Located on the American Pacific Northwest, Oregon is known for its diverse and dramatic landscapes of old growth forests, high mountains, rugged coastline, fertile valleys and beautiful beaches. Oregon’s cities and towns range from modern Portland to quaint, charming Yachats, with rich cultural offerings, lively art scene, year around festivals and concerts and very active outdoor life. Oregon’s parks are among the most spectacular in the country and range from majestic Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to formal and landscaped Shore Acres State Park. Oregon is also famous for its outstanding wineries and microbreweries, great outdoor adventures and high quality of life.
Spread between the Columbia and Willamette rivers, with the background of the majestic Mount Hood, Portland is Oregon’s biggest city. It is famous for its eco-awareness, beautiful large parks, microbreweries, coffee houses, biking and hiking paths and ethnic diversity. Portland is also known for its rich art scene, music concerts and festivals and great theatre productions. The city’s largest park is the iconic Washington Park, which includes such popular attractions as the formal Japanese Garden and Oregon Zoo. Another place worth visiting is Powell’s City of Books, one of the greatest bookstores in the world with over one million books. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a Ming Dynasty-style garden built by gardeners from Portland’s sister city Suzhou in China, with shady covered walkways, picturesque bridges, exotic pavilions and beautiful landscape framing a lovely lake. Colorful Portland Saturday Market is the largest open-air arts and crafts market in the country. Oregon Zoo has over 2,000 animals from all over the world..
Astoria is a small city on the Columbia River, a few miles away from the Pacific coast, stretching between the north banks of Young's bay and the south banks of the Columbia River. It is a beautiful city surrounded by water and dense forests of fragrant evergreen hemlocks, Douglas fir and spruce. The views of the ocean and miles of magnificent sandy beaches make Astoria wonderful place for a romantic weekend or a family visit. Learn more about the city history at Columbia River Maritime Museum with original old canoes and sail ships. See the city waterfront from the beautifully restored Old 300 trolley. Check what is showing at the 1925 Liberty Theater. Follow at the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and their explorers of Oregon and Washington – hike at least a mile of 450 miles they walked between 1805 and 1806.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Only about 30 miles from Portland, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is the magical world of spectacular views, challenging hiking trails, over 90 spectacular waterfalls and fantastic windsurfing. The National Scenic Area was created to protect the canyon which Columbia River cut through the majestic Cascade mountains. The 80-mile long canyon ranges from sea level to almost 4,000 feet. High cliffs of the gorge are overlooking Oregon's waterfalls and mountains to the south and Washington to the north. With the network of hiking trails, the area is very popular with bikers and hikers, but is also fantastic to explore in a kayak or canoe. The 620-foot-high magnificent Multnomah Falls are worth hiking to, but it gets crowded on weekends. The gorge is also a heaven for rock climbers.
Multnomah Falls is a 611-foot-tall, awe-inspiring fall only about half hour drive from Portland, east of Troutdale, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. The top part of the falls can be seen from the highway, but both tiers can only be seen from the viewing area in an opening carved-out in the fall’s rock face. Benson Bridge, which crosses the falls at the base of the first tier offers a perfect view of the full 542-foot height of the fall’s top tier and a dizzying vantage point over the 69-foot drop of the second tier. The bridge was owned by a Portland businessman Simon Benson in the 1900s, who donated it to the city of Portland. Well-preserved 1925 Multnomah Falls Lodge also offers spectacular view of the Columbia Gorge. Built of all types of rocks found in the gorge, the lodge has a gift shop, a restaurant and a US Forest Service Information Center.
Cannon Beach is a small town in Clatsop County, Oregon, best known for the 235 tall Haystack Rock sticking out of water at the edge of the shore, beautiful, long sandy beach and nearby National Wildlife Refuge. Only about an hour and half from Portland, Cannon Beach is a popular weekend destination for those who enjoy long walks on the beach, constantly changing views of ocean, rugged coast and the surrounding mountains. Cannon Beach is a lovely picturesque coastal village with scenic meandering pathways, great public art and gardens bursting with flowers. It is quickly becoming known as an art town, with a number of art galleries, shops, and year-round live theater performances. The beach is famous for many festivals, from the sand castle-building competition in June to the fall festival Stormy Weather Art Festival.
Eugene is the charming Northwest city that grew where the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers meet, at one end of the Willamette Valley, only about 50 miles from the Oregon Coast. Famous for its art scene and many galleries where local artists sell their work, for the great artisanal wineries and craft breweries, and as a college football center. It is the place with wonderful biking and hiking trails, with the views that take your breath away. Learn about the city’s past at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, take the kids to see powerful birds at the Cascades Raptor Center, feast your eyes at the fragrant Owen Rose Garden, check what is going on at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts and get the feel of the real Northwest at the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.
