Portland, Oregon is an amazing city, with no shortage of things to do between its beautiful gardens, plentiful breweries and so much more. In the six months since I moved here, I’ve never been bored! But there’s also so much to see just a stone’s throw away, and visitors to the region would be remiss not to check out at least a little bit of the surrounding area.
Below, I’ve rounded up the details on the best day trips you can do from the city if you’re visiting or in the market for a quick getaway!
BEST DAY TRIPS FROM PORTLAND, OREGON
Portland really has it all when it comes to proximity to various topographies. In just a few hours, you can get to mountains, the ocean, wine regions, river gorges, waterfalls and other urban areas. Read on for my top picks of places to go!
17 DAY TRIPS TO TAKE FROM PORTLAND, OREGON
World-class wine country begins less than an hour outside Portland’s city limits in the Willamette Valley. Countless wineries dot the region, which is famous for its pinot noir.
Don’t like wine? The trip is well worth it for the views alone. Vineyards atop rolling hills with pine trees in the background make for a truly stunning setting.
To see the area, join a tour that’ll take you from Portland to a few different wineries throughout the day, or drive yourself—but make sure to designate a driver for the way home!
THE OREGON COAST
The Oregon coast stretches the entire length of the state, and you could spend days checking out its many beach towns, each with its own character. While the water is generally too cold for swimming, you’ll find plenty of places to surf and do other water sports.
The city of Astoria often gets lumped in with the coast—and you should fit it into your coastal excursion if you have the time—but it actually sits not on the Pacific Ocean but on the Columbia River. Main attractions include the the Astoria Column, a hilltop monument that depicts local history, and the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Cannon Beach, while part of the Oregon coast, gets its own shout-out thanks to the plethora of things to do there. It’s home to some dramatic scenery and rock formations, including the towering and iconic Haystack Rock.
One of the best views you’ll find here—or anywhere, really—is at Ecola State Park, which is just a few minutes’ drive away from the beach itself. Right from the parking lot, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous, sweeping panorama.
Next, make your way to Cannon Beach itself where you can take a long walk, admire the coastline and ocean views, if the tide is low, spot a multitude of crabs and other critters swimming around in thousands of tide pools.
After leaving the beach, stroll the quaint streets of the town and pop into Bill’s Tavern and Brew House for lunch and a craft beer and Suzy’s Scoops for ice cream. Fill up at one of Cannon Beach’s candy and fudge stores before hitting the road to go home.
On clear days, you can see Mt. Hood from Portland, but getting up close to it is a special experience. The mountain stands 11,250 feet tall and is covered by 11 glaciers, making it home to the only year-round ski resort in North America. It’s also home to Timberline Lodge, originally a Works Project Administration building, where you can eat, drink, admire the view or sit by a fire before or after hiking, skiing or snowboarding.
There’s also tons to see and do in the surrounding area, including lakes, endless fruit farms and wildflowers in the summer. For an easy-ish hike with an excellent view of Mt. Hood, try the Tom Dick and Harry Mountain Trail.
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
Just minutes from Portland, I-84 will take you through the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Here, mountains flank the river, which marks the border between Oregon and Washington. The canyon stretches for more than 80 miles and gets up to 4,000 feet deep!
Make sure to stop to see the waterfalls in the area, the most famous of which is Multnomah Falls. More than 2 million visitors stop by each year to see water from underground springs cascade down the mountain and below the footbridge.
The gorge is also a great place to go hiking, with tons of available trails of every length and difficulty. Angel’s Rest is a popular moderate-level hike with great views.
You may not have heard of this small city on the Columbia River, but those into wind sports almost certainly have. Hood River, population 7,686, holds the title of windsurfing capital of the world, and it’s gunning for the kiteboarding title, too. Consistent wind also makes Hood River a great place to go sailing.
And just because you’re leaving Portland for the day doesn’t mean you have to leave all the breweries behind. In this department, Hood River packs a big punch for its small size; 13 breweries dot the gorge, and you can sample some of them—including Full Sail and Double Mountain—in Hood River proper.
If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, this is the place to go. Bend’s proximity to the Mt. Bachelor slopes, the Deschutes River and the Pilot Butte cinder cone make it a great destination for skiing, hiking, mountain biking, water sports and even adrenaline activities such as bungee jumping.
Of course, you don’t have to be athletic to enjoy the diversity of landscapes and activities that Bend has to offer. Get out and explore its volcanic history, pick a spot or two on the Bend Ale Trail or wander the city’s historic downtown.
Eugene is best known as a college town thanks to the University of Oregon, but it’s got a lot more going for it than the university alone. You can enjoy its restaurants, museums, concerts, public art and more on a day trip to the city. And if you’re not feeling city culture, remember, you’re still in Oregon—meaning a plethora of outdoors activities awaits close by.
Eugene, the birthplace of Nike, is also known as the running capital of the world, so if you’re a runner, you’ll definitely want to lace up your shoes and get outside while in town. You might just cross paths with some Olympic-calibur athletes!
