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12 Best Small Towns in Oregon

Written by Brad Lane
Oct 22, 2020

Oregon's small towns paint a beautiful picture of the state. Postcard landscapes across Oregon range from snow-covered mountains to a rugged coastline filled with sea stacks. This vacation-worthy scenery adds an excellent backdrop to the best small towns across the state.

While each small town shares scenic appeal, every small town in the state offers a unique Oregon experience. A few of the many things to do in Oregon small towns include hiking, boating, and enjoying locally sourced meals. Other reasons for repeat visits include annual music festivals, summer farmers' markets, and ebbing tide pools.

A few nicknames earned by Oregon's small towns include the "Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon" and the "Little Switzerland of America." Discover the origins of these nicknames and more with our list of the best small towns in Oregon.

1. Astoria

Astoria

The seaside town of Astoria borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River in far northwest Oregon. This small town is well known by 1980s cinephiles, as it is the setting for the 1985 classic American movie, The Goonies.

The Astoria Riverfront is a great first place to visit. The community flavor of Astoria comes out on this historic pedestrian corridor along the Columbia River. The smell of fresh seafood also emanates from this part of the city. The Columbia River Maritime Museum and Astoria Riverfront Trolly are just a few of the many attractions lining the waterway.

Next to the Riverfront, Astoria's historic downtown also rings with character. These antique streets in Astoria have several visitor magnets, like restaurants and boutiques. Other downtown Astoria attractions include the Captain George Flavel House Museum and the Oregon Film Museum.

Astoria also provides places to enjoy its expansive border on the Pacific Ocean. Fort Stevens State Park is a great place to access the beach, including the site of the Peter Iredale shipwreck.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Astoria

2. Hood River

Hood River with Mount Hood in the background

Hood River is a charming small town in the Columbia River Gorge. Beautiful natural attractions surround this hot spot of adventure in northern Oregon.

The Columbia River Gorge, itself, is a stunning waterfall-lined National Scenic Corridor. Home to many of Oregon's best waterfalls, the Columbia River Gorge also features campgrounds, hiking trails, and a Vista House. The Columbia River Gorge also produces high winds, making Hood River a windsurfing capital of the country.

To the south of Hood River, Mount Hood and Mt. Hood National Forest gives the small town a mountainous backdrop. Between Mount Hood and the Columbia River, the Hood River Valley offers visitors an agricultural bounty of produce and scenery.

Add the local coffee shops and cozy places to stay to the region's scenery, and Hood River is an excellent small-town escape.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hood River

3. Jacksonville

Aerial view of Jacksonville, Oregon

On the outskirts of Medford in Southern Oregon, Jacksonville is a scenic small town deemed a National Historic Landmark. It was nearby gold deposits that brought early prosperity to Jacksonville in the 1850s. Today, it's live music and a wide variety of shopping and dining that brings thousands of tourists to town.

Britt Music Festival is the crowning cultural attraction in Jacksonville. This three-weekend event takes place every summer, starting in late July. Many of the performances happen in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater surrounded by towering pines. With musical acts ranging from reggae to classical, Britt Music Festival draws a wide range of music lovers from across the world.

Perusing the town's many antique shops is a popular thing to do in Jacksonville. Enjoying the agricultural splendor of the surrounding Rogue Valley also ranks high as a visitor favorite. The town has a historical aesthetic, which makes strolling along the sidewalks and public parks a memorable part of the day.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jacksonville

4. Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Cannon Beach is a lovely small town on the Oregon Coast, 90 minutes from Portland. With less than 2,000 residents, this popular spot next to the Pacific Ocean receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

A lot comes together in Cannon Beach to make it a popular tourist destination. Several resorts near the surf cater to families and romantic trips, and the town's many eateries do the same. But it's the postcard surroundings that tend to draw a crowd.

Alongside an expansive beach, the seaside landscape of Cannon Beach is also home to the inspiring Haystack Rock. This impressive monolith lies just offshore and provides a natural wonder to admire while soaking in the sun. On the spring tide, Haystack Rock provides stunning tide pools to explore.

Summer is the most popular time to visit Cannon Beach, though winter brings great coastal storms to watch.

Less than 10 miles to the north, another ocean-facing town known as Seaside offers similar tourist appeal.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach

5. Baker City

Conestoga wagon at Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City

Baker City is the principal seat of Baker County, better known as the "Base Camp for Eastern Oregon." Alongside easy access to adventure in the region, this small city also boasts several cultural traditions.

The historic Geiser Grand Hotel is the centerpiece fixture of downtown Baker City. First opened in 1889, this four-star hotel has a long history of welcoming guests with luxurious accommodations. More history stems from the downtown Geiser Grand Hotel at places like the Baker Heritage Museum or the Eastern Oregon Museum.

It's the outdoors that also attracts visitors to Baker City. The Snake River carves its way through Hells Canyon to the east, creating one of the country's deepest river canyons. This epic river gorge is a top spot for adventures like white-water rafting and backpacking.

The Oregon Trail also made its way near Baker City. Visitors can explore historic wagon ruts at the nearby Farewell Bend State Park. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City provides a great day trip to learn more about this massive human migration.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Baker City

6. Sisters

North and Middle Sister Mountains near Sisters

Sisters is on the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon, bordered by the state's high-desert region. This geographic location aids in adventures, with sunny weather throughout the year. The nearby mountains also lend a hand in keeping outdoor enthusiasts active.

