The beautiful state of Oregon has so much to offer visitors and residents alike. Many people move to Oregon every year, and thousands of people from across the United States and other countries come to see the beautiful scenery.
As travel nuts with a special place in our heart for the outdoors, we have recommendations on the best places to visit in Oregon. Read our top 15 picks and why we love each below.
Why You Should Visit Oregon
From rugged coastlines to thick, sprawling forests, the state of Oregon offers a wide range of scenery and outdoor activities.
Favorited by hikers, skiers, fishermen, and boaters alike, there are endless options for activities and events to attend during your stay. Some of the most popular activities in the state include hiking, skiing, surfing, and camping.
The national park sites include Crater Lake National Park, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon Caves National Monument, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
With all of these options to choose from, you are guaranteed to find many beautiful campgrounds to stay at and many hiking opportunities. But what are some of the top places and sites to visit in the state?
How do you know what the top-rated locations are with so much to choose from?
If you want to make the most of your visit and see the best photo-worthy and memory-making spots in the state, keep reading as we will touch on 15 of the best places to visit.
15 Best Places to Visit in Oregon in 2023
There are so many interesting things to do while visiting Oregon, but we’ve narrowed it down to the 15 best places to visit.
Portland, Oregon is a unique, eclectic, and eccentric city consisting of artists, musicians, poets, writers, and many other people from different walks of life. Its motto is even “Keep Portland Weird,” which speaks for itself.
Portland is top on our list of places to visit in the state due to the city’s wide array of things to do and see. The food and beverage scene in Portland is thriving, and there are many unique and special independently owned restaurants, bars, and cafes to visit.
You could even take a citywide foodie tour, offered by many local companies that take you around the city, showcasing the city’s unique foods.
You will experience the cafes’ intricate latte art, the wine tastings the local wineries hold, the local breweries for a unique IPA, and one-of-kind ice cream and donut shops offering selections you cannot find anywhere else.
Blue Star Donuts is one of the most highly reviewed shops in the city, offering flavors such as blueberry bourbon basil, orange olive oil, Mexican hot chocolate, and even creme brulee!
These ingredients are locally grown and harvested, making all the creations freshly made. Some local ice cream shops serve up just as weird but delicious flavors ranging from roasted peach to sage cobbler.
Portland residents pride themselves on their unique food and always strive to use locally grown ingredients as the area has the perfect climate for growing many fruits and vegetables. It is farm-to-plate almost everywhere you go, making the food fresh and delicious every time.
You can find many of these unique places in the Mississippi neighborhood of Portland, which features cute little shops, quirky bars, and houses reimagined as restaurants.
Some other activities you should make sure you do in the city include watching local fishermen crabbing nearby, shucking oysters yourself at a nearby restaurant, or taking a walk downtown to see Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent bookstore in the world, with nearly a million books!
You could easily spend all day and night exploring the city as there are things to do at every turn.
The artists in the city have built and painted many murals citywide for you to view during the day, and the thriving nightlife keeps going even after the sun has set in the city.
2. Mount Hood
Mount Hood, a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, is the tallest mountain in Oregon and borders the beautiful Hood River and Columbia Gorge.
The mountain offers spectacular opportunities for skiing on the steep slopes, hiking the lush forests, and staying in one of the quaint cabins the area has to offer. You can admire the beautiful scenery from one of the chair lifts going up the slopes, which are offered at any of the six ski areas.
You can stay in a cabin getaway offered at multiple locations in the area. Choose to stay near the river, higher up in the mountain, or in the middle of the dense forest.
The weather allows you to hike the mountain, bike the trails, or even kayak the river in the summertime.You can enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, or even snow tubing down the slopes in the wintertime.
3. Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is described as a sleeping volcano in deep water that is located in beautiful southern Oregon. It is the fifth oldest national park in the United States and was formed by the violent eruption of Mount Mazama, which left behind the crater that is now filled with deep water.
It is lined with beautiful hills and forests, perfect for hiking, biking, camping, bird-watching, and sightseeing. It is a favorite location of photographers and artists who love to capture the beautiful scenery in their choice of medium.
It is one of the deepest lakes in the world and the deepest in the United States, reaching depths of 1,949 feet deep. It is the second deepest in North America and the ninth deepest globally and is one of the most pristine lakes on Earth.
4. Multnomah Falls
If chasing waterfalls is on your agenda or your bucket list, look no further than beautiful Multnomah Falls. It is known as the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, with over 2 million visitors every year.
It is no surprise why, due to the beautiful, large waterfalls the area has to offer. The waterfall is fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain, and the flow is the highest during the winter and springtime.
