19 Amazing Things to do in Oregon

Oregon Flag wooden sign

Planning an Oregon vacation and looking for the best places to visit in the Beaver State?

From Cannon Beach to Mt. Hood and Portland to Bend, Oregon has numerous attractions that are worth visiting at least once.

Find the best things to do and the best things to see in Oregon in this epic guide.

Oregon is one of the best states to road trip in the United States of America.

Located in the Pacific Northwest, it is known for its diverse culture, beautiful coastline, and mossy green enchanted forest vistas!

The state’s northern boundary with Washington is marked by the River Columbia while the Snake river outlines its eastern boundary with Idaho.

On its south is the state of California. Oregon has varied landscapes of sea stacks, towering mountains, tall redwoods, hot springs, and densely forested woods.

U.S Highway 101 runs parallel to the Pacific Coast in coastal Oregon and offers access to unique coastal vistas.

Fun Fact: Fur trade was a big portion of Oregon’s economy during the early times; hence the name ‘Beaver State’! Beaver is also the state animal of Oregon and protected and admired for its qualities of intelligence and ingenuity. The beaver also flies high on the flag of Oregon.

Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101
Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101

Oregon is also one of the most underrated states in the Western USA.

Overshadowed by the sunny beaches of California and the evergreen forests of Washington State, Oregon is not on the bucket list of that many visitors.

However, the state offers a unique range of must see Oregon attractions from the vibrant city of Portland to the breweries in Bend.

Visitors can enjoy beautiful natural attractions like the Columbia River Gorge and Cape Perpetua Scenic Area along the Oregon Coast.

The state’s eastern region has high deserts and stark landscapes while the Willamette River Valley is filled with lush wineries. 

“Oregon is an inspiration. Whether you come to it, or are born to it, you become entranced by our state’s beauty, the opportunity she affords, and the independent spirit of her citizens.”
– the late Oregon Governor Tom McCall

360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast
360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast

Best Things to do in Oregon State

Oregon is a year-round destination and has plenty of things to do whenever you visit.

The state is perfect for baby boomers to the millennials and should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.

In the summer, you can take scenic road trips and enjoy biking around Oregon while in winter you can snowshoe or go skiing near Mt. Hood.

Oregon has unique attractions for everyone including art lovers, foodies, beer enthusiasts, adventure lovers, and even Shakespeare fans!

Here is an epic list of things to do in the Beaver State. 

Also Read:
Portland to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary
Best Things to do in Washington State

Explore the weird vibe of Portland

Vibrant Portland is located in the shadow of snow-capped Mount Hood.

It is known for its hip and eccentric vibe.

The city’s slogan is ‘Keep Portland Weird’ and Portland does a great job with its maple bacon doughnuts, the underground Shanghai tunnels, tiny Mills End Park which has a single tree, a haunted castle in the center of an urban forest, and eclectic stores!

Portland has a variety of sightseeing attractions for tourists including museums, bridges, gardens, and urban parks including Washington Park.

The city’s gardens – Japanese Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, International Rose Test Garden – are beautiful and great for a stroll.

The world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s City of Books, is located in Portland. 

The beautiful Tom McCall Waterfront Park and many bridges are great for biking around the city – and Portland is known as one of the most bikeable cities in the USA.

The city is also famous for its restaurants, cafes, and food trucks and eating is one of the popular past times while in Portland.

Portland Children’s Museum, also located in Washington Park, is a must-visit for families and one of the most fun things to do in Oregon for kids.

Read our post on the Best Things to do in Portland for more information. 

Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon
Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon

Take in the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is one of the best places to visit in Oregon.

It is located just half an hour away from Portland and makes the perfect day trip from the city.

The deep canyon follows the course of the Columbia River Gorge which is the boundary between Oregon and Washington.

The area attracts over 2 million visitors every year. 

The Columbia River Gorge has a lot of gorgeous waterfalls including the famous Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Punchbowl Falls.

Hiking the waterfalls and other trails located along the gorge are a major tourist attraction of the area.

The Columbia River Gorge area also has many historic landmarks and small towns like Troutdale and Hood River. 

The best way to explore the Columbia River Gorge is via a drive along the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway.

Most of the waterfalls and trailheads are located along the scenic byway.

Things to do in the gorge include hiking, sightseeing, camping, and bicycling. 

This is a slow shutter shot of Multnomah Falls in Autumn colors.
Multnomah Falls in Autumn colors, Oregon

Photograph the stunning Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge deserves a special mention.

It is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the country and a must do in Oregon!

Visitors can drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland to reach the beautiful Multnomah Falls.

The waterfall is located just a 30-minute drive from the city and is a perfect day trip in Oregon. 

At a height of 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.

The waterfall has two drops and magnificent cascades over the cliffs.

The upper falls plunge from a height of 552 ft into a pool while the lower falls drop by a height of 69 ft.

Visitors can hike a moderate 2.2 miles trail to reach the top of the falls. 

However, the best way to see in the gorgeous falls is from the Benson Bridge which is located overlooking the first drop.

Multnomah Falls is a year-round attraction.

Falls look spectacular with the backdrop of fall foliage in autumn while some winters they freeze to form a spectacular winter wonderland.

Other attractions at the Falls include the visitor center located inside the Multnomah Falls Lodge. 

Multnomah Falls and bridge, in the Columbia River Gorge
Multnomah Falls and bridge, in the Columbia River Gorge

Hike in Mount Hood National Forest

Mount Hood is the stratovolcano that provides a beautiful backdrop to the Portland Skyline.

Mount Hood and the surrounding area are protected under the Mount Hood National Forest.

It can be easily reached in under 2 hours from Portland and the drive passes through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.

One of the best ways to experience the Mount Hood National Forest is via the Mount Hood Scenic Loop which comprises the Historic River Columbia Scenic Byway. 

The National Forest also has many mountain lakes and hiking trails.

The Trillium Lake loop trail is 2 miles long while the Lost Lake trail passes through old-growth forest.

Another popular attraction is the Mirror Lake trail which has beautiful views of the mountain peaks.

The Timberline Lodge and ski area is a popular attraction during winter for its ski lifts and a variety of beginner and advanced ski runs.

Definitely add the winter activities to your Oregon to do list!

Mount Hood in Oregon, USA
Mount Hood in Oregon, USA

Drive the scenic Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is the only national park in the state and a must see in Oregon for its natural beauty.

The stunning blue lake attracts visitors from all over the world to the National Park located in Eastern Oregon.

Crater Lake is one of the deepest lakes in the world and was formed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama thousands of years ago.

The volcano erupted and then collapsed to form the caldera which filled with water to form Crater Lake.

The lake is 1949 feet deep and famous for its deep color and water clarity. 

Summer is the most popular time to visit the National Park as the lake is at its bluest then.

The best way to see the lake is to drive along the scenic rim drive which has beautiful views of the lake from different sides.

It has many pullouts and trailheads to get even closer to the lake.

Popular summer activities include hiking, biking, camping, and swimming in the national Park.

Visitors can take a boat tour to Wizard Island located inside Crater Lake. 

The lake doesn’t look as blue during winter but the contrast with the surrounding snow peaks is stunning.

The Crater Lake Rim Drive is closed during winter but some areas near the park are open to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Winter activities at Mount Rainier National Park include skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and playing in the snow. 

Crater Lake Reflection Blue Lake Morning Oregon
Crater Lake Reflection Blue Lake Morning Oregon

Understand the history of Oregon in Astoria

Astoria, a coastal seaport, is the oldest city founded in Oregon.

Astoria is strategically located on the banks of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean.

It was the port of entry for the Pacific Northwest and one of the important cities along the coast.

Today, Astoria is a great place for a day trip or weekend getaway along the Oregon coast.

Because of its age and importance, there are many historical attractions located in Astoria.

To see murals depicting the city’s history and beautiful views, head up to the Astoria Column.

Columbia River Maritime Museum is good to learn about Astoria’s shipping, fishing, and military past.

The Flavel House Museum is famous for its period furniture and Queen Anne Victorian architecture.

In nearby Fort Clatsop, you will get information about the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

Astoria is a great place to visit for movie buffs.

Many movies have been filmed in Astoria including the 80’s classic – the Goonies, the Ring 2, Kindergarten Cop, etc.

You can get information about the movies set in the city and other parts of the state at the Oregon Film Museum located in Astoria.

The museum is set in a former jail and is a historic building.

Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon
Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon

See the Twilight filming locale at Cannon Beach

What to see in Oregon USA for film lovers? Head to Cannon Beach!

With its stunning sea stacks and views up the foggy coast, Cannon Beach is one of the most romantic destinations in the country.

However, you would be surprised to know that Cannon Beach is not actually the name of a beach but a coastal city in Oregon.

The city has a beautiful location between the Pacific Ocean and the mountain ranges.

The coastline here is full of gorgeous sea stacks and wide beaches.

The most popular sea stack is Haystack Rock which is 235 ft tall.

To get the most iconic view of Cannon Beach – with Haystack Rock in the focus – drive to Indian Beach in Ecola State Park.

Cannon Beach is also a popular filming locale. Many movies including the Goonies, Point Break, and Twilight were filmed here. 

