Ready for a road trip around the Beaver State? Go for a drive out of Portland, Oregon, and discover the countless breathtaking natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest. Upgrade your itinerary with some of the best day trips from Portland, OR.
Not far from Portland, you’ll wander through lush green forests while chasing spectacular waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park. You’ll lounge on beautiful long sandy beaches like Cannon Beach and admire the awe-inspiring power of the infamous Mt. St. Helens.
Ready to make the most of your PNW holiday? Enhance your Oregon experience with this complete guide to the most popular Portland day trips.
Top-rated Portland side trips
If you’re a wine lover, set aside time on your Portland trip to explore Willamette Valley, the heart of Oregon Wine Country. Willamette Valley is a must-visit for wine lovers and foodies alike. The region boasts a selection of over 500 wineries. Best of all, it’s under an hour away from Portland.
Start your exploration of the PNW’s finest wine region in the charming town of McMinnville. For a superb wine-tasting experience, head to the Eyrie Vineyards. The family-run winery is famed for producing some of Oregon’s finest Pinot Noir.
Fan of flight? Pop into the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, located just outside of McMinnville. Watch a 3D movie theater, go on the flight simulator, and enjoy the exhibits. While at the museum, make sure to visit the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’ famous gigantic airplane.
Another winery worth a visit on your route is Cathedral Ridge Winery. Select six award-winning wines from their list of 26 and let the sommelier guide you through this 45-minute wine-tasting adventure. Don’t forget to ask about the origin of the winery’s name, the Native American love story, and the legend of the neighboring volcanoes.
Are you an avid beach lover? Make sure to squeeze in a day trip to Cannon Beach. Home to Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach is famed for its long stretches of powder-sand beaches, hiking trails between undisturbed flourishing forests, and incredible ocean views.
Cannon Beach is a mere hour and a half from the hustle and bustle of Portland and is one of the most highly recommended Oregon Coast day trips. Slip over to the seaside town to escape city life and unwind on a secluded sandy beach with the fresh Pacific Ocean breeze and setting sun on your face.
To escape even further from society, hike to the hidden Crescent Beach or secluded Indian Beach. Ocean meets the sand, sand meets forest here, and there’s no sign of civilization.
Located north of town, Ecola State Park offers some of the most exquisite natural scenery along the Oregon Coast. The well-kept hiking trails will whisk you through virgin forests and open up to jaw-dropping panoramic vistas overlooking the grandiose Pacific with coastal views. Jagged rocks, smashing waves—and even some seals or dolphins, if you’re lucky!—will make your trip truly unforgettable.
On your Cannon Beach day trip, be sure to carve out time to check out Haystack Rock. Located on the edge of the beach, Haystack Rock is the perfect embodiment of the rugged natural beauty of the Oregon Coast.
Blast your social media pages with alluring photos of a blazing Pacific Ocean sunset with the towering rock silhouettes. Although sunset is the most beautiful time of the day to visit this iconic seaside destination, morning or afternoon are great times to witness its majesty, too.
The Haystack Rock Marine Gardens offer the opportunity for you and the kids to observe tidal pools forming in the surf. Check out the tide pools during low tide to see them teeming with marine life.
Bird lovers: Bring your binoculars. Haystack Rock is not only home to a colony of quirky puffins but is a hotspot for a variety of bird species. On a good day, there’s a good chance that you might even spot some bald eagles harassing the other birds.
If you’ve got more time on your Oregon Coast road trip, slide down to Pacific City, an hour and a half from Cannon Beach. The beachfront town is most famous for its Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, known for its water sports and adrenaline-pumping activities, including kite-surfing and hang-gliding.
Spend time hiking the seaside trails of Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area to spectacular views over the rugged coastline. Once you’re tired of exploring, visit the Pelican Brewing Company. The Pacific City branch of this popular Oregon craft brewery is situated right on the sandy beach overlooking the Chief Kiawanda Rock.
Planning to tick a visit to a volcano off your bucket list? The iconic Mount Hood is an active stratovolcano in Oregon under two hours from Portland. Mt. Hood is postcard-ready with its snowcapped peak and lush green forests at the base of the mountain.
You don’t need to hike all the way up the mountain to enjoy spectacular views of the valley. Drive to the trailhead and enjoy an ice-cold beer at Mazot Eatery while enjoying the crisp mountain air and staring at the panoramic view of Mt. Hood National Park.
About a 20-minute drive southeast of Mt. Hood is Mirror Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Oregon. This tranquil lake reflects light beautifully off its waveless surface and is famous for mirroring an image of majestic Mount Hood. Relax on the banks, enjoy the amazing views, and take some photos before jumping into the fresh water.
A little further north is Lost Lake, another pristine lake with crystal-clear water set among flourishing green forests. There are plenty of activities to enjoy around Lost Lake, such as hiking, swimming, boating, and fishing. Rainbow trout is the most popular catch at the lake. Anglers are welcome to try their luck all year round here.
