It is no secret: Oregon is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the entire United States. From miles of stunning Pacific Ocean coastline to mountains, lakes, forests, rivers, waterfalls, sand dunes, streams, and more, Oregon is a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
If you’re visiting Oregon for the first time, or you have lost count of how many times you have been, there is always a different, beautiful spot to explore for the first time.
Whether you’re looking for a different beach or a new favorite Oregon Coast town, are ready to challenge yourself to a more difficult hiking or mountain biking trail, want to hop on a boat to catch a fresh dinner, or are simply looking for a scenic place to take a drive and clear your head, Oregon has it all (and then some).
If you find yourself looking for a new place to explore in Oregon, the following list of unique and beautiful spots throughout the state is a great place to start. Here are 38 things to do in Oregon that we know you’ll love.
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Located in southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, Crater Lake National Park has plenty of natural beauty to offer. Designated as a national park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 — the sixth national park at the time — the area’s natural history started millennia before.
The star of the show is Crater Lake itself. Formed by the collapse of volcanic Mt. Mazama following an explosion more than 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake is now the deepest lake in the United States (and one of the deepest in the world). With famously clear blue water that comes mainly from precipitation, stunning panoramic views, and natural wonders like Wizard Island, Crater Lake is not to be missed.
Visitors can also enjoy the lake by driving the 33-mile Scenic Rim Drive, with multiple points to pull over and take in the panoramic views. Whether you drive (or bike) it yourself or take the Crater Lake Trolley, this can be a great way to see the lake and its surroundings. If you prefer to get out on the water itself, boat tours are available as well.
Read More: CRATER LAKE LODGE REVIEW AND PHOTOS
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
If TLC hasn’t convinced you otherwise, the Columbia River Gorge, located just 30 miles outside of Portland, is a great place to go chasing waterfalls. Ninety major waterfalls can be found in this 80-mile area, including the famous and beloved Multnomah Falls. As the largest National Scenic Area in the United States, the waterfalls are just the start of natural wonders to be found across these 80 miles.
Likely due in part to its proximity to Portland, the Columbia River Gorge is an extremely popular area and parts can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. There are plenty of more secluded trails to explore for some peace and tranquility however, and you may even stumble upon smaller waterfalls you can enjoy all by yourself.
Thrillseekers can find plenty of adventures to be had in the area as well – from mountain biking and hiking to watersports and more. The Columbia River, running through the 4000-foot deep gorge, is the fourth largest river in the United States and packs a powerful punch.
Located a breathtakingly memorable 2-hour drive from Portland, Mount Hood is the highest mountain in Oregon. The peak calls the Cascades Mountains home, specifically Mount Hood National Forest, while offering a variety of unique experiences, notably including the possibility of hitting the ski slopes nearly year round.
The Mount Hood National Forest spans more than one million acres of land between the Columbia River Gorge and the Willamette National Forest. The entire area beckons explorers looking for a new adventure.
Hikers and mountain bikers can find trails that vary in lengths and difficulty levels, but all still offer remarkable views. If you prefer a less active experience, do not neglect a Mt. Hood Scenic Byway drive.
Wine lovers: rejoice! With more than 700 wineries and nearly 1,000 vineyards, the Willamette Valley is your spot for delicious Oregon wine. Oregon’s own wine country is especially proud of its Pinot Noirs, but it is also the ideal climate for several other varieties of grapes.
The Willamette Valley is composed of four regions, spanning 150 miles from roughly Portland to Eugene. Nestled between two mountain ranges (the Cascades and the Coast Range), the area is marked by the Willamette River running through the valley. Each of the four regions – the North Valley, the Mid-Valley, the South Valley, and the West Cascades – all offer unique experiences.
Beyond enjoying a glass (or two) of local wine, other popular activities in the Willamette Valley range from visiting covered bridges to hiking, fishing, biking, and more.
Upon arrival at the base of this waterfall, it is easy to see why this is one of the most popular attractions in the entire Pacific Northwest region. Located a mere 30-minute drive from Portland in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon, with water tumbling more than 600 feet.
