20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Oregon
On the Pacific Ocean north of California and south of Washington, Oregon is a lush and slightly wild state offering many scenic tourist attractions. US 101 runs along the coast, connecting a wide variety of beautiful resorts, beaches, and scenic coastal landscapes. At the northernmost point, the coast meets the mouth of the Columbia River, which marks the state's northern border. This major river leads inland, paralleled by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area with many fun things to do, including waterfall hikes and windsurfing or kiteboarding in Hood River.
In addition to its natural beauty, Oregon is equally known for its urban charms. The state's largest city, Portland, has an international reputation for drawing tourists with an offbeat and welcoming culture. Portland's sightseeing gems range from rose gardens to art museums and an immense bookshop. Farther south, other cities and fun places to visit include the thriving university town of Eugene, the coastal city of Newport, and the state capitol of Salem. Plan your trip to this scenic state with our list of the top attractions in Oregon.
1. Crater Lake National Park
With a landscape like nowhere else, Crater Lake National Park lies in the Cascade Mountains of southwestern Oregon. It is not actually a crater, but rather an ancient caldera of an extinct volcano, Mount Mazama, and its lava cliffs rise to heights of up to 2,000 feet around the intensely blue and extremely deep lake.
Just a short distance from the edge of the crater, Rim Drive circles the lake in a clockwise direction. It begins at Rim Village and is only accessible by vehicle in warm weather months. Throughout winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers can use the unplowed road for winter travel.
Crater Lake National Park is a popular weekend trip in Oregon, and camping is available at two developed campgrounds, with the most sites found at the Mazama Campground. Extended hiking and backpacking opportunities can be found in the national park away from the rim, and stunning trails like Watchman Peak give great views of the caldera. To explore the lake itself in the summer months, head to Cleetwood Cove, where cruises depart for Wizard Island.
Official site: http://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Crater Lake National Park
2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area follows the course of the Columbia River as it cuts through the Cascade Range. The boundary line between Oregon and Washington, the gorge is known for its spectacular views and numerous waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls — the tallest waterfall in the state. The area offers a range of hiking and biking trails, plus camping facilities.
This is one of the most popular day trips from Portland, and one of the many great destinations to aim for in the gorge includes Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
3. Cannon Beach
A popular tourist resort on the northern Oregon coast, Cannon Beach offers a wide stretch of sand and spectacular views of jagged coastal rocks. The largest of these monoliths, Haystack Rock is an impressive feature that dominates the background of any visit to this coastal community. As one of the best small towns on the Oregon Coast, Cannon Beach also delivers on cultural appeal with restaurants, boutique shops, and great hotels.
To the north of Cannon Beach, the enchanting Ecola State Park and Tillamook Head offer historic and scenic landscapes to explore. The charming city of Seaside can also be accessed from the other end of Ecola State Park, adding even more family-friendly attractions to visit on the Oregon coast. For more historical interest, the Lewis and Clark Saltworks gives insight into the challenges and lifestyles of the Corps of Discovery.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach
4. Washington Park, Portland
Portland offers a bevy of delightful parks and gardens, but none has quite the density of attractions as Washington Park. Within park grounds, the famed International Rose Test Garden is located near the impressive Portland Japanese Garden. Each displays exceptional horticultural expertise and are favorites with green thumbs.
For families, the park entices with fun explorations at the Oregon Zoo, as well as the Portland Children's Museum. With plenty to explore in a day, including some of the best hiking trails near Portland, Washington Park delivers on something new with each visit.
Accommodation: Best Places to Stay in Portland
5. Mount Hood National Forest
With a peak rising to 11,239 feet, making it the highest mountain in Oregon, Mount Hood is an unmistakable landmark of the state. On its slopes are downhill offerings at Mount Hood Skibowl, picturesque hiking paths like the Timberline Trail, and scenic viewpoints accessible via the Mount Hood Scenic Loop. The historic town of Government Camp and the nearby Timberline Lodge are also big attractions in this mountain landscape. The surrounding Mount Hood National Forest fans out from the peak to encompass waterfalls and hot springs.
Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/mthood
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Mount Hood National Forest
Edged by a mix of national forests, volcanoes, and dry plains, Bend sits roughly in the center of Oregon. The city's High Desert Museum has informative displays about the surrounding arid regions. Popular things to do in Bend include rafting trips on the Deschutes River, excursions to the volcanic landscapes of Lava Butte and Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and skiing at the large Mount Bachelor Ski Area. Also nearby, Smith Rock is famous with climbers for its many routes and long history as a rock-climbing destination.
Hiking trails around Bend are a great way to explore the scenic areas and mountain biking trails can also add to the excitement. For a more laid-back approach, Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a popular auto-touring route through the Deschutes National Forest. The drive passes lakes, mountains, and spectacular scenery with many picnic and campsites available along the way. For an iconic waterfall of the area, Tumalo Falls can be reached from Bend in just over a 10-mile drive.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bend
In the far northwest corner of Oregon, abutting the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, Astoria is a charming seaside city with inspiring surroundings. It's the backdrop for the 80s cult-classic movie, The Goonies, and visitors to Astoria can learn more about this movie and other Oregon productions at the Oregon Film Museum, located in the old Clatsop County Jail. Nearby, the Flavel House Museum in Astoria provides historical insight on this well-aged city. Other top attractions of Astoria include a scenic Riverfront; vibrant downtown neighborhood; and the Astoria Column, with great views of the area.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Astoria
8. Hood River
The scenic city of Hood River is located on the banks of the Columbia River just over an hour east of Portland. Although well known as a destination for kiteboarding and windsurfing, Hood River is a great place a full range of outdoor sports, including hiking, biking, and camping.
Visitors wanting a little less physical activity can easily hop on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway or the Mount Hood Railroad. Cultural attractions, great restaurants and hotels, local shops, live music venues, and aromatic coffee spots and a few more of the reasons to stop in Hood River.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hood River
9. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Brookings
Located between Brookings and Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast, the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a 12-mile linear park, which exhibits some of the best oceanside scenery in the state. Easily accessed from US 101 and named after the first Oregon Parks superintendent, the Oregon Coast Trail and various pull-off parking spots connect the beaches, rock formations, and natural beauty that defines this part of the coast. Popular pitstops along this scenic corridor include Arch Rock; Indian Sands; and one of the best beaches on the Oregon coast, Lone Ranch Beach.
10. Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne
An international climbing destination in central Oregon, Smith Rock State Park, near Bend, has over 1,000 bolted sport routes lining a stunning river canyon environment. It's not just climbers who flock to this outdoor playground just outside of Bend, though; mountain bikers, hikers, and photographers can be found exploring throughout the extended high-desert warm weather season. Smith Rock is home to one of the best hiking trails near Bend, and despite its foreboding name, Misery Ridge at Smith Rock provides an absolutely stunning view of the Crooked River and canyon walls.
Official site: https://smithrock.com/
Mixing beach scenery with Victorian heritage, the city of Newport is on the Oregon coast and lined with family-friendly attractions. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center are often favorite places to visit, and to the north, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a beacon of coastal beauty. The town's busy bayfront faces sheltered Yaquina Bay (home to a large fishing fleet), while the wild Pacific beaches offer storm-surge rollers and unfiltered sunsets. The town is a good base camp for exploring along the coast and whale watching.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Newport
12. Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity
Thirty minutes east of the state capital of Salem, Silver Falls State Park provides perhaps the most dazzling display of waterfalls in the country. This crown jewel of the Oregon State Park system is home to the nationally recognized Trail of Ten Falls, a moderate hiking path that tours the many moving water attractions of the area. The trail even takes users behind a few waterfalls for an interesting perspective, including the largest waterfall of the area and one of the best waterfalls in Oregon, the stunning South Falls.
Address: 20024 Silver Falls Highway Southeast, Sublimity, Oregon
Accommodation: Where to Stay Near Silver Falls State Park
13. Oregon Coast Trail Editor's Pick
Stretching for over 360 miles along the western edge of Oregon, the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) takes in the sights, sounds, and top attractions of the Oregon coast. From the mouth of the Columbia River in Fort Stevens State Park, the OCT heads south and connects such scenic landmarks as Haystack Rock, Cape Perpetua, Oregon Sand Dunes, and the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. While the trail mostly sticks to beaches, intrepid explorers on the OCT can expect to navigate forested headlands, catch boat rides across estuaries, and follow along the shoulder of the US 101 for portions of the trek.
