With 98,000 square miles to explore, and a diverse set of geographical areas, you’ll need an Oregon travel guide to help you find the best places when visiting Oregon. So, if you’re an adventurer at heart, love to enjoy museums and history, or just want to explore, come take a journey with us on all of the things Oregon has to offer.
Temperate Rainforests, Volcanic Rock, Deserts, and Forest Land- Hiking Oregon
One of the most popular things to do in Oregon is to grab your gear and head out on a hike. Oregon boasts 195 state parks and 5 National parks. Whether you are an advanced hiker, or just want to take a leisurely stroll, Oregon has something for you with hikes that range from easy to difficult.
For Hikes that promote Oregon’s fairy tale reputation of misty, mossy, tree-filled landscapes, try Drift Creek Falls or Beazell Forest. If you want something a little more unique, our Oregon travel guide has plenty of hikes that take you through more diverse regions as well.
For a true adventure when visiting Oregon, try the Columbia River Gorge. A drive down the Historic Columbia River Highway leads to multiple water fall hikes, include the trek to Upper Horsetail Falls.
John Day Fossil Beds national park is a prominent feature in most Oregon travel guides for its vibrant colored hills and geological history. The two main areas of the park contain hiking trails that weave through plant and animal evolution, depicting climate changes that occurred over 40 million years ago.
Oregon’s hikes offer more than just environmental views. Many state and national parks are grounded in Oregon history. Fort Stevens in Astoria is a Civil War and WWII fort that defended the Columbia River against oncoming enemies. The state park features hiking along the coastline with views into the abandoned fort. Most buildings are open for exploration, and a small museum provides greater insight into the history of the establishment. Most State and National Parks are free to visit but some do ask for a small parking fee. They have restrooms, well maintained bridges and trails, and clear trail maps. Making a road trip of state and national parks is a great way to travel around Oregon.
Portland, Oregon: The Obvious Oregon Travel Guide Entry
No Oregon travel guide would be complete without touching on Portland. In fact, when other travelers talk about visiting Oregon, most spout out “You have to go to Portland!” Portland is Oregon’s most populated city and one of the most popular places to visit. Odds are, if you are flying into Oregon, this is where you will land.
With a motto of “Keep Portland Weird,” the city offers many out-of-the-box ideas on things to do. (If you do visit Portland, be sure to pose under the large sign that visually screams the motto). For example, you can see the World’s Smallest Park, a 452 square inch spit of land holding the world record for most miniature park. Or try the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium, a Halloween-feeling museum for all things weird and peculiar.
Oregon Travel Guide to Museums: From Historical to Just for Fun
The word “museum” tends to bring about memories of pure boredom during school field trips, but Oregon brings its own flair. In our endless pursuit of finding things to do in Oregon, we have experienced quite a few of the more unique and exciting Oregon specimens.
Our favorite museum on our Oregon travel guide, Antique Powerland Museum, is perfect for the antique machinery lover. It contains over 15 different museums for vintage cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and such. For a quirkier experience, the Living Rock Museum is handmade entirely from stone and includes endless examples of stone materials. The highlight of the museum are the works of art, carefully crafted from thin layers of volcanic rock.
Museum experiences that are great for kids include either the Salem Carousel or Albany Historic Carousel Museum. Both museums walk you through the process of creating menagerie animals (what carousel animals are called) all from hand. And to top it off, you can ride the actual carousels all built by volunteers!
If you’re looking for some more historical things to do In Oregon, try the Tillamook Air Museum. Most people aren’t even aware there was a blimp air force base stationed right off the coast of Oregon. Here you can learn about Oregon’s role in WWII. If aviation is your forte, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum has the largest collection of airplanes in Oregon. Located in McMinnville, the large glass front buildings show off the diverse collection, with a focus on the crown jewel.
The infamous “Spruce Goose” takes up practically the entire length and width of the main building of the museum. Being made entirely of wood due to wartime metal restrictions, the Spruce Goose or Flying Boat only made one flight. Oregon’s museums are one of a kind, educational, and should definitely not be overlooked in any Oregon travel guide!
Travel Around Oregon’s Waterways
The obvious ones for our Oregon travel guide would be the Columbia River and the coastline. If you have not seen the Pacific coast before, it is unlike any other. Driving Oregon’s coastline along highway 101 is a great way to sightsee and get to know the little towns along the way. You’ll travel from sandy beaches and dunes, to jagged rock outcroppings high above the water, to forested land adjacent to the crashing waves.
If you want to get a more hands-on experience with Oregon’s coast, deep sea fishing, crabbing, and clamming will put you in the thick of it. Each bay has a few fishing charters to pilot you safely into the action. Depoe Bay’s Tradewinds Charter or Brookings Fishing Charters in Brookings are both great options.
