Oregon just might be one of the most underrated destinations in the United States. People often skip right over Oregon from Washington State to California, but it should not be missed! There are so many things to do in Oregon from incredible hiking trails to picturesque beaches, hip urban centers, mountains and waterfalls. Oregon has it all!
So to help you plan your visit to Oregon and put it on your travel radar, let’s explore all the top attractions in the state. Where are you going next on a road trip? I bet Oregon will pop to the top of your bucket list after this!
The Best Things to do in Oregon
For some of the best hiking in Oregon, Smith Rock State Park is a must. It is a part of the 7 Wonders of Oregon and for good reason. This beautiful State Park is a mecca for rock climbers with more than 1000 bolted routes! Its cathedral rock spires make for picture-perfect scenery with it reflecting in the winding river below. Read more: Smith Rock State Park – Misery Ridge Hike
Stay near Smith Rock at Sisters. We stayed at Five Pine Lodge offers unique lodging in the nearby Central Oregon town of Sisters. We stayed here the night before our cycling trip to Smith Rock via the Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Byway. Sisters is a great place to make a base with annual events like the Sisters Rodeo and the Sisters Folk Fest plus beautiful outdoor activities like SUP, Mountain Biking, Hiking and more! Read more at TravelOregon
Columbia River Gorge
Another one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon is the Columbia River Gorge. I think this is the place that attracts people to the state. It is the largest National Scenic Area in America measuring an astounding 80 miles long and 4000 feet deep. The stunning vistas are filled with waterfalls including Bridal Veil Falls (there’s always one) and Latourell falls. Multnomah Falls is the highest waterfall in Oregon and is found here. The historic Columbia River Highway is a great drive to really take in the views.
- Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular day trips from Portland. This Half Day Waterfalls Tour takes you on a 3.5-hour tour where you’ll visit attractions like Portland Women’s Forum, the Crown Point Vista House, Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls, and Horse Tail Falls.
- One of the more unique ways to explore the Columbia River Gorge is on this Cascade Locks 2-hour sightseeing Cruise. Take a triple decker river boat where you’ll see the Bridge of the Gods, Bonneville Dam, and more.
Bend is our favourite community in Oregon with so many things to do we gave it our own post! Don’t miss visiting one of its many microbreweries where you can enjoy a cold drink, or floating along the Deschutes River while doing some tubing. With shopping and dining galore, Bend is a great place to make a base when checking out all the things to do in Central Oregon. There are mountain biking and hiking trails and the beautiful Tumalo Falls. Make sure to visit the High Desert Museum spanning 135 acres of forest lands. And from Bend, you can enjoy a drive along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway starting from downtown Bend. Read more at Things to do in Bend
Where to Stay in Bend
- Oxford Hotel – If you are staying in Bend, we loved our accommodations at The Oxford Hotel located downtown Bend.
- Tetherow Hotel is an award-winning hotel located on a golf course. This luxury property is 10 minutes from downtown, 7 minutes from the Old Mill District, and 20 minutes from Mt. Bachelor with shuttle service.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Located in Central Oregon, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is one of the most fascinating things to do in Oregon. Covering 54,000 acres of the Deschutes National Forest is filled with lava flows and cinder cones that formed thousands of years ago. You can actually go inside Lava Cones to see how they were formed by volcanic eruptions. There are plenty of things to keep you busy in this natural area located just south of Bend.
The lava tubes that we explored are Boyd Cave and Lava River Cave. Check out this Newberry half day Volcano trip to explore the lava flow with a professional guide. We toured this area with Wanderlust Tours, (TripAdvisor’s number one-rated tour company) in Bend. Read More: Exploring the Lava Tubes of Bend, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park
Did you know that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America? Formed by a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago this lake is a whopping 1943 feet deep. You can take a guided boat tour of the lake, or hike one of its many trails. There are 90 miles (150 km) of hiking trails and in the winter you can go snowshoeing here too! Make sure to take a road trip along The 33 mile (53 km) Rim Drive which offers some beautiful scenic views. There are no inlets to this lake allowing it to remain pristine and clear. See the National Parks Service for trail closures and more information. (right now certain trails are closed)
- Fun Oregon Fact: Cater Lake is the only National Park in Oregon. It has National Forests and National Monuments but Crater Lake is the only National Park!
Mount Hood National Forest
Speaking of winter, Mt. Hood National Forest houses the highest peak in Oregon at 11,239 feet. We visited Oregon in late summer and actually drove through a bit of snow here. There is great skiing here in the winter with hiking trails in the summer.
You can check out this Mount Hood Day Trip where you will explore Hood River Valley, and marvel at the Columbia Gorge on a full-day tour from Portland
Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail runs through Oregon. From The Washington border to southern Oregon 455.2-miles of the great trail runs through Oregon. If you want a taste of what the hikers feel like going from Canada to Mexico, hop on it for a couple of days and start hiking. Get more information on where to hike the Pacific Crest Trail at the PCT Association Oregon.
No top things to do in Oregon article would be complete without mentioning Portland. This city totally surprised us with its laid-back hip vibes. Their slogan is fittingly “Keep Portland Weird”. Like Bend, it is known for its microbrews but there are so many places to visit in Portland. Notable things to do are: eat at one of its many food trucks, peruse the over one million books at Powell’s City of Books, walk across the St. John’s Bridge for views of the Willamette River and check out the many museums and gardens.
Where to stay in Portland
- The Benson a Coastal Hotel – This elegant hotel has been serving guests for more than a century. The four-diamond landmark hotel was a great stay in the heart of downtown Portland.
