25 Best Places to Visit in Oregon
Boasting over 360 miles of scenic coastline together with a diverse landscape comprising mountains, forests, rivers and fossil-studded desert, Oregon is an exciting destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
For a change of pace, you can take long romantic beach walks, sample fresh seafood, visit a winery, or head to one of the vibrant Oregon cities. Here are the best places to visit in Oregon. Photo: Gleb Tarassenko/Fotolia
There’s never a dull moment in Portland, where an excellent combination of outdoor recreation, historic architecture, museums, galleries, and a thriving arts scene await you. First-time visitors can get an introduction to the city on one of several Portland walking tours, which take in everything from historic sites to breweries and coffee roasters.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the historic Pittock Mansion are must-sees, while families can have hours of fun at the Portland Zoo and the interactive Portland Children’s Museum. The city is known for its gardens – be sure to visit the International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, and the Portland Art Museum and Sculpture Garden, or go hiking, biking, or strolling in Washington Park. Things to Do in Portland
As the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, Astoria is packed with history and small-town charm as well as a variety of cultural and outdoor activities for weekenders. If your interests lie with the arts, you can visit the many galleries, studios and unique shops in the town or listen to a concert in the historic Liberty Theater.
You can explore Astoria’s historic working waterfront on the Astoria Trolley, visit the Bumble Bee Cannery Museum and the Maritime Museum, or take a Columbia River Eco Tour. You can make the most of Astoria’s idyllic waterfront location by paddling or kayaking with the Clatsop Paddle Company or by trying your hand at fishing or clam-digging. Things to Do in Astoria
»Oregon Destinations: Hood River
Hood River is a delightful small town which provides a perfect base for exploring the natural wonders of the Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge. Besides offering easy access to a wide variety of adventure activities such as hiking, windsurfing, kite-boarding and river rafting, Hood River has a host of other great activities for the more sedentary visitor.
You can admire some art and culture as you stroll through the beautifully restored historic downtown, visit some galleries, or watch a show at the Columbia Center for the Arts. Foodies can titillate their taste buds on tours to wineries, breweries, coffee roasters, and farm-to-fork restaurants or drive the scenic Hood River County Fruit Loop for some fresh farm produce.
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The majestic Multnomah Falls are a must-visit attraction for those who find themselves in the Mount Hood/Columbia Gorge region of Oregon. The falls can be reached in just 30 minutes on the I-84 from Portland.
Legend has it that the falls once provided a very private place for a princess to bathe, but today everyone can enjoy the sight of this impressive natural masterpiece. You can see part of the 611-foot falls from the highway, but to get the full picture you will need to take a five-minute walk to the mist-shrouded base of the falls. From there, a short climb will bring you to the Benson Bridge, which offers an excellent viewpoint.
Next read: 50 Oregon Weekend Getaways
Photo: Tomasz Zajda/Fotolia
»Oregon attractions: Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s most popular seaside villages, offering visitors an amazing stretch of beach to explore, iconic landmarks to uncover, and easy access to miles of hiking and biking trails. In addition to all the outdoor attractions, the town has been named one of America’s top 100 Best Art Towns and is packed with wonderful galleries and studios, fascinating museums such as the Garibaldi Museum of Maritime History and the Lost Art of Nursing Museum as well as the Coaster Theater Playhouse.
You can try a zip-line tour with High Life Adventures, hike through a rainforest at Ecola State Park, or uncover amazing marine life around Haystack Rock, where you can spot Tufted Puffins in early summer. Next read: 25 Best Beaches in Oregon
» Oregon Destinations: Eugene
Eugene hosts a diverse collection of historical, outdoor and cultural attractions for visitors. If you love art and history, you can visit the historic Shelton McMurphy Johnson House (1888), the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
Those wanting to combine fun with education should not miss the Oregon Air and Space Museum and The Science Factory children’s museum and planetarium. Nature lovers can cycle just about anywhere in town along a network of paved trails, go hiking along the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail or climb the basalt columns at Skinner Butte Park. Foodies can enjoy a craft brewery tour, several farm-to-fork restaurants, and a farmers’ market. Things to Do in Eugene
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»Mount Hood National Forest
The Mount Hood National Forest stretches across 60 miles of lushly forested mountains, lakes, and streams just south of the spectacular Columbia Gorge, about 20 miles east of Portland. The entire forest offers outdoor enthusiasts an idyllic destination for a wide variety of activities which include camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting, boating, swimming, and even soaking in the Bagby Hot Springs.
