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10 Top-Rated Day Trips & Weekend Getaways from Portland

Written by Brad Lane

One of the biggest appeals of Portland is the immediate access to cultural and natural attractions within the city. Another contributing factor that entices thousands of people to move to Portland each year is the city's proximity to other iconic Pacific Northwest places to visit. Within an hour or easy half-day drive, popular destinations include the rugged coastline, world-renowned national parks, and other inviting cities with their own unique blend of fun things to do. Memorable weekend trips to areas like Crater Lake or Cannon Beach offer new landscapes to explore each season, and fun day trips can be found in the Columbia River Gorge throughout the year. Whether you are planning ahead of time 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 sea-level dividing line between Oregon and Washington, the cities and scenery of the Columbia River Gorge attract visitors from all over the world. Home to many of the best waterfalls in Oregon, including the iconic 620-foot Multnomah Falls and the ethereal Eagle Creek Trail, the Columbia River Gorge also provides elevated hiking routes with expansive views of the river corridor. Interstate 84 and paralleling portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway are the main arteries through the gorge, connecting trailheads, cities, and roadside stopping points like the Vista House.

Although you can easily visit this area as a day trip from Portland, the area has some inviting towns, which may entice you to stay the weekend. Places 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. If you're looking for a place to stay, the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River offers an award-winning restaurant and a taste of the scenery, with surrounding gardens, ponds, and walking trails. For a great weekend adventure, you may want to consider a campground around Hood River. Most of these provide an excellent home base with views of the river.

Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/crgnsa

2. Cannon Beach Editor's Pick

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 only two hours from Portland in the city of Cannon Beach. Wide sandy beaches, forested headlands, and an easy view of an impressive sea stack can all be accessed at Cannon Beach, as well as 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 amid the surf and exposes vast tide pools to explore during spring tide. Other attractions that make Cannon Beach so enchanting include regional art galleries, Tillamook Head to the north, and all the unique coastal history.

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 tour picks you up from downtown and drops you 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 beachcomb, shop for antiques, and taste some local fare.

3. Smith Rock State Park

Climber at Smith Rock State Park

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

For rock climbers and anyone who appreciates a scenic environment, Smith Rock is a recreation mecca of central Oregon and arguably one of the best sport climbing destinations in America. Over 1,000 bolted and named routes line the impressive and outstanding tuff monoliths and basalt columns that define Smith Rock, ranging from finger-crimping technical climbs to easier ascents for guided beginners. Hikers will also find much to explore at Smith Rock, including the iconic Misery Ridge trail, which affords breathtaking views of the entire valley and is one of the top hikes around Bend.

Just under three hours from Portland, Smith Rock is best suited for a weekend trip, which can occur much earlier and later in the year thanks to the high-desert environment. A popular gathering spot for climbers at Smith Rock, a walk-in bivouac camping area can be 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.

Official site: https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=36

4. Mount Hood

Mount Hood

Mount Hood

A dominating presence often seen from high vantage points in Portland, Mount Hood is Oregon's tallest peak and provides arguably some of the state's best alpine environment to explore. Wildflower meadows, cascading waterfalls, and some of the best hiking trails in Oregon surround Mount Hood and the encompassing national forest of its own 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, and the Pacific Crest Trail winds its way through the area before hitting the Columbia River Gorge.

An excellent option to experience the grandeur of Mount Hood and the surrounding environment, the Mount Hood Day Trip from Portland offers a guided ride and add-on scenic attraction. Departing from Portland, the tour first makes a stop 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, this day trip heads straight for the Timberline Lodge, where the rest of the afternoon is devoted to exploring the rich surrounding scenery.

5. Astoria

Hotel Elliott in downtown Astoria

Hotel Elliott in downtown 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. Bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River on the far northwest tip of 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 historical mansions that all relate the storied history of this logging, fishing, and now tourism-driven city. On the far west side of Astoria, bordering the ocean, Fort Stevens is a retired military installation, now a sprawling state park with shipwrecks, military history, and a massive campground. A near two-hour drive from Portland, accommodations like Hotel Elliott provide an inviting opportunity for a long weekend visit.

