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The Ultimate Oregon Road Trip

North America

In Collaboration with Backcountry


The best places to go on an Oregon road trip.

It’s All In the Journey

The concept of time and place as we experience them in our everyday lives doesn’t exist on the road.  The billable hours and routine that generally define our existence fades into the rearview mirror with each passing mile. Nights blur by like the oncoming headlights defining them. Structureless days stretch out along the road, promising nothing but boundless possibilities. Everything is new. You never really know exactly where you are. Or where you are going. You are free to experience life from a new perspective. To focus on the journey rather than the destination. It’s all pretty awesome when you think about it.

With its long stretches of empty roads and accessible natural beauty, few places are more suited to road tripping than Oregon. And there’s no better time to experience the journey than fall. Warm beverages, good music, and the cozy interior of the car are the status quo. Only brief missions into the crisp pine scented air to stretch your legs and embrace stunning scenery interrupt the road’s flow. Heart full, soul satiated, you are ready for the next leg of the adventure.

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”  – Jack Kerouac, On the Road


A stunning sunset on the Oregon Coast along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

A stunning sunset on the Oregon Coast along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Oregon Bucket List Destinations

There is no wrong direction in Oregon. The more lost you get the better. Expectations have no place on the road. But a little inspiration never hurt! These are the destinations that keep me coming back for more. Hopefully they will awaken your wanderlust as well, and set your wheels in motion!

The Columbia River Gorge

For sheer concentration of stunning scenery within close proximity to a bustling metropolitan area, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that comes close to The Gorge. Don’t forget to bring your sense of adventure – the Gorge is made for exploring! Discover dozens of awe-inspiring waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway, admire the Rowena Crest, and get your heart pumping on a trek up Dog Mountain.

Pro Tip: Some areas of the Columbia River Gorge were impacted by the Eagle Creek fire of 2017. Before you head out, learn more about what’s open and closed on the Historic Columbia River Highway and check with USFS for the most up-to-date information on trail closures.


Photo taken at Oneonta Gorge      (currently closed due to fire damage so please check for reopening before going).

Photo taken at Oneonta Gorge (currently closed due to fire damage so please check for reopening before going).

Mount Hood

No trip to Oregon is complete without enjoying the epic drive between Mount Hood and the town of Hood River. While the mountain is a popular destination year round, fall offers the perfect combination of accessibility and solitude. Sparkling alpine lakes including Lost, Trillium and Mirror dot Mount Hood’s flanks. Each offer their own inspiring views of the mountain, and on a calm morning the reflections will take your breath away.


Lost Lake at Mount Hood, Oregon.

Lost Lake at Mount Hood, Oregon.


Out for an early morning row on Lost Lake, near Mount Hood, Oregon.

Out for an early morning row on Lost Lake, near Mount Hood, Oregon.

Abiqua Falls

Abiqua Falls is arguably my favorite waterfall in Oregon. The 92-foot waterfall is perfectly framed by an enormous basalt amphitheater adorned with bright green moss and lichens. But what makes the hike to the classic cascade so special is the approach. A rough trail through verdant forest takes you steeply down to the river bed, and then along the river until it terminates abruptly at the falls.

Pro Tip: The hike down to the river bed is steep and can be treacherous when wet. Please use extreme caution.  It’s also important to remember that Abiqua Falls is located on private property owned by the Mt. Angel Abbey and Longview Timberlands. They have generously allowed the public to have access here, and this generosity demands the utmost respect for the land.


Abiqua Falls

Silver Falls State Park

Silver Falls State Park is the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Parks system, and once you visit, you know why. Its beauty, boundless recreational opportunities, and historic presence are hard to beat. Ever wanted to walk behind a waterfall? Check out the South Falls and experience a 177 foot curtain of water from the inside. It’s part of the Trail of Ten Falls, a beautiful trail that traverses through a spectacular forest landscape.


Silver Falls State Park

Smith Rock State Park

Located in central Oregon’s high desert, Smith Rock State Park feels distinctly out of place in this predominantly green state. But that only add’s to it’s appeal! Famous for its climbing opportunities, Smith Rock also features some worthwhile hiking trails and some killer camping spots. Don’t miss Misery Ridge, the views at the top easily eclipse any pain experienced on the way up!


The view from Misery Ridge at Smith Rock State Park.

The view from Misery Ridge at Smith Rock State Park.


Sunrise at Smith Rock State Park.

