As a brand that encourages its customers and supporters to get outside and enjoy the natural world, Oregon is one of our favorite places in the world. Oregon is well known for a lot of things – the city of Portland, tall volcanoes, dense, lush forests, and lots of craft beer. Oregon’s natural scenery is second-to-none and there are countless nature escapes in Oregon. Picking out 10 of our favorite nature escapes in Oregon was a tough task, but these are some of the places absolutely worth seeing if you find yourself in The Beaver State.
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
In a protected area of the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon you will find Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve. The Oregon Caves are unique – most caves are formed in limestone or dolomite, but these caves are formed in marble. The preserve features a 1.5 hour tour and a great visitor’s center. Visitors must follow a guide and are not allowed to explore on their own. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is 20 miles east of Cave Junction and about an hour drive from Grants Pass.
Astoria isn’t exactly a nature escape, but a small town on Oregon’s coast. Still, it makes it onto our list because of how naturally stunning it is and its proximity to so many awesome natural places. Astoria is located along the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean. Astoria is the place to visit in Oregon if you want a coastal experience. And fun fact: Astoria is the location for the movie The Goonies.
Another favorite coastal spot for Oregonians is Cannon Beach. It’s an awesome surf spot and features a seastack called Haystack Rock, which is a very commonly photographed natural feature. Staying in the nearby town of the same name, Cannon Beach, gives you an excellent launching point for visiting some other nature escapes in Oregon, including Ecola State Park.
Mount Hood National Forest
Mount Hood, which is technically an active volcano, is the highest peak in Oregon and is perhaps the most recognizable natural feature of the state of Oregon. The surrounding natural park is a hiker’s dream come true with countless trails. It also features a ski slope for the winter sports enthusiast. You can also find waterfalls and hot springs in the park.
Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is just a half hour drive from the city of Bend, located just on the other side of the Cascade Range. Smith Rock is the go-to park for rock climbing enthusiasts. There are more than 1,000 bolted sport routes for climbers and the views of the surrounding river canyon are second to none. If rock climbing isn’t your preferred activity, that’s okay! There are a number of relaxing to challenging hiking trails in the park.
The Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley of Oregon stretches from Eugene to Portland with Salem near the middle. All three cities are fantastic places to visit, and in between you will find countless wineries, hiking trails, buttes, and lots of interesting farmland. All three cities are great launch points for visiting just about every major nature escape in the western half of the state.
Newberry Volcanic Monument
Oregon is a state located on the Pacific’s “ring of fire,” an area with lots of tectonic and volcanic activity. While there haven’t been any volcanic eruptions in Oregon recently, there are lots of volcanos in the state. The Newberry Volcanic Monument is one such place. The monument protects 1,200 square miles around the Newberry Caldera and has just about every outdoor activity you could imagine, from mountain biking to hiking and even taking a drip in a natural hot springs. Camp grounds are also available for visitors.
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a popular destination due to its closeness to Portland. The Columbia River runs through the Cascade Range and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The gorge is a scenic area along the river known for amazing views and gorgeous waterfalls. Multnomah falls, found in the gorge, is the largest waterfall in the state. There is lots of biking, hiking, and camping to be done in the gorge. Something to note: The Eagle Creek Fire burned 50,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge in 2018, so some areas of the gorge may not be open to the public.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is one of the most unique natural formations in the state of Oregon. Crater Lake is a bit of a misnomer, as the lake wasn’t actually made by an impact crater but is the caldera of a now extinct volcano. Crater Lake features lots of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities. Crater Lake is a 4 hour drive from Portland, a 2 and a half hour drive from Eugene, and a 2 hour drive from Bend.
Washington Park in Portland
In each of our ‘Nature Escapes’ blogs, we like to point to one that’s easily accessible to urban dwellers. On Oregon’s list is Washington Park in Portland. Washington Pask features the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Japanese garden, and the International Rose Test Garden. It really is your go-to for anything and everything nature in Portland, Oregon.