There’s plenty to see and do in Portland, Oregon. Portland is also ideally situated, with a number of great attractions in the Pacific Northwest just a short drive away, including beaches, mountains and plenty of waterfalls, which are perfect for day trips .
When you’re looking for a change of scenery, here are the 15 best day trips from Portland, Oregon.
1. Mt. Hood
Located around 90 miles away, Mt. Hood is one of the best day trips from Portland, with many opportunities to enjoy the stunning natural scenery. At 11,250 feet, Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon. Covered by 11 glaciers, Mt. Hood is home to the only year-round ski resort in North America.
During the rest of the year, hiking is a popular way to explore the region. Some of the best hiking in the state can be found here, and there are trails to suit all levels and abilities. Explore wildflower meadows, chase waterfalls, or play in the many rivers and lakes nearby.
Popular attractions include Trillium Lake, Ramona Falls, the Mount Hood Scenic Byway Area and the historic Timberline Lodge, where you can sit by the fire and enjoy the stunning views as you refuel after a long, active day.
For a bit of history, visit the Mt. Hood Cultural Center & Museum. Guided tours are available for a hassle-free experience.
2. Cannon Beach
The Oregon Coast is one of the best day trips from Portland you can take, and Cannon Beach, at 80 miles away, is one of the best options. Head to Cannon Beach to get a look at Haystack Rock, the 235-foot sea stack just off the coast that is surrounded by a bunch of smaller rocks.
When the tide ebbs, look for the massive tide pools that are left behind. Spend some time relaxing or walking along the wide and sandy beach. In the spring, look for gray whales on their migration. More active visitors may want to go past the headland and explore Ecola State Park.
Afterwards, stroll around the cute town of Cannon Beach, which is filled with quaint shops and boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Families with kids may want to head up the coast a bit to Seaside, where you can find an aquarium, carousel and an arcade.
For an easy day, join a guided tour of the Oregon Coast that includes transportation from Portland.
3. Willamette Valley
Located around 50 miles south, Willamette is the best day trip from Portland for wine lovers. There are more than 500 wineries and vineyards in Oregon’s premier wine growing area, and you can easily spend the entire day sampling wine at such popular wineries as Hawks View, Cooper Mountain and Hamacher.
The area is particularly known for their pinot noir, so be sure to sample some during your day trip and pick up a bottle or two to take home with you. To fully enjoy your day tasting wine, leave the driving to someone else on a guided tour. Even if you’re not a wine fan, the area is worth visiting for its beautiful landscape of rolling hills and pretty countryside.
You can also visit a hazelnut orchard or a small working farm. Be sure to grab a meal or two while you are here – Willamette Valley is home to many wonderful farm-to-table restaurants serving fresh and delicious dishes.
4. Columbia River Gorge
Located around 25 miles east, the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular and scenic day trips from Portland. The stunning gorge stretches for more than 80 miles and is up to 4,000 feet deep at some spots.
There are more than 50 waterfalls in the area, with Multnomah Falls being the tallest and most popular. At 620 feet feet, it’s the tallest waterfall in the state. Take the Multnomah Falls Loop Trail, which will take you past three other waterfalls, Wahkeena Falls, Ecola Falls and Fairy Falls, before reaching towering Multnomah Falls.
Water sports are also popular here, including kayaking, whitewater rafting and kiteboarding. And to round out your day, there are also cute shops and plenty of wineries and tasting rooms offering stunning views of the gorge.
To enjoy an easy day out without having to worry about driving, opt for a guided tour.
Although considered part of the Oregon Coast, the picturesque town of Astoria actually sits at the mouth of the Columbia River, at the far northwestern corner of Oregon. The 80s movie Goonies was filmed here, and Astoria has retained much of its small-town charm.
Stroll among the quaint Victorian buildings in town or the scenic Riverwalk. You can also take a trolley along the Columbia River. There are several interesting museums in town, including the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which includes a tour of a floating lighthouse.
Climb up to the top of 125-foot tall Astoria Column for panoramic views over the city and coast. Just outside of town, Fort Stevens is an expansive state park with a rich military history, shipwrecks and plenty of outdoor recreational space to enjoy.
Be sure to sample some fresh seafood and enjoy a pint or two at one of the many breweries in town.
6. Bend, Oregon
Located around 170 miles southeast of Portland, Bend is a hip and cosmopolitan mountain town. Considered the beer capital of Oregon, there are more than 30 breweries, so you’re bound to find something to your taste here.
The Bend Ale Trail makes it fun to explore multiple breweries. Bend is also ideally situated for outdoor recreation. Its proximity to Mt. Bachelor, the Deschute River and Pilot Butte means there’s great skiing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and even bungee jumping nearby.
Explore a massive lava tube at the Lava River Cave in Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Or learn about the local environment and living history at the High Desert Museum.
For some retail therapy, browse the locally owned boutiques in historic Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District.
7. Eugene, Oregon
Located around 110 miles south of Portland, Eugene is home to the University of Oregon. A thriving college town, there are plenty of events, shows and concerts held here year-round. Interesting museums include the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History and the Eugene Science Center.
Get up close to eagles, falcons and hawks at the Cascades Raptor Center. Eugene sits on the banks of the Willamette River and kayaking is a popular way to enjoy the river. Eugene is also where Nike was founded, and running is a big part of the culture here. Not surprisingly, there are lots of great running trails in and around Eugene.