If you get seasick but still want to experience the thrill of the catch, you can try crabbing from a dock or digging clams up during low tides. Most local fishing and tackle places will rent out all the crabbing and clamming supplies you need.
Heading inland, Oregon offers many freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams to explore. For a relaxing day, grab your boat and family and head to Foster lake for swimming, boating, tubing or just floating about. Here you can camp, picnic, or swim from the shore if you don’t have access to a boat.
If you’re looking to combine hiking and the lake experience, Crater Lake is a must-do to any Oregon travel guide. Besides the fact that Crater Lake is gorgeous, with its crystal blue water and ridge top views, it is a great place to swim! Crater Lake does feature a moderate hike down to the lake, with a difficult climb back up the steep switchbacks. Once down at the bottom, the water is clear, cool, and very refreshing, although the shoreline can get a little crowded in the summer. Working our way through bodies of water, we move onto
Oregon’s roughly 110,994 miles of river. Rivers in Oregon tend to wind their way through dense and scenic forest while giving unique views of the wildlife that call Oregon home. Fishing on Oregon’s rivers is almost a right of passage. In the winter there are steelhead to be caught, and spring and fall bring salmon and trout.
The rivers are used for more than just fishing. People in Oregon love to float the rivers. You just need a tube and some friends and you could spend hours drifting down the river. For waters that are too turbulent to float, kayaking and white water rafting are a fun option.
Rafting part of the 26-mile McKenzie river is one of the most thrilling ways to experience the Willamette National Forest in central Oregon. By signing up with one of the many outfitters, you can navigate the class II and III rapids under the direction of an experienced guide. Other outfitters direct tours down the Rogue River. For something a little safer, but offering just as much adrenaline-pumping fun, we highly recommend the Rogue River jetboat tours.
Oregon Travel Guide to Caves and Geological Secrets
Oregon’s diverse landscapes are home to hidden caves and geological formations. Then again, some of the caves are not so secret.
For example, most people have heard of the simply-named “The Oregon Caves.” Part of this massive underground marble cavern was discovered in 1874 and has been drawing visitors ever since. The cave used to be quite dangerous to explore, but pathways and stairs have been added to make touring easier and safer. Oregon Caves is part of the National Park system which offers a variety of guided tours. Oregon has many lesser known caves as well. Most are off-the-beaten track and take a little bit of effort to find, but can be well
worth the excursion.
Derrick Cave, an estimated 1,200 foot long lava tube, lies deep in the heart of the Devil’s Garden volcanic field just outside of the Deschutes National Forest. The nearest road is rough, so if you venture out, plan on taking a four-wheel drive vehicle. While exploring the ¼-mile stretch of Derrick cave, it’s also important to have the proper supplies. A flashlight is essential as the tube is 30 feet high, putting you deep beneath the sunlight. It’s also cool underground, so prepare for cooler temperatures and bring a jacket.
The Water Falls all over Oregon
Oregon could easily be described as the land of waterfalls. In just about any area of the state, you can find tumbling falls, from the famed Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River to the more secreted and spirited Alsea Falls in the Willamette River valley.
Tokatee Falls plunges 120 feet over a two-tiered drop through volcanic basalt. The .4 mile hike to the falls offers many prime views of the North Umpqua River and is a great side-trip when visiting Crater Lake.
McDowell Creek falls is a bit of a local secret. Hidden not far from Salem, Oregon, this tucked-away wonder features 3 miles of trails through a verdant green forest. Beautiful boardwalks enhance the hike, allowing featured viewing of the falls without damaging delicate landscapes.
Oregon Travel Guide to Ghosts and Lost Places
Ghost towns abound across Oregon. Some, Shaniko in the Oregon desert, share a bit of fame and popularity. These are the ones where buildings are most likely to be standing. Others are more run down and leave you only a hint of the history that took place, but be assured, you’ll be certain to feel the spirits of those who were left behind.
The Golden State Heritage Park, in southern Oregon, was established to help ensure that what remains of the 19th century mining town of Golden is held for generations to come. This town once housed 100 people above the nearby mine. Today, you can find a well preserved school house and a post office as well as other buildings and foundations.
Moving north, just outside of Cottage Grove in the high Umpquas, you’ll find what is left of Bohemia Mine. Mainly, that’s a singular building and tall pile of mine tailings with a lonely rusting cart track still in place, but the views here are incredible and well worth the sometimes hair raising drive to the summit.
Pick Your Oregon Travel Guide Experience
Oregon is as diverse and wonderful as it is weird and quirky. Take some time to get out and explore its varied landscape and activities.
Seconds to Go has you covered with a continuously updated collection of trips to always keep you on the go.