There are many other things to do in the city of Cannon Beach.

Visit the Cannon Beach History Center in Museum to understand the history of the area.

Hike to the beautiful Tillamook Rock Lighthouse and enjoy the pretty views.

Explore the many art galleries in the city including Northwest by Northwest, White Bird Gallery, and Bronze Coast gallery.

Eat fresh seafood and enjoy the quintessential beach town experience. 

Looking for unusual things to do on Oregon coast? Hike to Tillamook head and enjoy views of the terrible Tilly lighthouse!

Also Read: The Ultimate Hiking Guide to Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon beach, Oregon
Cannon beach, Oregon

Visit the breweries in Bend

Bend, located on the Deschutes River, is a must-visit city in Oregon for craft beer lovers.

There are over 15 breweries located in and around Bend and the city even has its own Ale trail.

You will also find wineries and cideries in Bend.

Another great attraction is the High Desert Museum where you can see many exhibits about the desert environment, history, and wildlife.

Hike up to Pilot Butte to see the extinct volcano and beautiful views of Bend from above.

Bend is also the perfect getaway town for exploring Oregon outdoors.

To experience the natural volcanic landscape surrounding Bend, visit the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Another great option is Lava Butte where you can hike to the top of the cinder cone.

Drive along the 66 miles long Cascade Lakes Scenic byway for amazing views.

In the winter, Bend is popular for the ski resorts and snowshoe trails located in the Cascade mountains. 

Tour the Oregon State Capitol at Salem

Salem is the capital of Oregon and known for its scenic beauty.

A must visit while in the city is the Oregon State Capitol.

Visitors can take a free tour of the capitol and understand the history of the state, the state legislature, as well as see art by local artists.

Art lovers should also visit the Hallie Ford Museum of Art which has artwork by Pacific Northwest and Native American artists.

Salem has many other museums including the Bush House Museum and the Willamette Heritage Center.

Visitors can also tour the Historic Deepwood Estate, which is a gorgeous Queen Anne style mansion. 

Downtown Salem is charming and worth a quick stroll.

The city also has many gardens and parks including the vast Bush’s Pasture Park.

The Willamette Valley Cheese Company is also located in Salem and is a great place to visit for foodies.

Families love to visit Salem’s Riverfront Carousel which has beautiful wooden horses.

The city hosts the Salem Film Festival, which is one of the biggest and the best film festivals in the world.

Salem is located in the Willamette Valley and is a great place to explore the surrounding wineries.

State capitol building Salem Oregon
State capitol building Salem Oregon

Enjoy harvest season at the Willamette Valley Wineries

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has the perfect combination of weather, sunshine, and rainfall for wine growing.

The 150-mile long valley is home to over 500 wineries and is a popular tourist attraction.

It is located just under half an hour from Portland.

The best time to visit the Willamette Valley is during the harvest season from September to November.

The valley is especially famous for the Pinot noir grapes. 

Visitors can tour the wineries, go wine tasting, and experience traditions such as grapes stomping.

Along with the wineries Willamette Valley also has many gourmet restaurants and a diverse culinary scene.

Apart from the wineries, there are many other things to do in Willamette Valley.

The valley has many hiking trails. Biking and hot air balloon rides are also popular during the summer and fall. 

Go whale watching along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor

The Samuel H Boardman State Scenic corridor is a byway located between Brookings and Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast.

All along the byway, you will have beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon coast.

Sunrises and sunsets along the corridor are especially scenic.

To access the byway, travel along US Highway 101.

The road is 12 miles long and passes through thick Sitka spruce forests, coastal bluffs, and hidden beaches.

While this drive is short, most of the attractions lie beyond the road.

That’s why we recommend parking at the trailheads and hiking to scenic viewpoints and geological formations.

Some of the most popular viewpoints are Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint and House Rock Viewpoint.

A must-visit attraction is the series of 7 arch rocks known as the Natural Bridges.

All along the corridor, you can spot wildlife including migrating whales. 

Also Read: Best Hiking Trails on the Oregon Coast

See the wax statues at Newport

Newport, on the Oregon coast, has its own charm.

It has an interesting mix of outdoor coastal attractions and funky cultural destinations.

Located on the Yaquina Bay,  Newport is a destination in itself and worth a weekend getaway.

Start at the Historic Bayfront district where you can walk along the water’s edge, spot sea lions, and smell the ocean.

Then take a tour of the Yaquina Head lighthouse, which is probably the most photographed lighthouse along the Oregon Coast.

Newport also has many attractions for families.

The most popular is the Oregon Coast Aquarium where kids can see harbor seals, sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, and more.

The undersea Gardens are a popular place to watch marine life while diving and snorkeling.

The Wax Works is another unique Newport attraction where you can see wax figures of celebrities, superheroes, and villains – it’s like Madame Tussauds but creepier!

Newport also has a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum and is a great place to spend a day or two. 

Newport, Oregon, USA
Newport, Oregon, USA

Go off-roading at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Located in Florence, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a part of Siuslaw National Forest.

They are the largest coastal expanse of coastal sand dunes in the country and stretch for over 40 miles along the coast.

The area has really massive dunes with some dunes being over 500 feet in height.

The dunes are created over thousands of years of wind erosion on the coast.

The dunes are a major tourist attraction and people from all over the state visit the area to enjoy this unique landscape.

Popular activities include off-roading, sandboarding, hiking, and camping.

Water activities in the area include fishing and canoeing.

The dunes look beautiful at sunset and sunrise and are a paradise for photographers. 

Oregon Sand Dunes
Oregon Sand Dunes

Experience the cultural attractions of Eugene

After Portland, Eugene is the cultural heart of Oregon.

The city is known for its arts and museums.

Art lovers must visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon campus.

The museum has a vast Asian Arts, Pacific Northwestern Art, and European Art collection.

The Hult Centre for Performing Arts is home to the Eugene Opera, Eugene Concert Choir, Eugene Ballet, and Eugene Symphony.

Attending a performance at the Hult Center is one of the musts in Eugene.

Museum of Natural and Cultural History, also located on the university campus, has detailed exhibits about fossils, wildlife dioramas, etc. 

Eugene also has vast outdoor spaces and urban parks.

The largest park in the city, Alton Baker Park, has many hiking and biking trails that connect the Willamette River from both sides.

Kayaking in the park is also popular.

Hendricks Park is another garden worth visiting for its rhododendrons.

A hidden gem is the Cascade Raptor Centre, one of the most underrated places in Oregon.

The center treats and heals injured birds including eagles, hawks, and falcons.

The center is kid-friendly and loved by kids. 

See Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua

Cape Perpetua is located 15 minutes away from Yachats on the central Oregon coast.

The natural area is a part of the Siuslaw National Forest.

There are many amazing experiences in the scenic area.

The Visitor Center has many exhibits and the rangers can guide you about hiking trails and wildlife sightings including whales, sea otters, and seals.

If you happen to be in Cape Perpetua at sunset then you will be able to see really spectacular colors in the sky. 

A must visit in the area is the Cape Perpetua Lookout.

The overlook is 800 feet high and has amazing views down the coast.

Cape Perpetua also has many great geological formations including Thor’s Well, Devil’s Churn, and Spouting Chasm.

These unique geological formations are some of the best things to see in Oregon.

The area also has many tidepools that are perfect for families looking to explore tide pool creatures.

Cape Perpetua also has many hiking trails and is one of the most fun things to do on the Oregon coast.

Dramatic sunset at Thor's Well in Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Dramatic sunset at Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Step inside the Oregon Caves

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is located in the Siskiyou Mountains near the California-Oregon border.

This is one of the most underrated national parks destinations in the state.

The monument is located near Cave Junction.

Visitors can see the caves on a guided tour with the park rangers. 

The tours usually last for 90 minutes and on the tour, you can learn about the cave system and the geology of the area.

You will pass through the beautiful marble cave, go spelunking, walk along dark twisting passages, and see bats.

Apart from the caves, the monument also has hiking trails including the Big Tree Loop trail. 

You can see sea lions sunning themselves at the sea lion caves.

Marvel at the colorful landscape at Painted Hills

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is located in eastern Oregon and consists of 3 distinct park units: Painted Hills, Clarno, and Sheep Rocks.

The park preserves fossils of plants and animals that lived in the area between 5 to 45 million years ago.

The monument is named after a 19th-century fur trader John Day and is a great place to visit for history buffs. 

The monument has diverse terrains of badlands, shrublands, and desert landscapes – definitely one of the best things in Oregon for those who like off-the-beaten-path attractions.

Visitors can see a variety of fossils on the designated trails.

Many prehistoric Native American petroglyph sites are also located around the monument.

Painted Hills is definitely the most beautiful and fascinating park unit.

Here you can find colorful hills and fossil trails.

To reach Painted Hills, drive along the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway as a day trip from Bend.  

Views of the arid and colorful landscape of Painted Hills
Views of the arid and colorful landscape of Painted Hills

Step in footsteps of the pioneers in Baker City

The Oregon Trail is an over 2170 miles long route that the first settlers used to travel west from Missouri to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the early 19th century.