After parking, it’s a 5 minute walk to the base of the waterfall, or walk a bit farther to experience the falls from Benson Bridge.
Still not satisfied with the view? Hike another (steep) mile to reach the top of Multnomah Falls for the full experience, and to also be rewarded with amazing views of the Columbia River Gorge.
OREGON COAST AQUARIUM
While the Oregon Coast Aquarium itself may be man made, it is a prime spot for viewing and experiencing a wide array of sea life. Located along the central Oregon coastline in Newport, the aquarium is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state.
Visitors are welcomed with interactive exhibits, and the option to purchase a behind the scenes tour or up close and personal sea animal encounter. Certified as a Sensory Inclusive facility, the aquarium seeks to provide a peaceful and joyful experience for all guests.
PAULINA LAKE HOT SPRINGS
Located near the underrated Newbury National Volcanic Monument in the Deschutes National Forest near Bend, Paulina Lake Hot Springs is worth the short hike. While nothing fancy, the area is quite secluded, which offers an even more serene experience. The hot springs pools are fairly small, and the water is often described as being warm instead of as hot — which makes it a great choice for families.
Visitors can choose to get to the hot springs by way of a hike that is just over 1 mile, or a longer 7.5-mile scenic hike. It is also possible to get to the hot springs by water, for those exploring the lake by kayak or boat. Regardless of how you get there, a soak in the Paulina Lake Hot Springs can help you feel refreshed and invigorated to get back out the same way.
WASHINGTON PARK PORTLAND
This large park in Portland is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Home to popular attractions including the Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Gardens, and the International Rose Test Garden, it is hard to visit Portland without finding yourself in Washington Park at least once.
With 410 acres, there is lots more for the whole family to explore beyond just the popular attractions. Bring a picnic, wander through Hoyt Arboretum, or let the little ones burn some energy on a truly impressive playground.
While the park is free to visit, there is an hourly fee to park. Since parking is extremely limited, take advantage of Portland’s robust public transportation system for easy access to the park and use the Washington Park Free Shuttle to make your way around while you are there.
Esteemed as perhaps the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Asia, this is the perfect spot for a tranquil, serene afternoon in Portland’s Washington Park. With eight distinct garden spaces, art exhibitions, and a cafe serving Japanese tea and pastries, the grounds exude peace.
Stroll around ponds, cross streams by footbridge, contemplate a raked sand and stone garden, and weave through a variety of trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, and plants throughout the garden.
Read More: 15+ PERFECT THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND OREGON
For a truly unique experience, head to Thor’s Well in Yachats. Located along the Oregon Coast near Cape Perpetua, this well appears to be a drain for the ocean. Appearing to be bottomless (though it actually is not), this natural hole is especially mesmerizing at high tide or when a storm is blowing in.
A word of warning: Thor’s Well can be dangerous, so wear good shoes, pay close attention, and exercise caution as you explore and witness this amazing natural wonder.
TERWILLIGER HOT SPRINGS
Also known as the Cougar Hot Springs, clothing is optional at this seemingly almost hidden hot springs in Willamette National Forest.
After a short (less than half a mile) hike to the hot springs, you will find multiple cascading pools ranging in temperature as the water tumbles down from pool to pool.
SEA LION CAVES
Located an hour and a half from Eugene, this attraction on the Oregon Coast is one you will not forget anytime soon. Approximately 11 miles north of Florence, this private wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary is where many Stellar sea lions call home.
Visitors can descend more than 200 feet by elevator into the caves to see if the sea lions are home, and watch them go about their household duties if they are. The sea lions are wild, meaning they are free to come and go as they choose, and are more likely to be home in the caves during winter months.
You may also catch a glimpse of the sea lions’ neighbors: whales have been known to stop nearby for a visit, as well as many species of birds.
Read More: 15 FUN THINGS TO DO IN EUGENE, OREGON
Located less than an hour from Bend in the Deschutes Canyon-Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area, it is just a half mile hike to this point where the Deschutes River puts on a stunning display as it cascades down 20 feet.
