In this guide, we will discover 22 Best Attractions & Places to Visit in Oregon/USA (2023).
So, let’s begin!
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Oregon is a part of the Western United States, with the Columbia River delineating much of Oregon’s northern boundary with Washington, while the Snake River delineates much of its eastern boundary with Idaho. The 42° north parallel delineates the southern boundary with California and Nevada. The western boundary is formed by the Pacific Ocean.
1. Crater Lake National Park
With a landscape like nowhere else, Crater Lake National Park lies in the Cascade Mountains of southwestern Oregon. It is not actually a crater, but rather an ancient caldera of an extinct volcano, Mount Mazama, which erupted over 7,000 years ago. Today, lava cliffs rise to heights of up to 2,000 feet around the intensely blue and extremely deep lake.
Just a short distance from the edge of the crater, Rim Drive circles the lake in a clockwise direction. It begins at Rim Village and is only drivable in warm weather months. Throughout winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers utilize the unplowed road for winter travel.
Crater Lake National Park is home to some of Oregon’s best hiking trails. Stunning trails like Watchman Peak give great views of the caldera, while more moderate options stem from Rim Village via paved sidewalks. And extended hiking and backpacking opportunities present themselves away from the rim, including the country-spanning Pacific Crest Trail.
To explore the lake itself in the summer months, head to Cleetwood Cove, where cruises depart for Wizard Island. Camping is also available at two developed campgrounds, with most sites found at the Mazama Campground.
Southern Oregon has a lot more to explore outside the national park. Crater Lake is surrounded by several wild places like Umpqua National Forest and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, which feature hundreds of more miles of hiking trails to explore.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Crater Lake National Park
2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area follows the course of the Columbia River as it cuts through the Cascade Range. This stunning river gorge serves as the boundary line between Oregon and Washington and is best known for its spectacular views and numerous waterfalls.
Traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway through the gorge offers a slower pace than the adjacent Interstate 84. This historic corridor has several roadside attractions to enjoy and is a popular route to explore via bicycle.
The tallest waterfall in the state, Multnomah Falls, is perhaps the most iconic display of gravity in the Columbia River Gorge. Alongside a dazzling two-tier waterfall, the area around Multnomah offers a range of hiking and biking trails, plus camping facilities.
Multnomah Falls is one of the most popular day trips from Portland, but not even close to the only waterfall to check out in the gorge. One of the many other great destinations to aim for is Punchbowl Falls on Eagle Creek.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
3. Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is a popular tourist destination on the northern Oregon coast, offering a wide stretch of sand and spectacular views of jagged coastal rocks. Haystack Rock is the largest of these sea stacks and is a constant presence during any visit to this coastal community.
Alongside spectacular ocean scenery, Cannon Beach also delivers on cultural appeal with restaurants, boutique shops, and great hotels. This combination of culture, community, and ocean access earns Cannon Beach its reputation as one of the best small towns on the Oregon Coast,
To the north of Cannon Beach, the enchanting Ecola State Park and Tillamook Head encompass historic and scenic landscapes to explore. The charming city of Seaside is on the other end of Ecola State Park, offering more days of family-friendly travel along the coast.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach
4. Washington Park, Portland
Portland offers a bevy of delightful parks and gardens, but none has quite the density of attractions as Washington Park. Within park grounds, the famed International Rose Test Garden is located near the impressive Portland Japanese Garden. Each display exceptional horticultural expertise and are favorites with green thumbs.
For families, the park entices with fun explorations at the Oregon Zoo, as well as the Portland Children’s Museum. The park is also home to some of the best hiking trails in the Portland area. Plan to spend the whole day exploring this urban respite in the middle of the city.
A free Washington Park shuttle operates within the park daily between April and September, and several public transit options help alleviate the need for parking.
Accommodation: Best Places to Stay in Portland
5. Mount Hood National Forest
Mount Hood is the highest mountain in Oregon with a peak rising to 11,239 feet. This enormity makes the mountain an unmistakable landmark of the state, seen from miles in every direction. On clear days, it provides a brilliant backdrop for the city of Portland to the east.