14. Willamette National Forest
The vast Willamette National Forest is located along the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains and covers nearly 1.7 million acres. The forest contains spectacular scenery, including several volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and some of the best hot springs in Oregon. Visitors can explore trails or head to attractions such as the Dee Wright Observatory (a stone tower atop McKenzie Pass) or Salt Creek Falls, a waterfall over 280 feet in length. The popular Three Sisters Wilderness can also be accessed within the Willamette National Forest.
Official site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/willamette
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mill City, near Willamette National Forest
15. Newberry Volcanic Monument
Within the Deschutes National Forest of central Oregon, the Newberry Volcanic Monument provides a plethora of unique scenery to explore. It is centered around the Newberry Caldera and surrounds a 1,200-square-mile volcano. Popular activities at Newberry include bicycling, hiking, boating, and enjoying hot springs. One of the best campgrounds in Oregon can be found in Newberry, and those who nab a reservation at the popular Little Crater Lake Campground have immediate access to the welcoming waters of Paulina Lake. A great first stop when visiting the monument is the Lava Lands Visitor Center.
Accommodation: Where to Stay Near Newberry Volcanic Monument
16. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
South of Florence begins the dune landscape of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It stretches along the Pacific Coast for about 40 miles before reaching Coos Bay. The massive wind-shaped sand dunes between the beaches and pocket forests offer a unique area to explore on foot or via off-highway vehicles. Popular destinations within the dunes include the sandboarding destination of Sand Master Park and the Umpqua Dunes area at Winchester Bay.
The Oregon Dunes NRA is within the Siuslaw National Forest, alongside other scenic attractions such as Cape Perpetua and the Heceta Head Lighthouse. For a great place to pitch a tent or park an RV, Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is located south of Florence and is one of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast. Visitors to the dunes should make themselves aware of snowy plovers and the restrictions put in place to protect their habitat.
17. Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill, Salem
Within the Willamette Valley, the city of Salem is the state capitol of Oregon and is filled with scenic appeal. You'll find historic theaters, family-favorite carousels, and an Enchanted Forest. Other top attractions of Salem include Riverfront City Park, the State Capitol building, and the Willamette Heritage Center. Spread over five acres, the Willamette Heritage Center centers on the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill dating to 1895. Alongside the large red structure, historic wooden buildings are brought to life by exhibits and interpretive guides, who give a look at the history of life and industrialization in the late 19th century.
Address: 1313 Mill Street Southeast, Salem, Oregon
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Salem
18. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
In the extreme northeast of the state, Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States and marks the Idaho border. The protected area within Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is largely inaccessible, but for the adventurous, it offers lengthy outdoor excursions including hiking, backpacking, wildlife spotting, and fishing. The Wild and Scenic Snake River runs at the bottom of the canyon and is a popular waterway for whitewater boating. The Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway departs from Baker City and La Grande, with side trips to Hells Canyon Dam and viewpoints.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area
19. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene
This windowless museum in Eugene is designed to protect its art treasures. The wide-reaching collection features primarily Asian artworks, along with pieces from America and Europe. Opened in 1933, the museum is located on the University of Oregon campus, where other attractions include the Museum of Natural and Cultural History and a historic track at Hayward Field. Guided tours of the museum are available the first Saturday of every month and are included with the cost of admission.
Address: 1430 Johnson Lane, Eugene, Oregon
Official site: http://jsma.uoregon.edu/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Eugene
20. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
This subterranean attraction centers on a marble cave, accessible only during guided tours. The National Park Service offers a variety of tours that explore the cave, ranging from guided treks for families and kids to wild cave expeditions that veer off the normal tourist path. Above the surface, the protected area offers hiking trails through old-growth coniferous forest. The monument sits at 4,000 feet elevation in the Siskiyou Mountains.
Address: 19000 Caves Highway, Cave Junction, Oregon
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Oregon Caves National Monument