MT. ST. HELENS
Mt. Hood isn’t the only major mountain in striking distance from Portland. Mt. St. Helens, though in Washington, can be reached in less than 1.5 hours, and it’s well worth the trip. Learn about its historic and devastating 1980 eruption and how it forever changed the landscape around it, check out the longest lava tube in the western hemisphere in Ape Cave, and look into the crater at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
The area also boasts beautiful lakes, hiking trails and wildflowers in the summer if you’re more into the views than the area’s volcanic history!
Sauvie Island is the largest island along the Columbia River and lies just lies 10 miles—about half an hour—from Portland’s downtown. It’s a hub for hikers, bikers, fishers and beachgoers, as well as birdwatchers eager to scout sandhill cranes, bald eagles, blue herons or migrating geese.
Whichever activity you pick, you’ll feel a world away from the city on Sauvie Island despite your short trek from town.
BAGBY HOT SPRINGS
Oregon has lots of natural hot springs, and if you’d like to check them out, Bagby Hot Springs is a great place to get started. The baths, located in the middle of a forested area, are accessible by trail only, so you have to hike to them. Once you get there, you’ll a variety of tubs across three bathhouses, from single-person tubs hand-hewn from logs to larger tubs for multiple people.
The drive out is a nice one, too: It’ll take you along the Clackamas River and through Mt. Hood National Forest.
The Bagby Hot Springs site, maintained by the USDA Forest Service, is open for 24-hour use, but you may run into waits during summer weekends. Plan accordingly!
WOODEN SHOE TULIP FARM
After the ground thaws each year, tulips come up to carpet this farm in Woodburn, Oregon as far as the eye can see. Countless colors and patterns of tulip make this Dutch-inspired landscape a great local alternative to the faraway Keukenhof Gardens!
Wooden Shoe’s annual Tulip Festival includes food vendors, activities, rides and games for kids, so you can easily make a day of your visit. But be warned that the single road leading to the farm can get extremely backed up on weekends and sunny days—you can spend as long waiting to enter as you do on the drive from Portland to Woodburn itself!
If you have time, you can combine a visit to Mt. Hood with nearby Trillium Lake, but if you don’t, rest assured that the lake is worth visiting all on its own. Besides providing spectacular views of its mountain neighbor, the 63-acre lake also features a campground and opportunities for boating, swimming and fishing.
Don’t feel like getting in the water? Take the Trillium Shoreline Trail around the lake, or hike and bike one of the other plentiful trails in the vicinity.
One day in Seattle isn’t a lot, considering the wealth of things to do, see and eat there. But if you’re set on heading up to the Emerald City for a short visit, you can definitely pull it off in a day. Without traffic, the drive can take less than three hours, although you’ll have to plan accordingly to make sure you’re in and out at the right times!
My favorite sights include Chihuly Garden and Glass and Kerry Park, which features an amazing view of the city skyline and, on a clear day, Mt. Rainier. Also on my must-do list: Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. For more of my Seattle picks, check out this post!
SMITH ROCK STATE PARK
Lovers of rock climbing, rejoice. This 650-acre park features sheer rock faces that are ideal for all types of climbing and bouldering, and there are several thousand climbs to do within the park.
Not into rock climbing? I feel you! The park is also home to plenty of of hiking and mountain biking trails, and those into wildlife can enjoy spotting golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otter and beaver. With its river canyons, the park also affords a wealth of scenic views for photography buffs.
Cheese fans, this one’s for you. Tillamook is the namesake of Oregon’s iconic cheddar-maker, and the company has a creamery located there, too. There, you can tour a farm exhibit, watch cheese being made (and more importantly, sample it), and visit the dining hall. The menu predictably centers on dairy, featuring options like artisanal pizzas and macaroni—along with 32 flavors of Tillamook ice cream.
You can Tillamook in about 1.5 hours from Portland, and the creamery is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
SILVER FALLS STATE PARK
According to the Silver Falls State Park page on the Oregon State Parks website, this park is the “crown jewel” of the park’s entire system. For starters, it features the 177-foot South Falls, which you can walk behind—and that’s just part of the Trail of Ten Falls, a hiking trail that’ll take you through a forest along a canyon.
If that’s not enough for you, the park includes more than 35 miles of backcountry trails for mountain biking, hiking or even horseback riding. Keep your eyes peeled for bear and cougars!
BEST DAY TRIPS FOR SUMMER VS. WINTER
In winter, your options for day-tripping may be limited by accessibility in snowy areas. While a hot springs dip might sound nice on a cold day, for instance, Bagby Hot Springs strongly discourages visitors from attempting to drive or hike in once snow hits the area, as it doesn’t maintain the roads or trails and the area has no cell phone service. Driving to Bend from Portland, for another example, requires passing a mountain pass, which can also prove treacherous in bad conditions and require chains for cars without four-wheel drive.
Instead, in the winter, stick to areas meant for winter recreation—such as Mount Hood—or opt for easy-to-reach destinations such as Seattle, which connects to Portland via I-5.
In the summer, your list of choices opens up. While Portland’s summers aren’t usually too hot, if you find yourself seeking refuge on a warmer day, Sauvie Island and Trillium Lake provide great options for swimming. You also can’t go wrong with any of the myriad options for hiking, biking and other outdoor recreation that you have in the region. And wine is always a good idea!
Hope this list of the best day trips in Portland, Oregon gets you inspired to explore the area! Have you done any day trips from Portland? Where did you go? Let me know in the comments! >>
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