However, visitors say the best view of the falls is from below, so you can get a full view of the falls from high above you.
There are multiple hiking trails at the location to try, as well, including a trail to the top of the falls that is 4.8 miles long, a 2.5 mile more challenging hike up the steeper trail, and a ¼ mile hike to the bridge for the best view of the falls.
5. Painted Hills
The Painted Hills are known as Oregon’s most unique geological feature, which says a lot due to how many natural wonders the state features. The Hills resemble the burnt-orange to red color of the Arches in Utah and look like something out of a painting.
The Hills are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, and the beautiful colors came to be due to cycling periods of wet and dry climate conditions. The Hills are perfect for hiking, sightseeing, and photography due to their natural beauty.
6. Sea Lion Caves
The Sea Lion Caves speak for themselves, being the largest sea lion cave in the United States. If you are looking to see some natural wildlife in the area, this is the perfect place to take the entire family.
The company that owns the Sea Caves offers tours of the area and a gift shop to explore.
The Caves are open to the Pacific Ocean, located 11 miles north of the city of Florence. As you explore the area during your visit, you will see lots of wildlife like birds, sea creatures, and sea lions.
7. Timberline Lodge
If skiing is on your agenda during your visit, you will want to visit the iconic Timberline Lodge. It is located on the south side of Mount Hood and is only 60 miles east of Portland.
The lodge hosts the ski resort at the location, which features the longest skiing season in the United States.
It is open to skiers and snowboarders all 12 months of the year. However, you can try out other winter activities other than skiing, such as snowshoeing, hiking, snow tubing, biking, and climbing.
8. Oregon Zoo
The Oregon Zoo is known as one of the best and oldest zoos west of the Mississippi River. It is a great place to take kids or even visit as an adult due to all the major attractions and events it hosts.
The Zoo has over six sections of the park with different types of animals, including bears, bald eagles, snakes, sea otters, penguins, insects, apes, elephants, lions, monkeys, flamingos, and even a new polar bear exhibit.
The Zoo is decorated with stunning lights during the wintertime, turning it into a wild winter wonderland. And in the summertime, they host the Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series, which are outdoor concerts available weekly to guests.
9. Columbia River Gorge
Another great natural attraction to visit in the state is the Columbia River Gorge, a canyon of the Columbia River that forms the boundary between Oregon and Washington states.
The area extends down to the east to the Portland area, being the perfect backdrop to many beautiful photographs. The Gorge offers many hiking trails available to guests at different ability levels, mountain biking trails, and opportunities to kayak on the river.
In your adventures through the forests, you will find lots of wildlife native to the area and will stumble upon many natural waterfalls.
10. Cannon Beach
Located 90 minutes from Portland is the stunning Cannon Beach, a long stretch of beautiful coastline. It is a popular tourist destination that is featured on many postcards representing the state.
It is famous for Haystack Rock, a sea stack that sticks out near the coastline. You can walk the sandy beach, visit many of the shops and restaurants lining the coast, or even stay at one of the hotels in the area overlooking the Pacific.
The town is known as one of the top art towns in the United States, and the area has been named one of the world’s 100 most beautiful places by National Geographic.
The city of Bend, Oregon is the second-most known city in the state, next to Portland. It is known as the gateway to many outdoor sports, including mountain biking, hiking, camping, fishing, rock climbing, skiing, paragliding, golfing, and white-water rafting.
The latter is a big reason why many people move to Bend and visit yearly. Bend is Central Oregon’s largest city and has a large population based on how small the city actually is.
There are endless options of health food stores, vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and unique cafes to try during your stay. The city’s culture and atmosphere are all centered around healthy ways of living, sustainable foods, and outdoor living.
Another well-known city in Oregon is Newport, located on the Northwest coastline of the state. It is home to many different venues and activities, including the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Yaquina Head Light and Bay Light, Nye Beach, and the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center.
There are many outdoor activities centered around the coastline available to you. For example, take a walk down the coast and observe fishermen in the bay or visit one of the lighthouses.
You can also watch the tide pools, go bird watching, and even go seal watching as many wildlife make Newport their home. There are many fantastic seafood restaurants to choose from and fish markets where you can enjoy the fresh catch of the day.
13. Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay is known as the whale watching capital of the Oregon coast, which features a pod of gray whales that live offshore March through December. The city has a whale-watching center where you can observe the whales and be educated on their lives and history in the area.
