People travel from far and wide to experience Oregon’s diverse terrain, world-renowned produce, infamous counterculture and plethora of natural wonders. In fact, more than 29 million overnight visitors came to Oregon in 2018, and tourism has grown continuously in recent years. With a mild climate, no sales tax, campsites galore, and generally well-maintained roads, Oregon is an ideal state for a road trip any time of year.
If you’re planning a road trip in Oregon, you are in for a real treat! With so many great destinations to consider, the hardest part will likely be narrowing down your stops. As a Portland mechanic shop having done business here for more than 20 years, we’ve met a lot of Oregon road trippers. So we put together this list of some of our favorite destinations to share our love for this beautiful state and help you plan the ultimate Oregon road trip.
Kicking Off Your Oregon Road Trip
Portland, the largest city in the state of Oregon, is the perfect place to start any Oregon road trip. The PDX international airport has been ranked the best airport in the country for 7 consecutive years, famous for its friendly atmosphere, local shops, and great food options (including a few classic Portland food carts)! There’s plenty of car and van rental options available in Portland, and highways connecting you to each and every corner of the state.
Be sure to allocate some time toward exploring the city of Portland itself before setting off on your adventures. Some popular things to do in the city include: shopping at Powell’s City of Books, biking around the “Bridge City” waterfront, sampling craft brews at one of the countless micro-breweries, hiking or picnicking in one of Portland’s many neighborhood parks, and enjoying farm-to-table restaurant meals, to name just a few. If you’re interested in understanding the phrase “Keep Portland Weird,” check out Travel Portland’s guide to some bizarre and unique events and experiences in town.
Before you get on the road, visit us at AG Automotive for a quick vehicle tune-up to make sure everything is working properly and ready to roll. Better to get things checked and fixed in the city than stranded on an old dirt road in the desert somewhere! We’ll help ensure your Oregon road trip is a fun and safe experience, not a hassle or a headache.
7 Must-See Destinations on Your Oregon Road Trip
Below are seven stellar Oregon road trip destinations you won’t want to miss while you’re here:
1. Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a gorge-ous place to drive and stop for sightseeing adventures. Plus, it’s just a short 45 minutes or so from Portland. The Gorge is home to hiking and biking trails galore and 90 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the river alone. Multnomah Falls is the most popular and touristy stop, and for good reason, but there’s much more to discover here. Angel’s Rest, Punch Bowl Falls, and Oneonta Falls are three of our favorite hikes in the area. Drive a little further along the Columbia River and you’ll reach the idyllic town of Hood River, known for its breweries, wineries and cideries, mountain biking, windsurfing and kitesurfing, and incredible farm-fresh produce. Depending on the season you can even stop to pick your own berries, lavender, apples, flowers, and more!
2. Mt. Hood National Forest
Also close to Portland, Mt. Hood National Forest is a great place to take a road trip. Driving here, you’ll be immersed in the dense green forest that Oregon is known for. In the wintertime, Mt. Hood’s Ski Bowl, Meadows, and Timberline are great for tubing, snowboarding, skiing and even night skiing. Beautiful blue lakes like Trillium Lake offer stunning views of the mountain and trails for snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the winter, or hiking and swimming in the summer. The historic Timberline Lodge is a great place to stay for a night or just grab a hot cocoa and warm up by a roaring fire.
3. The Oregon Coast
The Oregon Coast is another top destination not too far from the city of Portland. Oregon’s coastline is much less developed than other parts of the country and you can find completely deserted stretches of beach to enjoy. There are lots of places to camp right near the beach or with views of the ocean. Driving along HWY 101 will take you through lots of small towns with funky, quaint charm. Astoria and Manzanita are just two of our favorite stops. Along the coast, you can stop to see old lighthouses, go crabbing, clamming or fishing, hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, see Devil’s Punchbowl, and so much more. Plus, all beaches in Oregon are public and almost all are dog-friendly!
4. Silver Falls
Silver Falls State Park has been called “the crown jewel of Oregon.” It’s under an hour away from Portland by car on your way South. If you visit, don’t miss a hike, bike or horseback ride on the Trail of Ten Falls, a loop that passes by ten diverse and beautiful waterfalls, some of which you can even walk behind. The nearby town of Silverton is a charming and historic place to stop for the night or grab some dinner along the river.
5. Crater Lake
Crater Lake is further away from the city, around 4 hours by car, but is definitely worth the trek. It’s the deepest lake in the United States and rests in the middle of a dormant volcano, well-known for its perfect, intense blue color. It’s also considered to be one of the cleanest and most pristine lakes in the world! It can get pretty snowy in the winter so be sure to check on the conditions and any restrictions before you go. This majestic lake is surrounded by beautiful old-growth forests for scenic hikes and drives.
6. Oregon Desert
If you’ve had enough of trees and waterfalls (is that even possible?), you can head out to explore the Oregon High Desert for a change of pace and terrain. Smith Rock State Park is a popular destination in the desert for hiking, camping, and rock climbing, among other outdoor activities. These dramatic rocks are compressed ash formed 30 million years ago, making this a geologist’s paradise. I’m sure you’ve heard that Oregon can get pretty rainy, but Smith Rock in Central Oregon boasts 300 days of sunshine per year. So it’s a great place to go on road trips year-round. Be sure to explore the nearby Deschutes River in Central Oregon as well, a beautiful river for rafting, fishing, and camping.
If you visit Central Oregon, be sure to stop in the city of Bend too! Bend is located near the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and Mt. Bachelor, so it’s another top spot for winter sports. Bend is a dreamland for adrenaline-junkies in the warmer months too; you can go whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, mountain biking, hiking, and more. If you need to take a break from the action, float the river, visit one more than 20 micro-breweries in town or catch some live music.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Oregon road trip destinations; there are so many more great places and sights to explore, and some of the best stops are those you’ll probably discover by accident. Oregon is known for friendly and welcoming locals, so when in doubt, stop and talk to people and you’ll be sure to find some hidden gems along the way.
Before Your Oregon Road Trip: Car Safety
Road trips are an unparalleled way to experience all that Oregon has to offer, but don’t forget about your safety! More time on the road means more opportunities for things to go wrong.
So please be sure to have your car checked before you head out of town; that way you can spend your trip having fun and not worrying about getting your oil changed or having to replace a tire. AG Automotive offers preventive maintenance, check-ups, and a wide range of other automotive services for gas and diesel vehicles. We serve customers across Northeast Portland, North Gresham, Parkrose, and Argay. We can winterize your vehicle, get it ready for a warm summer road trip or anything in between.
Schedule a service with us today and hit the road with peace of mind tomorrow. We can’t wait to welcome you to the magical state of Oregon!