Sunrise at Smith Rock State Park.

Crater Lake National Park

Home to the deepest lake in America, and Oregon’s only National Park, Crater Lake National Park is nothing short of otherworldly. With deep blue waters surrounded by 2,000 foot high cliffs, and punctuated by a picturesque island, there’s literally nowhere else on earth quite like it.

Pro Tip: A good place to begin your visit to Crater Lake is at one of the two visitor centers.


Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake National Park.

Umpqua Hot Springs

A brief hike leads intrepid soak seekers to multiple pools perched above the North Umpqua River. Soak in the hot springs, enjoy the views, and cool off in the river below. Nudity is the norm here, so be mindful of others when taking photographs.

Pro Tip: Umpqua Hot Springs has been shut down in the past due in part to excessive amounts of refuse, including human waste left by campers. Leave it better than you found it!


Umpqua Hot Spring in Oregon.

Umpqua Hot Spring in Oregon.

Toketee Falls

Located just down the road from Umpqua Hot Springs, Toketee Falls is arguably the most stunning waterfall in Oregon.  Framed by visually pleasing columnar basalt formations, and terminating in a bright blue pool surrounded by mist, Toketee is nothing short of magic.


Toketee Falls is arguably the most stunning waterfall in Oregon.

Toketee Falls is arguably the most stunning waterfall in Oregon.

Tamolitch Blue Pool

Located on Oregon’s famous McKenzie River Trail, it’s safe to say that you’ve probably never seen anything quite like Tamolitch Blue Pool. The water is so clear, so blue, that it resembles something closer to Scope mouth wash than anything you’d find in nature. A word of caution, the water is extremely cold! Do not get in unless you are confident with your ability to get out, and have the ability to dry off and quickly warm up afterwards.


Tamolitch Blue Pool

Terwilliger (Cougar) Hot Springs

Located deep beneath the canopy of a primeval forest, Cougar Hot Springs features a chain of jewel colored pools fed by a small cave in a wooded ravine. Easily the most picturesque hot springs I’ve ever been to, Cougar understandably holds a very special place in the hearts of many. So much so, that I hesitated to include it in this list. But I trust that together we can keep this remarkable location preserved for generations to come.

Pro Tip: Due to the Terwilliger Fire Cougar Hot Springs is currently closed. The state of the hot springs and any plans for reopening are unknown.


Cougar Hot Springs also known as Terwilliger Hot Springs.

Bandon

Stunning ocean vistas, spiraling sea stacks, wild woods and pristine streams make the picturesque town of Bandon one of the Oregon Coasts most photographed locations.


Sunset on the beach at Bandon, Oregon.

Sunset on the beach at Bandon, Oregon.

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Isolated on the southernmost corner of Oregon’s windswept coastline you will find Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. In a state renowned for it’s awe-inspiring coast, Samuel Boardman stands out as the prettiest stretch. Wild and rugged, it’s a place you’ll find yourself daydreaming about long after you’ve left.

Pro Tip: If you’ve made it this far south, make sure to drop down into California to check out Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. It will blow your mind.


Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor


Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Leave It Better Than You Found It

There is little question that social media plays a role in exposing various outdoor locations, and in some cases, has led to significant resource and social impacts. And there is perhaps no place where this is more so than in the Pacific Northwest. That being said, I personally believe that without a connection to nature, people are much less likely to stand up and protect these beautiful natural wonders. For that reason, I have chosen to share some of my favorite locations in Oregon.

It is my deepest hope that you will visit these beautiful places and feel inspired to act as stewards for them well into the future. As part of this responsibility it’s important to keep in mind “Leave No Trace” principles whenever we enjoy the outdoors. Leave No Trace is built on seven core principles that outline the best available minimum impact guidance for enjoying the outdoors responsibly. These guidelines are not black or white, right or wrong. And they are certainly not about exclusion. Leave No Trace is a framework for making good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly, regardless of how one chooses to do so. For more information please visit The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.


Latourell Falls is an easily accessible waterfall along the Columbia River Gorge.

Latourell Falls is an easily accessible waterfall along the Columbia River Gorge.

Fall Road Trip Style Essentials

Packing for that road trip lifestyle can be a little tricky. You have to plan for a wide variety of different activities and conditions, while keeping in mind that space is limited. This is especially true as fall often brings significantly chilly nights and a lot more rain in the Pacific Northwest. But not to worry, with a few key items you can stay warm, dry, and still manage to look like you’re not living out of a car. The key is layering!

