Looking for Oregon road trip ideas? We spent 5 weeks exploring Oregon for the first time and had some incredible adventures.
Raw. Weird. Wonderful.
These are just a few of the terms you’d use to describe the rugged terrain and lifestyle of a state still in the process of defining itself.
Its mountain peaks, towering forests, coastal scenery, thundering waterfalls, high desert spaces and rivers invite you to slow down, explore and find solace in the beauty on your Oregon trip.
Plan for a good amount of time as there are so many cool things to do in Oregon. It is full of adventure, beauty and plenty of good breweries!
It’s wild and free and allows you to show up as you are. When you visit Oregon, anything is accepted and welcome.
This is a state that at times reminded me of Australia with its coastal beauty and its raw, unfiltered, laid back lifestyle.
At other times it reminded me of North Carolina with its mountains, rivers and pine tree forests and craft brews. Two places I love to call my home.
I spent the entire time of our road trip in Oregon longing to return to both of them. Thankfully, Oregon helped to satisfy that craving a little.
You may be wondering about what to do in Oregon. Below are 13 of the best Oregon adventures to add into your Oregon road trip itinerary.
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Oregon Road Trip Adventures
Jet Boating on the Rogue River, Gold Beach
One of the best adventures on your Oregon coast road trip is to spend a day jet boating on the wild and scenic Rogue River on the South Oregon Coast.
The girls will never forget this adventure squealing and waving their hands in the air with their friends as we bounced over rapids and did some fast 360 degree turns.
The scenery is rugged and spectacular and it’s highly possible you’ll see lots of wildlife along the way.
Bears are commonly spotted and the odd mountain lion. We didn’t get lucky with those animals but we saw plenty of deer and birds.
Commentary along the six hour tour is informative and entertaining.
There are long (104 miles) and short (80 miles) tours. I recommend the 104-mile Wilderness Whitewater tour with Jerry’s Rogue Jets so you can experience the thrill of the rapids which is mostly featured on the longer tour.
It travels into the ‘Wild’ section, an area only accessible by jet boating, rafting and hiking.
You will stop along the way for lunch and a brew if you feel up to it. OR, you can take your own picnic lunch like we did. The picnic spots above the river are serene.
Multnomah Falls Loop Hike, Columbia River Gorge
Multnomah Falls is a must see in Oregon. It’s the most well-known of all the waterfalls in Oregon.
This 611 ft. tall cascading waterfall is only 30 minutes from Portland and is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.
As it’s one of the most popular Oregon tourist attractions, you probably want to include it on your Oregon road trip.
The surrounding Columbia River Gorge is stunning (and full of waterfalls) so makes it an easy decision.
Skip just joining the masses from the Benson Bridge, the observation point offering a perfect view of the first and second drop of the waterfall – instead take on the 5 mile loop walk to the waterfall.
Not only will you experience the power of this gigantic waterfall from top, middle and bottom, but you’ll also pass by five other waterfalls along the way, as well as countless cascades.
It’s an adventurous and fun way to spend a few hours.
Note – the beginning part of this walk is strenuous. You will climb 1,600 feet over a series of switchbacks.
Take your time, you’ll have a few waterfalls along the way that will help you catch your breath:
- Wahkeena Falls
- Fairy Falls
- Wiesandanger Falls
- Ecola Falls
Lemmons Lookout is a must for stunning views out over the gorge. I also enjoyed walking through the blackened forest, the remnants of the 2017 fire this region is still recovering from.
Our tip is to start at the Wahkeena Trailhead, a short walk east of Multnomah Falls.
On the way back down you’ll eventually hit the top of Multnomah Falls and have views of it on the many switchbacks leading back down.
You’ll be happy you’re going down as you pass by all the panting people walking up.
The kids will find this hike a challenge, but keep them going with promises of a delicious soft serve ice cream at the end. It’s the Multnomah way.
Tubing the Deschutes River, Bend
Tubing on the Deschutes River in Bend was one of the Oregon attractions we were looking most forward to.
And then we had a freak cold spell and jumped in the tube with the water temps at a chilly 57 degrees and the outside temps barely nudging 70.
But we were determined not to miss out on one of the top things to do in Oregon!
Don’t let the cold stop you as we had a blast regardless. You got used to the cold pretty quick and the experience was relaxing and scenic.
What made the tubing in Bend a standout were the rapids at the Whitewater Park.
This is where the river splits into three separate channels for all skill levels. Tubers will want to go down the Passageway Channel which is a more mellow series of rapids.
