Best Places to See in Oregon

Best Places to See in Oregon

Best Places to See in Oregon

Oregon is a state that boasts breathtaking rugged coastal views, towering forests, roaring waterfalls, and diverse outdoor adventures that will leave you in awe. Being the ninth largest U.S. state, Oregon has an abundance of sights to explore, offering a plethora of natural beauty that will captivate your senses and leave you yearning for more. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adventure seeker, Oregon has something for everyone. Here are the best places to see in oregon that you must see when visiting this Pacific Northwest gem, where you will be immersed in the beauty of the great outdoors.

What is the most beautiful part of Oregon

1. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park protects the stunning Crater Lake, formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama collapsed following a volcanic eruption. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the world’s most apparent bodies of water.

With its brilliant blue water and panoramic views, Crater Lake is undoubtedly one of Oregon’s top attractions. Stop at one of the many overlooks to take in the breathtaking scenery. Go for a boat tour or rent equipment to swim, fish, or scuba dive in the pristine water. Hike along the steep caldera rim or up Mount Scott for incredible vistas. With so much natural beauty, it’s no wonder Crater Lake tops many travelers’ Oregon bucket lists.

2. Columbia River Gorge

Carved out by the mighty Columbia River, the Columbia River Gorge runs over 80 miles along the Oregon-Washington border. Sheer basalt cliffs, evergreen forests, and numerous waterfalls make this national scenic area a can’t-miss Oregon highlight.

For one of the best Gorge views, head to Crown Point Vista House. Built-in 1918, this historic landmark perches on a 725-foot tall cliff, offering panoramic vistas of the surrounding Gorge landscape. Hike up to majestic Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall at 620 feet. Go windsurfing or kiteboarding along the sandy shores of the Columbia. With outdoor adventures, historic structures, and constantly changing scenery, the Columbia River Gorge encapsulates the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

3. Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds

The Painted Hills Unit near Mitchell, Oregon, dazzles visitors with colorful, banded hills resembling a painted rainbow. These sedimentary layers come from different geological periods, creating red, black, yellow, and brown stripes across the rolling hills.

Take the short Painted Hills Overlook Trail for the best views or hike the longer Painted Cove Trail. Late afternoon is the ideal time to visit when the low sunlight makes the colors pop. Don’t miss the Leaf Fossil Trail to see ancient history up close in the fossilized remains of old plants and trees. Spanning over 40 million years, the Painted Hills give you a window into Oregon’s fascinating ecological past.

4. Cannon Beach & Haystack Rock

Cannon Beach ranks as one of Oregon’s most scenic ocean spots, with miles of sandy shoreline and striking coastal rock formations. Haystack Rock towers are 235 feet above the beach and are home to tidal pools, nesting seabirds, and fascinating marine life.

Stroll along the beach at low tide to find sea stars, anemones, crabs, and other intertidal creatures in the pools around Haystack Rock. Admire the monolith up close or at a scenic distance along the boardwalk and downtown area. Grab lunch at one of Cannon Beach’s cozy cafes before perusing the art galleries, bookstores, and boutiques. With a laidback vibe and gorgeous natural setting, Cannon Beach encapsulates the beauty of the Oregon Coast.

5. Smith Rock State Park

Offering some of the best rock climbing in the country, Smith Rock State Park is a must-visit for outdoor thrill seekers. Located just outside Redmond, this park contains sheer cliffs, pinnacles, and narrow canyons formed by the Crooked River cutting through volcanic rock.

Test your skills on over 1,000 established climbing routes up the towering rock faces. Hike the Misery Ridge Trail for outstanding canyon views that make the vertigo-inducing path worth it. Explore the river on inflatable kayaks for a cool dip during warm weather. With opportunities for climbers of all levels plus gorgeous scenery, Smith Rock allows you to channel your inner spider monkey.

6. Oregon Coast

Stretching over 360 miles from north to south, Oregon’s scenic coastline boasts many state parks, beaches, coastal towns, lighthouses, and viewpoints. Drive the entire length of U.S. Route 101, visiting sites like Sea Lion Caves, Thor’s Well, Heceta Head Lighthouse, and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Don’t miss the quaint, artsy towns of Cannon Beach, Manzanita, and Yachats. Hike along coastal forest trails or stroll the sandy beaches. Go tide pooling to find anemones, sea stars, and other marine life. Watch whales migrate offshore during spring and fall. With its diversity of ecosystems and nonstop natural beauty, the Oregon Coast is a must on any Oregon road trip itinerary.

7. Willamette Valley Wine Region

Oregon is known for its stellar Pinot Noirs and 200+ wineries dot the Willamette Valley south of Portland. Follow scenic routes like the Heart of Willamette Wineries Trail past rolling vineyards and small towns like Dundee and Carlton.

Stop for tastings at wineries like Domaine Drouhin to sample Pinot Noirs directly from their source. Time your summer or early fall visit to combine wine tasting with seasonal fruit picking at surrounding orchards and farms. Relax at winery estates or browse charming wine country towns in between samplings. The Willamette Valley is an oenophile’s dream destination with its laidback vibe and world-class wines.