To help you gear up for all your fall adventures, I’ve partnered with Backcountry to offer 15% off your first purchase! Just use code JESS15 at checkout. (Some exclusions apply. Good through 12/31/18). Below are some of my personal favorite items!

Casual Jacket

Tops

Bottoms

Boots & Shoes

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission on any purchase made – at no additional cost to you. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. Thanks for your support!

Photos in collaboration with Quin Schrock.


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  1. Erin says:

    Hi Jess! Thanks for all these tips. Do you mind sharing what waterfalls are your favorites along the Colombia river gorge? Which two are pictured above? I’m heading there next weekend and only have a day to explore so wanted to narrow it down :). Thanks!!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Erin! My favorite waterfalls in the Gorge are probably Multnomah, Bridal Veil, and Latourell, and the waterfall at the back of Oneonta Gorge. The photos I posted are from Oneota and Latourell. Have fun!

  2. Sally Tafft says:

    Great blog, I love Oregon and look forward to checking out some of these beautiful destinations! Thanks Jess

  3. Joe M. says:

    Literally just got back from a 10-day road trip in Oregon with my girlfriend! We hit just about everything on here except for Silver Falls. And while we drove through The Gorge on our way back to Portland from Hood River, we didn’t really stop much because so much of it is still closed from the fire 🙁

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hey Joe! That sounds amazing. 10 days is a good amount of time. I know what you mean about the Gorge. Eagle Creek used to be one of my hikes. I’m just hoping that the closures give the area some breathing room to recover properly.

  4. Craig Cornelius says:

    Thanks Jess, I so enjoy your destination descriptions and writing style. I always wanted to visit Oregon……..and you haven’t disappointed my expectations! Keep up your travels and looking forward for more to come! Craig

  5. Thanks Jess!! I’m heading to Oregon this week from Washington, hopefully we can meet up soon!!

  6. Chester says:

    Thanks for all the great spots to visit. Love the photos !

  7. Tara says:

    I’m planning a trip to Oregon for next week and I found this post super helpful. Thanks!

  8. kareoh says:

    this was so good jess

  9. Elaine says:

    Hi Jess,
    Aside from Abiqua falls not being kid friendly( because of the treacherous hike down to the water bed), are there any other places you listed here that would not be able to accommodate 4-5 year olds?

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Elaine. I believe that all of the other locations would be safe for small children as long as you were keeping an eye on them. The hot springs do tend to be nude, so that’s something to keep in mind. But obviously that’s more of a personal preference/comfort consideration. Hope you enjoy your time in Oregon!

  10. Alexandra says:

    Love this guide! Planning a trip to Oregon in December, will more places be closed?

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Alexandra! Thanks for stopping by the blog! Most of the places in this guide will still be open in the winter. The only exception are some of the lakes around Mt. Hood. A lot of those roads close once snow starts to fall. But most of the other locations are fairly low elevation and should still be accessible!

  11. Kelly Starbuck says:

    What an amazing guide! Thank you! I live in Oregon and some of these places are new to me. Just finished hiking Mount St. Helens this week, and if you haven’t been… it’s a must! Love the article!! Thank you!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Aww thank you so much Kelly! I’m so glad that I could shed some light on a few new places for you to check out in Oregon. I actually have not done Mount St. Helens yet. But it’s definitely on my list!

  12. Lucile says:

    Hi Jess, wonderful spots and pictures which transported me there :). I am living in France and the buying links are unfortunately not working in Europe anymore, due to the GDPR regulation (I could send you a screenshot of what we see on a computer, viewed from Europe). I was interested in your choice of clothes, so is it possible for you to write each model below the photos (at the bottom of your article)? Thank you!

    • Jess Dales says:

      Hi Lucile! Thanks so much for checking the blog out. I’m so sorry that the links don’t work in Europe. I actually remember that now from my trip to Italy this summer. I was trying to work on a blog, and I couldn’t look at the website the create links for the items I was loving! I’ve added the model below the photos. Hope that helps! And don’t forget you can use JESS15 to get 15% off you’re first Backcountry order. 🙂

  13. Brian says:

    Hi Jess! I just stumbled across this page when I was looking at Costa Rica. This is AMAZING!! All of these adventures that you’ve gone on. I LOVE traveling and seeing new places, hiking and adventures like that. If you ever need another person on any cool trips…I’m down. Haha. Great photos! Keep living the dream!

