12 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Portland

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Sep 26, 2022
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()

A major appeal of Portland is its proximity to other iconic Pacific Northwest places to visit. Popular destinations within easy driving distance include the rugged coastline, world-renowned national parks, and other inviting Oregon cities with their own unique blend of fun things to do. These destinations circle the city, ranging from day trips to weekend getaways.

Panoramic view of Mount St. Helens
Panoramic view of Mount St. Helens | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Memorable weekend trips to areas like Mount Hood or Cannon Beach offer new landscapes to explore each season. Other areas like the Columbia River Gorge also offer easy day trips throughout the year, but are even more enjoyable as a weekend getaway. For longer weekends with more time to explore, farther-flung destinations like Smith Rock and Mount Rainier are less than three hours away.

If planning or looking for something new to do this upcoming weekend, find the best places to visit with our list of the top day trips and weekend getaways from Portland.

1. Columbia River Gorge

Lancaster Falls in the Columbia River Gorge
Lancaster Falls in the Columbia River Gorge | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Columbia River Gorge is the sea-level dividing line between Oregon and Washington, located directly north of Portland and accessible via car, bicycle, and public transportation. The cities and scenery of the Gorge attract visitors from all over the world.

The gorge is also home to many of the best waterfalls in Oregon among many scenic landscapes, including the iconic 620-foot Multnomah Falls.

Interstate 84 and the adjacent Historic Columbia River Highway are the main arteries through the Oregon side of the gorge. These roadways connect trailheads, cities, and roadside stopping points like the Vista House. One not-too-miss area of the Gorge is the ethereal Eagle Creek Trail, off exit #41. Several other elevated hiking routes in the area offer expansive views of the river corridor.

Personal vehicles, public transportation, and bicycle are some of the ways to get from Portland to Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge. Upon arrival, the area's inviting towns entice visitors to stay the weekend. Cities to visit within the gorge include The Dalles, Hood River, and Cascade Locks – where visitors can drive into Washington via the Bridge of the Gods.

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler
Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

If looking for a place to stay, the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River offers an award-winning restaurant and a taste of the scenery. The property is surrounded by lush gardens, ponds, and walking trails. For a weekend camping adventure, consider looking into one of the many campgrounds around Hood River.

2. Mount Hood

Mount Hood
Mount Hood

Mount Hood is Oregon's tallest peak and provides arguably some of the state's best alpine environments. The mountain is a dominating presence often seen from high vantage points in Portland. Not surprisingly, the majestic mountain terrain offers some of the best weekend getaways from the city.

Wildflower meadows, cascading waterfalls, and some of the best hiking trails in Oregon surround Mount Hood and its encompassing national forest of the same name. Popular destinations within Mount Hood National Forest include Trillium Lake, Ramona Falls, and the historic Timberline Lodge near the community of Government Camp.

The Timberline Trail circumnavigates the entire mountain, presenting challenging river crossings along the way. The cross-country Pacific Crest Trail also winds its way through the area before hitting the Columbia River Gorge.

A Mount Hood Day Trip from Portland offers an excellent option to experience the grandeur of Mount Hood and the surrounding environment. Departing from downtown Portland, the tour first stops at the iconic Multnomah Falls within the Columbia River Gorge, followed by a quick lunch in the city of Hood River. After refueling in Hood River, head straight for the Timberline Lodge, where the rest of the afternoon is devoted to exploring the rich surrounding scenery.

If you want to spend a night or two, you can explore the area at a slower pace.

3. Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach during low tide
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach during low tide | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The rugged Oregon coast is on full display in Cannon Beach, less than two hours northwest of Portland. Wide sandy beaches, forested headlands, and an easy view of an impressive sea stack are front-row center at Cannon Beach. Also at the ready is an artistic community, family-friendly eateries, and first-class places to stay the night.

The defining geological feature of any visit to Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock, a 235-foot sea stack that stands tall in the surf. This monolithic ocean rock offers a postcard backdrop to the wide and sprawling beach. Vast tide pools surround the rock when the tide is extremely low.

Another natural attraction that makes Cannon Beach enchanting is the looming Tillamook Head to the north, complete with coastal forest hiking trails and a free backpackers camp. Ecola State Park encompasses this massive headland, with several other hiking trails around. A few routes, like the Clatsop Loop Trail, share a legacy with Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery.

Cannon Beach at sunset
Cannon Beach at sunset | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

If you don't have time for a weekend getaway, a great way to see the coast from a passenger's seat is on the nine-hour Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock Oregon Coast Day Trip. This round-trip sightseeing tour picks passengers up from downtown Portland and drops them off by the waves of Cannon Beach.