The pioneers, miners, fur trappers, and homesteaders traveled on the Oregon Trail by foot or in horse wagons.

The National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City enjoys a prominent location on Flagstaff Hill and overlooks over 6 miles of the trail. 

The center serves as an excellent museum about the Oregon Trail and is amongst the top places to see in Oregon.

It has many exhibits, interactive demonstrations, and video clips that narrate life on the historic trail.

The museum takes you back to the 1820s when the pioneers made the dangerous journey out west.

Visitors can still see the wagon ruts left by the pioneers and look at the models of mule wagons and horse carts used by them.

Because of its location in Baker City, the interpretive center is an off the beaten path attraction but well worth the visit.

We definitely recommend this amongst top things to see in Oregon for history and culture fans. 

Eat cheese and ice cream at the Tillamook Creamery

Tillamook, located on the Northern Oregon coast, is a great city to visit for one reason: The century-old Tillamook Cheese Factory!

Tillamook Cheese Factory is a top family attraction where visitors can eat ice cream, grilled cheese sandwiches, and a variety of cheeses including the famous Tillamook medium cheddar.

You can learn about the cheese-making process as you tour the factory.

Tillamook is also a cultural destination and has many museums and historic buildings. 

The coast here is a paradise for bikers, hikers, and off-roading enthusiasts.

The waters along the Tillamook Coast are excellent for fishing.

Visitors can also dig for bay clams along the shore.

Along with clamming, visitors can also go for crabbing for Dungeness crabs along the bay.

Eating the delicious clams and crabs along the coast is great fun.

You can also go bird watching and whale watching along the coast as well as spot sea otters and seals. 

Entrance to Tillamook Creamery, Oregon
For editorial purposes only – Entrance to Tillamook Creamery, Oregon

Besides these attractions, there are a number of top things to do in Oregon including events, activities, and scenic sights and should definitely be on your travel bucket list such as the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival at the Wooden Shoe Tulip farm near Portland.

We hope you liked our list of awesome and unusual must do things in Oregon as well as the top-rated tourist attractions in the Beaver State.

Did we miss out on any of your favorite things to see and do in Oregon or any underrated attractions?

Let us know in the comments.

21 Amazing Things To Do in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Planning a visit to Cannon Beach? Find our recommendations on things to do in Cannon Beach Oregon including iconic Haystack Rock, Ecola State Park, Goonies filming locales, and more. Explore the eateries, art galleries, and stores in downtown Cannon Beach and enjoy an amazing getaway on the Oregon Coast.

29 Awesome Things to do in Portland, Oregon

Sunrise View of Portland, Oregon from Pittock Mansion.

Planning a trip to Portland, Oregon and looking for unique things to do in the quirky city? Explore the best attractions in this part of the Pacific Northwest from the famous Multnomah Falls in Columbia River Gorge to the beautiful Japanese Garden at Washington Park. Read where to find the best doughnuts and ice cream in Portland and see quirky attractions like the Shanghai Tunnels. Read more on how to spend a day or two in this wonderfully weird city in our guide on Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon.

Ultimate Highway 101 Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary

Oregon Coast Highway

Looking for the best things to do on the coast of Oregon including the cities of Astoria, Cannon Beach, Florence, Newport, and more? Use our Oregon Coast Road Trip itinerary to plan an epic drive along the coast and its many natural attractions. Find recommendations on the best hiking trails and viewpoints, where to stay, what to eat, and more in this detailed guide. You may also like our post on 33 Best Places to Visit in America.

This post first appeared on PCH1 Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway & Travel Guide and has been republished here with permission.

Welcome to our Oregon Pacific Coast Highway 101 road trip planner!

Oregon has one of the most stunning stretches of the Pacific Coast, USA. Here you will find stunning natural attractions including sea stacks and sea arches, a rocky coastline often covered in fog, sand dunes that rise high into the air, pretty coastal towns, and historic lighthouses.

The coast is divided into three parts: northern Oregon coast, central Oregon, and southern Oregon. The drive the total length of the coastline from Astoria to Brookings along the Highway 101 takes 8 hours without stopping. Add in the many attractions and scenic spots, and we recommend devoting 5 to 7 days for this road trip.   

Also Read: Portland to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary

Fun fact: it’s time to hit the Oregon coast! Did you know that Oregon has nearly 362 miles of coastline? 

Or you can also split this road trip into small trips and see a section of the coast over a long weekend. It is really hard to pick the best area of the Oregon Coast, rest assured, whichever part you visit you are certain to fall in love with the amazing scenery here. 

If you plan to visit other Oregon attractions including Crater Lake, Columbia River Gorge area, Mount Hood, and the Cascades, then read our Best of Oregon Road Trip Planner which takes you through central and southern Oregon.

To explore all the attractions in the Beaver State, read Best Places to Visit in Oregon. 

Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101
Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101

Ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary

Oregon Coast means endless adventure. Whether you want to go sea kayaking or horseback riding on the beach or ATV riding up and down the sand dunes, Oregon Coast has it all. From fishing to crabbing and clamming and from hiking to birding and biking, there are plenty of fun things to do along the Oregon Coast. 

Here are our favorite spots along the coast of Oregon that you must visit on the ultimate Highway 101 road trip. 

Oregon coast highway 101 road and ocean view
Oregon coast highway 101 road and ocean view

Northern Oregon Coast Attractions

The North Coast of Oregon is considered to extend from Astoria to Neskowin. Here you will find lots of history and architecture. It is also the most popular part of the coast, easily accessible from Portland and its suburbs. 


While Portland is not located on the coast, it is a great starting point for your Coastal Oregon road trip since it is easy to fly to Portland and rent a car. 

Portland is also an amazing city to visit. It is famous for its hipster vibe and millennial population. The city has everything from museums, parks and gardens, eclectic shopping, vibrant neighborhoods, and a legendary culinary scene. If you do happen to fly into Portland, we recommend spending at least a day or two here to experience its unique culture. 

Related: Best Things to do in Portland, Oregon

Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon
Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon


Astoria was the first American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. It is also the oldest city in the state of Oregon and has plenty of historical attractions. Astoria is also popular among the movie buffs. The town was the main setting for the 1985’s cult classic, The Goonies. 

Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, this port city provides ample opportunities for fishing, sailing, kayaking, and more. Make sure to climb up the Astoria Column for a panoramic view encompassing the city, rivers, the Pacific Ocean, and several Cascade Mountain peaks. Drive through the 4-mile Megler Bridge, North America’s longest truss bridge. 

A great way to explore the town is to hop on Astoria’s Riverfront Trolley tour. This 3-mile heritage streetcar line runs all along the waterfront full of restaurants, docks, and piers. The trolley operates every day between March and September and costs $1 for a round-trip, or $2 for all-day on/off. 

After a day of exploration and water activities, enjoy fresh seafood at the cannery boatyard on the Astoria riverfront, Bridgewater Bistro. 

Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon
Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

Live an adventure in history as you navigate through the pine forests and coastal vistas at Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. The historic park was established to commemorate the completion of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

On the expedition, the explorers were tasked with exploring and surveying the land that the United States had recently acquired through Louisiana Purchase. The park encompasses a total of 12 sites along 40 miles of the Pacific coast.

At the park, visitors can follow in the footsteps of the voyagers. Commence your journey at Fort Clatsop, a replica of the fort where the Corps of Discovery found shelter in the winter of 1805-1806. Continue by hiking the 6.5-mile one-way Fort to Sea Trail, and visit the Salt Works, the site where the Lewis and Clark expedition set up a camp to obtain salt for use at Fort Clatsop. 

During the peak season, summer, you may be lucky enough to witness some costumed demonstrations such as muzzleloading and shooting, hide tanning and candle making. Good news for those traveling with children – the park organizes various activities to keep the little ones engaged.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park is a 4,300-acre park along the Oregon Coast. Originally a historic military defense installation on the shores of the Columbia River, Fort Stevens, is the main highlight of the park. 

Fort Stevens was in use for 84 years, from the Civil War Era to World War II. While Fort Stevens is what makes this park unique, it is not the only attraction to see.

Visit the Peter Iredale shipwreck, the little that remains of a 275-foot-long sailing vessel that ran ashore in 1906. The shipwreck can be accessed via hiking the 0.4 miles moderately trafficked Peter Iredale Trail. Or swim in Coffenbury Lake, which can be accessed through 2.5 miles Coffenbury Lake Loop Hike. 

The other smaller lakes in the park are popular for canoeing and fishing. In total, the park has 6 paved trails suitable for biking and 6 unpaved trails for hiking. There are camping and picnic areas available throughout the park.

Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria, Oregon
Shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park in Astoria, Oregon


Located on the Oregon Coast, Seaside is about one and a half-hour drive away from Portland. The resort town is highly popular among families and has multiple shops, art galleries, surf shops, and fine dining establishments for a relaxing urban beach getaway. 

Spend a day on the sandy beach or relive childhood memories by playing vintage arcade games at Funland Seaside Arcade. The entertainment center has been part of Seaside’s history since 1929 and is a favorite with locals.