The city also features the Oregon Coast Trail, a hiking trail along the coastline that goes through the cut beach towns and all the way down to the sandy beaches of the area. You will find many shops, restaurants, and cafes to try along the way while you take in the views.
14. Newberry National Volcanic Monument
If visiting a volcano was on your bucket list, the Newberry Volcanic Monument is a perfect and safe place to visit for the whole family. There are four visitor areas around the volcano, including Lava Butte, Lava Cast Forest, Lava River Cave, and Newberry Caldera.
The Summit of Paulina Peak is the highest point of the monument, which features views of the Oregon cascades and the high desert.
You can access the summit by road during the summer, although the road is steep and rough, so larger vehicles are not advised to make the climb. The summit area has two lakes, which are perfect for fishing.
The area is managed by the United States Forest Service and was used to train astronauts to get used to the same type of terrain. You will feel like you are on the moon when you step foot onto the monument.
15. Oregon Dunes
The Oregon Dunes are the largest expanse of sand dunes in North America and one of the largest in the world. The beautiful dunes extend across 7,000 acres of land, are located on the Oregon coast between two rivers, and are part of a National Forest.
The contrast between the stunning dunes and the thick forests is breathtaking, and the area is perfect for hiking, biking, and even off-roading in a Jeep or dirt bike.
Things to Consider
When planning your trip to Oregon, you want to consider many factors, such as some of the following named below:
The state stays very wet throughout the year due to the Pacific Northwest famously being a very rainy and wet climate. The summers are hot, humid, and rainy, wh9ile the winters are freezing, snowy, and bitter cold.
Climate Where You Will Be Visiting
You want to keep in mind the type of activities you want to experience while on your trip so you can plan accordingly with the climate of the area. For example, in the more northern parts of the state, you will find more snow during winter, making it perfect for skiing.
Events During Your Visit
You also want to be aware of what is available during your visit and if some of the places you plan on visiting are closed down for special events or for the weather. Not all skiing and resorts are open year-round, so you want to make sure to check ahead of time.
Lodging in the Area
There are many great hotels, cabins, Airbnbs, and even campgrounds you can stay at in the state. You just want to be sure to do your research ahead of time to make sure you find your perfect spot.
In Portland, there is public transportation such as streetcars, light rail lines, and a bus service you can use to get around. However, most of the state relies on private transportation by vehicle since it is so vast and has a lot of mountainous terrains.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are the most commonly asked questions regarding vacations and travel within Oregon.
What is the number one attraction in Oregon?
The number one attraction in the state is Crater Lake, the deep, pristine lake located in volcanic remains. Situated in the middle of a vast forest, the area offers lots to do and explore other than just the lake.
Why should I visit Oregon?
The state has so much to offer, especially to those who enjoy outdoor activities. If you are the type of person who enjoys outdoor recreation, the state is your own personal heaven. The state is home to some of the most diverse and scenic landscapes in the United States and North America.
What is the most remote place in Oregon?
The Owyhee Canyonlands is one of the most remote, untouched places in the United States. It is home to more than 150 miles of natural rivers and is considered a natural treasure.
Located in far east-central Oregon, camping out in these Canyonlands lets you become one with nature while completely unplugging from the rest of the world.
What is the most scenic part of the Oregon coast?
Although the entire coastline is considered a scenic wonder, Cannon Beach is known as the most scenic part of the coast. In fact, it is known as one of the top 100 most scenic parts of the world.
What is Portland known for?
Portland is known for being weird! The residents pride themselves on remaining weird, and you can see this represented by the quirky houses, businesses, shops, restaurants, and bookstores that line the streets.
It is known for its many beautiful city parks, like Washington Park, many long-standing bookstores, including Powell’s City of Books, and many unique restaurants offering craft cocktails and uniquely flavored foods.
Best Places to Visit in Oregon: Final Thoughts
All in all, the state of Oregon has so much to offer visitors, from the quaint and quirky towns to the vast landscapes. From dense forests to sprawling mountains to inactive volcanoes to winter ski slopes, to cabins in the woods to walks along the beach, there is no shortage of activities.
Take a family trip to visit the coastline and go whale watching, or watch the sea lions at the Sea Lion Caves.
Or, host your wedding in the beautiful mountains with Mount Hood as your backdrop, and enjoy your honeymoon in a remote cabin nestled away in the dense forest.
Enjoy a wide range of hiking, biking, exploring, kayaking, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, trail running, and opportunities to spark your creative mind.
Paint the beautiful Painted Hills, or photograph the stunning waterfalls you can find throughout the state. Whatever you choose to do, the scenery will take your breath away, and you will be happy you made the trip.