Visiting in winter? Don’t miss the opportunity to hop in the car with your friends to carve the slopes at the Mt. Hood Skibowl. The ski resort is just an hour and a quarter driving time from Downtown Portland and is one of the top skiing and snowboarding destinations in Oregon. The Mt. Hood Skibowl even features 36 fully lit runs for night skiing, the most of its kind in the United States.
While you’re skiing at Mount Hood, keep your eyes peeled for the iconic Timberline Lodge. Movie buffs will immediately recognize the ski lodge’s exterior as the filming location for the classic horror film, The Shining. Spooky!
If you’re a fan of outdoor recreation and extreme watersports, the quaint town of Hood River should be on your list of day trips from Portland, Oregon. Located on the Columbia River, Hood River is a popular spot for hiking, swimming, fishing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, sailing, and more.
If the hour-long drive from Portland left you a little thirsty, you’ll be happy to discover that Hood River hosts over 13 breweries. Go on a beer-tasting tour to sample the unique flavors of Oregon’s top craft beers. Or find a favorite brewery overlooking the Colombia River and settle in to watch boarders strut their stuff on the water.
Thanks to its Columbia River Gorge location, Hood River is a Mecca for windsurfers, kiteboarders, and sailing enthusiasts. People from all over the USA come to enjoy the consistent breeze within the gorge that allows for plenty of fun on the water.
Wind-borne activities are not all that’s on offer in this tranquil town. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails, fishing spots, and even the opportunity to enjoy wine tasting on your getaway. In a 40-mile stretch along the river, you’ll find 83 vineyards and 36 wineries.
Don’t forget to drive along the famous Hood River Fruit Loop. Located in the Hood River Valley, this loop road winds past a variety of farms, wineries, and cideries. Zip along the Fruit Loop to go shopping for fresh fruits & vegetables (especially apples), wines, flowers, ciders, and delicious food.
Columbia River Gorge
Got a soft spot for waterfalls? Columbia River Gorge is any nature lover’s and waterfall fan’s dream come true. To see Oregon’s biggest waterfall, make sure to add a fun day trip to the Colombia River Gorge National Scenic Area to your Oregon bucket list.
Take the I-84 East for just over an hour, and you’ll witness the magnificent natural beauty of the Colombia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Jagged cliffs surround the river valley, and thick shrubbery and forests flow from the river up to the foot of the mountains. The canyon stretches for 80 miles, plunging to about 4,000 feet deep at places. You’ll find plenty of parking spots next to the road to let you easily enjoy the mesmerizing views.
There are over 70 waterfalls in the Colombia River Gorge area. Most famous is Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Over 2 million visitors per year venture to Multnomah Falls to set their eyes on its 620-foot-high curtain of water. You don’t even have to walk for miles to experience this prime spot: Multnomah Falls is a quick joggle from the parking lot.
If you’re heading up to the crown jewel of falls, be sure to carve out time on your journey for quick stops at other local gems like Wahkeena Falls, Horsetail Falls, Latourell Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. All these beautiful waterfalls are equally easy to access from the I-84 and are highly recommended stops on your Portland day trip.
Although the I-84 offers the easiest means of transportation to the area, if you’re unhindered by time, consider zipping along the Historic Columbia River Highway instead. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the scenic route runs between the towns of Troutdale and The Dalles. The highway features several lovely viewpoints and historic attractions along the way, including the Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area, Stark Street Bridge, Vista House, and Ponytail Falls.
Visiting in spring and want to get some more fresh air? Cross over the Bridge of the Gods to the Washington State side of the river and take a stroll on the Dog Mountain Trail. Although challenging, the 6.5-mile loop trail leading to the Dog Mountain Lookout is at its most beautiful in spring, with wildflowers in full bloom. As the Dog Mountain Trail is pet-friendly, you can even bring your dogs along for the ride!
If you’re a fan of photography and natural landscapes, stop at Trillium Lake on one of your side trips from Portland. Situated 20 minutes from Mt. Hood, this man-made lake offers the ideal position to get stunning pictures of the mountain reflecting from the lake’s smooth surface.
Early risers will get to take spectacular photos of the mountain in the morning, with bats whizzing past or ducks lazily drifting on the water. The first light from the rising sun turns Mount Hood into a spectacle of exotic colors and playful shadows perfectly reflected off the mirror-like surface of the lake.
The rest of the day, you can enjoy hiking through lush forests on the 2-mile-long lake loop trail, swimming in transparent water, or catching rainbow trout that you can prepare on a campfire next to the lake.
During the winter, Trillium Lake becomes an amazing spot for Nordic Skiing, especially over weekends and holidays.