6. Mount Rainier National Park

The Skyline Trail at Mount Rainier National Park

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

One of the most impressive peaks of the Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier stands proudly as the tallest peak in Washington and can be reached within a 2.5-hour-drive from Portland. Best for a weekend trip, or much longer if possible, Mount Rainier has over 260 miles of inclined hiking trails to explore and a variety of campgrounds spread throughout old-growth surroundings. With plenty of fun things to do at this acclaimed national park, one of the most defining aspects of any visit is the awe it evokes every time Mountain Rainier simply comes into view.

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. 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 on any visit.

Longmire, on the southwest side of Mount Rainier National Park, offers historical information and hiking trails, as well as proximity to neighboring towns that cater towards weekend visits. In Ashford, the Nisqually Lodge provides a rustic appeal in modern accommodations and easy access to the Nisqually Entrance of the park. The "quiet corner of the park," Mowich Lake, can be accessed via a dirt road on the west side of the park, and lends access to stunning areas like Spray Park and Tolmie Peak.

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

7. 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 testament to the long-standing tourist industry, and the Lewis and Clark Salt Works speaks to a more rugged past. All the main sites in Seaside can be accessed with less than a 90-minute drive from Portland, including the Seaside Aquarium and historic Seaside Turnaround, though the biggest driving factor is often the sprawling beach.

As one of the best beaches along the Oregon Coast, the beach at Seaside is wide, welcoming, and can accommodate solo kite-flyers and huge sand volleyball tournaments simultaneously. Tillamook Head backdrops the Seaside beach to the south, and the Seaside Streetcar offers free shuttles to the corresponding trailhead. For a great stay next to the beach, Lanai at the Cove is one of the top hotels in Seaside and provides rooms with a view.

8. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

In the footprint of what was once Mount Mazama, when this complex volcano erupted over 7,000 years ago, it left behind a massive caldera and one of the most unique natural attractions in North America. The only national park in Oregon, Crater Lake truly is an amazing sight to see. As the deepest lake in the country, fed only by rainfall and snowmelt, the waters of Crater Lake are an incredible blue and contained within a crater that changes color as it catches the sun throughout the day.

A four-hour drive from Portland, 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, when the Rim Drive is left unplowed and opened for cross-country and snowshoe traverses. The Best Western Plus Olympic Inn in Klamath Falls provides a great place to warm up after a winter visit.

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

9. Sauvie Island

Sauvie Island Bridge

Sauvie Island Bridge

A fun day trip for the whole family, Sauvie is the largest island on the Columbia River and one of the largest river islands in the country. It's inhabited by a predominantly agricultural community, and common recreational outlets 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, and history buffs can find interest at sites like the Warrior Rock Lighthouse. Less than a 20-mile drive from Portland, other popular attractions include U-Pick berry farms, fishing at Sturgeon Lake, and utilizing the many beaches on the island's northeast region. To make a weekend trip out of your visit, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Hillsboro is only twelve miles from the Sauvie Island Bridge.

10. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

Best defined in landscape and history by its dramatic 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens makes for an excellent weekend trip, exploring and learning about this altered terrain. Many of Mount St. Helen's explorable areas can be reached from Portland with less than a 90-mile drive, including the Johnston Ridge Observatory and Ape Caves. Every accessible area of Mount St. Helens, including its best hiking trails, provides interpretive and visual information of the 1980 blast that rocked the region, including impressive views of the horseshoe crater atop the mountain that remained. A great hotel to spend the night between days exploring Mount St. Helens, the Best Western Plus Park Place Inn & Suites is less than 25 miles from the visitor center.

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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.

Adventures in Oregon: The state of Oregon caters to those who like to explore outside. From the best campgrounds across the state to the best hiking trails in Oregon, other avenues of adventure include waterfalls, hot springs, and some exceptional weekend trips around the state.

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