In winter you can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowmobiles, dog sledding and more. You can take advantage of several ranger-led educational programs and tours, including free fishing lessons for young visitors. There are dozens of campsites where you can pitch your tent or park your RV to spend a few nights communing with nature.
»Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The beautiful and diverse landscape of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a magnet for outdoor adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. You can bring your tent or RV and spend a few nights under the stars in one of three campsites, take a scenic drive through the extensive area, go on day hikes, or choose longer backpacking adventures along some of the dozens of scenic trails that offer wildlife viewing en route.
Other popular activities include biking, fishing, boating, swimming, tubing and windsurfing and there are several accessible areas for those with mobility restrictions. There are a number of museums dotted around the area and you can even combine great views with great beer on a Gorge Beer Trail.
Next read: 25 Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon
»Places to visit in Oregon: Jacksonville
Visiting Jacksonville is like stepping back in time to the gold rush and the entire downtown has been declared a National Historic Area. You can learn all about the history of the town on a guided or self-guided tour or by hopping aboard the vintage Jacksonville Trolley.
Today many visitors come to Jacksonville for wine tasting at some of the 60 wineries in the area along the famous Applegate Wine Trail. In addition, you can go hiking, biking, and horseback riding along a variety of trails and daredevils can try a Rogue Jet Boat Adventure or go river rafting with Indigo Creek Outfitters. Foodies can enjoy exploring all the culinary offerings, which range from coffee shops to fine-dining restaurants.
Nestled in the heart of the wine growing Willamette Valley, Salem is surrounded by vineyards and filled with historical and cultural attractions for all ages. A good place to start your visit is at the gracious Oregon State Capitol building, before setting off to learn about the early days in Salem at the Deepwood Museum and Gardens, Bush House Museum, and the Oregon State Hospital Museum.
Outdoor enthusiasts can go hiking, biking, boating, and fishing in the Willamette Mission State Park or treat themselves to a thrilling hot air balloon ride. The Gilbert House Children’s Museum and the Enchanted Forest Theme Park are great for families, while foodies can enjoy visiting some wineries and the farmers’ market. Things to Do in Salem OR
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Medford Oregon is ideally located in the midst of pear orchards, wineries, creameries, and breweries, ticking all the boxes for an extravagant foodie getaway. You can go on wine tasting tours with several companies such as Bacchus Winery Tours or Wine Hopper Tours, or get self-drive information from the Medford Visitors Center.
To work off some of the extra calories, you can get active in Bear Creek Park or hike the Natural Bridge Loop or Upper and Lower Table Rock. If you love water sports, you can enjoy swimming and boating on Diamond Lake and Applegate Lake or go white water rafting or floating on the Rogue River. Children will enjoy the hands-on Kid Time Children’s Museum and Railroad Park.
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Ashland boasts an unbeatable combination of culinary, cultural and outdoor attractions which make the town a popular year-round destination. You can discover a thriving art scene on the monthly First Friday Art Walk and visit the Schneider Museum of Art, the Oregon Center of the Arts, or the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra.
The town hosts several annual festivals, including the Ashland Culinary Festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Chocolate Festival, and the Honey Festival, so there is truly something for everyone. Outdoors, the fun continues with a variety of scenic hiking and biking trails and excellent access to rivers and lakes for swimming, kayaking, boating, jet-boating and white water rafting. In winter you can head to the Mount Ashland Ski Area for all types of snow sports.
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Beaverton lies in the heart of the Tualatin Valley just 7 miles from Portland, offering visitors a great country experience within easy striking distance of the city. The Tualatin Valley is Oregon’s premier wine growing region and you can tour some of the 77 wineries on a Vino Ventures Oregon Wine Tour, or pick up a map and do a self-drive tour.
Nature lovers can spend hours exploring the great outdoors in the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District, where there are over 60 miles of hiking and biking trails, eight swim centers and various sports fields. For water sports, you can head to the Columbia and Willamette Rivers for water skiing, rafting, boating and fishing.
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» Oregon attractions: Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park protects the amazing 600-metre-deep Crater Lake that was formed during an eruption of Mount Mazama many centuries ago. Hiking and cycling are the most popular activities in the park and you can admire the extraordinary lake and the surrounding terrain on foot along the 33-mile Rim Drive, or enjoy over 90 miles of other hiking paths.