Mount Hood National Forest encompasses the entire mountain and much of its flanks. This public space offers all types of adventures. On the mountain slopes are downhill offerings at Mount Hood Skibowl, picturesque hiking paths like the Timberline Trail, and scenic viewpoints accessible via the Mount Hood Scenic Loop. The nation-spanning Pacific Crest Trail also crosses the southwest flank of the mountain.
The historic town of Government Camp and the nearby Timberline Lodge are big attractions in this mountain landscape. The reflective Trillium Lake offers a postcard setting and great view of the mountain. Mount Hood National Forest fans out from the peak to encompass waterfalls and hot springs.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Mount Hood National Forest
Bend sits roughly in the center of Oregon, edged by a mix of national forests, volcanoes, and dry plains,. The city’s High Desert Museum has informative displays about the surrounding arid regions.
Popular things to do in Bend include rafting trips on the Deschutes River, excursions to the volcanic landscapes of Lava Butte and Newberry National Volcanic Monument, and skiing at the large Mount Bachelor Ski Area. For an iconic waterfall of the area, Tumalo Falls can be reached from Bend in just over a 10-mile drive.
Also nearby, Smith Rock is famous with climbers for its many routes and long history as a rock-climbing destination. Hiking trails around Bend are a great way to explore these scenic areas and mountain biking trails also add to the excitement.
For a more laid-back approach, Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a popular auto-touring route through the Deschutes National Forest. The drive passes lakes, mountains, and spectacular scenery with many picnic spots and campsites available along the way.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bend
In the far northwest corner of Oregon, abutting the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, Astoria is a charming seaside city with inspiring surroundings. Although smaller, it’s referred to as the San Francisco of Oregon thanks to its seaside status and vibrant downtown district filled with a community flavor.
Movie fans may recognize Astoria as the backdrop for the 80s cult-classic movie, The Goonies. Visitors to Astoria can learn more about this movie and other Oregon productions at the Oregon Film Museum, located in the old Clatsop County Jail.
Nearby, the Flavel House Museum in Astoria provides historical insight on this well-aged city. Other top attractions of Astoria include the scenic Riverfront and the Astoria Column, both with great views of the area.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Astoria
8. Hood River
The scenic city of Hood River is on the banks of the Columbia River just over an hour east of Portland. It is a great place for sightseeing and outdoor sports and is well known as a destination for kiteboarding and windsurfing. Other common things to do in this adventurous region include hiking, biking, and camping.
The city is also well regarded for its emerging culinary scene. Menus are often bolstered by fresh ingredients from the adjacent Hood River Valley. Even more tastes of the region are found on the 35-mile Fruit Loop, which runs from the city into the agricultural fields to the south.
Visitors wanting a little less physical activity can easily hop on the Historic Columbia River Scenic Byway to explore a lush world of waterfalls. The Mount Hood Railroad also departs from Hood River and travels 17 miles to Odell, with Mount Hood in view the entire way.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hood River
9. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Brookings
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a 12-mile linear park located between Brookings and Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast. And this stunning coastal corridor exhibits some of the best oceanside scenery in the state.
The park is named after the first Oregon Parks superintendent and is easily accessible from US 101. Various pull-offs line the entire park, connecting beaches, rock formations, and the distinct natural beauty that defines this part of the coast. The Oregon Coast Trail also spans the entire park, offering a very challenging day hike.
A few popular pitstops along this scenic corridor include Arch Rock; Indian Sands; and one of the best beaches on the Oregon coast, Lone Ranch Beach.
10. Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne
Smith Rock State Park is an international climbing destination in central Oregon, near Bend. The state park has over 1,000 bolted sport routes lining a stunning river canyon environment. These routes range from beginner to finger-crimping hard, and all require proper climbing experience and gear.
It’s not just climbers who flock to this outdoor playground – mountain bikers, hikers, and photographers often explore the scenic surroundings of the state park. And with a high-desert weather system, climbing and exploring Smith Rock in winter is often a T-shirt endeavor.