  14. GG says:

    Thanks for sharing, Jess! We’re doing a road trip to OR next month so this blog is perfect. We’re traveling with 2 young kids who can hike 3-4 miles (RT) at most. Any of the above we should consider skipping when traveling with young ones?

    • Hi! I think the only one I would consider skipping is Abiqua Falls. It’s not a particularly long hike, but it’s a very steep often slippery hike/scramble down to the river. If I remember correctly there are actually ropes involved. Blue Pools is around 4 miles round trip, so it’s the only other one that’s probably on the longer side. Have fun!

  15. Emily Rose says:

    I don’t know if it’s my internet but most of these pictures aren’t loading and it seems the link is broken! I’d love to see them so I just wanted to give you a heads up if thats the case 🙂 I love your Oregon photos so much!!

    • Hi Emily! Thanks so much for the note. I’m not seeing any issues on my end. I’m not sure where you are based, but if you are in Europe then I don’t think the product links work because of the EU’s heightened privacy regulations. If you’re anywhere else, then I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be working for you!

  16. matte says:

    What you did was basically geotag the places that the tourists are ruining, most whom have zero outdoor ethics. I live here in Bandon.. I pick up the tourists trash from my beach daily…These amazing spots are being trampled to death for instagram. unreal.

    • Hi Matte. Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way. I always have, and always will choose education over exclusion. It’s critical that everyone is given the opportunity to experience these beautiful places – not just you. As one of my favorite quotes puts it, "No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced."

      To say “these places are being trampled to death for Instagram” is to water down our current environmental crisis with cheap sentiments of bitterness and old guard. Is social media playing a role in the current issues we’re facing? Undeniably. But it’s just one factor among many. And it’s important to remember that Instagram is also likely the most promising platform we have to spread outdoor ethics to the masses and create systemic change.

      • Michael says:

        Jess, that was such a great response. I am currently planning a trip to OR to celebrate my 50th birthday and without Instagram, I wouldn’t have found you or your blog. Your post is helping me plan my trip, and I am grateful for that!

  17. Shelby says:

    What time of year did you go on this trip?

    • Hi Shelby! I live in Washington and spend quite a bit of time in Oregon. The pictures above were collected over many different trips to Oregon, during pretty much every season (other than winter). But a lot of these locations would be accessible during winter as well.

  18. Meg says:

    So very thankful for your post and sharing of locations!

  19. Paul says:

    Very nice and informative blog post!

  20. Lindsay says:

    You always capture the best photos! The wanderlust hits extra hard whenever I read your blog. Can’t wait to visit some of these locations!
    I often travel with my pup and would love if you included some dog friendly-specific places occasionally if possible. Thanks for being an inspiring human!

    • Thank you so much, Lindsay! That’s an awesome idea. I have to admit that because I don’t have a dog, it’s not something I pay a lot of attention to. But now that I know, I’ll definitely try to incorporate some pup-friendly options. I’m sure you’re not the only person that would find that useful! 🙂

  21. Lyly says:

    Hi Jess! Love this Oregon post. I’m going on a road trip with my bf next week and will definitely hit some of these spots. Thank you! ^=^

  22. Victoria says:

    I absolutely love this post! Found it on Pinterest! Thank you!

  23. Jess says:

    Beautiful pictures! My boyfriend and I are travelling to Oregon in 2 weeks and plan on moving there next May. I am so excited to explore these incredible gifts from nature <3 Thank you for showing us such unique places while also advocating for the care and conservation of them at the same time! Both are very important aspects of enjoying and respecting this wonderful world we live in!

    • Thanks so much Jess! I completely agree. I love sharing beautiful locations with people, but I think it’s important to make sure that we all know how to enjoy them responsibly as well. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  24. Anna says:

    Such a great read! Do you think this would still be a good trip in the winter -maybe February?

    • Hi Anna. Thanks so much! Winter probably wouldn’t be my first choice, but I do think most of these locations would still be accessible (and beautiful!) in the winter. It really just depends on how cold it is and how much snow falls this year. The nice thing about Oregon though, is that it’s pretty temperate.

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Hi, I’m Jess, an outdoor enthusiast based in Seattle. I grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest, and early on was infected with the travel bug. I tried to suppress my wanderlust in pursuit of a traditional career path, but after a short stint as a lawyer, I left the confines of my office to get back in touch with my roots. Now, I wander the world taking photos, making memories, and sharing my love for travel with others!

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