Seaside’s 1.5-mile oceanfront promenade, popularly called the Prom, is a must-visit for those visiting the town for the first time. This historic promenade was built in the 1920s and is a great way to enjoy the coast. Take a romantic walk along the promenade at night. 

In the summer season, it’s common to find weekly farmer’s market, art gallery walks, seasonal holiday celebrations and fireworks on Memorial Day and the 4th of July, vintage car shows, and sandcastle competitions happening in Seaside.

Tillamook Head Trail & Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

At the south end of Seaside, at the end of Sunset Boulevard, visitors will find the Tillamook Head Trailhead. The hike is about 6-miles long through beautiful muddy forests with some ocean views along the way. 

Wear comfortable boots and take your time exploring and admiring the coast on the trail. You can even see the WWII era bunkers in the area while hiking. Stop for lunch in one of the picnic areas to admire the scenery and recharge by spending time in nature. 

On approaching the Hikers Camp at the end of this trail, visitors are greeted with an epic view of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The light was called ‘Terrible Tilly’ by locals due to extreme weather conditions near the light and the dangerous path traversed by the lighthouse keepers to reach it. 

The light sits on top of a sea stack of basalt called the Tillamook Rock. It rises nearly 100 feet from the sea. The lighthouse was operational from 1881 to 1957 and was deactivated due to damage and erosion during severe storms.

Tillamook lighthouse, Ecola Point, Cannon Beach
Tillamook lighthouse, Ecola Point, Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is one of the most romantic destinations in the country. This popular tourist resort is located on the Pacific Northwest Coast of Oregon. Cannon Beach is 80 miles west of Portland and 25 miles south of Astoria. 

It is home to 4 miles of pristine beach and the famous Haystack Rock, as well as beautiful parks, including the Ecola State Park. Everything in Cannon Beach is pretty close, given the small size of the town. Therefore, the downtown and surrounding area are perfect to explore on foot. 

Also Read: Amazing Hiking Trails near Cannon Beach, Oregon

Enjoy a quality cup of coffee accompanied by a pastry at Sleepy Monk Roasters. Visit the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum for an educational afternoon and see the cannon that gave this sleepy coastal town its name. 

Spend a romantic evening on the beach as you watch a glorious Pacific Northwest sunset. On weekends, there are live glass blowing demonstrations taking place at the Icefire Glassworks using the well-known technique invented during the 1st century BC.

Cannon beach, Oregon
Cannon beach, Oregon

Hug Point State Recreation Site

Your next stop on the Oregon Coast Road Trip is located just 5 miles south of Cannon Beach. Here travelers can find another wonderful beach hugging the cape and the coast. Visitors often think that this beautiful setting earns the area its name, Hug Point. 

However, there is a far more interesting story behind the name. Before the Pacific Coast Highway – Oregon Highway 101 was built – the stagecoach was the only way to travel via the coast. The pioneers had to travel on the beach in their stagecoaches and hug the point sticking out on the coast to get around it safely. Hence, the name. 

There are many hikes in the recreation area and visitors can even see the historic stagecoach ruts in the park. At low tide, you can get behind the point to a small waterfall as well as explore sea caves. Another popular low tide activity is tide-pooling. To find the times of high and low tides, check here.

Oswald West State Park

Over overshadowed by the more popular Ecola State Park and the scenic Three Capes area, Oswald West State Park is a spectacular 2,484-acre park along the Oregon Coast. The park comprises 4 miles of coastline as well as a temperate rainforest. 

Its highlight is the secluded Short Sand Beach, popularly called Shorty. The trail is just half a mile long and takes visitors through a rainforest, under Highway 101, along stunning coastal views to the beach. 

The state park also has several other trails including the Oregon Coast Trail which stretches through the entire park. This trail is recommended only for experienced hikers. Families prefer to spend a day at Shorty. This cove is picture-perfect for surfing, picnics, relaxation, and tide-pooling for the little sea creatures.

For those with more energy and time, points of interest include Cape Falcon and the Devil’s Cauldron. Beware that the short trail to Devil’s Cauldron gets rocky, uneven, very steep, and often muddy, though the views are totally worth it.

Also Read: Best Hiking Trails on the Oregon Coast

Oswald West State Park view at sunset
Oswald West State Park view at sunset

Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad

While this is a primarily road trip itinerary along the Oregon Coast, we aren’t ones to shy away from a scenic railroad ride when one beckons!

Visitors can embark on the heritage steam railroad and relive Oregon’s history while on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. The primary mission of the railroad excursions along the coast is to revive the legacy of steam railroads and teach visitors about their importance in the development of Tillamook County. 

During summer, there are regular trips between Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi. This relaxing trip winds through Tillamook Bay and the Oregon Coast. The track winds up through thick forests along the Nehalem River and offers amazing views of the Pacific Coast. The beautiful views from the train are enjoyed by adults and children alike.

The prices are $22 for adults and $15 for children (3-12 years old) for a round trip. Feel free to explore Garibaldi once you get off the train – just ensure you don’t miss the last train back to Rockaway Beach. The railroad also offers occasional special event trains throughout the year.

The attraction is most enjoyable when it is warm and sunny outside, although there is a choice of an enclosed car to ride in too. In summer the tickets sell out fast, so we recommend booking online well in advance of your trip.

Garibaldi, Oregon, United States
For editorial purposes only – Garibaldi, Oregon, United States

Rockaway Beach

The city of Rockaway Beach is a great place to check out on the Oregon Coast. The namesake Rockaway Beach is the most famous area attraction. This long sandy beach between the Coast Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean is as close as travelers can get to Twin Rocks without stepping off the land. Bring a camera to capture these unique and massive geological wonders. 

The Twin Rocks are one of the most well-known Oregon Coast rock outcroppings after Haystack Rock. The rocks are over 100 feet high and look spectacular at sunset. While it is hard to imagine now, the two rocks were formed 20 to 30 million years ago as one huge ridge structure. 

Over time, erosion separated the two rocks and also created the 35 feet arch in the leftmost rock. The rocks are incredibly romantic at sunset certainly and you can often see couples walking hand in hand and lovers professing their love as they gaze at the horizon.

There are many options for accommodations, restaurants, and shopping along the 7-mile shoreline of Rockaway Beach. Rockaway Beach City also hosts many events and festivals, including the annual July 4th celebration, the Pirate Festival early in the summer, and Kite and Art Festival in August. 


Another cozy town sitting at the northern end of Tillamook Bay, Garibaldi, is home to 760-feet-long Pier’s End. This is the longest pier in Oregon and a beautiful dock to enjoy the Oregon Coast. 

Garibaldi treats its visitors with a relaxed beachy vibe and beautiful views. And don’t forget the fresh seafood! You can either dine out at a restaurant – try the famous ‘Fish Peddler @ Pacific Oyster’ in nearby Bay City or SOURCE Oyster and Wine Bar in garibaldi. Or visit the local seafood market, the Garibaldi Cannery, located in the port to buy fresh seafood to cook for yourself.

While many visitors are drawn to this town for fishing, crabbing, and clamming, Garibaldi is also home to the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad depot and the Garibaldi Maritime Museum, where you can learn the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest. 

There is a little motel and RV park right on the port of Garibaldi, Harborview Inn & RV Park. An overnight stay here is a good opportunity to unwind and relax before continuing the journey.

Port of Garibaldi on the Pacific Ocean in Northwest Oregon
For editorial purposes only – Port of Garibaldi on the Pacific Ocean in Northwest Oregon

Tillamook Creamery

It would be a crime to not pass by the Tillamook Creamery once you’re in the Tillamook area. The Tillamook Creamery is an essential Coastal Oregon road trip stop for foodies! This coop dairy is one of the largest in the country and the famous Tillamook Cheese is a household name. Apart from cheese, the dairy also produces yogurt, butter, and ice-creams. 

This dairy lovers’ paradise offers an opportunity for self-guided interactive tours with educational videos and multiple kiosks. Best part? The tours are free! There are viewing windows from where visitors can directly observe the art of cheese making.

On a visit to the creamery, you can sample the world-famous cheese. There is also a café selling creamy Tillamook ice cream and other snacks such as grilled cheese sandwich, mac n cheese, artisan pizzas, salads, as well as Northwest brews and wine. 

Have long been waiting to spoil yourself with a wine and cheese session? This is a perfect chance!

Entrance to Tillamook Creamery, Oregon
For editorial purposes only – Entrance to Tillamook Creamery, Oregon

Three Capes Scenic Loop

Oregon’s Three Capes Scenic Loop is one of the reasons you go on this road trip, one of the reasons you take a detour from the famous Highway 101. Located on the Tillamook Coast of Central Oregon, the scenic drive is all about slow travel, about savoring the views.

From downtown Tillamook, visitors can follow an epic 40-mile route northwest along the shoreline. You can enjoy many highlights and hidden attractions along the way as you drive around the 3 capes: Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda.

Cape Meares Lighthouse and State Scenic Viewpoint

Your first stop, the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, rests over 200 feet above the ocean. From here, visitors can enjoy great views of the largest colony of nesting common murres. Bring along a pair of binoculars to see them up close. You might also spot other seabirds and even bald eagles. 