As you come down the rapids you can easily get stuck in them as it hits the water underneath on the next level. You may have to wait for another tube to bump you out of it if you can’t get yourself out.
Or, you could be just like me and flip out!
It was refreshing fun and I recommend going down them a couple of times as the kids did.
You’ll definitely want to stay awhile and watch the surfers ride the waves in the whitewater channel next to the tubing one. It created distinct man-made waves you can surf or kayak through.
You can tube the river all the way into Drake Park in downtown, but we cut it short at the rapids because of the weather.
Misery Ridge Trail, Smith Rock State Park
Our good friends Mike and Ann from Honeytrek recommended the Misery Ridge Trail in Smith Rock State Park as one of their favorite places in Oregon.
Considering their suggestion to do the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyon together in Utah (the kids favorite hike ever) we knew it was a good idea to listen to them.
They were not wrong!
Misery Ridge Trail is spectacular and definitely in my top 5 hikes in the United States.
It was everything I love about a hike: heart pumping, a little challenging with periods of rest, diversity of landscape that just had your jaw dropping, and incredible views!
Smith Rock State Park is about 30 minutes north of Bend and is one trip you don’t want to miss on your Oregon road trip.
The Misery Ridge trail is a 5.5 mile loop trail that begins with a steep climb up to the summit at 3,300 ft. There are switchbacks to make it easier, but it will be quite the exertion.
Take it slow and pause to catch your breath and admire the beautiful views. It will be over in about 20 minutes and from then on the rest of the hike is easy.
You’ll walk along the ridge for awhile before coming back down and completing the walk along the river bank. The views and scenery are just spectacular.
Leave time to stop for awhile at Monkey Face, the huge free-standing pillar and one of the park’s icons. This is one of the most famous rock climbing walls in the country.
You can watch climbers climb up to the monkey’s mouth.
The view from here was one of the most beautiful I have seen in the country. Be sure to spend time soaking it up.
The towering rock spires of Smith Rock State Park have been drawing rock climbers from around the world since the 80’s. You’ll see plenty of them, from the advanced Monkey Face scalers to beginners on the easy rock face walls as you walk back around the river.
Quad Biking the Oregon Sand Dunes, Florence
What family wouldn’t love a thrilling ATV adventure?
Well, hit the sand dunes in Florence and you’ll find miles of undulating dunes waiting for you to zip up and down – take your pick: your own quad bike, or a two or four person side by side.
The Oregon Sand Dunes area is a merging of forest, ocean and desert that stretches south about 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay on the Oregon South Coast.
The undulating dunes will stretch for miles and you could easily get lost amongst the drifts and drop offs. Be sure to be careful when you approach or you may get airborne!!
Kalyra and Craig did the individual quad bikes and Savannah and I did the ATV side by side from Torex ATV Rentals.
We were concerned about Savannah going on her own and not being able to manage the brake. A few weeks before we were bike riding in San Francisco and she had a hand brake for the first time and struggled with it.
As our other friends had quad bikes, Knox (7 years) gave Savannah a little turn on the flats and she handled it really well. So she definitely could have done the quad bike.
This was a wild fun Oregon adventure zipping up and down the dunes. The kids had a blast and is a must on your Oregon Coast road trip.
Crater Lake National Park
We hesitated in taking the day trip from our camping spot in Umpqua National Forest to drive the hour to Crater Lake National Park. Would it really be worth it for just half a day?
Yes. Yes. and more yes!
Crater Lake was worth it even though half of it was closed due to snow still covering the road. In fact, someone was skiing down the steep mountain when we arrived!
It meant we could not complete the full 33 mile loop road, nor do the Cleetwood Cove hike down to the lake (and take a refreshing dip), nor take a ferry ride out to Wizard Island, but that was okay.
We could still marvel at the dramatic volcanic scenery from various viewpoints and be stunned at the deep blue water with shades of turquoise color.
If you want more amazement, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US and one of the most pristine on earth, its purity created by rain and snow filling in the caldera formed during a violent eruption 7,700 years ago.
July or August is the best time to visit Crater Lake when most things will be reopened.
I highly recommend staying a bit longer if you can to do some of the activities mentioned above.
Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful places to see in Oregon and will amaze you.
Goonies Trail, Astoria and Cannon Beach
Talk about Oregon coast attractions. It’s the home of the ultimate adventures – The Goonies.
Goonies lovers, you cannot visit Oregon without experiencing some of that Goonies magic on your Oregon coast drive. And if you are not a Goonies lover, what is wrong with you?
Go and watch that movie right now for the passion and big innocent dreaming that comes with youth.