Deschutes National Forest is at the backdoor of Sisters. This vast expanse of public land encompasses an idyllic mountain environment. The eye-catching Three Sisters volcanic peaks are the centerpiece of the forest. Several adventure opportunities, including the country-spanning Pacific Crest Trail, make their way through this postcard wildland.

The high desert is also fun to explore from Sisters, especially at Smith Rock State Park. This year-round hot spot for rock climbing has nearly 2,000 bolted routes that cater to beginners and old pros alike. Covering over 650 acres, Smith Rock is also a popular place for hiking.

In-town attractions also draw visitors to Sisters. The town reflects its history with early 19th-century facades and storefronts. Modern amusements within these antiquated buildings include restaurants, boutique shops, and a vibrant selection of art galleries.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sisters

7. Yachats

Yachats coastline | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Offering an excellent weekend getaway in Oregon, Yachats (pronounced "YAH-hots") is on the central Oregon coast. An intense scenic beauty surrounds this charming small town.

Tucked between the rugged coast and the sprawling Siuslaw National Forest, Yachats is best explored via hiking trail or bike path. Amanda's Trail, part of the much longer Oregon Coast Trail, is a visitor favorite that meanders through the forest landscape. Several amazing views of the rugged coastline treat hikers on Amanda's Trail.

Amanda's Trail, and Yachats itself, is a gateway to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. This breathtaking natural space is the highest point on the Oregon coast accessible by car. An uphill hiking trail also leads to the stunning vista. This view high above the coastline ranks high as one of the top attractions on the Oregon Coast.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Yachats

8. Joseph

Wallowa Lake and Wallowa Mountains

In eastern Oregon, Joseph highlights the majestic splendor of the Wallowa Mountains. These impressive peaks backdrop the entire small town, aiding in its nickname as the "Little Switzerland of America."

While sometimes overlooked compared to westward mountain ranges, the Wallowa Mountains are stunning. Joseph offers the perfect base camp for exploring this rugged mountain scenery. Everyday adventures from Joseph include accessing the shores of Wallowa Lake and hiking into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Joseph also makes the perfect base camp, with plenty of visitor resources like hotels, restaurants, and gear shops. Fun things to do between adventures include visiting the Wallowa County Museum and perusing the Wallowa County Farmers' Market.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Joseph

9. Silverton

Candle larkspur blooming near Silverton

Fifteen miles east of Salem, Oregon's state capital, Silverton is affectionately known as Oregon's Garden City. While many perennial attractions lend to this moniker, it's The Oregon Garden that exemplifies Silverton's growing appeal.

The Oregon Garden comprises over 80 acres of beautiful botanic landscape. This year-round public space has several specialty plots, including a Children's Garden and a Pet-Friendly Garden.

Amid the bountiful acreage, the garden hosts several events throughout the year. Art in the Garden occurs throughout the summer, with local works on display alongside the blooming attractions.

The scenic appeal of Silverton extends well past The Oregon Garden. Another notable natural feature nearby is the streaming water at Silver Falls State Park, home to the nationally recognized "Trail of Ten Falls." The centerpiece of this expansive state park is the 177-foot South Falls.

Silver Creek, which passes through Silver Falls State Park, also serves as the backbone of Silverton's community. Local shops and restaurants line the area downtown near Silver Creek. Extending from the creek, several cozy places also entice tourists to stay the night.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Silverton

10. Florence

Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the central Oregon Coast and the Siuslaw River, Florence is a small city with under 10,000 residents. A small-town vibe emanates from Florence, especially in the city's historic Old Town district. Next to the Siuslaw River Bridge, this charming section of town features shopping, places to stay, and some of the best seafood chowder on the coast.

Another big appeal of Florence is its access to the ocean. Places like Heceta Head Lighthouse are within the city limits. The unique Sea Lions Cave is another popular coastal attraction nearby.

Florence also borders Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where sand-crawling vehicles explore the shifting landscapes.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Florence

11. Cottage Grove

Covered bridge near Cottage Grove

In Lane County near Eugene, Cottage Grove is a postcard town known for its outdoor activity. Cottage Grove is also known as the Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon.

The best way to discover the origin of this nickname is on the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway. The bikeway starts in downtown and meanders 36 miles through the city's agricultural and Cascade Mountain scenery.

Along the route, the bikeway tours one of the largest collections of covered bridges west of the Mississippi River. With mild climbs and outstanding scenery, the bikeway is fun for all levels of riders.

Umpqua and Willamette National Forests are to the east of Cottage Grove. This vast public land has several adventure opportunities like waterfalls, hot springs, and backpacking trails. Cottage Grove and the nearby forests are also well known for their colorful foliage come autumn.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cottage Grove

12. Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls, in southern Oregon, has a small-town charm despite having over 20,000 residents. It's the history that rings from the streets of Klamath Falls that adds to its small-town feel. The massive natural surroundings of Klamath Falls also makes the city feel smaller by comparison.

Klamath Falls is a gateway community to Crater Lake National Park and Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California. These significant landscapes are both within an hour's drive of the city. However, travelers don't have to drive that far for a great day trip from Klamath Falls. Places like Moore Park, on the south end of Upper Klamath Lake, are fun places to visit within city limits.

For breaks between outdoor adventure, Klamath Falls features several unique ways to explore the region's history. Both the Klamath County Museum and The Favell Museum offer exciting insight into the city's past.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Klamath Falls

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