For one of the best hikes in the area, head to Misery Ridge. Despite its foreboding name, the trail provides a stunning view of the Crooked River and its canyon walls.
Smith Rock State Park has an RV-exclusive campground and a walk-in area for campers and climbers.
Official site: https://smithrock.com/
11. Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland
The world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival takes place in Ashland for much of the year. This non-profit theater production puts on over 700 shows annually, spread across three stages, including the beautiful Allen Elizabethan Theatre. And catching any one of these performances is a quintessential Southern Oregon traveling experience.
With a season that spans February through October, alongside ample fanfare, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival greatly defines the community and culture of the surrounding city of Ashland. This is especially true in the downtown district, with Victorian-themed restaurants and shops throughout. Much of the audience tends to spill out of the theaters and onto these streets after a show.
Family-friendly attractions line Newport on the Oregon coast, a city that mixes beach scenery with a distinct Victorian heritage. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center are often favorite places to visit, and to the north, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a beacon of coastal beauty.
The town is a good base camp for exploring the central coast and whale watching. The city’s busy bayfront faces Yaquina Bay, home to a large fishing fleet. Extending from the sheltered bay, the city’s wild Pacific beaches offer storm-surge rollers and unfiltered sunsets
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Newport
Sisters is a fun western-themed town on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, approximately a 30-minute drive from Bend. It’s smaller than Bend and offers a more tourist-orientated community with a centralized downtown shopping area. This downtown area has a distinct western charm circa the 1880s, with old-fashioned storefronts housing several modern retailers.
Sisters is also a major basecamp for adventures. Willamette and Deschutes National Forests dominate the landscape immediately east, offering endless adventure throughout the year. Hop on the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway, starting in sisters, for one of the best automobile loops in Oregon.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sisters
14. Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity
Silver Falls State Park is thirty minutes east of the state capital of Salem and provides perhaps the most dazzling display of waterfalls in the country. It’s home to the nationally recognized Trail of Ten Falls, a moderate hiking path that tours the many water attractions of the area.
This jewel of the Oregon State Park system takes users behind a few waterfalls for an interesting perspective. One of these waterfall tunnels includes the largest waterfall in the area and one of the best waterfalls in Oregon, the stunning South Falls.
Address: 20024 Silver Falls Highway Southeast, Sublimity, Oregon
Accommodation: Where to Stay Near Silver Falls State Park
15. Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay is a seaside town with a stunning overlook of the Pacific Ocean. With its high vantage point and Main Street perched on the side of a cliff, it easily earns its reputation as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast.”
Alongside the ocean sounds presented along the entire western edge of the town, Depoe Bay caters to an authentic Oregon coast vacation. Local taffy shops and seafood restaurants line the charming Main Street, next to the World’s Smallest Harbor, where commercial fishing trips encourage a day of adventure.
Depoe Bay also lends easy access to a stunning section of the coast. Several public access points dot the elevated Depoe Bay coastline, lending to spectacular views come sunset, and areas like the Devil’s Punchbowl and Yaquina Head are within a quick drive from Depoe Bay on the 101.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Depoe Bay
16. Newberry National Volcanic Monument
The Newberry Volcanic Monument provides a plethora of unique scenery to explore within the Deschutes National Forest of Central Oregon. It’s centered around the Newberry Caldera and surrounds a 1,200-square-mile volcano. A great first stop when visiting the monument is the Lava Lands Visitor Center to learn more about this thermally active area.
Popular activities at Newberry include bicycling, hiking, and boating. One of the best campgrounds in Oregon is in Newberry, and those who nab a reservation at the popular Little Crater Lake Campground have immediate access to the welcoming waters of Paulina Lake.
Several scenic hot springs are dug into the shoreline of Paulina Lake. From the campground, this thermal area is accessible by boat ride or moderate hike next to the water.
