Welcome to this in-depth article on with the best things to do in Oregon! This state on the west coast of America is still relatively unknown and that is a shame, because it’s filled with awesome sights and beautiful nature. Think of bustling Portland, Crater Lake National Park and the famous Oregon Coast where rugged coastlines and endless sandy beaches dominate the landscape.
After years of dreaming about a roadtrip in Oregon, a few years ago I made a two-week trip through the American Pacific Northwest. I had been to the more touristy part of the United States before (Yellowstone, Utah, Grand Canyon) and had heard from locals that I “really had to go to Crater Lake because I would really love it”. And so it happened. I booked a plane ticket to Seattle, picked up my rental car, and went on vacation to Oregon and Washington State.
I’ll start this article with the top Oregon attractions. Then I’ll share my route suggestion for your Oregon trip and finally I give you my general tips for travel in the United States for non-Americans. Have fun reading and inspiring!
Things to do in Portland
Although Portland is not exactly small by Dutch standards (the number of inhabitants is over half a million), it’s by American standards. The high-rise buildings that you find in other cities on the west coast of America (Los Angeles, Seattle for example) are missing here and that makes it a bit cozier. One day in the city is enough to give you a good impression of Portland and its sights.
One of the best things to do in Portland are the Pine Street Market, the Rose Garden (with a view of Mount Hood), the Street Art with “Keep Portland Weird” and of course the various food trucks. As I was in Portland on a Sunday, many of these food trucks were unfortunately closed. If you are going to Portland especially for these, I highly recommend that you plan your road trip in Oregon in such a way that you are not in Portland on Sundays.
Where to stay: The Society Hotel
Mount Hood is a 3.429 meter high stratovolcano located a short drive from Portland. In the summer it is a popular area for hiking and other outdoor activities, in the winter there is skiing on the flanks of this volcano. You can visit Mount Hood for a day from Portland or go there for a longer period of time. I spent 24 hours there and went on several beautiful hikes, including one on the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which passes close to Mount Hood.
It is also nice to have take a seat at the terrace at the Timberline Lodge. This historic lodge has become famous for being used for the movie The Shining. Confusing, because the hotel as it is called in the movie is The Stanley Hotel which is in fact located in Estes Park in Colorado. I also vitisted that one, but I found it a huge disappointment to be honest.
Would you like to read more about Mount Hood? Then check out this article about 24 hours in Mount Hood and the surrounding area.
Where to stay: Cooper Spur Mountain Resort
Crater Lake National Park
The highlight of my Oregon trip was my visit to Crater Lake National Park. Ever since I saw the first photos of this special natural phenomenon, I knew I wanted to go to Crater Lake one day. And so it happened. It even made me so emotional when I arrived that tears came to my eyes when I first saw the bright blue Crater Lake.
Crater Lake National Park is about a five-hour drive south of Portland and due to its elevation, you can only visit snow-free for a few months of the year. Even during my visit at the end of July, there was still snow in many places and several hiking trails were still closed. So August is definitely a better option!
For Crater Lake National Park, 24 hours is also sufficient to get a good impression of the park. I visited the Rim, hiked to the highest point in the park (Mount Scott) and visited The Pinnacles. You can find all my tips for your visit to Crater Lake here.
Where to stay: Crater Lake Resort
Be sure to check out the video I made about my visit to Crater Lake National Park:
Columbia River Gorge
Also worth a visit is the Columbia River Gorge. This wide river valley is the natural border between Oregon and Washington. You can cross it over the famous “Bridge of the Gods” at Cascade Locks, the point where Reese Witherspoon ends her adventure in the movie Wild.
The Columbia River Gorge is particularly known for its beautiful waterfalls and is a popular place for Americans to celebrate their holidays. This ensures that most waterfalls are peak pressure in the summer and that sometimes you cannot even park at the waterfall of your place. In the Columbia River Gorge there are no less than 18 waterfalls that you can visit, of which Mulnomah Falls are the most famous. By the way, I did not visit this one myself because of extreme crowds. Instead I went to some smaller waterfalls.
You can visit the Columbia River Gorge for a day from Portland by rental car. Please note that there have been serious fires in the Columbia River Gorge in 2019 and that nature is still recovering from this. As a result, it may not be possible to visit all tourist spots or they may look different than the internet suggests. Nature is still in the recovery phase here.
The Pacific Coast
The Oregon Coast is one of the major things to do in Oregon. The rugged coastline is ideal for a day or two. Special places include Cape Meares and Cannon Beach. You can get a breath of fresh air on the beach, gather driftwood or enjoy a campfire. Keep in mind that there is often no last minute availability on the Oregon Coast. I spent half a day looking for affordable accommodation (not found) – even all the campsites were full. In the end I spent the night in my car on the border of Oregon and Washington, not really recommended. Book in advance!Boek your accommodation on the Oregon coast in well in advance!
Het dry interior
While the coastline is predominantly moist and green, the Oregon interior is relatively dry. I discovered this while driving north from Crater Lake and driving through arid landscapes. I camped with a beautiful view of the Oregon and Washington volcanoes in Redmond, in the middle of the desert. A beautiful sunset made it a complete desert experience.
Where to stay: KOA Culver Redmond
Oregon road trip in 9 of 10 days
Most travelers spend about a week to a week and a half in Oregon. I have therefore compiled the following itinerary for you:
Day 1. Arrival in Portland
Day 2. Free day in Portland
Day 3. Visit the Columbia River Gorge by rental car
Day 4. Drive along the Oregon Coast
Day 5. Drive to Crater Lake National Park
Day 6. Free day Crater Lake National Park
Day 7. Drive to Mount Hood via Redmond
Day 8. Free day at Mount Hood, return to Portland at the end of the day
Day 9. Return rental car or departure to Washington
If you want to continue to Washington State with highlights such as Seattle, Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, check the 14-day Pacific Northwest itinerary that I made for a tour of both states.
General tips for your Oregon journey
– Do not forget to activate your credit card and bring your pin code. In America you can hardly pay with a debit card and almost everything is done by credit card. Tip: change the pin code at an ATM in your home country to the pin code that you also use with your bank card, then you will not be able to forget it!
– Although I really enjoyed my tour of Oregon, I found it very busy in most places and sometimes had to search a long time until I found an available place to stay. Therefore, book your overnight spots during the high season (June to August)!
Conclusion and disclaimer
I hope you found this article about things to see in Oregon trip helpful. If you have any questions and / or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments. This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase or make a reservation via such a link, I may receive a modest commission at no extra cost!