The Cape Meares area also has several hiking trails. The trails will take you along vertical sea cliffs, perched high above the ocean, and through forests of giant Sitka spruce and hemlock trees.

Drive over to the 38 feet tall Cape Meares Lighthouse. Built-in 1889 on the steep cliff, the short light is charming and open to visitors for a free tour from April to October. Next to the parking lot, you will find the famous Octopus tree with its tentacle-like branches. The tree is over 200 years old, 50 feet wide, and a historic landmark. Cape Meares is also home to the National Wildlife Refuge, definitely worth visiting if time permits.

Cape Meares Lighthouse at daytime over the Pacific Ocean, Oregon state, USA
Cape Meares Lighthouse at daytime over the Pacific Ocean, Oregon state, USA

Cape Lookout State Park

Cape Lookout State Park, a nearly two-mile oceanfront promontory that juts out into the Pacific, is your next stop. At the park, you will find spectacular geological formations, Oregon Coast native flora and fauna, and impressive views of the Pacific Ocean. 

Spend a day at the beach or hike to a waterfall. Fish along the Wilson River or walk on the sandspit in Netarts Bay. Camp in the state park or rent one of the yurts. Go beachcombing for glass floats or hike through old-growth forests. The opportunities at Cape Lookout State Park are too many to count. 

Also Read: Best Beaches to Camp in the USA

Hike the easy 2.5-mile Cape Lookout Trail. This trail is popular with visitors – it winds through the Sitka spruce forest and takes you to the Cape Lookout headland. From here you can spot whales, see sunsets, and enjoy views of Neahkahnie Mountain. You can also spot Cape Kiwanda in the distance.

Twilight on the Ocean Coast at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon
Twilight on the Ocean Coast at Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon

Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area 

The southernmost of the three capes and also the smallest, Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area doesn’t have many hiking trails. Most visitors hike the 2.2 miles Cape Kiwanda Loop for a walk along the coast. However, it does have a huge sand dune, which makes it no less unique than the other two capes. 

With a little bit of effort, visitors can climb up the 250 feet high Cape Kiwanda dune to observe miles of the ocean and even Cape Lookout in the north. Make sure to stay within fenced areas as it can be really dangerous.

Cape Kiwanda is also famous for its huge crashing waves that pound the sandstone escarpment. From the cape, you can spot Oregon’s second Haystack Rock, located close to Pacific City. It is said that the rock has protected the cape from erosion by the waves and helped retain its shape. 

We also recommend spending time at the beach in Cape Kiwanda. You can watch the unique dory boats being launched into the ocean. 

Pacific City

Pacific City is a sleepy beachfront town that is perfect for outdoor adventures. The shore near Pacific City in Tillamook County is lined by capes, sandy spits, and rivers flowing into protected bays. The Oregon Coast here has a wild feel. Even the Oregon Pacific Coast Highway 101 curves inland here.From the beach, you have great views of Oregon’s second haystack rock.

Visitors can enjoy exploring tide pools, hiking along the coast, whaling, and birding at the Bob Straub State Park. For a unique experience, go horse riding on the beach or ATV riding at Sand Lake Recreation Area. The Nestucca Bay Refuge, located just off Highway 101, is another popular destination to spot wildlife. 

Even if you don’t like spending much time outdoors, Pacific City makes a great road trip stop. This is the perfect family beach vacation destination. You can go shopping, dining, check out the local Pelican Brewery, and other bars and grills.

Winding Coast Road in Oregon
Winding Coast Road in Oregon

Central Oregon Coast Attractions

The area of Oregon Coast from Lincoln City to Florence is considered as the Central Coast. Here the coastline turns quite rocky and wild compared to the north coast. This area is known for its stunning natural rock formations and natural phenomenon such as Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn. Because of its rocky shape, this area also has some of the most historic and powerful lighthouses along the coast. 

God’s Thumb

Located near Lincoln City, God’s Thumb is a unique shoreline formation. The coast here is shaped like a giant thumbs up sign. This is still one of Oregon’s coastal secrets and not known by many people. Hiking to the basalt peak for sweeping views of Lincoln City, Cascade Head, and the Pacific Ocean is popular with the locals.

There are two routes up God’s Thumb: both start at Road’s End State Recreation Area and are unmarked. On both you will encounter dramatic views, rocky cliffs, beaches, and wildflowers. The more popular and scenic option is the 4.4-mile Knoll loop. It takes visitors over forested lands and grassy meadows before suddenly following the ridgeline to the peak. 

The shorter alternative is the 3.4 miles out-and-back trail. This trail is less challenging, has gradual inclines and is good for families with kids. The best time to hike to God’s Thumb is from March through September.

Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area

Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area has an intriguing geology. The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a large hollow rock formation that was probably created from the collapse of roofs of two sea caves due to wave action. Here you can watch waves from the Pacific Ocean waves swirl and froth as it bellows inside the punchbowl.

There are many things to do in the natural area. Visitors come to spot the wave action, birdwatch, whale watch, tidepool, and even surf. Many picnic tables are located here with a beautiful view of the shore.

To reach the punchbowl, hike the 1.8-mile trail from the parking lot. It is not safe to go inside the punchbowl except at low tide and generally, we recommend viewing the wave action from a safe distance. 

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

A must stop for bird watching and tide pooling, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is one of the best places to visit on the Oregon Coast. The rocky basalt beaches like Cobble Beach are perfect to spot sea stars, crabs, sea urchins, sea anemones, and other colorful intertidal life at low tide.

A highlight of the natural area is the 92-feet tall Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest in Oregon. The charming lighthouse was built in 1873 and is still operational. Visitors can climb up the 114 steps to the top on a self-guided tour. 

At the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center, you can learn about the cultural history and marine life along this part of Oregon. There are several informative displays at the center. Other attractions include hiking, spotting nesting colonies of seabirds, and watching the gray whales migrating to Alaska.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Yaquina Head Lighthouse


Your next stop south on your Oregon coast road trip should be Newport. This charming coastal city has everything from museums, the Yaquina lighthouses, aquariums, eclectic shopping, and eateries serving delicious seafood. Newport is home to numerous attractions and outdoor activities.

Begin your visit at the Newport Historic Bayfront. While it is smelly and loud, it does have stunning views of the Yaquina Bay. Another must is the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Here kids can see sea turtles, sharks, sea lions, and other marine life of the Pacific Northwest.

See the weird museums in town including Ripley’s Believe It or Not or the Wax Works museum. Seafood lovers must visit Chowder Bowl located at Nye Beach. This eatery is famous for its award-winning chowder and local cuisine.

The Hatfield Marine Science Centre is a favorite of ocean enthusiasts. To enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and kayaking, visit South Beach State Park. The Newport Farmer’s Market that takes place on Saturdays is a great place to shop local produce and artisan goods.

Newport, Oregon, USA
Newport, Oregon, USA

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Located within Siuslaw National Forest, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area protects a large part of Oregon Coast. Here you will find abundant marine life, a rainforest, miles of hiking trails, pretty beaches, sea caves, rock formations, and tide pools.

Stop at the Visitor Centre deck to enjoy postcard perfect views of the surrounding rainforest, rocky coastline, and turbulent waves of the Pacific Ocean. Drive up to the Cape Perpetua Lookout and enjoy the vistas. 

Cape Perpetua is also home to the famous Thor’s Well. This is a sinkhole on the coast which appears to engulf waves. It looks most spectacular at high tide when the waves disappear down the formation. Another interesting geological formation is the Spouting Horn at Cook’s Chasm. This looks eerily like a whale spouting water at high tide. 

To make the most of your trip to Cape Perpetua, visit at low tide since most formations and trails are dangerous and often inaccessible at high tide. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint

A half mile trail to the top of Heceta Head leads visitors to the iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most beautiful lighthouse in Oregon. It also bears the distinction of being the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon.

Visitors can tour the lighthouse including the ground floor with a park ranger. While visitors are not allowed on upper levels, a hiking trail near the lighthouse leads you to a good viewpoint of the lens. For a romantic option, experience the life of a lightkeeper by booking a night stay at the Light Keeper’s House. This has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the beach.

Wildlife watching is one of the highlights of Heceta Head. Here you can not only spot migrating whales and sea lions but also land birds, nesting seabirds, and the magnificent Roosevelt Elk. You can also take the mile long trail to Hobbit Beach, a nice sheltered beach with pretty views. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse


Located just off Pacific Coast Highway 101, Florence is a must visit on a Coastal Oregon road trip. The city is located at the mouth of Siuslaw River and has a plethora of natural attractions including lakes, coastal bluffs, beaches, and sand dunes.

The Oregon Coast Military Museum is located in Florence. Here visitors can learn about American contributions to WWI, WWII, and also know more about the Vietnam War, Korea War, and the work of the Coast Guards. You can see actual war items donated by Oregon veterans including guns, swords, documents, photographs, and more. 

Take a photo of the historical Siuslaw River Bridge located right on Oregon Highway 101. The bridge has beautiful Art Deco style architecture and Gothic arches. It is one of the iconic bridges on the Oregon Coast. 

After checking out the bridge, venture into Historic Old Town Florence. Visit the art galleries and unique shops. Don’t forget to watch the sea lions lounging around at the Sea Lion Cave, the largest sea cave in America.