Steelhead Falls is also well known to thrill-seekers who come here to cliff jump, a very popular activity at the base of the falls. Surrounded by 25 to 30 foot high cliffs, there are plenty of opportunities to (cautiously) dive into the Deschutes.
This breathtaking waterfall is located in the Willamette National Forest. Bring the kids on this 1.5-mile hike loop with a stunning reward, as this waterfall drops more than 200 feet in the Cascade Mountains.
Since the waterfall is so large, prime viewing spots are actually a bit of a distance back, but there are trails that take you to the base of the falls if you do want to get closer.
This premiere spot for water sports is, not surprisingly, known for its water. Crystal clear and a shade of blue you must see to believe, getting on the water is a uniquely beautiful experience at Clear Lake. Located in the Willamette National Forest, this lake is one of the coldest in the Cascade Mountains.
Popular for fishing, canoeing, freshwater diving (there’s a preserved forest located underwater), kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and more, there is plenty to do on and near Clear Lake.
TUBE DESCHUTES RIVER
One of the most popular warm weather activities in Bend is tubing the Deschutes River downtown. The popular stretch for floating through the heart of Bend is found between the Old Mill District and Drake Park, with tube rental and a shuttle available.
Don’t forget the sunscreen, sturdy water shoes, and plenty of water for your journey. Plan a stop at the original Deschutes Brewery Public House in downtown Bend for a cold drink after your float.
As the second tallest mountain in Oregon, Mount Jefferson is a sight to behold, as are the 5 glaciers surrounding it. The Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area covers more than 100,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest, with more than 160 miles of trails and 150 lakes.
The mountain itself is considered to be quite difficult and even dangerous in many parts, so be sure to exercise caution. Be sure not to miss the 40 miles of the beloved multi-state Pacific Crest Scenic Trail that passes through the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.
LEWIS AND CLARK NATIONAL AND STATE HISTORIC PARKS
America’s favorite explorers reached the end of their long journey in Oregon, an accomplishment celebrated throughout the state. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Park spans 40 miles across parts of Oregon and Washington, with 12 noteworthy sites included.
The largest piece of the park is located near Astoria, in the northwest corner of Oregon. Visitors can explore a replica of Fort Clatsop, where the Corps of Discovery spent a winter after arriving in Oregon in the early 1800s.
Astoria, a beloved town along the Oregon Coast, has been a favorite for multiple generations — even before The Goonies was filmed here. Considered one of the best art towns in the United States, there is plenty to see and do.
Popular for natural attractions like Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach, it is easy to see why this town nestled alongside the Pacific Ocean has won accolades over the years.
Be sure to spend time viewing the tide pools, looking for puffins, and catching a sunset, before building a beach campfire.
OREGON DUNES NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
This is a truly unique area, compared to many of the others on this list. Located in the Siuslaw National Forest, this area stretches approximately 40 miles between Florence and Coos Bay, along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
With sand dunes piled as high as 500 feet above sea level, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the area with ATV and dune buggy rides, sandboarding, and horseback riding topping the list.
FORT STEVENS STATE PARK
Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens State Park is the site of a former military installation still marked by a military museum. Visitors can explore Fort Stevens, which was used in the Civil War era to guard the Columbia River, or check out the shipwrecked Peter Iredale.
A popular campground, this park offers a variety of recreational activities. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side, you’ll find several miles of trails, a disc golf course, and Coffenbury Lake offer additional activities throughout the park.
JOHN DAY FOSSIL BEDS
Located in Central Oregon, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the richest fossil beds on the continent. Broken up into three units, the Painted Hills, Sheep Rock, and Clarno, the fossil record here tells the story of tens of millions of years.
Each of the three units has a set of hiking trails with unique things to see on each. The Painted Hills trails are by far the most popular, with absolutely stunning views of the brightly hued hills.
The Enchanted Forest is an amusement park that has been located 7 miles south of Salem for more than 50 years. Open annually from late March through late September, this amusement park is nestled within an actual forest, which absolutely adds to the experience and is a key feature of the park.