There are trails for all abilities, and cyclists can explore the area along several paved paths. Although no private boats are allowed on this pristine body of water, you can go on ranger-led boat tours in summer or try your hand at fishing along several streams. In winter the park offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Read more
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»The City of The Dalles
Boasting sunny weather and an exceptional location at the gateway to the Columbia Gorge, The Dalles is a popular getaway for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, foodies and art lovers. You can explore Oregon’s most historic town on a self-guided walking tour, visiting the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum, the quaint Fort Dallas Museum and Anderson Homestead, and several other historic sites.
The Maryhill Museum of Art and The Dalles Art Center will delight art enthusiasts. Outdoors, you can explore several scenic hiking and cycling trails, tour some up-and-coming wineries, go fishing or rafting, or admire the petroglyphs (Indian rock art) at the Columbia Hills State Park
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»Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Situated within the Deschutes National Forest, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is an otherworldly wonderland of lava flows, peaks, lakes and calderas documenting Oregon’s volcanic history. You can orientate yourself at the Lava Lands Visitors Center before setting off to explore the monument on foot along the Trail of Molten Land and the Trail of Whispering Pines.
If you have restricted mobility, you can use the fully accessible Sun-Lava paved path and take the shuttle to get around. The highlight of your visit is the view from the top of Lava Butte, but Lava River Cave, Lava Cast Forest, and Paulina Falls are also must-see attractions.
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The historic town of Albany is situated in the picturesque Willamette Valley, surrounded by farmlands, wineries and wonderful opportunities for all kinds of outdoor activities. History buffs can enjoy exploring no less than four historic districts and over 700 historic buildings on a self-guided walking tour.
There are several museums you can visit, including the Thompson’s Mill State Heritage Site and the fascinating Albany Historic Carousel and Museum where century-old carousels have been lovingly restored. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy all kinds of water sports, play a round of golf, or go fishing, hiking, backpacking or cycling. Foodies can enjoy a thriving restaurant culture and visit some of the many vineyards and wineries in the area.
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»Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Deep in the heart of the Siskiyou Mountains lie the wonderful Marble Halls of Oregon, carved out of the solid marble by centuries of rainwater. You can tour the labyrinth of passages, chambers, and pathways on a 90-minute guided Discovery Cave Tour, where you can learn all about the geology of the cave system.
For the more adventurous, there is a three-hour Off-Trail Adventure Tour in summer, where you have the opportunity to belly-crawl, climb and slither through some very small spaces. To get really close to nature, you can pitch your tent in the campground and spend some time exploring the several scenic hiking trails. Read more
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Springfield, Oregon, is home to the Simpsons of TV fame, but the town has a great deal more to offer visitors than just eye-catching Simpsons murals. The town is a gateway to some great outdoor activities – you can go walking, running, hiking, and cycling in Island Park, where several scenic trails can be found, or cast a line to catch a trout for your dinner.
You can try some thrilling river rafting on the Willamette River in summer or make your way to Splash Indoor Water Park all year round to enjoy slides, tubes, and even a wave pool. You can explore the vibrant downtown area on foot to discover many restaurants, galleries, shops and the excellent Friday farmers’ market.
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Exploring Haystack Rock is definitely the highlight of any visit to Cannon Beach on the north coast of Oregon. The enormous rock stands guard 235 feet above the beach and provides an essential home for nesting seabirds and a wide variety of other marine creatures in the tidal pools below, which you can reach on foot during low tide.
Birdwatchers can spend hours observing the behavior of many species of marine birds, including the beautiful Tufted Puffin, which nests on the rock in spring and early summer. To learn all about the wildlife, you can make use of interpretive signs, birding stations with spotting scopes, or ask the trained Rocky Shore Interpreters who are on hand to educate you. Next read: Oregon beaches
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»Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Towering coastal forests, pounding Pacific waves and some of the best coastal views in the country combine to make the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area a wonderful destination for hikers, walkers, and nature lovers. You can visit the Sitka Spruce Forest by following several trails, including the Cummins Creek, Discovery Loop, or Giant Spruce Trails.
You will find wonderful views and loads of area information at the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center, which offers short films and guided hikes in summer. Besides the very scenic hiking trails you can also access tidal pools at low tide and admire the ferocity of the Spouting Horn and Devils Churn from observation decks at high tide.