I’ll never forget the moment when we came upon the Goonies vista – you know the one with the rocks jutting out of the rolling surf.
I flashed back to my childhood seeing that in the movie, and one day hoping that I could live a life that had such adventure, connection, and serve a greater purpose.
And here I was, doing just that in front in the Goonies world. Be a dreamer!
You’ll find this world at Astoria and Cannon Beach which is on the northern Oregon coast where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
Cannon Beach is one of the best places on Oregon Coast. It’s a charming seaside town with small boutique shops and breweries to explore.
And the Goonies magic comes with Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach.
The more dramatic Goonies viewpoint overlooking those sea stack rocks can be found at Ecola Point. A good adventure is to walk from there down to the quiet and stunning Crescent Beach and then onto Cannon Beach.
Astoria then is the town of Goondocks, where the family lived. It is very much like that sleepy fishing village.
You can no longer get close to the Goonies house but you can see it from a few blocks back perched up on the hill.
The Astoria Brewing Company has some cool Goonies merchandise in their special Goonies store.
Put these destinations on your Oregon Coast road trip itinerary.
Koosah & Sahalie Falls Hike, McKenzie River
A short, one way green forested trail meanders beside the pristine turquoise waters of the Mackenzie River taking you to two waterfalls: Koosah and Sahalie Falls.
The waterfall trail hike was my favorite of things to do in Mackenzie River area. Actually, it was possibly one of my favorite things to do in Oregon.
Sahalie Falls is a mass of foaming white water plunging 100 feet (30 m) over a natural lava dam and Koosah Falls drops approximately 70 feet (21 m) into a deep pool.
You will find more parking at Koosah so we began our hike from there.
You can either hike directly by following the river, or there is a larger 3 mile loop walk going through the forest that takes in the two waterfalls.
We didn’t do this one, but I think the direct path along the river would be far prettier. The loop walk does not go beside the river, and that was the real highlight for me.
Lava River Cave, Bend
This was one of the most unexpected and fun Oregon adventures we had.
I didn’t know much about Bend except for the river tubing and breweries. When we arrived we discovered a really cool volcanic landscape and history to explore at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument largest volcano in the Cascade Range.
The Lava River Cave was formed 80,000 years ago with the Newbury Volcano’s eruptions and offers a mile-long lava tube .
It’s Oregon’s longest lava tube. The walk was a fun and unique self-guided hike on uneven ground in the dark.
Be prepared for slippery surfaces and 150 stairs. I nearly fell over loads of times as I had a very dim flashlight. The kids had a blast running ahead in the dark, and trying to spook each other by jumping out.
It’s 42°F degrees year round in here so be sure to wear warm clothes and sturdy closed in shoes. The tube narrows and shortens in some sections so watch your heard.
Don’t forget your bright flashlight. Or you can hire them there.
Go early as the parking lot here is small and gets full quickly.
Drive the Hood River Fruit Loop Trail, Columbia River Gorge
Looking for places to go in Oregon to over-indulge?
Be prepared to sample delicious goods straight from the source including fruit, beer, wine and cider – all with the spectacular backdrop of snow capped Mt Hood and Mt Adams.
Both mountains face off from each other, you’ll get to see at least one of them no matter the direction you drive, and sometimes you’ll find a spot where you can look front and back to see both.
The Hood River Fruit Loop trail is a stunning 35-mile self-guided road trip through the fertile Hood River Valley.
There are nearly 30 small, family owned farms, orchards, cideries and wineries you can stop at along the way.
Many of the orchards offer u-pick opportunities including apples, pears. cherries, peaches, and berries.
Some of our favorite spots on the Hood River Fruit Loop Trail:
- Draper Girls Country Cider Company
- Montavon Berries
- Grateful Vineyards
- Stave and Stone Winery
- The Old Trunk
Tide Pooling near Yachats
I’d never really understood tide pooling until I was peering at rock walls covered with gooey globs of bright greens, purples and orange tessellated between bright orange starfish.
What is this world I have just discovered? Turns out tide pools are one of the top Oregon coast attractions and I wanted to play there all day.
I guess the local tide pools at my Australian home didn’t know how to do it properly as I had no idea this was what you could find.
The kids had a blast discovering this underwater world that throughout the day is mostly covered by 3 feet or more of ocean water.
There was all manner of weird and wobbly shaped creatures of various sizes and vibrant colors.
There are tons of tide pools in that 180-mile stretch of the Oregon coast trip from Florence up to Astoria that you can find and explore.
Time your visit 1-2 hours before low tide so you have plenty of time to see the wonders.