Mount Hood National Forest
Located only about twenty miles from Portland, Oregon, at the northern side of Willamette River valley, the Mt. Hood National Forest stretches between the spectacularly beautiful Columbia River Gorge to Olallie Scenic Area, on the slopes of Mt. Jefferson, with over sixty miles of mountains covered with dense forests, clear lakes and cool streams. There is so much to do - skiing in the winter, hiking, backpacking, boating, rafting, fishing, rock climbing or horseback riding. Check out the Government Camp, a small, private community located at 3,900 feet and the historic 1930 Timberline Lodge. Take one of many hiking trails and enjoy the variety of trees and wildlife. Camp by the emerald green Timothy Lake, with the rich wetlands habitat.
If you are heading for an adventure at the Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge, Hood River is probably going to be your basecamp for whatever you plan on doing: hiking, skiing, mountain biking, rafting, windsurfing or kite boarding. Hood River is a tiny charming town and the port on Columbia River, with beautifully restored historic building and an eclectic mix of family-owned restaurants, stores, bakeries, breweries and art galleries. Beautiful Hood River Waterfront, the Heights neighborhood and historic downtown are fun to stroll through and explore before hitting the trails or put your raft on the rapids of Columbia River. If you have the time, check the fascinating Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum or take a tour of the excellent local wineries.
Jacksonville was busy, lively gold mining town in the 1850’s. Today, it is your gateway to the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Known as one of the top ten coolest small towns in America, Jacksonville is famous for its summer Britt Music & Arts Festival, fabulous shops and galleries, restaurants and cafes, and miles and miles of spectacular nature to explore on foot, on a bike, skis or kayak. Great way to explore the city and learn about its history is aboard a classic trolly and enjoy a narrated tour. Another trip into the past is provided at the Beekman House, a home museum with a number of original household items and furniture. Don’t miss strolling across McKee Bridge, a fairytale covered bridge over the Applegate River.
Salem is the capital of Oregon, located in the center of the Willamette Valley, with the Willamette River running through. After two previous capitol buildings burnt to the ground, the new current Oregon State Capitol was finished in 1938. It has a distinctive statue on the top of the capitol dome called the Oregon Pioneer that is plated with gold-leaf. Salem has a friendly, small-town feel. Being so close to the ocean, beaches and the Cascade mountains make it great location for a weekend of fun and sports. Salem’s riverfront is the heart of the city, with the beautiful Riverfront Park with its famous carousel, kids’ playgrounds, splash fountains and open spaces for family picnics. There is even a river boat for dinner cruises. Kids will love to visit the Enchanted Forest Theme Park with Storybook Lane, the English Village, the Western Town, the Fantasy Fountains and much more. Find out what is showing at the elegant Elsinore Theatre and take a tour of the magnificent Deepwood Museum and Garden.Enjoy a visit to the fascinating five-acre Willamette Heritage Center with 14 historic buildings.
Located in the heart of Rogue Valley, not far from the California border, Medford is surrounded by miles of orchards, line by line of grape vines, nut trees, farms producing fresh fruits and vegetables and wonderful cheeses . Medford is famous for its pears, its Shakespeare festival, Harry and David’s producer of fruit baskets, Rogue Creamery’s delicious blue cheese and the most delightful landscapes imaginable. With 200 days of sun every year, visiting Medford means great hiking, kayaking, zip lining, golfing, or touring vineyards and orchards. No wonder Medford is becoming one of very popular retirement towns. Check Medford’s five covered bridges, find out what is going on at the Kids’ Time Children Museum, hike the Natural Bridge Loop and visit magnificent Diamond Lake.
Nature has been very generous to Ashland. Small town with lively vibe, Ashland is surrounded by spectacular scenery, imposing mountains, fast rivers, green hills and fertile valleys. Each season brings its own delights, from skiing in the winter to fruit picking in the fall to hiking and biking in the spring and summer, there is always something to do in Ashland. There is also the Oregon Shakespeare festival, a film festival and classical music festival, something for everyone. Take a tour of Ashland’s vineyards, visit renowned Schneider Museum of Art, take the kids to the interactive ScienceWorks Hands on Museum and go rafting on Indigo Creek.