The day trip starts with a two-hour drive to Neahkahnie Point, where a long-distance view of the coastline awaits. From Neahkahnie Point, the tour disembarks in Manzanita to spend time exploring the small coastal town and shops before heading to Cannon Beach. Plenty of time is allotted to explore Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock upon arrival, including opportunities to comb the beach , shop for antiques, and taste some local fare.

4. Smith Rock State Park

Climber at Smith Rock State Park
Climber at Smith Rock State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Smith Rock is a recreation mecca of central Oregon, and arguably one of the best sport climbing destinations in America. Rock climbers in Portland often flock to this outdoor destination throughout the year, though summer temperatures are a bit stifling in the high-dessert terrain.

Over 1,000 bolted and named routes dot the impressive tuff monoliths and basalt columns that define Smith Rock. Routes range from finger-crimping technical climbs to easier ascents for beginners. Proper experience and technical ability are required for any vertical endeavors. Several guides in the region are happy to show first-time climbers the way.

Hikers also find much to explore at Smith Rock. The River Trail that follows the twists and turns of the Crooked River is a popular, accessible path. However, the Misery Ridge Trail is perhaps the most iconic, offering breathtaking elevation gains and panoramic views of the entire valley – and easily earning its spot as one of the top hikes around Bend.

Just under three hours from Portland, Smith Rock is best suited for a weekend trip. These outings can occur much earlier and later in the year thanks to the high-desert environment. A popular walk-in bivouac camping area at Smith Rock is a fun and potentially crowded place to spend the night.

The nearby city of Bend is also an excellent home base for a Smith Rock weekend adventure.

5. Sauvie Island

Sauvie Island Bridge
Sauvie Island Bridge

Sauvie is the largest island on the Columbia River and one of the country's largest river islands. It's inhabited by a predominantly agricultural community and is less than a 20-mile drive from Portland. Common recreational outlets on Sauvie Island include hiking trails, beach access, and berry picking.

Bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts enjoy exploring the 11,500-acre Sauvie Island Wildlife Area, where hundreds of bird species call home. History buffs find interest at sites like the Warrior Rock Lighthouse. Other popular attractions include U-Pick berry farms, fishing at Sturgeon Lake, and the many beaches in the island's northeast region.

6. Astoria

Astoria | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The enchanting seaside city of Astoria is one of the best small towns on the Oregon coast and for good reason. The city is bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River in northwest Oregon. And perhaps inspired by the iconic 80s movie, The Goonies, which took place in this storybook city, Astoria embodies an adventurous spirit and treasure-filled community.

Some of the things to do in Astoria include maritime museums, a scenic Riverwalk, and a bustling downtown district filled with shops and restaurants. History is also alive in Astoria via historic mansions and film museums, many of which relate to the storied history of this logging, fishing, and now tourism-driven city.

On the other side of Young's Bay from Astoria, accessible through the charming town of Warrenton, Fort Stevens is a retired military installation, now a sprawling state park with shipwrecks, military history, and a massive campground. Fort Stevens is an excellent place to spend the entire weekend at the beach.

Astoria is a nearly two-hour drive from Portland.

7. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Best defined in landscape and history by its dramatic 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens makes for an excellent weekend trip. Many of Mount St. Helen's explorable areas are accessible from Portland with less than a 90-mile drive, including iconic spots like the Johnston Ridge Observatory and Ape Caves.

Every accessible area of Mount St. Helens, including the best hiking trails in the park, provides interpretive and visual information of the 1980 blast that rocked the region. This includes the impressive views of the horseshoe crater atop the mountain.

Summit of Mount St. Helens
Summit of Mount St. Helens | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Hiking to the top of Mount St. Helens is also a bucket-list weekend adventure for mountain athletes in Portland. No technical climbing experience is needed (i.e. no ropes or harnesses), but it is an incredibly steep hike to the top. Most summer visitors begin this journey at the Climber's Bivouac Trailhead on the mountain's southern flank. Permits are required.

8. Lincoln City

Road's End State Recreation Site, Lincoln City
Road's End State Recreation Site, Lincoln City | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Lincoln City offers a fantastic beach vacation approximately two hours from Portland. Lincoln City has a bit of everything, including over seven miles of beach. And thanks to the city's unique Finders Keepers program, anyone who visits has the chance to stumble upon (and take home) hidden treasure in the shape of beautiful glass orbs.

Outside of the sprawling and abundant beach, Lincoln City also has several in-town attractions, including local shops and restaurants. Lincoln City itself comprises several different districts, all once their own municipalities, so the town has several storefront flavors. A few visitor favorites include Prehistoric Fossils, My Petite Sweet Bakery, and the Harry Potter-inspired Cheeky Cauldron magic café.

