5 Awesome Oregon Road Trips
Oregon Road Trips
There are endless amount of beautiful hikes, lakes, waterfalls, and state parks to explore in the beautiful state of Oregon. It’s one of the most diverse states in the US with landscapes of forests, mountains, and beaches. Oregon is the perfect state to visit if you are a lover of the outdoors. These 5 beautiful nature destinations make for great Oregon road trips.
The Painted Hills, located in Central Oregon, are part of the John Day Fossil Beds. They are named the painted hills because of the yellow, red, and black striations in the clay stones and soil. The colors were vibrant when we visited in the late afternoon. Just so that you are aware, if you are expecting to see tons of painted hills, then you will be disappointed. There are actually only a handful of hills, but that doesn’t make them any less spectacular! The photos below were taken at the boardwalk of the Painted Cove Trail, at the Painted Hills Overlook, and the Carroll Rim Trail. All of the trails are short and sweet, ranging from .25 -1.6 miles with accessible parking at the head of each trail. These are perfect family friend hikes! One of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, the Painted Hills is a 4 hour road trip from Portland, Oregon.
Rowena Crest is a lookout point in the Colombia River Gorge located off of Exit 69 if you are driving east on I-84 from Portland. After you get off the exit, there is a sign to your right that reads “Rowena Crest”. This puts you onto the Historic Colombia River Highway. On the way up to the look out, you will see some of the most spectacular views of the gorge. At the top there is a beautiful wildflower field with a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The lookout is a unique view of the winding highway. We took the highway to Hood River where we ended the day with beer and burgers at Full Sail Brewing. There were plenty of river views and apple orchards that made for a pleasant drive along the way. This road trip is only an hour from Portland.
Cape Kiwanda is one of my favorite spots on the Oregon Coast. I love exploring the beautiful sandstones and tide pools that the natural area has to offer. You can start your visit with coffee from Stimulus Espresso across from the beach parking lot before heading to the Cape. The rock formations are located on Pacific City beach, accessed from the entrance to the left of the giant sand dune. In order to get to these amazing spots you will need to cross the fenced off area. So channel your inner rebel! At the end of your visit, be sure to stop by the Pelican Pub and Brewery on the beach for beer and chowder; the perfect way to end a beach day. The Cape is an hour and a half road trip on the Sunset Highway heading west from Portland, Oregon.
Crater Lake, the deepest and bluest lake in the country, is located in the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon, and is also one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon! The crater is an erupted volcano; formerly Mount Mazama. Over thousands of year, rain and melting snow filled the crater forming a lake. While driving around the lake, you will find plenty of lookouts and stopping points to admire the lake from. The lake is an intense blue because of the depth and clarity of the water. It’s truly a spectacular work of nature. A ticket into the park is $15 and good for 7 days. Be warned; avoid visiting on holiday weekends! The park can get really crowded. Crater Lake is open May through October. Camping at Mazama campground would make for a fun weekend with plenty of time to explore! This road trip is two hours from Bend, OR and four and a half hours from Portland.
Located in the Oregon High Dessert is the magnificent Smith Rock State Park. The basalt cliffs are perfect for rock climbers and hikers of all difficulty levels. You can also trail run, mountain bike, and horseback ride along the Crooked River. There are plenty of family friendly trails with beautiful views if you aren’t a big hiker. One of my favorite hikes is the .65 mile Mesa Verde Trail to the base of Monkey Face, a 350 foot pillar that looks like a giant monkey head. The easy 1/2 mile Rim Rock trail offers panoramic views of the park along the Canyon Ridge. This is a perfect spot for capturing the beauty of this state park. Walking down the path to the river from Rim Rock trail will lead you to the trail entrances. There number of hikes and views to see in the park are endless! Smith Rock State Park is a 3 1/2 hour drive from Portland, OR. These photos were taken as the sun was starting to set. I would suggest getting your shots earlier in the day!
There are still a ton of cool spots in Oregon on my road trip list! I think my favorite spot on this list was Smith Rock because there is so much to do there. I would love to camp at the park for a weekend and have more time to hike and explore. Do you have any fun road trip plans for the summer? 🙂