10 of the best things to do in Oregon

Spectacular scenery, dynamic cities, and culinary adventures make it hard to run out of things to do in Oregon, but it would be fun to try. 

If Oregon were a painting it would be a giant canvas splattered with a million colors. It would be a work of art one could interpret how they want. For some, the Beaver State is all about the urban delights of a city like Portland; for others, Oregon is about the rugged beauty of places like the Pacific Ocean, the high desert, the mountains, or Crater Lake National Park.

This variety is what makes Oregon so appealing. You can return year after year and experience something new each time. We’ve rounded up our picks for the best things to do in Oregon to inspire your next trip. 

1. Explore Crater Lake National Park

Oregon has just one national park and it packs a mighty wallop. At 1943ft, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world. Nestled inside a caldera atop Mt Mazama, Crater Lake is one of the brightest, bluest lakes on earth with a tint so brilliant it almost doesn’t look real. If you do nothing but get out of your car and peer at the water, it’s worth the trip. Should you choose to stay longer (and you definitely should), there are 90 miles of hiking trails including the 1-mile looped, wheelchair-accessible Godfrey Glen Trail and the moderately challenging 3.5-mile out-and-back climb to Garfield Peak, which rewards you with jaw-dropping vistas of the lake and the Cascade Mountains. During summer, boat rides to Wizard Island and wheelchair-accessible trolley tours are available. 

Planning tip: Crater Lake National Park receives an average of 42in of snow each winter. Most falls between November and March, but snow in October, April, May or June is not unusual. The snowy season is beautiful and less crowded but road closures may limit your ability to navigate the park. Check the NPS website for weather-related updates before your visit.

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You’ll stop at many stunning viewpoints as you drive along the Oregon Coast © Mitch Diamond / Getty Images

2. Road trip the Oregon Coast Scenic Byway 

The 363-mile Oregon Coast Scenic Byway road trip is an unforgettable journey of stunning rock formations, crashing waves, and wildlife like seals and whales. The starts in Astoria and ends in Brookings. Along the way, you’ll pass through tiny coastal communities, historic lighthouses, and long stretches of sandy beach that are 100% free and open to the public. 

Stops include a wheelchair-accessible jaunt along a century-old, 1.5-mile beachfront promenade in Seaside and Haystack Rock, a 235ft-tall sea stack in Cannon Beach. Other highlights are free self-guided tours of the Tillamook Creamery, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, hundreds of sea lions at the Sea Lion Caves, and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. 

Planning tip: The best thing about this scenic road trip is that you can start and stop on a whim. Make your lodging arrangements in advance, especially during the peak summer season so you aren’t scrambling for a room at the last minute.

3. Check into the Weasku Inn near Grants Pass 

The Weasku Inn started life as a fishing lodge in 1924, catering to regulars like Clark Gable and Walt Disney. Today, the great room exudes historic charm with wood beams, a stone fireplace, and framed photos of famous guests from Hollywood’s golden era. The Weasku Inn’s location is ideal for exploring Grants Pass and Southwest Oregon with nearby activities such as Oregon National Cave Monument and Preserve, adventures on the Rogue River with Hellgate Jetboat Excursions, or tasting vino at Applegate Valley wineries like Schmidt Family Vineyards and Troon Vineyard. 

Planning tip: The road to the Oregon National Cave Monument and Preserve is steep and twisty. In winter, it may close temporarily after heavy snow.

A city skyline at dusk. A huge mountain peak is in the distance
Portland, Oregon, is a city that can keep you busy for days © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

4. See the sights in Portland 

Portland’s location along the Willamette River provides endless opportunities for recreation including swimming, kayaking, or taking a wheelchair-accessible stroll at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Afterward, spend some time browsing the largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books. When mealtime rolls around, taste through Portland’s legendary food carts, conveniently clustered throughout the city in locations like the Third Avenue Food Cart Pod. Other can’t-miss attractions include the stunning Portland Japanese Garden and Portland Saturday Market, the longest continuously running arts and crafts fair in the US (typically open from March through Christmas Eve). 

Planning tip: It’s easy to get around Portland without a car. The Max Redline runs directly from the airport to Pioneer Courthouse Square, where dozens of hotels are located within a few blocks’ radius. The riverfront and many of the city’s top attractions are walkable from downtown. Light rail, bus lines and bike shares are also available. 

5. Brush up your Shakespeare in Ashland

Despite its name, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival isn’t just about the Bard. The festival runs from March through October. In addition to Shakespeare, broadway musicals, comedies, dramas, experimental plays, and more are scattered in venues throughout the city. 

Although you can easily dedicate an entire trip to theatrical pursuits, there are countless other things to do in Ashland. Activities include rafting the Rogue and Klamath Rivers, strolling through the 93-acre Lithia Park, and sipping Rogue Valley wine in tasting rooms like Weisinger Family Winery and Irvine and Robert Vineyards. 

Detour: Ashland is 1½ hours from Crater Lake National Park. If you haven’t been, don’t miss your chance to see it while you’re in the area. 

