events such as the Portland Rose Festival and Oregon Brewers Festival. I recommend taking the Red or Blue MAX light rail lines to this park. Driving in downtown Portland is not fun.
Go Kayaking Downtown
Kayaking downtown Portland is a fantastic way to relax and enjoy the beautiful views of the skyline. Kayaks rentals are available from the Portland Kayak Company or Alder Creek. Both companies offer multiple locations with easy access to the Willamette River and guided tours as well. Alder Creek also has a location on the Columbia River, but the Willamette River is more of a tranquil location with less ship traffic. Spend a few hours soaking up the sun and the amazing views.
Take a Hike in Forest Park
Take a hike in Forest Park and escape the busyness of the city. It has more than 80 miles of interconnected hiking trails and close to 5,200 acres. Forest Park is great for hiking, birding, or biking. The Wildwood Trail is 28 miles in length. On the north end, it starts at the Wildwood Newberry Trailhead and runs throughout the park and ends in Washington Park after passing near the Pittock Mansion. I highly recommend checking out this beautiful and tranquil park.
5. View Mount Hood From Trillium Lake
The view of Mount Hood from Trillium Lake is awe inspiring. On a calm day, Mount Hood's reflection can be seen reflecting in the lake. It is a beautiful place to go for a swim, enjoy a picnic, kayak, camp, or take a hike around the lake on the Trillium Lake Trail. The lake can be busy, so it is my advice to arrive early in the day.
6. Hiking at The Painted Hills Unit in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Painted Hills at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is an otherworldly place. Some of the red hills look more like Mars than Oregon. They look painted in varying colors of orange, red, yellow, an tan. It is a spectacular sight to see. There are five different hiking trails that offer the change to get closer or above the hills. Rain causes the hill colors to become more vibrant. Painted Hills is a must see when visiting Oregon.
My family and I loved our time there. We went on most of the hikes and were able to take some colorful pictures. I cannot recommend it enough.
7. Visit Newport on the Pacific Coast
Newport is a beautiful place to enjoy the Pacific Coast. It is best known for its great beaches, historic lighthouses, and seafood. Here is an insider’s guide to the great outdoor activities in Newport.
Check out the Beaches in Newport
The beaches in Newport offer many fun things to do. Agate Beach offers agate hunting, clamming, and surfing. Beverly Beach is known for finding fossils along the cliffs that outline the beach. Cobble Beach is the best place in the Newport area to go for tide pools. South Beach is a great place to go for surfing and watching for whales.
Visit Two Historic Lighthouses
Newport is home to two historic lighthouses dating back to the 1870s. The first is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse found on the north side of Newport. The second lighthouse is Yaquina Bay Lighthouse located on the south side of Newport. Please see the lighthouse comparison table below:
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
In Service Since
Fun Fact #1
Tallest Lighthouse in Oregon
Shortest Lighthouse in Oregon
Fun Fact #2
Active since 1873
Decommissioned in 1874
Fun Fact #3
Used 370,000 bricks to build
Oldest structure in Newport
Newport is the best spot for seafood on the Oregon Coast and the Dungeness Crab Capital of the World. It is an excellent place to go crabbing. The best places to go are the Port of Newport public fishing pier in South Beach, the Abbey Street pier, and the Bay Street pier or take a crabbing charter. If you decide to go on your own, crab rings are cheap and available at Fred Meyer and Walmart. Bait the traps with fresh chicken, small fish, or meat scraps. If you are interested in crabbing, please watch this video below:
8. Hike to Tumalo Falls
Tumalo Falls is a beautiful waterfall near Bend, Oregon. The falls is 89-feet high and framed by a cliff on each side. The viewing area for the base of the falls is mere feet from the parking lot. There is a short trail that leads to the top of the falls. Tumalo Falls is difficult to photograph with a clear sky because of the shadowing in the canyon. The best time for pictures is between noon and 3 PM if the sky is clear.
9. Hike to Toketee Falls
Toketee Falls is gorgeous and framed by a columnar basalt formation that is picturesque. The falls drops 113 feet in two separate tiers. Toketee means “graceful” in Chinook. The Toketee Falls trailhead is about a third of a mile long and an easy hike. It is the most photographed waterfall in southern Oregon and well worth a quick stop.
10. Visit the Beautiful Three Sisters Wilderness
The Three Sisters Wilderness is home to the Three Sister volcanoes. Each one is over 10,000 feet high. This area is an outdoor lover's paradise with numerous hiking trails, plenty of places to camp, fish, and climb. The South Sister attracts a lot of hikers because no technical skills are required to climb it.
We spent a night at an alpaca farm near the Three Sisters. As the sun began to set the Three Sisters as well as Mount Hood, emerged from the haze. The sunset was beyond words.
Don’t Miss a Chance to Visit Oregon
Oregon is a special place. There are so many things to see and do outdoors there. We loved our time there enjoying the tremendous beauty of God's creation. We cannot wait to go back and explore more of Oregon outdoors.
© 2019 Eric Cramer