Attractions include Storybook Lane, Tofteville Western Town, Old European Village, a Comedy Theatre, and more. Rides include a log ride, a bobsled roller coaster, and more for children of all ages to enjoy.
FROOT LOOP TRAIL
The Hood River Froot Loop is a trail of farm stands, orchards, vineyards, and more along a 35 mile loop near Mount Hood. Each of the places along the trail offer a wide variety of treasures including fruits, vegetables, wine, cider, flowers, and more. Some stands are connected to orchards who offer U-pick options, typically between June and October.
Located an hour outside of Portland, the Froot Loop Trail is not to be missed for those road tripping through the Columbia River Gorge and looking for a fun experience.
CRABBING IN WALDPORT
Located along the Alsea Bay, Waldport is a prime crabbing destination. With a plethora of Dungeness crabs in the water and a free crabbing dock open to the public, catching dinner here is almost too easy.
Please do note there are regulations to follow, and you will likely need to obtain a license to go crabbing in Oregon.
WALK ST JOHNS BRIDGE
Cross the Willamette River in Portland by foot on the beautiful and historic St. Johns Bridge. The bridge was built intentionally to be beautiful as well as functional, so taking the time to walk across gives you ample opportunity to explore the aesthetically pleasing elements.
The walk can be a smidge precarious, as the sidewalk across the bridge is not protected from traffic, so be sure to keep an eye on your surroundings, especially if you are photographing the bridge.
CASCADE LAKES SCENIC BYWAY
The Cascade Lake Scenic Byway is a 66-mile drive through Central Oregon, that starts in Bend before weaving through Deschutes National Forest. Simply driving the byway will be a treat in and of itself, with stunning mountain and lake views to be had throughout the drive. If you want a more hands-on experience, there are adventures of varying levels accessible along the way.
Get out of the car and stretch your legs with a hike or bike ride on one of the many trails near the byway. Stop at one of the many lakes you’ll pass to kayak, stand-up paddle board, or fish. Bring a picnic and you will have no trouble finding a lovely spot to enjoy it.
At a minimum, it is recommended to plan 3-5 hours to travel this scenic byway.
Yachats has been named one of the top ten coolest small towns in America, and is often referred to as “the gem of the Oregon Coast.” Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Siuslaw National Forest, this area is rich with natural beauty.
While you are less likely to find pristine sandy beaches here, that is part of what makes this tiny town so distinct. The coastline is quite unique, due to being made up of black basalt.
The town itself is small – fewer than 1000 people call it home – which makes it a great destination to get away, unplug, and get lost in nature. Don’t worry, though: there are plenty of great restaurants and places to stay in the area.
SMITH ROCK STATE PARK
Located in Central Oregon near Bend, Smith Rock State Park features stunning and unique rock formations. Formed by ash from volcanic explosions millions of years ago that hardened into rock, the Crooked River eventually carved its way through.
Smith Rock is a great destination for thrill seekers, with rock climbing and slacklining welcomed and encouraged. For the slightly less adventurous, take in the views from one of the hiking, running, or biking trails.
SILVER FALLS STATE PARK
Affectionately known as the “crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system,” the largest state park in Oregon is absolutely a treasure. Known for the abundance of waterfalls waiting to be stumbled upon, Silver Falls State Park is located in the lower Cascade Mountains, approximately 60 miles south of Portland.
The Trail of Ten Falls is an almost 7-mile loop that takes hikers past the promised ten waterfalls. For a unique experience, go behind the powerful South Falls to see what a waterfall looks like from that angle.
Visitors can also find horse trails, campsites, playgrounds, and bike paths.
OREGON CAVES NATIONAL MONUMENT
Tucked away near the California border in Southern Oregon’s Siskiyou Mountains, the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a protected area.
Cave tours are offered seasonally, with a park ranger as your guide. Dress warmly, as the temperature is consistently cool, and don’t forget to wear good shoes. Spelunkers may be able to participate in a seasonal three hour long, physically demanding “off-trail” tour that is designed to teach caving techniques as you explore the Oregon Caves.