Rows of vines with leaves turning from green to yellow cover a hillside
There are over 900 wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley © tomwachs / Getty Images

6. Stroll the vineyards and go wine tasting in Willamette Valley 

There are more than 20 federally recognized American Viticulture Areas and over 900 wineries inside Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In Forest Grove, you’ll find 65 wineries within a 20-mile radius including the lovely farmhouse tasting room of David Hill Winery. Forest Grove is also home to the sake distillery, Sake One, which offers fascinating weekend tours. If you overnight here, McMenamins Grand Lodge Hotel is fun and funky, with reasonably priced rooms, live music, several bars and restaurants, a spa and a theater. 

McMinnville boasts more than 20 walkable downtown tasting rooms and over 250 wineries within 20 miles. Don’t miss some of Oregon’s best Burgundy-inspired pinot noir and chardonnay at the gorgeous Resonance Wines tasting rooms in Carlton and Dundee Hills. This area is also home to some of the best hotels in Oregon with options ranging from luxury boutiques like Atticus Hotel to groovy retro lodging at the Vintages Trailer Resort. 

Planning tip: Willamette Valley is famous for native white truffles, generally harvested between November and May. The Oregon Truffle Festival holds events between February and March including a truffle dog competition, specialty dinners, foraging excursions and a truffle trail.

Rafters on a large raft tackle rapids in a river
Head out for adventure on the Deschutes River, then wind down later at one of Bend’s many breweries © Bob Pool / Shutterstock

7. Embrace craft beer and outdoor adventures in Bend 

When it comes to outdoor recreation, there’s almost nothing you can’t do in Bend. Established along the Deschutes River, Bend is a haven for rafting, fishing and kayaking. Even if you don’t get on the water, Bend Whitewater Park is as fun for spectators as for surfers and whitewater kayakers.

Underground caves, mountains and hiking and biking trails await in the outlying area. In summer, visit the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a 54,000-acre world of lakes, forests, and surreal lava formations formed by volcanic activity. Bend is also beloved by skiers since the Mt Bachelor ski season generally runs through late April or early May. 

After a day of recreation, reward yourself with a pint at one of Bend’s 30-plus breweries. Download the Bend Ale Trail app or pick up a free paper passport at the Bend Visitor Center to find your nearest brewery. 

Detour: Smith Rock State Park, 25 miles from Bend, is a wonderland of copper-colored canyons, rivers and towering rock formations ideal for hiking, rock climbing or just gaping at the views.

Looking for more to do in Bend? Here’s some inspiration

8. Immerse yourself in Native American culture 

Celebrate 10,000 years of Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla traditions at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton. This isn’t merely a museum, it’s an exploration of culture including artifacts, interactive exhibits and present-day efforts to restore salmon habitats. Be sure to check the calendar for special events like panels, art shows, gift shop discounts and free admission on the first Friday of every month. 

Pendleton is also the site of Pendleton Woolen Mills, famous for luxury wool goods. Tours of the factory are available, but space is limited so be sure to sign up in advance. If you’re visiting in the fall, time your trip during the Pendleton Round-Up in September. The weeklong event dates back over a century and features rodeo competitions, parades and concerts.  

Detour: Pendleton is 3 hours from the prehistoric John Day Fossil Beds. Attractions include 44-million-year-old fossils and scenic drives through the colorfully-striped Painted Hills rock formations. 

People stand on a bridge with a large waterfall cascading down in front of them
Multnomah Falls is one of the iconic sights of Columbia River Gorge © rybarmarekk / Shutterstock

9. Revel in Columbia River Gorge, the largest national scenic area in the US 

The Columbia River Gorge is the largest national scenic area in the country, and it doesn’t take long to see why. This region is a kingdom of waterfalls, forests and towering cliffs, and the mighty Columbia River roars through it all. Among the most iconic sights is Multnomah Falls, a 620ft waterfall surrounded by hiking trails (the lower falls area offers fantastic, wheelchair-accessible views). 

Other must-stops include breathtaking vistas of the gorge from the century-old observatory, Crown Point Vista House, and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center. Don’t leave this area without spending time in Hood River, a charming river town famous for food, breweries and kite surfing. 

Detour: Hood River is a 45-minute drive from Timberline Lodge, the historic ski resort featured in exterior shots for the 1980-movie The Shining. Grab a bite to eat in the restaurant, marvel at the 92ft-tall fireplace, or check in for the night before you jet off for your next Oregon adventure.

10. Soak in Mother Nature’s bathtub

You can take a hot bath just about anywhere but Oregon provides a superior experience: natural springs of steaming, mineral-rich water. Some, like Lithia Springs Resort, are reserved for guests, but most of Oregon’s hot springs are on public lands or resorts offering day passes.  

Oregon hot spring resorts with day passes include Crane Hot Springs, Breitenbush Hot Springs, and Summer Lake Hot Springs. Natural hot springs on public lands are found at Umpqua Hot Springs or Paulina Lake. Both can be accessed for $5 per vehicle or a Northwest Forest Pass.  

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