Accommodation: Where to Stay Near Newberry Volcanic Monument
17. Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls is a basecamp for adventure in Southern Oregon. The town is one of many stops on the state-crossing Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. Crater Lake National Park is 90 minutes north on this bucket-list highway from Klamath Falls, and Lava Beds National Monument is less than 60 minutes south.
Outside of its nearby natural attractions, the city itself offers several attractions and things to do. The town’s blessed with abundant sunshine throughout the year and places like Moore Park and the Link River Trail offer plenty of space to explore outside.
For cultural appeal, head to Klamath Fall’s downtown district, where history and modern taste combine for a fun visiting experience. Surrounding the downtown area, a collection of Klamath County Museums offers valuable insight into the region.
18. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
South of Florence begins the dune landscape of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It stretches along the Pacific Coast for about 40 miles before reaching Coos Bay. The National Recreation Area is within Siuslaw National Forest, near other scenic attractions such as Cape Perpetua and the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
The ocean and several pocket forests sandwich these miles of shifting dunes, offering tons of space to explore by foot or via off-highway vehicle. Popular destinations within the dunes include the Umpqua Dunes area at Winchester Bay and the sandboarding destination known as Sand Master Park in Florence.
For a great place to pitch a tent or park an RV, Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is located south of Florence and is one of the best campgrounds on the Oregon coast. It offers a popular place to access the sand dunes with horse and off-road vehicle staging areas.
Visitors to the dunes should be aware of snowy plovers and the restrictions put in place to protect their habitat.
19. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
In the extreme northeast of the state, marking the Idaho border, Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States. This rugged river canyon is within Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and is largely inaccessible. But for the adventurous, it offers lengthy outdoor excursions like rafting and backpacking trips.
The Wild and Scenic Snake River runs at the bottom of the canyon and is a major bucket-list item for whitewater boaters. Other popular activities at Hells Canyon include nature photography, wildlife spotting, fishing, and hiking. The Western Rim National Recreation Trail traverses the Oregon side of the canyon and provides great views for hikers and backpackers.
For those traveling by car, the Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway departs from Baker City and La Grande, with side trips to Hells Canyon Dam and viewpoints.
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area
20. Oregon Coast Trail
Stretching for over 360 miles along the western edge of Oregon, the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT) takes in the sights, sounds, and top attractions of the Oregon coast.
Most tackle the Oregon Coast Trail in segments, doing three to five days at a time and covering 20 to 30 miles. Several of the campgrounds along the trail consist of state parks, which have hiker/biker sites set aside. Reservations aren’t needed for hiker/biker sites, though everyone has to arrive via muscle-powered transportation.
While the trail mostly sticks to beaches, hikers on the OCT navigate forested headlands, catch boat rides across estuaries, and follow along the shoulder of the US 101 for portions of the trek. Research is needed before any trip to solidify logistics like campgrounds and estuary crossings.
21. Willamette National Forest
The vast Willamette National Forest covers nearly 1.7 million acres on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. The forest contains spectacular scenery, including several volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and some of the best hot springs in Oregon.
Visitors can explore trails or head to attractions such as the Dee Wright Observatory (a stone tower atop McKenzie Pass), or the 280-foot Salt Creek Falls. The popular Three Sisters Wilderness can also be accessed within the Willamette National Forest.
This region of the state is particularly dense with national forests to explore. Directly to the east, the Deschutes National Forest is just as popular for recreation. And to the north, Mount Hood National Forest surrounds the impressive peak for which it’s named.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mill City, near Willamette National Forest
22. Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill, Salem
Salem is the state capital of Oregon. It’s within the Willamette Valley and home to historic theaters, family-favorite carousels, and an Enchanted Forest. Other top attractions of Salem include Riverfront City Park, the State Capitol building, and the Willamette Heritage Center.
The Heritage Center gives a look at the life and industrialization of the Willamette Valley in the late 1800s. It’s spread across five acres and centers on the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, dating to 1895. Alongside the large red structure, other historic wooden buildings are brought to life by exhibits and interpretive guides.
Address: 1313 Mill Street Southeast, Salem, Oregon
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Salem