Oregon wooden sign
Oregon wooden sign

Southern Oregon Coast Attractions

The southern coast of Oregon extends all the way from the Oregon dunes to Brookings in the south. Here the water looks turquoise more frequently than in other parts and teh landscapes are just striking and dramatic. All the way south near the California border, you will also find the largest stands of coastal redwoods in Oregon. 

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, located in the Siuslaw Forest, is one of the best places to visit in Oregon. The sand dunes are sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and a temperate forest. They look magical and enchanting as they easily tower about 500 feet above sea level. 

The sand dunes were formed by the blowing winds and continue to be sculpted every year. The dunes stretch for a very long part of the coast and the most popular areas for road trippers include the South Jetty Area or Oregon Dunes Day Use Area.  

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a paradise for outdoor lovers. Popular activities here ATV riding, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, sand boarding, and camping. There are enough activities to keep visitors of all ages happy.

Popular hiking trails include the Lagoon Loop Trail and the Oregon Dunes Overlook Trail. Along with ATVs, you can also rent dirt bikes, sand buggies, or go horse riding to explore the majestic sand dunes. 

Oregon Sand Dunes
Oregon Sand Dunes

Coos Bay

As you head south from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Your next stop should be Coos Bay. Coos Bay is one of our favorite destinations on the Oregon Coast road trip primarily because of the beautiful sunsets and scenic beauty that it offers. 

This outdoor paradise is close to the southern entrance to the dunes but is also adorned by beautiful beaches, rocky cliffs, and a stunning wilderness. From the coast of Coos Bay, you can see views of the Capo Arago Lighthouse. Coos Bay is also the perfect place to explore 3 state parks along the Cape Arago Highway.

Coos Bay is also the largest city on the Oregon Coast and offers plenty of city attractions. Enjoy the interpretative displays, fish market, the Koos #2 tugboat, and many seafood restaurants along the Coos Bay Boardwalk. The views of the bay are beautiful from here.

Art lovers can visit the Coos Art Museum and admire its collection of Northwestern and contemporary art. The gallery exhibit dedicated to the runner Steve Prefontaine, who is a Coos Bay native, is loved by tourists and locals alike. Other attractions worth seeing include the Egyptian Theatre, Coos Bay Maritime Center, etc.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

The Cape Arago Lighthouse, located in Charleston, stands at Gregory Point on the detached Chief’s Island near the coast off Coos Bay. The lighthouse, while decommissioned and closed to the public, is popular with photographers. 

The lonely lighthouse perched on the rocky island looks romantic and mysterious. It was built in 1866 to aid ships carrying lumber to Coos Bay. The best views of the lighthouse can be seen along the Cape Arago Beach Loop. Try the pretty views from the Sunset Bay State Park or hike to Lighthouse Beach. 

Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast
Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Cape Arago Beach Highway

The detour to Cape Arago Beach Loop is a must on a Pacific Coast Highway 101 road trip in Oregon. Along the highway you can spot sea lions and seals, seabirds, and migrating whales. You will also find exceptional views along the coastline.

Cape Arago Highway runs parallel to Pacific Coast Highway 101 and provides access to 3 state parks in Oregon. From north to south you will find Shore Acres State Park, Sunset Bay State Park, and Cape Arago State Park. 

Shore Acres has a formal rose garden and Japanese lily pond and is great to visit. All three state parks have beach access, amazing scenery, and miles of hiking trails. Visit the Bastendorff Beach to enjoy flying kites, surfing the waves, or beachcombing for shells and even fossils. This is one of the most popular beaches to visit in southern Oregon. You can also go hiking along the 1.2 mile long Cape Arago Loop Trail. 

Bandon Beach Loop Drive

Just off Highway 101, further south, is the Bandon Beach Loop Drive. This 5 mile long scenic drive provides access to one of southern Oregon’s most dramatic stretches. Along the loop, you will find secluded beaches and stunning viewpoints. Visitors can tide pool and bird watch while they enjoy the coastal scenery. 

The drive begins in the city at the Bandon Historical Society Museum. Here you can understand the town’s history. Past the city, the loop turns west towards the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. 

Here you will find the first famous viewpoint, Coquille Point. The view here is magical: foaming waves, sea stack, offshore rock islands, and seabirds nesting colonies look stunning at sunrise or sunset. The views of Elephant Rock are pretty clear. 

The drive south to the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint. The interpretive trail here does a great job of explaining the Ntaive American legend behind the face on the rock. The last stop is Bandon State Natural Area. Devil’s Kitchen, next along the loop, provides easy access to a pretty beach area. You will find plenty of interesting rock formations here.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

The last stop on your Coastal Oregon road trip! Located between Brookings and Gold Beach parallel to Highway 101, the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is a must visit. The byway stretches for 12 miles and provides access to coastal bluffs, secluded beaches, offshore rock formations, and hiking trails.

At the northern end you will find the Arch Rock Viewpoint. Arch Rock is a famous sea arch in southern Oregon. This area also has picnic tables and is perfect to enjoy an outdoors lunch. Then drive down to the Natural Bridges Viewpoint. It is a famous point to spot two arched rocks and blowholes. 

Visit the dunes at Indian Sands or enjoy the quiet China Beach. Last but not the least, hike the stunning trail to Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint. The mile long trail has breathtaking views of the coastline, marine life, and gorgeous evening sky at sunset.

360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast
360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast

Best of Oregon Road Trip Itinerary: An Unforgettable Adventure!

Winding Coast Road in Oregon

This post first appeared on Pacific Coast Highway & Travel Guide and has been republished here with permission.

Planning a road trip down the Oregon coast and looking for the ultimate Oregon Road Trip Itinerary? Read our comprehensive Oregon Road Trip Itinerary for the best stops along the Oregon coast or in the mountains including Crater Lake National Park, Mt. Hood, Portland, Astoria, Cannon Beach, and more. You might also like our post on 33 Best Places to Visit in the USA

Welcome to our Oregon Road Trip Planner!

360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast
360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast

The Oregon Coast Road Trip along Highway 101 is one of our favorite road trips in the world. And that’s saying something since we have been on many epic ones including the Florida Keys road trip, Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, and the amazing Black Hills road trip in South Dakota, to name a few. 

This trip along the Pacific Coast has everything from panoramic beaches, fog-shrouded hiking trails, secret coves, quaint beachside towns, artist communities, and even redwood trees! Yes, those giants are not limited to North California but also thrive in southern Oregon. 

The best place to see them? Along the Oregon Redwood Trail, of course! 

Where is that? Don’t worry, that’s what we are here for. 

To help you plan a stunningly spectacular Oregon Road Trip! 

On this itinerary, we have also included attractions further inland which means along with sandy beaches and buffs, you also get to see beautiful waterfalls, stunning blue lakes, volcanic domes, hot springs, desert landscapes, and more.. After all, this is Oregon – Things look different here

Related: Best Places to Visit in Oregon

Oh, and if you love craft beer you are going to love Oregon. Throughout the state, you can find brewpubs, microbreweries, craft beers served in restaurants, and beer aficionados!

Oregon coast highway 101 road and ocean view
Oregon coast highway 101 road and ocean view

What is the best time to visit Oregon?

When we first started planning our Oregon Road Trip, we were confused – should we keep to the coast or visit inland attractions? After all, it was March and the Crater Lake area was still covered in snow. Who knows how much more snow we may find on the road? Ultimately, we decided to do the eastern region of the state as well and are so glad that we did! 

Oregon is just stunning, even in winter and spring. You may not see the cornflower blue Crater Lake and will definitely need a car with snow chains but it still looks beautiful. However, if you want a relaxed trip with no chance of getting stuck in a blizzard, then the summer is your best bet for visiting eastern Oregon. 

In the summer, you will find excellent weather throughout the state and wildflowers in the mountains. Summer is perfect for hiking with the sunset as late as 9 pm in the northern part of the state. The water is also good for swimming, though in our opinion the Pacific is always too cold to swim! 

Winter and spring are usually rainy/windy for the coast. If you are visiting in these seasons, we recommend bringing raincoat or rain jackets and an umbrella. Further inland, you will encounter snow and even blizzards. Bring along warm jackets and thermals, and get snow chains on your tires. Also, remember: snow chains void rental car agreements so skip visiting Crater Lake or any nearby areas in winter if renting a car. 

Fall is another good time to visit, especially in early fall. The Columbia River Gorge region looks spectacular with fall colors and the Willamette Valley wineries have harvest events.

Oregon wooden sign
Oregon wooden sign

How many days do you need to see Oregon?

Oregon is quite vast – you don’t realize how vast unless you look at the state map!. The I-5 and Highway 101 are quite far from the eastern side. Thankfully, most major attractions are located along these two roads, making it feasible to see the Best of Oregon in a week or so. 

If you like slow travel, then keep aside 10 days to 2 weeks for this road trip. On the other hand, if you are short on time then you can easily split your trip and do the coastal attractions in 4 or 5 days, keeping aside the interior for another visit. 