Located in the picturesque Tualatin Valley, Beaverton is only seven miles from Portland, providing Portland residents great spot to spend a weekend and unwind in one of many parks, take a tasting tour of local wineries, go hiking or checking out galleries. Stop by the Nature Center before hitting the trails of lush Tualatin Hills Nature Park. Stop by Art On Broadway where 20 local artists showcase their works. Kids will enjoy Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzelry and the Glowing Greens Mini Golf Blacklight Adventures Oregon. All parks around Beaverton have well-maintained trails, paved or raised at the wetlands’ end, and many offer natural kids’ playgrounds among the tree trunks and old fallen logs.
Crater Lake National Park
About 80 miles from Medford is one of country’s shining jewels -Crater Lake National Park. This clear blue, very deep lake is surrounded by 2,000 feet high cliffs and has a tiny island in its middle. Protected as part of the Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake has been known to Native Americans for almost 8000 years and is surrounded by lore and superstitions. The lake was created when after a violent eruption a large volcano collapsed on itself. The lake is fed by snow melt and rain and streams coming from the Upper Klamath Basin. In later years, the flow of water is significantly reduced, lowering the level of water in the lake, as a consequence of climate change. The whole area is wonderful for hiking and rock climbing and numerous boating tours of the lake provide relaxing way to soak up the serene beauty of the area.
Located at the scenic entrance of the Columbia Gorge, only 75 miles from Portland, The Dalles is a small city with rich history, human and natural, and one of Oregon’s favorite escape destinations. It has 300 sunny days every year and something to do at all times: there are trails for hiking, biking, bird watching, wildlife spotting, and water through the Gorge is just perfect for rafting, fishing and kayaking. Everywhere you go there is so much spectacular natural beauty, but there is also thriving art scene in the city with galleries and museums. Rich in history, The Dalles also offers a treasure trove of museums and historic houses and sites. Stop by 1905 Fort Dalles Museum & Anderson Homestead , Oregon’s oldest history museum. Enjoy the offerings at the Maryhill Museum of Art, admire Old St. Peter’s Landmark, originally St. Peter’s Catholic Church built in 1897, explore the original Wasco County Courthouse, hike to the site of the petroglyphs at Columbia Hills State Park, check out the 12 feet tall Pulpit Rock in the middle of the road by the high school and have a look at the Dalles Downtown Murals.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is the the 55,500 acre park that was created to protect the spectacular land forms created within Deschutes National Forest after the volcanic activity changed the landscape. The monument includes the Newberry caldera, the upper volcano slopes and big part of the Northwest Rift Zone of the volcano. The Monument is a popular area for diverse outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and fishing. The best hiking trail, known as the Trail of the Molten Land that loops across the lava flow from Lava Butte. One of the most interesting features is the Lava River Cave.
Albany is the small city in the lush Willamette River Valley, spread between the Calapooia River and the Willamette River. Albany is often called ’the world’s rare metals capital” for its production of titanium, zirconium and hafnium. The city’s rich history left behind an extraordinary collection of well-preserved homes that are covering 100 square blocks in four historic districts. Monteith District has a number of beautiful turreted buildings in Queen Anne style. Strolling through downtown Historic District is like a trip into the past. The Historic Carousel and Museum not only showcases these intricate, hand-carved objects but you can also watch artists making them. Albany’s Regional Museum is the best place to learn about the city’s past. Talking Water Gardens is a water purification facility landscaped into a lovely spacious wetlands garden with raised walkways and pathways for strolling and watching birds.
Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve
Hidden in southwest Oregon, Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is the fairly small parklocated inside the majestic Siskiyou Mountains. The caves that the park protects were created by the water dripping from the large ancient forests through the marble rocks below, dissolving the rocks and creating what is now known the Marble Halls of Oregon. These dramatic, magnificent marble caves contain such features as a flowing river, bones of ancient wild animals, caverns and petrified “rock gardens.” The park also provides home to a number of plants and animals endemic to this specific environment. A rustic, charming lodge within the park provides comfortable accommodation for those intent on more thorough exploring of the cave system.
Springfield is the city in the Southern Willamette Valley, at the foothills of Mount Pisgah, with the McKenzie River passing nearby, a perfect gateway to the great outdoors. The Willamalane park district has 34 parks and 21 playgrounds, enough for anyone to find a nice spot for a picnic and let kids spend some energy. Two rivers, the McKenzie and Willamette, are full of fish, and the Springfield Community Birding Trail offers a perfect combination of comfortable hike and a chance to observe birds in their habitat – you might spot American Coot or Red-breasted Sapsucker. Another great spot for the kids is Splash! Indoor water park located at Lively Park. The city has an outstanding collection of outdoor murals and other public art and the historic Main Street is a delight with restaurants, galleries and famous outdoor equipment shops.