If crouching and squeezing through tight spaces isn’t your speed, the area also has multiple hiking trails through the surrounding forests. These trails provide great views of both the monument and the surrounding Siskiyou Mountains.
HIGH DESERT MUSEUM
Consistently ranked as the favorite thing to do in Bend, the High Desert Museum tells the story of the natural world and cultural history of the region. Get up close and personal with area wildlife, follow the journey of the Plateau Indian Nations, and hitch a ride on a wagon trekking the Oregon Trail.
With both indoor and outdoor exhibits, visitors are treated to experiences including a living history turn-of-the-century homestead and sawmill, birds of prey center, and desertarium, as well as temporary exhibits that change often.
Details: 59800 US-97, Bend, OR 97702 | Website
YAQUINA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
The Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area juts out into the Pacific Ocean nearly one mile from the Oregon Coast, just north of the town of Newport. Oregon’s tallest lighthouse is still functional, nearly 150 years after it was erected.
Tours of the lighthouse may be available, but simply viewing the lighthouse from the ground is an experience worthy of the trek itself. Check out a tidepool, watch birds dance through the sky, and potentially catch a glimpse of a whale from Yaquina Head.
Surf’s up at the Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area located approximately 8 miles north of Newport. Surfers can often find optimal conditions to catch a wave in this area.
The area gets its name from a hollow rock formation that looks like a giant punch bowl. As waves crash towards shore, especially at high tide, the full punch bowl looks more like a cauldron with water violently brewing.
At low tide, visitors may be able to actually enter Devils Punchbowl from the beach, but be sure to get out long before the tide starts coming in, as this is one place you would not want to be trapped inside.
THE ROGUE VALLEY
The Rogue River carves through this valley in Southern Oregon, from Crater Lake to the Pacific Coast. Along the way are bustling small towns, many vineyards and wineries (thanks to ideal grape growing conditions), farmers markets galore, and plenty of great bites along the Rogue Valley Food Trail.
With an exceptionally pleasant climate, outdoor activities like golf and rafting are quite popular in the Rogue Valley. Bordered by mountain ranges, there are plenty of hiking opportunities in the area as well.
HORSEBACK RIDING ON THE BEACH IN BANDON
Visit the beach from a whole new vantage point: on horseback. Bandon Beach, located on the southern Oregon Coast, is a beloved spot for a horseback ride you won’t soon forget.
The Bandon Beach Riding Stables offer approximately one hour long rides throughout the day, weather permitting. For a special romantic experience, be sure to inquire about booking a seasonal sunset ride.
WOODEN SHOE TULIP FESTIVAL
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival takes place each spring at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, located less than an hour south of Portland. Welcome the season with 40 acres of tulips, in bloom from mid-March through the first of May, with peak bloom typically sometime in April.
Bring a picnic, grab a glass of wine at the on-site vineyard’s tasting room, and enjoy the rows of colorful blooms with Mount Hood looming in the background. Arrive early, as the farm often fills up quickly (especially during peak bloom).
LAVA RIVER CAVE
Finally, explore the longest continuous lava tube in Oregon at the Lava River Cave, located within the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Descend underground to get up close and personal with a reminder of the volcanic activity that shaped much of the region.
Located approximately 15 miles south of Bend in the Deschutes National Forest, visitors are welcome to take self guided tours of this mile long lava tube. Dress warm, bring a fully charged light source, and wear good shoes as you will be walking across uneven surfaces for an average of an hour and a half.
Due to conditions in the cave becoming potentially dangerous and treacherous during winter, the cave is only open seasonally. Don’t be tricked, however: no matter how warm it is outside, it will still be cold in the cave.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO OREGON
- ASTORIA: 18 Super Amazing Things To Do In Astoria, Oregon
- HOT SPRINGS: 16 Oregon Hot Springs You Must Visit
- NEWPORT: 14 Amazing Things To Do In Newport Oregon Everyone Will Love
- SALEM: 11 Fantastic Things To Do In Salem Oregon
- SEASIDE: 14 AMAZINGLY FUN THINGS TO DO IN SEASIDE OREGON
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