- The Jupiter – This was a very cool-themed hotel that brought us back in time. This old motor inn has been transformed into a boutique hotel tastefully decorated with mid-century design.
Washington Park in Portland
The most notable garden is Portland’s Japanese Garden in Washington Park. We’ve never been big on gardens until we visited Japan. Seeing Japanese Gardens changed our tune. They are as beautiful as they are serene. The Japanese Garden in Portland is modeled after the gardens of Japan with rocks, pagodas, and gardens and ponds.
The Willamette Valley has more than 500 wineries within 150 miles producing some of the best Pinot Noirs in America. (Paul Giamatti of Sideways would be very happy). This beautiful region is perfect for cycling, hiking, and slowing down as you hop from vineyard to vineyard. Book this Willamette Valley Wine Tour on a day trip from Portland taking you through the rolling farmland and vineyards of the Willamette Valley.
There are other wine regions in Oregon too! In fact, there are 21 wine regions in Oregon producing 100 different varieties of grapes. The Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard is a 15 acre vineyard that produces fantastic red and white wines just 20 minutes from Bend Oregon. The loved the welcoming hospitality of their elegant western tasting room while enjoying the gorgeous views of Central Oregon.
Silver Falls State Park
If you are looking for waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park should be at the top of your things to do in Oregon list. Take a hike along the Trail of Ten Falls that weaves through a forest landscape passing a series of waterfalls. This moderate 7.2-mile loop is a must-see. And don’t miss visiting South Falls where you can walk behind its 177-foot curtain of water.
Oregon Caves National Monument
Located in the Siskiyou Mountains, Oregon Caves National Monument is a must for people looking for adventurous things to do in Oregon for the whole family. Take a guided tour (note: Visitors must be 42 inches tall to join to tour.) where you’ll make your way through narrow passages as low as 45 inches high. Visit the website for tour details.
Sea Lions Cave
Speaking of Caves, Sea Lions Cave is a fun place to visit in Oregon to view sea lions frolicking on the rocks. There is an elevator that will take you down to the caves where you will get to explore the largest sea cave in America. This is truly one of the most unique things to do in Oregon. How often do you get to view sea lions in their natural habitat within a huge grotto from the safety of a viewing platform?
One of the best places to visit in Oregon for photographers is the magnificent Thor’s Well. This impressive sinkhole is located on Highway 101/Oregon Coast Highway just outside of Yachats in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. It requires a bit of hiking so wear proper footwear and keep your wits about you as the Oregon Coast can change without notice. Make sure to keep a safe distance away as people have been swept away here.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Oregon is filled with a diverse landscape. You can be in lush forests one minute, high desert plains another and at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Central Oregon you are transported to an ecosystem that reminds me of the badlands. With layered fossils and colorful cliffs, they are one of the most popular attractions in Oregon. The Painted Hills of the national monument reminds us of Rainbow Mountain in Peru. The colorful layers stand out creating such a striking scene, they were named one of Oregon’s 7 Wonders.
Oregon has a spectacular 300 mile (480 km) long coastline. It is so spectacular that it too is a part of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. Cannon Beach is the perfect place to make a base while exploring the Oregon Coast. Featured in movies such as The Goonies and Point Break, this beautiful beach is definitely one of the top things to do in Oregon on the coast.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located along the Oregon Coast and they are the temperate coastal sand dunes in the world stretching for 40 miles. This is the place to try your hand at sandboarding.
Wallowa Lake Tramway
For a scenic ride take the tramway to the top of Mt Howard for panoramic views of Wallowa Lake. Located in Northeastern Oregon, the 3700-foot tramway rises up through the Wallowa Mountains making it one of the most popular things to do in Oregon. Sit at the top and enjoy a cocktail as you take in the rugged scenic views. The Wallowa Mountains are often compared to the Swiss Alps and if you have ever seen the Swiss Alps, you’ll know that is a very high compliment.
Cannon Beach is the most recognizable beach in Oregon with the Haystack Rock standing guard. It rises 235 feet from the edge of the shoreline. Cannon Beach was named one of the most beautiful places in the world by National Geographic and it was featured heavily in the movies The Goonies. There are plenty of places to stay and things to do off the beach including hiking, craft brewery tours, and plenty of birdlife including puffins!
This Oregon Coast Day Tour takes you to the white sand beaches of Oregon on a full-day tour. Stops include, including Cannon Beach, Short Sand Beach at Oswald West State Park, Ecola State Park, and Neahkahnie Point to view the dramatic Oregon Coastline and the Pacific Ocean.
Located at the mouth of the Columbia River Astoria is a popular tourist destination in Oregon. A highlight here is to drive across the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the longest continuous truss bridge in the United States. It spans 4.1 miles across the Columbia River connecting Oregon to Washington State. While in Astoria make sure you climb the Astor Column for some great views and be sure to check out its many museums including the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and the Oregon Film Museum located in the Old Clatsop County Jail that was featured in The Goonies.
Giddy Up at Brasada Ranch
Our stay at Brasada Ranch was one of our favourite things to do in Oregon. Located in Central Oregon just 30 minutes from Bend this is a Dude Ranch combined with urban elegance. There are trail rides where you can explore the high desert landscape, learn of the Indigenous culture, and take in the spectacular views. Our ride took us out to Spirit Rock that looked like a picture right out of an old western movie. The smell of sage filled the air and desert shrubs blew in the wind along the dusty trail. We then enjoyed a luxurious spa and a five-star dinner. Book your night at the Brasada Ranch.
And these are the best things to do in Oregon. Have you visited the Pacific Northwest? What are your favourite Oregon Attractions?