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The Oneonta Gorge forms part of the larger Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and features four striking waterfalls that tempt eager hikers to set off on one of the three beautiful yet strenuous hiking trails. You can access the Middle Falls along the Oneonta Creek Trail or the more demanding Gorge Trail, which will require you to ford the creek. Both trails start at the Oneonta Trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway.
You can reach three of the four waterfalls on a day’s hike of around four miles, or take your time to savor the views by spending a night camping under the stars in one of several scenic camping spots. (No services).
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»Ecola State Park
Ecola State Park lies along a very scenic stretch of the Pacific coastline, providing day visitors with a great beach and a wildlife playground. Hikers can explore numerous trails, including a segment of the renowned Oregon Coast Trail or the interpretive and historic Clatsop Loop Trail.
If you prefer to just relax, you can swim, picnic, sunbathe, or surf at secluded Indian Beach and there are many fascinating tidal pools to explore at low tide. Wildlife enthusiasts can follow the boardwalk from Ecola Point to view nesting sea birds on Sea Lion Rocks, scan the ocean for migrating whales in spring and winter, or be on the lookout for deer, elk, and eagles.
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»Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is located on the high desert plateau of Oregon at an elevation of around 3,000 feet, covering a massive 650 acres of sheer cliff faces, spires and towers that just beg to be climbed and explored. For the adventurous, there are almost limitless options for climbing and bouldering, and if you prefer hiking you can choose from 12 trails, ensuring that everyone will find a scenic trail that suits their fitness levels.
You can go horseback riding along sections of the Canyon River, Wolf Tree and Homestead trails, which are shared by mountain bikers, and there is a campground for those who would like to pitch a tent and stay overnight.
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The quiet coastal village of Yachats lies along a very beautiful stretch of Pacific coastline within the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area of Oregon. The village offers visitors a great base for exploring Cape Perpetua as well as a great location for a relaxing beach holiday.
Here you can explore tidal pools, go for long romantic beach walks, and go clamming and crabbing for your supper, or head off along one of the many walking and hiking trails that provide wonderful views of the Pacific Coastline. You can take a drive to the historic Yachats Covered Bridge, visit a couple of lighthouses or the Little Log Church Museum, go fishing, or do some whale watching.
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25 Best Places to Visit in Oregon
- Portland, Photo: Courtesy of ftfoxfoto - Fotolia.com
- Astoria, Photo: Courtesy of jpldesigns - Fotolia.com
- Oregon Destinations: Hood River, Photo: Courtesy of Pix by Marti - Fotolia.com
- Multnomah Falls, Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
- Oregon attractions: Cannon Beach, Photo: Courtesy of estivillml - Fotolia.com
- Oregon Destinations: Eugene, Photo: Courtesy of David Gn - Fotolia.com
- Mount Hood National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of Danaan - Fotolia.com
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Photo: Courtesy of thecolorpixels - Fotolia.com
- Places to visit in Oregon: Jacksonville, Photo: Courtesy of pearlguy - Fotolia.com
- Salem, Photo: Courtesy of jpldesigns - Fotolia.com
- Medford, Photo: Courtesy of Dustin - Fotolia.com
- Ashland, Photo: Courtesy of pearlguy - Fotolia.com
- Beaverton, Photo: Courtesy of pngstudio - Fotolia.com
- Oregon attractions: Crater Lake National Park, Photo: Courtesy of elena_suvorova - Fotolia.com
- The City of The Dalles, Photo: Courtesy of tusharkoley - Fotolia.com
- Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Photo: Courtesy of megasquib - Fotolia.com
- Albany, Photo: Courtesy of RocketshipGD - Fotolia
- Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of fovivafoto - Fotolia.com
- Springfield, Photo: Courtesy of Joshua Rainey - Fotolia.com
- Haystack Rock, Photo: Courtesy of maxdigi - Fotolia.com
- Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, Photo: Courtesy of Lijuan Guo - Fotolia.com
- Oneonta Gorge, Photo: Courtesy of kanonsky - Fotolia.com
- Ecola State Park, Photo: Courtesy of crin - Fotolia.com
- Smith Rock State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com
- Yachats Coastline, Photo: Courtesy of Gail Johnson - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Gleb Tarassenko - Fotolia.com
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