No place exemplifies the wild beauty of America’s Pacific Northwest quite like Oregon. While the region has plenty of rich cultural offerings, its diversity of landscape is indisputably its most glowing feature. From pristine beaches and rugged shorelines to towering volcanic mountains and thick, verdant forests, Oregon’s countryside offers up endless opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Northern Oregon: Mount Hood, the Columbia River, and Hells Canyon
The state’s Northern coast is a popular resort spot for those who enjoy spectacular views of jagged coastal rocks. It’s the ideal place in Oregon to catch some sun and take in the areas iconic rock formations such as the famous Haystack Rock monolith.
The state’s Northern coastal region is easily accessible due to its proximity to Cannon Beach, a nearby town offering plenty of lodging, camping, and eateries. As a popular seaside resort and former artist community, Cannon Beach was recently declared one the best small town in the state of Oregon.
At the state’s most northern point, its coastline meets the Columbia River. Further inland and a short drive from Portland lies the Columbia River Gorge. Formed by cataclysmic Ice Age floods, the valley stretches an astounding 70 miles.
Along the valley’s steep walls, some of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls have formed. These breathtaking cascades can be easily viewed by hopping on the Historic Columbia River Highway, a winding scenic road stretching 75 miles.
Besides serving as the home to some of the state’s most postcard-perfect landscapes, the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area is also a hotspot for thrill-seekers looking to try their hand at watersport activities like windsurfing or kiteboarding in the nearby Hood River. Area attractions also include historic Mount Hood Railroad and several acclaimed wineries.
Just South of the Gorge sits Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s namesake, the towering Mt. Hood, boasts the tallest peak in Oregon. As Portland’s backdrop, it has become an iconic image of the state. With its several downhill ski areas and endless miles of cross country trails, Mt. Hood is the ideal getaway for snow lovers looking for Oregon’s best slopes.
Located along Oregon’s Eastern border, the dramatic landscape of Hells Canyon Recreation Area outranks the Grand Canyon in depth. At its deepest, the canyon reaches as low as 8,000 feet.
Because the area is a pristine nature preserve, there are few paved roads leading into Hells Canyon. Most visitors choose to enter and experience its untouched wilderness by jet boat or overnight horseback trips. Less adventurous travellers may choose to admire Hells Canyon from an aerial view during a scenic helicopter flight.
Southern Oregon: Crater Lake National Park and Bend
Just South of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area sits Bend, a nature lover’s paradise offering up a dramatic variety of landscapes. From the region’s lakes and waterways to the snow-capped Cascade Mountains, there’s no shortage of things to see in Bend.
Here, you can ski the mountain range, scenic hike trails, kayak the area’s waterways, or give one of Bend’s popular fishing holes a go. With its mild climate and year-round sunshine, Bend is a popular tourist destination at any time of year.
As the state’s most popular outdoors attraction, no discussion on Oregon’s natural gems is complete without the mention of Crater Lake. Interestingly, its tranquil blue serenity is what remains of a violent volcanic eruption. At almost 2,000 feet, it is the deepest lake in the country.
With an astounding 90 miles of trails, Crater Lake is a dream destination for hiking enthusiasts. However, visitors wishing to soak in the lake’s serenity without strapping on their hiking boots will enjoy the 33 mile Rim Drive, which circles the lake stopping at some of the lake’s best viewing spots.