For the best beach indulgence in Lincoln City, head to Roads End State Recreation Site. This coastal getaway is on the north end of the city limits and offers a deep immersion into the coastal atmosphere.

9. Seaside

Seaside Promenade and Seaside Aquarium
Seaside Promenade and Seaside Aquarium | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The city of Seaside has a long history of attracting visitors. The century-old and iconic Promenade that separates the city from the sand is a testament to the long-standing tourist industry, and the Lewis and Clark Salt Works speaks to an even more rugged past.

All the top attractions in Seaside are accessible from Portland with less than a 90-minute drive. These attractions include the Seaside Aquarium and historic Seaside Turnaround. But the biggest reason to make the drive is often the sprawling beach.

As one of the best beaches along the Oregon Coast, the beach at Seaside is wide, welcoming, and can simultaneously accommodate solo kite-flyers and huge sand volleyball tournaments. And the sunsets at Seaside are some of the best on the coast.

Tillamook Head backdrops the Seaside Beach to the south, and the Seaside Streetcar offers free shuttles to the corresponding trailhead.

10. Mount Rainier National Park

The Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park
The Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Mount Rainier is one of the most impressive peaks of the Pacific Northwest. It stands proudly as the tallest peak in Washington and is within a 2.5-hour-drive from Portland. It's best for a weekend trip, or much longer if possible, with over 260 miles of inclined hiking trails to explore. The park also has a variety of campgrounds spread throughout its alpine and old-growth surroundings.

Four designated areas define the park, including the Sunrise region, at an elevation of 6,400 feet. From this elevated position, Sunrise offers up-close perspectives of Rainier's northeast glaciers. Popular hiking trails from this area of the park include the easy Tipsoo Lake Trail and the more challenging Burrough Mountain Trail.

The Paradise area of Mount Rainier is also aptly named, and this stunning area contains mountain meadows, streaming waterfalls, and increasingly dramatic views of the mountain. The Skyline Trail, which traverses the Paradise area of the park, is an absolute must-do as one of Washington's best hiking trails.

Longmire, on the southwest side of the park, offers historical information and hiking trails. This area of the park also lends proximity to neighboring towns that cater to weekend visits. In nearby Ashford, the Nisqually Lodge provides a rustic appeal in modern accommodations and easy access to the park's Nisqually Entrance.

Eunice Lake, in the Mowich Lake region of the park
Eunice Lake, in the Mowich Lake region of the park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The "quiet corner of the park," Mowich Lake, is accessible via a dirt road on the park's west side. The lake lends access to stunning areas like Spray Park and Tolmie Peak. Wherever you visit in the national park, one of the most defining aspects of any visit is the awe invoked every time Mountain Rainier comes into view.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm

11. Salem

Riverfront Park, Salem
Riverfront Park, Salem | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The state capital of Oregon, Salem, is less than an hour's drive south of Portland. This proximity enables easy day trips to visit Salem's top attractions, like the Oregon State Capitol or Enchanted Forest. But with additional adventures nearby, including the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park, Salem also makes a great extended weekend getaway.

Riverfront Park is an excellent spot to explore the community and nature of Salem. Sculptures, sitting space, and wonderful views of the Willamette River dot this 26-acre signature space near downtown. The park is also home to Salem's Riverfront Carousel, offering $2 rides since the year 2000.

Salem has several other in-town attractions to round out a day visit, and other nearby adventures to fill a full weekend. Less than 30 minutes east is Silver Falls State Park, one of Oregon's best state parks, and home to the Trail of Ten Falls. This neck-craning National Recreation Trail attracts visitors from across the world.

12. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake
Crater Lake

When a complex volcano in Southern Oregon erupted over 7,000 years ago, it left behind a massive caldera and one of North America's most unique natural attractions. Today, Crater Lake is in the footprint of what used to be Mount Mazama and is the only national park in Oregon.

As the deepest lake in the country, fed only by rainfall and snowmelt, the water of Crater Lake is an incredible blue. Contained within the crater, the sparkling water changes color as it catches the sun throughout the day. Stunning viewpoints are afforded at the rim from two different entrances of the park.

Getting from Portland to Crater Lake takes about four hours by car, making it a great weekend escape, particularly in summer. The Mazama Campground within the national park is one of the best campgrounds in Oregon and is open seasonally throughout the summer.

Crater Lake's appeal goes well beyond the summer season, though, and the winter is a particularly scenic time to visit. The Rim Drive is left unplowed and opened for cross-country and snowshoe traverses.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm

Map of Weekend Getaways from Portland

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com


More to Explore in Portland: Our Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Portland article outlines some of the best cultural and natural attractions of Portland, and our Best Hiking Trails near Portland article illustrates other ways to explore the natural areas around the city.