Visiting Portland, the largest city in the state Oregon, you have the best of both worlds: a vibrant city life filled with art, music and food and abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation. While Portland itself is filled with plenty of things to do, some of the world’s most incredible natural wonders lie just outside the city limits. Find out what makes Oregon the greatest state by taking a few day trips from Portland to some of the most spectacular beaches and parks on the east coast.
Oregon is known for its numerous state parks, and Silver Falls State Park is the single biggest area of protected forestland in the state. The aptly named park features numerous waterfalls, ten of which can be viewed while walking along the majestic Trail of Ten Falls. The most popular waterfall to view along the 7.2-mile moderate hiking loop is South Falls, a 177-foot (54-meter) waterfall that you can walk behind as it plunges into a shallow pool. The South Falls area features a playground, picnic tables, barbecue stands and even an off-leash area for dogs.
Another opportunity to walk behind a waterfall can be found at Oneonta Gorge. Here, you can hike a 2.7-mile loop that will take you through a mossy cavern behind Ponytail Falls. The entire hike cannot be done with dry feet, and depending on the time of year, your adventure may involve climbing over a logjam and wading through chest-high water. Late summer is the best time to take this day trip, as the water will be warmer and shallower. After the popular hiking loop, you can take a side trip to Triple Falls, where three side-by-side waterfalls cascade 120 feet (37 meters).
Seated along scenic Highway 101 at the mouth of the Columbia River, the town of Astoria makes for an excellent day trip from Portland. After enjoying a beautiful drive along the Oregon Coast, you’ll arrive at a charming seaport town with a thriving art scene and rich history. You can ride the Astoria Riverfront Trolley daily on a round trip through town that takes about an hour. Hop off the trolley at the Columbia River Maritime Museum stop to learn about local history and tour a floating lighthouse. For the best view of Astoria, ascend the spiral staircase up the Astoria Column, a hand-painted 125-foot (38-meter) column inspired by the Trajan Column in Rome.
Visible from many spots in Portland, Mount Hood seems to beckon city dwellers with its snow capped peaks. You can grace the mountain with your skis any time of the year, as the Timberline ski area on Mount Hood is the country’s only year-round lift-served ski resort. Five other ski areas and numerous hiking routes help to keep the tallest mountain in Oregon filled with adventure travelers. If you want to get away from the busy ski areas, you can enjoy peaceful trail hikes at the Mount Hood Scenic Byway Area. The Mount Hood National Forest has hiking trails, creeks, meadows and even a 27-hole golf course. The historic Timberline Lodge, which was used for exterior shots in the movie “The Shining,” offers great views of the Southern Cascades.
Cannon Beach is the crown jewel of the Oregon coastline, with miles of sandy beaches and scenic hiking trails. At Ecola State Park, you can walk through old-growth forests and emerge from the trees to discover panoramic ocean views. The most celebrated ocean view at Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock, a massive rock formation that provides a shoreline refuge for Tufted Puffins in the spring and summer. Take the Tillamook Head Trail to follow the same route that Lewis and Clark took during their historic expedition. Around 18,000 Gray Whales swim past Cannon Beach each year on migrations that can be viewed during the spring and winter.
If you’re looking for a true outdoor playground to spend the day, head east from Portland to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The area is an expansive canyon of the Columbia River that features abundant hiking and watersports opportunities. You can go whitewater rafting, kayaking and kite boarding past waterfalls or experience the beauty of the gorge from a bird’s eye view by taking a zip line tour through the forest. The gorge is also a paradise for waterfall lovers as it boasts over 70 with in reasonable access to the public. The most famous one is the 620-foot (190-meter) high Multnomah Falls. With nearly two million visitors a year it is Oregon’s number one public destination. The Columbia River Gorge has plenty of shops and restaurants as well as 30 diverse wineries with tasting rooms and stunning views of the Gorge.