10 Amazing Day Trips from Portland, Oregon
One of the amazing things I love about Portland is that within the span of just an hour, you can travel from city to rain forest, mountains or ocean. And just a few hours will get you to the high desert. There is so much more to Oregon than its stereotypes. So if you’re planning a trip to Portland, I would highly recommend taking time for at least one day trip outside the city. Here’s a few of my favorite day trips from Portland to help you start planning.
Day Trips from Portland – to the West
If you’re visiting Portland from a non-coastal state, a day trip to the ocean is a must. These first several day trips from Portland are all coastal, moving from north to south.
Astoria lies on the northern-most coast of Oregon, right next to the Washington border. About a two hour drive, it makes for a great day trip from Portland. Experience and learn about Oregon’s history by visiting Fort Clatsop (Lewis and Clark), Fort Stevens State Park, and the Astoria Column. Drive along the Astoria-Megler bridge, the longest truss bridge in North America.
About an hour and a half from Portland, Seaside has a fun, classic boardwalk vibe with endless activities. Explore the quaint coastal town from the seat of a surrey or paddle boat. Check out the Seaside Aquarium, a vintage carousel, a secret alcove of silly mirrors, the arcade, or bumper cars. Buy some salt water taffy, enjoy an ocean-view stroll along the Seaside promenade, and warm up with some clam chowder at Norma’s.
Cannon Beach is the go-to spot for many native Portlanders. Dine at The Wayfarer for a close up view of the Goonies’ Haystack Rock. Or check out Mo’s for some clam chowder with an ocean view, easy parking and a nearby playground for the kids. Grab some coffee or cocoa at Insomnia to keep warm while exploring the beach. Check out Ecola State Park for the more secluded Indian Beach.
Note: Seaside and Cannon Beach are a short 10 minute drive from each other, and could potentially be combined into one day trip.
If you visit Tillamook, going to the Tillamook Cheese Factory is a must. Enjoy a scoop of ice cream and learn about the cheese-making process. Stop by the gift shop on your way out to purchase Tillamook products only available on the coast (i.e. cheese curds), and other Oregon-made products. Round out your day by visiting the Cape Meares Lighthouse and the octopus tree.
Visit Neskowin for an other-worldly experience in the Newskowin Ghost Forest. The Ghost Forest was estimated to have been formed about 2,000 years ago when either an earthquake or tsunami wiped out a stretch of coastal sitka spruce. About 2 hours from Portland, this day trip is best planned around low tide for best beach access.
Note: When visiting this magical spot, please be respectful and mindful to leave no trace—take out what you take in. Sadly, locals have mentioned the litter left behind (especially after super low tides) is astronomical. If we want to continue enjoying this beautiful earth, we have to protect it.
About 2 hours south of Portland, Lincoln City has a lot to offer, including an outlet mall and the Prehistoric fossil museum. Explore the antique shops, stroll the beach, and stop in at Kylos for some seafood with an ocean-view. If you’re looking for a good hike and a waterfall, Drift Creek Falls is just a half hour drive from Lincoln City and well worth it.
Note: Neskowin is just 20 minutes north of Lincoln City; the two can potentially be combined into one day trip from Portland.
Day Trips from Portland – to the East
Explore Timberline Lodge where part of The Shining (1980) was filmed, go play at Skibowl, or go on a short, leisurely hike to Zig Zag Falls. Skibowl offers tubing and skiing in the winter and a zip line, alpine slide, tree top adventure course, and snowless tubing in the summer. Stop in at Government Camp for lunch at Mt. Hood Brewing Co.
Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park makes for a fairy-tale day trip from Portland. About an hour and a half southeast of Portland, it lies in the Mt. Hood National Forest. There are endless hiking options here, but I would recommend the Trail of Ten Falls. This 7.4 mile loop will take you past all ten waterfalls in the state park in about 3.5 hours (depending on your hiking speed). Here’s the most magical part: four of these waterfalls, you can walk behind! Plus, restrooms and picnic areas are available through out the park.
There are a few important things to know before you visit, though. First, a $5 parking fee is required; you can pay by card. Second, cell phone service is spotty to non-existent, so download your driving and hiking routes in advance. (However, maps with hiking routes are available at the state park.) Lastly, the Rim trail is the only trail that allows dogs, so plan accordingly.
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge lies an hour east of Portland. It is breathtaking and has so much to offer. One of the many draws to the Gorge is its 90 waterfalls. A few of my favorite waterfall hikes I’ve personally explored in the Gorge are Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Wahclella Falls.
However, waterfall hikes in the Gorge have become a very popular attraction and parking can be difficult to impossible at times. So I’d highly recommend checking out the seasonal Sasquatch Shuttle. Their Waterfall Loop took us to see the Portland Women’s Forum, Vista House, Latourell Falls, Angel’s Rest, Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
Sasquatch Shuttle took us to places we had never been and hadn’t really considered visiting before. Plus, our driver was highly knowledgable about the area and gave great commentary. Also, I liked that the experience was so easy to customize. Many of the waterfalls were visible from where the shuttle stopped. But if we wanted a closer look, we had the option to hop off, take a hike, and catch the shuttle again when it came back around. Or we could just ride the loop straight through. It was 100% worth it.
Note: As of 2022, you will need a permit to drive through the waterfall corridor (between Crown Point and Ainsworth State Park) of the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway. This is in effect between May 24 through September 5, and costs only $5. You can order your permit online in advance from recreation.gov.
I know I mentioned Multnomah Falls above, but I feel it really warrants it’s own separate section. At 620 feet tall, this two-tiered waterfall is the tallest in Oregon. The moderately difficult, 2.4 mile hike (out and back, round trip) has 11 switchbacks with an 870 foot elevation gain. It may make you sweat a bit, but the hike to the top is well worth it, with a (safely railed) vantage point directly above the top of these impressive falls.
Plan your visit here for a weekday and be sure to arrive early to find parking, as it fills up quickly. Or, don’t worry about parking and take the Sasquatch Shuttle instead. The lodge at Multnomah Falls was built in 1925, and houses restrooms, a gift shop, and a restaurant. Plus, there’s a coffee cart and ice cream vendor on site. If you dine at the lodge, ask for patio seating for a view of the falls while you eat.
Note: A beautiful view of Multnomah falls from below is fully ADA accessible.
I hope you enjoy these day trips from Portland suggestions. Have you visited one of these locations? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below and tell me about it.