We visited the tide pools near Thor’s Well just outside the small town of of Yachats. There is a 20 mile stretch of rocky basalt ledges near Yachats that brings abundant tide pools to explore.
Bike Ride to Benham Falls, Bend
This bike ride to Benham Falls was one of my favorite things to do in Bend and on our Oregon road trip.
The 5.5 miles (one way) bike path winds through pretty forest to the Deschutes River at the Benham Falls Trailhead.
We knew were were going to be in for a bit of a challenging ride back when the trail began going slightly downhill and pretty much stayed that way for the entire length of the ride. Oops.
Savannah slayed it and she had no gears and was on a small kids bike. I don’t know how she could peddle up those hills singing and chatting away to me.
Once you get to the Benham Falls Trailhead the path follows the river and is beautiful.
Benham Falls is not a plummeting waterfall but rather a series of cascading rapids with forest on either side.
It’s a beautiful sight and well worth the bike ride. You can also drive down to the falls if you don’t want to bike it.
Experience Oregon’s Brewery and Cidery Trail
Loosen your belts. We can’t talk about Oregon destinations and not mention breweries. It’s one of the best states in the country to sample local craft beer and cider.
It’s a bit like Ireland, except it’s a brewery on every corner rather than a pub.
There are over 250 craft breweries in Oregon, many of them operating in a sustainable way and keeping up the state’s reputation for being one of the greenest states in the country.
Don’t drink beer?
Unfortunately, neither do I thanks to a gluten intolerance.
Not to fear, Oregon has plenty of cider options for you and a couple of gluten free beers can be found here and there.
I was overly impressed with the cider world in Oregon. Usually my choices are limited and not-appreciated. And now I have left I am quite sad to be left drinking mostly just chardonnay due to pretty awful cider choices.
I felt like I had a different cider and flavor in Oregon to enjoy every day. From rhubarb, to marionberry, loganberry to cucumber and gin, this place offers innovative ciders.
You will also find innovative brew flavors using local ingredients.
Many of the regions and towns will have brewery trails, helping you to win prizes by collecting as many local brew stickers as you can.
I told you to loosen those belts!
- The Bend Ale Trail includes 23 high-desert breweries
- North Coast Craft Beer Trail includes 12 breweries between Astoria and Pacific City.
- Mt Hood Territory Tap Trail takes in 16 ciderie’s and beer crafter’s.
Wine lovers will also enjoy Willamette Valley. We didn’t get to experience much here. Just a couple of nights in Harvest Hosts. I’d like to return and do some more wine tasting.
Some of our favorite breweries:
- Yachats Brewing – best all round brewery for beers, cider, cozy raw atmosphere, and farm to table food.
- Thunder Island Brewing – the strange Rhubarb cider for the win here. Trivia night was also fun. You’re right on the picturesque Columbia River.
- Crux Fermentation Project – huge outside beer garden and family friendly
- Avid Cider – loved their Dragonfruit Cider
- Portland Cider Company – a wide range of ciders to try. Don’t look past the cherry one!
- Bend Brewing Company – you can’t beat this location on the river
- Draper Girls Cider – do not miss the peach cider, perfect for a hot summers afternoon. Took home a growler!
Oregon Road Trip Highlights Map
You’ll find the 13 adventures we mentioned in this Oregon road trip on the below map.
Click the top left icon to explore the different layers. We have more in-depth maps on:
Plan Your Oregon Road Trip with our Bucket List
This is just a sampling of the incredible adventures waiting for you on your Oregon trip. We were disappointed we did not get to explore more of the hot springs in Eastern Oregon and, especially, the Painted Hills
We hope you can also experience some of these best places to visit on the Oregon coast.
Stay tuned as we share more of our travel tips adventures in the Pacific Northwest.
Booking Your Oregon Trip
Hotels in Oregon
For booking Oregon hotels and all types of accommodation for all budgets, check out the options through our hotel partner, Booking.com.
We find that Booking.com have the widest range of properties. You get free cancellation on most rooms, a best price guarantee, and they have verified reviews from guests who have actually stayed at the property!
If you fancy a home and living like a local, or have a large family or traveling with a group of friends, consider Airbnb. They can be a better option than booking several hotel rooms.
RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Not having travel insurance on any trip is not worth the risk. Anything can, will, and sometimes goes wrong.
What happens if:
- You need to cancel your trip unexpectedly
- You get sick or injured on your trip
- There is a natural disaster
- You lose important documents
Travel insurance is designed to cover unexpected medical emergencies and events such as trip cancellation, your personal effects, and other related losses incurred while traveling.
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