Located only about 80 miles from Portland and about mile and half from downtown Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock is a 235-foot tall natural sea stack located submerged in the water on the beach in Cannon Beach, Oregon. At low tide, the rock can be reached without getting wet by walking on the sand. This fascinating monolithic rock is a popular tourist attraction and the tide pools around it are full of intertidal animals such crabs, starfish, sea anemone, chitons, sea slugs and limpets. The rock and the beach around it are a nesting site for sea birds such as terns and puffins.
Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Starting at Waldport, along southern stretch of Highway 101, along about 40 miles of rugged, breathtakingly beautiful Oregon coast, is the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. The sea is pounding the jagged outcrops and steep headlands, creating bare and dramatic landscape like the end of the world. And just next to the coast are giant ancient trees, emerald green forests of sitka spruce with moss and ferns thriving in the humid, foggy world. This spectacularly beautiful area covers about 2,700 acres and about two miles south of Yachats is the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, great place to talk to the rangers and start a hike to one of many overlooks and the viewpoints.
The Oneonta Gorge is a dramatic, narrow gorge, one of the most beautiful in the Columbia River Gorge. It is not far from the famous Multnomah Falls but is not well known because of difficult access. The gorge is home to some endemic wooded and aquatic plants which grow nowhere else. The walls of the gorge are composed of 25 million years old basalt rock that is covered with lush ferns, lichens and mosses. The trail that is now partially collapsed is 2.7 miles long and an additional side trail to the beautiful Triple Falls add 1.8 miles to it. But, to see three streams of water dropping 120 feet is well worth the hike.
Ecola State Park
Located between towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside, around Tillamook Head, Ecola State Park covers nine miles of rugged Oregon coastline offering spectacular views, great hiking trails and many other opportunities for outdoor fun. Long sandy beach is great for exploring tide pools, having a picnic or looking for wildlife such as eagles or elk. With the right wind, you will see many surfers catching the waves. The park takes your breath away even before you get there, with the entrance road approaching through bright green spruce forest, opening to the beach and the magnificent view of the Pacific. Hiking trail through the park includes a portion of the Oregon Coast Trail and a part of the Clatsop Loop Trail, a Historical route taken by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is located near the towns of Terrebonne and Redmond, in Oregon's High Desert. Smith Rock is a 3,200-foot high ridge with a vertical cliff face overlooking the Crooked River, which is at 2600 feet above sea level. The cliffs, which are made of volcanic tuff and basalt are imposing presence surrounded by the water and desert, and are among the most popular rock climbing destination in the country. Smith Rock is considered to be the cradle of modern rock climbing as a sport in the States and has a large number of climbing routes of all levels of difficulty. Even if rock climbing is not your thing, you will enjoy wonderful hiking trails through the canyon overlooking the river, with a good chance of spotting golden eagles, river otter, beavers, mule deer and prairie falcons.
“Yachats” or Yahuts as the Chinook Indians call it, means “dark waters at the foot of the mountain” and this is exactly how this magnificent stretch of Oregon coastline around the town of Yachats looks like. Snuggled between the dense forested mountains and the rough Oregon Pacific coast, Yachats is an extremely charming and increasingly popular tourist destination for those who love long walks along the cliffs overlooking the ocean, quaint cafes and restaurants, breweries and bakeries and spectacular views anywhere you look. Hiking, biking, bird-watching, exploring tide pools, whale watching are the activities to enjoy. You can also rent a dune buggy and roar across the giant sand dunes, go golfing if you must, ride a horse on the narrow trails above the sea, or pack a picnic and find a quiet spot to soak up the majesty of nature.
Shore Acres State Park
Shore Acres State Park is located about 13 miles from Coos Bay in Oregon, one of three state parks along the Cape Arago Highway on the Pacific coast. The park is spread on the high sandstone cliffs above the ocean, an enchanting combination of natural and landscaped. It was built for the timber baron Louis Simpson, with elegantly landscaped gardens with flowers and plants from many parts of the world, providing blooms year around. There is a grand formal garden, a serene Japanese-style garden with a pond, and two spectacular rose gardens. During the holiday season the gardens are brightly lit with colorful lights and richly decorated. From the garden visitors can head town a narrow trail towards a small hidden cove at Simpson Beach or can stroll along the edge of the cliff to enjoy breathtaking ocean views and an occasional passing whale. An observation structure is located on the site where once stood Simpson's mansion.