Before leaving, be sure to stop by the Fifth Street Public Market, where you can browse for unique souvenirs from local artisans, then grab a bite at an organic cafe.
8. Tillamook, Oregon
Located around 70 miles west, Tillamook is the best day trip from Portland for cheese and dairy lovers. Home to the world-famous Tillamook Creamery, you can tour a farm and watch cheese being made.
Don’t forget to enjoy some samples while you’re here, including more than 30 different flavors of ice cream. For something other than cheese, check out the Tillamook Air Museum or the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum. And like most places in Oregon, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had here.
Enjoy great views at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and wildlife at Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge. Fishing and crabbing are also big here, so go out and try your hand at catching your dinner.
For a hassle-free experience, opt for a guided tour that includes round-trip transportation from Portland.
9. Seattle, Washington
Located around 175 miles north of Portland, Seattle is definitely doable as a long day trip. Start early and try to time your drive around rush hour. If you want to go to the top of the Space Needle, be sure to book your ticket in advance to save time.
Nearby Chihuly Gardens & Glass, Pacific Science Center and MoPop Museum of Pop Culture are definitely worth a visit as well.
Afterwards, head downtown to visit the world-famous Pike’s Place Market and watch fishmongers tossing massive fish to each other. And no visit to Seattle would be complete without a stop for some coffee. Seattle was where Starbucks was founded and you can visit their original store at the market.
To enjoy the outdoors, head to Kerry Park for great city skyline views or enjoy a boat cruise around the Seattle Locks.
10. Mt. St. Helens
Get up close to an active volcano at Mt. St. Helens. Located just 50 miles northeast of Portland in Washington State, Mt. St. Helens makes for an easy and unique day trip.
The volcano last erupted in 2008 and you can learn about the devastating eruption 0f 1980 and how it dramatically changed the landscape around the area at the Visitors Center.
Explore one of the longest lava tubes in the western hemisphere at Ape Caves, or check out the smouldering crater from Johnston Ridge Observatory.
There are several lakes in the area, which also offers great hiking and rock climbing. Look for meadows of wildflowers if you’re visiting in the summertime.
11. Sauvie Island
Located only around 10 miles from downtown Portland, Sauvie Island is one of the easiest and best day trips from Portland. The largest island on the Columbia River, and one of the largest river islands in the country, there are numerous farms on the island, many of which are open to visitors. You can pick berries or pumpkins in season.
The Sauvie Island Wildlife Area is a great spot for birdwatching. History buffs will enjoy exploring the Warrior Rock Lighthouse.
Many visitors come to enjoy the beaches on the northeastern part of the island, or to go fishing at Sturgeon Lake, while more active visitors take advantage of the many hiking and biking trails on the island.
12. Bagby Hot Springs
Located around 70 miles southeast, Bagby Hot Springs are one of the closest public hot springs to Portland. The drive to Bagby Hot Springs itself is a pretty one, as you will drive along the winding Clackamas River and through the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Once there, an easy and well-signposted 1.5-mile hike through the forest will take you to multiple tubs across three bathhouses. Both private tubs and communal tubs are available and require a $5 fee. Cold water spigots are available to adjust the temperature.
The hot springs are open 24-hours a day, but may be quite busy during the summer, when wait times are possible.
13. Silver Falls State Park – An Exciting Day Trip From Portland, Oregon
Located around 55 miles outside of Portland, Silver Falls State Park is one of the crown jewels of the Oregon state park system.
Don’t miss the Trail of Ten Falls, an easy hike through a forest and along a canyon that passes by 10 massive waterfalls, five of which are more than 100 feet high.
A highlight of the trail is the 177-foot South Falls, where you can actually walk behind the falls. As you walk along the park, be sure to look up at the canyon walls and see where the lava flow stopped millions of years ago.
The park also offers more than 30 miles of trails for biking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
14. Hood River
Situated along the Columbia River, the town of Hood River is around 60 miles east of Portland. It’s the windsurfing capital of the world, and a great place to learn to windsurf. Kiteboarding and sailing are also great activities here, given the constant wind. .
If you don’t want to participate, you can still watch the action at the Hood River Waterfront Park, which also has a nice swimming beach.
For an easy day of sightseeing, drive the Historic Columbia River Highway or the 35-mile Fruit Loop scenic drive, which passes many pretty orchards, vineyards and farms. Or take the scenic train from Hood River to Parkdale.
There are also plenty of breweries, brewpubs and wonderful restaurants for those who would rather sample their way through the town.
15. Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
Located around 140 miles northeast of Portland, the 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington State. Mt. Rainier National Park stretches for more than 350 square miles and offers plenty of scenic and outdoor adventure opportunities.
You can drive up to the 6,400-foot Sunrise, the highest car-accessible point, which offers stunning mountain vistas for minimal effort. In the summer, head to Paradise to see the wildflower meadows in bloom.
More active visitors have miles of hiking trails available. For jaw-dropping views, try the Skyline Trail. For a different experience, take the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad from Elbe, or take the Mt. Rainier Gondola up to Summit House on Crystal Mountain, and enjoy fine dining with a view.
Photo Credits :
Featured Image – Joe Wolf