360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast
360 degree spherical view of the sunset on Oregon coast

Ultimate Oregon Road Trip Itinerary

Here’s what you have been waiting for. The ultimate Oregon Road Trip Itinerary, that will take you through the best attractions in the state. We have written this itinerary down along the coast starting in Portland and then up again towards this vibrant city. 

Whether it’s along Highway 1 in California or along Highway 101 in Oregon, we love driving along the Pacific Coast from the north to the south. That way, the best views are on your right side and it is easy to stop at pullouts. 

Also, Portland makes a great city to fly in and out of, as well as to rent a car. If you want to drive in the clockwise direction or fly into Eugene or someplace else, you can still use our itinerary – it is really easy to customize as per your interests. 

With that said, let’s dig down into what makes Oregon so special and how to plan a road trip along it all! 

Portland and the vicinity – 3 Days

As we mentioned before, Portland is a very convenient city to begin your Oregon Road Trip Itinerary. But before you take the car and hit the Oregon coast, we would recommend spending a few days in Portland to experience its unique culture and vibe. You should also check out the natural attractions just outside of Portland. 


My introduction to Portland was through the TV series ‘Portlandia’ – an apt if exaggerated introduction to the city’s hipster culture. The city goes by the slogan, ‘Keep Portland Weird‘. That should give you some idea of what to expect in this unique, vibrant city. Bacon doughnuts, eateries serving ethically sourced foods, food trucks, board game cafes, karaoke bars, bike shares, indie coffees, murals – that sorta things! 

The Pacific Northwest’s incessant rains and humid climate provide a great growing environment for the city’s plants, trees, and bushes. Consequently, you will find many beautiful gardens in this city. 

Our favorite to visit was the famous Japanese Garden. Located within Washington Park, this beautifully landscaped garden is so tranquil that it transports you into a different world. 

Other things to do in Washington Park, Portland’s famous urban park, include the International Rose Test Garden, the Oregon Zoo, Children’s Museum, and more. We would recommend keeping aside at least half a day to see this area.

Portland skyline view at night with Mount Hood in the background
Portland skyline with Mount Hood in Oregon

Another essential stop: Powell’s City of Books! This used bookstore located in the Pearl District is a Portland landmark, akin to NYC’s Strand or Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store. Here you will find a million books, book readings and signings, and even writing workshops. I could have spent hours browsing through the books and my husband had to literally drag me out so we could see the rest of Portland!

Other things to do in Portland include visiting the famous Pittock Mansion, Portland Art Museum, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the chic Pearl district, the Lan Su Chinese Garden, and the Hoyt Arboretum. If you want to focus more on experiencing the city rather than checking out attractions, then we’d suggest exploring more of the Pearl District. This cool area was formerly a railyard and has the perfect mix of art galleries, cafes, boutiques, craft breweries, and pubs. 

Portland’s food scene is pretty amazing. The city’s Voodoo doughnuts are popular with tourists but locals recommend Blue Star doughnuts. Something like the New Orleans Cafe du Monde vs Cafe Beignets battle! Since we have a Voodoo location in Houston and have already tried their doughnuts (love them) we decided to go to Blue Star in Portland. We loved their unique flavors; Blueberry Bourbon Basil doughnut anyone? If you do happen to visit Voodoo, don’t forget to take a photo with the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ sign which is located near the doughnut shop.

Another local chain worth trying is Salt & Straw ice cream. They have unique flavors and a must for Portland visitors. Other famous ice cream shops are Fifty Licks and Ruby Jewel. For exotic cocktails, a visit to the famed Hale Pele Tiki Bar is essential. Bring along friends and try their famous Volcano Bowl. For real food (enough with ice creams, doughnuts, and cocktails), try Pok Pok’s fish sauce chicken wings

The city is also famous for its dumplings. Portland also has many farmer’s markets where you can shop for organic produce and artisan products. And don’t forget the horde of food trucks pampering every taste bud. Where most cities have a truck or two lining up the sidewalks, Portland has food truck pods – areas where dozens of carts and trucks are parked next to each other, waiting for your patronage!

Wondering how much time to spend in Portland? You ideally need at least 2 to 3 days to see most of Portland but you can cover the highlights including the Pearl District and Washington Park in a day if you have less time. To make the most of your Portland trip, read our post on 29 Epic Things to do in Portland, Oregon.

Fun fact: Feeling lazy? Well, at least you don’t need to get out of the car to fill up on gas! That’s right, Oregon is the second place where we encountered gas station attendants. The other was New Jersey!

Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon
Beautiful View of Portland, Oregon

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Oregon. While the area is vast, you can easily see it on a day trip from Portland. Located just half an hour away, the national scenic area is full of trails, waterfalls, scenic drives, and lookout points. We recommend driving along the 20 mile long Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway to explore the area. Some of our favorite spots along the highway are Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, and Vista House. The parking lots along the byway, especially at Multnomah Falls, get full on weekends, so we recommend arriving early in the day. 

The #1 tourist attraction in the Columbia River Gorge area is the Multnomah Falls. At 620  feet, the waterfall is the tallest of the many waterfalls in the gorge. This beautiful waterfall has two drops, creating the upper falls and lower falls. The picturesque Benson Bridge creates a perfect place to view the falls. While you can see the falls from below after a 5 mins walk from the parking lot, you need to scramble up to Benson Bridge and another mile to reach the viewpoint at the top. Another must visit is the Multnomah Falls Lodge which has a visitor center and is a designated historic place. 

Other things to do in the gorge region include hiking, boat cruises, visiting dams, winery tasting, waterfall hiking, etc. We would recommend seeing Portland and the Columbia River Gorge area before beginning your Oregon road trip in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction as per your interest. 

Multnomah Falls and bridge, in the Columbia River Gorge
Multnomah Falls and bridge, in the Columbia River Gorge

The rugged Oregon Coast Road Trip – 3 Days

Oregon Coast is a different beast compared to most of the Californian Coast. It is windy, rugged, wet, foggy, and cold. It is also beautiful and dramatic. 

Along the coast, you will find gorgeous geological formations including Haystack Rock, Thor’s Well, sand dunes, etc. You will also find rainforests, artsy communities and beachy towns – plus, lots of seafood! 

The route you’ll be following – Highway 101 – completely parallels the coast and is a pleasure to drive. 

Rugged Oregon Coast with Lighthouse
Rugged Oregon Coast with Lighthouse


We recommend starting your coastal road trip in Astoria in the north. This pretty coastal town has many things to offer. Start your visit by climbing to the top of the famed Astoria Column, a historic tower with stunning 360 degree views of Astoria and the coast. 

Other things to do in Astoria include the Columbia River Maritime Museum which narrates the seafaring history of the area, the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park which is home to the historic Fort Clatsop, and the Fort Stevens State Park where you can see a historic shipwreck. 

Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon
Astoria-Megler Bridge, Astoria, Oregon


Next stop at the resort town of Seaside. It’s main attraction is the Seaside Promenade, a 1.5 mile long boardwalk, which is perfect for a stroll. Other things to do include spotting harbor seals at the Seaside Aquarium, exploring the art galleries in town, sampling some of the famous Sea Star Gelato. 

While you are in Seaside, stop by the Bell Buoy, a locally owned seafood market where you can also order specialities like fish and chips, clam chowder, crab melt, and oyster shooters. This is also a great place to pick up something for a picnic lunch. 

Cannon Beach

After leaving Seaside, head for the Cannon Beach area. Walk on the beach and marvel at the sea stacks. To take the most photographed view of Haystack Rock with Cannon Beach in the background, visit Ecola State Park

From here, you can also spot the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The state park is also good for wildlife watching including bald eagles, brown pelicans, tufted puffins, elk, seals, sea lions, and migrating gray whales. The park also has tidepools where you can spot a variety of low tide creatures. 

Also Read: Best hikes in Cannon Beach

Cannon beach, Oregon
Cannon beach, Oregon

Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach is a charming Oregon coastal town and has been a popular West Coast beach getaway for families since many years. A highlight is the Twin Rock formation off the coast. In the town, you will find charming buildings, shopping, and seafood restaurants.  

Tillamook Coast

For a change of pace, ride the Oregon Scenic Coast Railroad between Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi. This historic train will take you along the coast and has many special excursions in the Tillamook Bay area. 

Then stop at the famous Tillamook Creamery. The Creamery / Cheese factory is an essential stop on the Oregon coast road trip. At the factory, you can go on a self- guided tour of the cheese making and packaging process. You can sample a few cheeses as well as buy some for the road – plus, they have ice cream! This stop is a favorite with families and kids. 

Post Tillamook, you can either follow Highway 101 inland or take a detour towards the Three Capes Scenic Drive. Along this scenic road, you will have amazing views of Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda. This road is a hidden gem and was a highlight of our road trip. 

Tillamook lighthouse, Ecola Point, Cannon Beach
Tillamook lighthouse, Ecola Point, Cannon Beach

Cape Perpetua

Next visit Devil’s Punchbowl and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, before driving to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. See the view from Cape Perpetua Lookout point, visit Thor’s Well, see the spouting horn which shoots water into the air, and see the Devil’s Churn.

Next stop at the famous Heceta Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse position is extremely scenic and makes for iconic photographs. You can also tour the lighthouse, see timings on the official website. 