8. Mount Hood

Visible on the horizon from Portland, Mount Hood stands as Oregon’s tallest peak and a year-round outdoor playground. Ski and snowboard at Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline Lodge, or other resorts during winter, when over 400 inches of snow blankets the mountain.

Come summer, hike over 60 miles of trails traversing waterfalls, old-growth forests, and alpine meadows. Climb the iconic snowy summit or lift for views of five Cascade volcanoes. Mountain bike down flowing single-track trails on the mountain’s flanks. With glacier-capped beauty and endless recreation, Mount Hood makes an easily accessible adventure getaway from Portland.

9. Oregon Coast Aquarium

On the coast in Newport, the Oregon Coast Aquarium lets you encounter the marine life of the Pacific Northwest up close. Get eye-to-eye with seabirds in the aviary, touch living corals and sea stars in the Tidepool exhibit, and watch seals and sea otters play in underwater viewing areas.

The aquarium’s showstopper is the two-story Passages of the Deep tunnel, where sharks, rays, and massive fish swim overhead as you walk through a submarine-like hall surrounded by acrylic. With fun interactive exhibits and tanks showcasing creatures from colorful nudibranchs to mesmerizing jellyfish, the aquarium takes you on an underwater adventure along the Oregon shoreline.

10. Portland

Oregon’s largest city, Portland, lies between the Willamette and Columbia Rivers at the northern end of the Willamette Valley. Quirky and progressive, Portland is known for its coffee fanaticism, craft breweries, food trucks, and stunning riverside setting against Mount Hood.

Wander through downtown Waterfront Park, stop to smell the roses at the International Rose Test Garden, explore trendy urban neighborhoods, and sample your way through breweries and cafes. Visit the lantern-lit Portland Japanese Garden, ride the Portland Aerial Tram up to OHSU, or browse the art and natural history exhibits at the Portland Art Museum. Don’t miss bookstore-lined Powell’s City of Books and the lively Saturday Market along the riverfront. Portland encapsulates the Oregon vibe with its walkable size, flourishing local culture, and proximity to nature.

What part of Oregon should I visit?

11. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Stretching over 50 miles along the Oregon Coast, the Oregon Dunes form North America’s largest expanse of coastal sand dunes. These towering mounds up to 500 feet tall create a striking sandy landscape perfect for outdoor adventuring.

Bring your own ORV or rent a dune buggy to cruise over the endless dunes. Hike up sandy ridges and roll down the slopes for a workout with ocean views. Go horseback riding along coastal trails, or try sandboarding down the dunes. With its ever-changing terrain and fun factor, the Oregon Dunes lets you play in a giant sandbox by the sea.

12. Wallowa Mountains

The Wallowa Mountains offer a paradise of alpine peaks, glacial lakes, and wilderness adventures in Oregon’s remote northeast corner. Hike through tranquil Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge, or summit the multi-day Eagle Cap Wilderness loop traversing ice-cold streams and rugged granite peaks.

Visit the historic timber towns of Joseph and Enterprise or ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway for stunning mountain panoramas. With over 500,000 acres of designated wilderness and very few tourists, the Wallowas provide the perfect opportunity to escape into Oregon’s wild frontier.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Oregon?

Oregon offers plenty of year-round appeals, but the prime visiting months are May through October when the weather is driest and warmest. Summer brings fewer crowds and longer days, while September and October showcase fall foliage.

What is the most scenic drive in Oregon?

The entire 363-mile Oregon Coast drive along Highway 101 is gorgeously scenic. For inland beauty, the Columbia River Scenic Byway traces the Columbia River Gorge with waterfalls, mountain views, and hiking trails.

Where should I stay on an Oregon trip?

Popular places to stay include Portland, Bend, Hood River, Cannon Beach, Newport, and Ashland. Choose based on your interests, whether wine tasting, beaches, mountains, or city exploration.

How many days do I need for an Oregon trip?

At least 5-7 days allow you to hit highlights like Crater Lake, the Coast, Willamette Valley, and Portland. With 10-14 days, you can easily cover all corners of the state.

What is there to do in Oregon besides visiting Portland?

Oregon offers tons beyond just Portland. Highlights include the rugged Coastline, Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, Mount Hood and the Cascades, Willamette Valley wine country, Hell’s Canyon, the Wallowas, and outdoor adventure towns like Bend.


From its wild coastline and mountain peaks to gushing waterfalls and vibrant city scenes, Oregon encapsulates the diversity and beauty of the Pacific Northwest. With jaw-dropping natural attractions like Crater Lake and the Columbia River Gorge, plus top destinations like Cannon Beach, Mount Hood, and the Willamette Valley wine region, Oregon promises memorable adventures and gorgeous scenery around every Bend. Whether hiking, wine tasting, wildlife watching, or exploring artsy towns, Oregon’s scenic backdrops create the perfect playground for outdoor activities and road-tripping. With so many incredible places to experience, Oregon should be on every nature and adventure lover’s bucket list. Similarly, exploring the enchanting landscapes and engaging in water sports, hiking, and wildlife encounters make Catalina Island a must-visit destination for those seeking diverse outdoor activities.

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