Silver Falls State Park
Love easy hikes with an abundance of spectacular photo opportunities? The largest state park in Oregon, Silver Falls State Park lies only 56 miles south of Portland. Fresh forest air, flourishing ferns, moss-covered trees, fascinating basalt rock formations, and dozens of spectacular waterfalls await the outdoor enthusiast.
One of the most beautiful state parks in Oregon, Silver Falls State Park is most famous for the aptly named Trail of Ten Falls. The 7.2-mile roundtrip leads you through a tranquil yet dense forest. It snakes past no less than ten waterfalls and is a favorite hike for most tourists. At some of the waterfalls, the adventurous could even wander behind the falls’ water curtains.
Most impressive of them all is the majestic 177-foot South Falls. The bright green moss appears luminescent, along with the stunning ferns that drape the dark rocky cliff of the waterfall. Hikers have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk behind the waterfall and experience its beauty and power from a few feet away.
On the way back, you’ll also have the opportunity to celebrate your glorious day with a glass of wine from one of the many wineries situated around nearby Salem. The scenic town is, in fact, the capital city of Oregon and well worth a visit. Salem is renowned for its scenery and beautiful views as it’s surrounded by flower fields, vineyards, and lush green pastures.
Smith Rock State Park
In the mood for something completely different? Transport yourself to another world by visiting Smith Rock State Park. The scenic drive to the park is a little under three hours. Once you arrive, it’ll feel like you left Oregon long ago.
The sheer cliffs of basalt and tuft reach high into the clear blue skies, reminding of the beautiful desert scenes from Nevada, Arizona, or Utah.
Smith Rock State Park is extremely popular amongst climbers who want to enjoy sport climbing, traditional climbing, multi-pitch climbing, and bouldering. In fact, Smith Rock is said to be the birthplace of modern American sport climbing.
Make sure you arrive early: This scenic area is extremely popular among nature enthusiasts. Bring the whole family and enjoy captivating views on easier trails such as the River Trail or the Homestead Trail. For the more avid hiker, there are more challenging trails, such as the famous Misery Ridge Trail to get a stronger dose of epic mountain views.
If you want to experience the park in a different way than most visitors, there’s an option to kayak down Crooked River. This leisurely ride will you get close to many of the park’s resident animal species. You’ll also be humbled by the incredible views of mammoth rock formations towering out above the river.
Mt. St. Helens
Want to get dumbstruck by the unfathomable intensity of volcanoes? A day trip to the infamous Mt. St. Helens is sure to unleash your respect for the power of nature. Situated just over an hour and a half from Portland, this side trip is sure to become one of the most memorable scenic trips of your life.
Situated across the border in Washington State, Mount St. Helens has a dark and ominous history. It’s known for the deadliest eruption in the history of the United States, killing 57 people in 1980 and causing over a billion dollars in damage.
Although the volcano is still active, Mount St. Helens is considered safe to explore. Entering the crater, however, is still prohibited.
Around Mount St. Helens, there also are over 200 miles of spectacular walking trails for visitors to hike and explore the new forests, young lakes, and Oregon’s newest glacier. (Not to mention spectacular carpets of color formed by the blooming flowers in spring.)
If you feel like exploring from a safe distance, make sure to visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory. From here, you can enjoy beautiful views of the crater and the 1980 blast zone while learning more about one of the biggest blasts in recorded human history. The view from the observatory is awe-inspiring and creates a dramatic backdrop for the perfect Mount Saint Helens selfie.
Bagby Hot Springs
Looking for a place where you can relax your body and mind in a tranquil forest setting? Then Bagby Hot Springs could be the ideal day trip from Portland, Oregon. Located about 40 miles southeast of Estacada, these all-natural hot springs are accessed via a 1.4-mile trail.
The path leading Bagby Hot Springs winds through a calming forest comprising part of the Mt. Hood National Forest. Arriving, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable rustic hot springs experience. The log tubs and cedar plumbing whisks one back to simpler times as the steam, rising up through the pines, creates a dreamlike atmosphere.
Sitting near the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria is one of Oregon’s most charming historic cities. Just under two hours north of Portland, the former fur trading town is a bit longer driving distance than other destinations but well worth the trek for history buffs.
Start your day in Astoria at the 125-foot-high Astoria Column located above town on Coxcomb Hill. Climb the 164-step staircase to the viewpoint to enjoy incredible views over the town, the river, and the Pacific Ocean.
After burning a few calories, go for a stroll in town, shopping at the many boutiques and shops along the way. Duck into one of the town’s many art galleries and museums. Dig into the area’s maritime history at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Or sneak back into the late 19th century at the Flavel House Museum, a beautiful Victorian mansion built in the Queen Anne architectural style.
Before heading back to the city, duck into one of the many restaurants in the city center. Enjoy fresh seafood at South Bay Wild Fish House. Or, if you’ve got a designated driver in your travel crew, grab a pint of craft beer at the Astoria Brewing Company.