Other stops as you make your way south include the Oregon Dunes, Coos Bay, the state parks near Bandon beach, and the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. The views along the corridor are especially scenic and we fell in love with this scenic road trip. 

The total distance from Astoria in the north to Brooking in the south is about 8 hours (~340 miles). We recommend breaking it into ideally 3 to 4 days so you can hike, take scenic drives, enjoy time at the beach, visit local restaurants and factories, explore museums and antique stores, and generally, have a grand time. 

If you have only two days to see the coast, we would recommend visiting our favorite attractions of Cannon Beach, Three Capes Scenic Drive, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, and the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Byway. 

If you can hike only one trail, hike to Thor’s Well. If you can visit only one lighthouse, visit the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Don’t forget to visit Tillamook Creamery and eat the seafood at Bell Buoy. Stay the night at either Newport or Florence near the Heceta Head Lighthouse and observe the stunning sunsets on the Pacific. 

If you have more time, then plan a leisurely drive down the coast. There is so much more to see and do on the Oregon coast beyond the attractions mentioned in this itinerary. 

You can see unique sites like the Goonies filming location in Astoria, Indian beach, Cape Meares Lighthouse, check out breweries along the coast, stroll along the Garibaldi Pier, go whale watching, visit the Oregon Aquarium at Newport, explore the Old Town of Florence, etc. 

To find out our 25 favorite stops along the Oregon Coast and plan your road trip along Highway 101, read our separate post on The Best Things to do on the Oregon Coast. 

Dramatic sunset at Thor's Well in Cape Perpetua Scenic Area
Dramatic sunset at Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Through the Cascades – 2 Days

In central Oregon, you will find the beautifully breathtaking Cascade Mountain ranges. This region of Oregon is stunning with snow capped mountain ranges, amazing hikes, a variety of outdoor adventures, and charming mountain towns. 

That’s why, we recommend adding Central Oregon to your Oregon state road trip. Those who come to see only Portland and Coastal Oregon are missing out on the diversity that the Beaver State offers to its visitors. 

Here you will find majestic mountain peaks, dense evergreen forests, beautiful mountain lakes, skiing in winter, and lots of wildlife encounters. 

Where you start your Cascades part of the trip depends on how far south you go along the Coast. If you go down to Brookings, you will need to enter California before you can reach Central Oregon. 

Irrespective of that, your first stop should be Crater Lake National Park. 

Crater Lake National Park

No road trip in Oregon is complete without visiting Crater Lake National Park. This is a majestic place to visit year round though in the winter, you will be treated to closed roads and snow on the rim. The lake itself always looks a mysterious and shimmering blue. 

There are many ways in which you can enjoy the astounding scenery of this beautiful place. Drive the scenic rim drive or go hiking into the surrounding forest. Stop at the pullouts and take stunning photographs of Crater Lake. In the summer, you can also swim in the lake at Cleetwood Cove. 

This deepest lake in the country was formed when the Mount Mazama volcano erupted more than seven thousand years ago and water filled up it’s collapsed caldera. You can read more about the fascinating history of this geological wonder at the visitor center. 

Crater Lake Reflection Blue Lake Morning Oregon
Crater Lake Reflection Blue Lake Morning Oregon

Optional: Umpqua National Forest

The Umpqua National Forest is a gorgeous region to add to your road trip through Oregon. While the recent wildfires in Oregon have affected the outdoor recreation area, it still remains quite beautiful. You can go on scenic drives through the mountains or enjoy hiking trails. There are also many waterfalls and swimming holes in the forest where you can go hiking, fishing, and swimming. 


Located on the banks of the Deschutes River on the eastern slopes of the Cascade mountains, Bend is a delightful and charming city. In the city, you will find boutique shopping, craft breweries, coffee shops, and trendy eateries. Talking of breweries, Bend is famous for its beer scene and even has an ale trail – it is a must for beer lovers! 

Bend is also famous for its plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. In summer you can enjoy watersports and go on hiking trails while in the winter, you can go skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. This is really a fantastic city to visit while in Oregon. 

Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway

Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway begins in Bend and is an amazing drive to enjoy the stunning summer scenery in the Cascades ranges. The drive is 66 miles long and takes about half a day to complete considering the stops. The route goes through the Deschutes National Forest, Three Sisters Wilderness Area, and beautiful mountain lakes. 

Lava Lake, along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway near Bend Oregon, with Mt. Bachelor in the background
Lava Lake, along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway near Bend Oregon, with Mt. Bachelor in the background

Optional: Deschutes River

If you have time and are looking for a relaxing and cooling day in the summer, then consider a floating trip down the Deschutes River. This river in central Oregon is perfect for river tubing. You can rent floats, kayaks, or canoes in Bend and can launch your trip from the Riverbend Park. You can also try whitewater rafting along the river or go fishing. The river is a must on your Oregon road trip itinerary for water lovers. 

After visiting Deschutes River, you can drive northwest towards Oregon. However, if you have the time we would suggest exploring the beautiful bare, rugged landscape of eatsern Oregon. 

Optional: Via the desert landscapes of Eastern Oregon – 2 Days

While Eastern Oregon has many unique desert landscapes including the Painted Hills, Owyhee Canyonlands, Hart Mountains, and Alvord Desert, we recommend visiting just the Painted Hills and other units of John Day if you have less time. 

Oregon Sand Dunes
Oregon Sand Dunes

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon is located close to Deschutes River. The monument comprises 3 units: Painted Hills, Sheep Rock, and Clarno.  Painted Hills is the most visited unit of the National Monument. 

The monument is most renowned for the excellently preserved fossils of plants and animals that lived in Eastern Oregon millions of years ago. The fossils span over 50 million years and this is one of the most complete fossil records in the world. 

The monument and it’s units are located in rural Oregon. Here you will find tiny villages, open ranches where cattle wander onto the roads, and very basic amenities. We suggest filling up on gas whenever you encounter a gas station, you definitely don’t want to be stuck in these parts! 

Squaw Creek Butler Basin John Day Fossil Beds Oregon
Squaw Creek Butler Basin John Day Fossil Beds Oregon

Painted Hills

Painted Hills is a beautiful, magical landscape that looks even more stunning at dusk or dawn. It looks even more vibrant after a rainfall when the colors on the hills are vivid and alive. The site is considered among the Seven Wonders of Oregon and is a must visit while in the state. 

There are many things to do in the Painted Hills unit of John Day and several ways to take in the beauty of the area. Hike to the iconic Painted Hills Overlook to get a panoramic view of the colorful hills. Hike the short Painted Cove Trail to get up close to the hills or hike the 1.6 mile round trip Carroll Rim Trail to see the sweeping vistas. 

Views of the arid and colorful landscape of Painted Hills
Views of the arid and colorful landscape of Painted Hills

Optional: Owyhee Canyonlands

Southeastern Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands seems to belong more to the American Southwest than to the Pacific Northwest. Here you will find a red rock landscape reminiscent of Sedona and spectacular, eroded canyons. 

Not many visitors come here, keeping this one of the best kept secrets of Oregon. This volcanic landscape has been carved by flowing rivers and glaciers and contains several badlands, clifftops, canyons, and desert landscapes. 

One of the best ways to explore this remote attraction is by hiking. Take to the trails and discover beautiful spots such as Leslie Gulch, Jordan Craters, and Painted Canyon Loop. Remember to bring maps, plenty of water, and other hiking essentials as there are no amenities near the Canyonlands. Also, you will need a 4WD vehicle to make the drive out here as it is on unpaved roads.

Optional: Alvord Desert

Alvord Desert is located in southeastern Oregon near the Steens mountains. This was once a lake that was several hundred feet deep. Today, you will find just a dry lake bed and a beautiful desert landscape. The minerals from the lake are deposited over hexagonal cracks in the ground. In some ways, Alvord Desert is similar to Death Valley. It is also eerily silent and one of the most underrated destinations in Oregon. 

The area is famous for its geothermal activity and it is said that at night, you can hear booming noises from the seismic activity. Visitors often camp here in this desolate landscape because of its unprecedented beauty plus the camping here is free and doesn’t need any permits. That’s right, you could just walk up here, set up your tent, and enjoy the sunset before you turn in for the night. 

On the western edge of the Alvord Desert, you will find the Alvord Hot Springs. These are a result of the high seismic activity in the area. They are privately owned and can be accessed for a small entry fee. Here you will find two simple concrete pools with wooden edges to sit. If you camp here, you can soak in the hot springs even at night. This is a truly one of a kind outdoor experience in Oregon. 

While you are there you can also drive the Steens Mountains Loop drive which is 60 miles long and takes about 2 hours. The views along the drive are beautiful and there are lookout points at regular intervals. 

Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101
Aerial of Pacific Ocean in Oregon, Highway 101

And that’s it! You have just planned an epic Oregon road trip itinerary. Did we miss any stunning spots in Oregon that should be on this road trip? Let us know in the comments!

Further Reading
Washington State Road Trip Itinerary
California Road Trip Itinerary
West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Grand Canyon Road Trip Planner
Colorado Road Trip Itinerary