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Oregon is one of the most underrated states as a destination for incredible outdoor beauty. There are beaches, mountains, rocky coastal cliffs, lush wine regions, hot springs, and so many waterfalls. Not to mention the most incredible fall colour. Whether you’re from the area or just visiting, Portland is located in the perfect area to give you access to all of it. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best day trips from Portland so you can experience all of what this gorgeous state (and the Pacific Northwest) have to offer, all within three hours.
1 Hour or Less Day Trips from Portland
1. Antiquing in Aurora
Total distance: 21 miles
Drive time: 25 min
Aurora is so close to Portland but is just enough off the beaten path that you’ll feel like you’ve gone somewhere. And if you’re a fan of antiquing or just like browsing antiques, boy is Aurora for you.
Just in Aurora alone, there are more than a dozen antiques shops! Some are huge warehouse stores, others are tiny roadside shops.
Appropriately, Aurora was the first city in Oregon to be named a historical site. Come for a day of serious antique shopping (or window shopping), and stay to stroll around a quaint and cute town.
2. Waterfalls and Rafting in the Columbia River Gorge
Total distance: 30 miles + 41 miles
Drive time: 30 min + 45 min
Oregon is home to more than 200 waterfalls. One of the most famous and well-trekked is Multnomah Falls, just 30 minutes outside of Portland. (Public transportation also available if you’re not from the area!)
Multnomah Falls can be a short hike of less than a half mile if you want incredible views from the bridge and to move on — although we recommend you go slightly past the the bridge to a lookout point before turning around. There’s a longer, moderately difficult hike that will take you to the top, too. The views are arguably better from the bridge, so no worries if you don’t want to go all the way up.
Regardless of which hike you choose, you’ll still have time to do some more exploring. You can seek out more waterfalls or keep hiking the trails if you want to stay nearby. Alternately, you can continue on I-84E to White Salmon, Washington and go on a half day white water rafting trip for the afternoon.
3. Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley
Total distance: 47 miles
Drive time: 45 min
The grass, in fact, is always greener in the Willamette Valley, and that’s not just because you’ve had enough wine for it to appear that way.
While more grass comes from the Willamette Valley than from anywhere else in the world, there’s something far more exciting being grown here: pinot noir grapes. Some of the best in the world. The soil is so fertile here, making it perfect to grow both grass and grapes due to multiple ice age floods. Okay, history lesson over.
The Willamette Valley is an easy day trip from Portland where you can spend the day vineyard hopping. There are a handful of amazing wine tours you can take so you can enjoy the vino without worrying about driving. There are even wine and waterfalls tours if you’re feeling really adventurous!
1-1.5 Hour Day Trips from Portland
4. Hike Behind Waterfalls in Silver Falls
Total distance: 55 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 15 min
Located inside of Silver Creek State Park is the opportunity to hike a few of the many waterfalls in Oregon. At Silver Creek, though, you can actually go behind some of the falls, including a 177 foot drop.
To do the full hike, which is pretty moderate, is almost 7.5 miles and is called the Trail of Ten Falls. If you choose to do this hike, make sure you’re prepared to get wet. It can also get slippery, so exercise caution as you make your way through. Note also that absolutely no pets are allowed on this trail for their safety (they are allowed on other hikes in the park, though).
Of course, you don’t have to do the full loop if you’re not up for it. There are other activities inside of Silver Creek State Park, too, like mountain biking, trail hiking, and horseback riding.
5. Soak in the Great Outdoors at Trillium Lake
Total distance: 60 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 30 min
For a general outdoor adventure, Trillium Lake can’t be beat. With sweeping views of Mt Hood in the distance, no matter what you’re there for, you can soak up the scenery and enjoy your day.
If all you’re looking for is to have a relaxing day, there are handful of picnic spots where you can bring a cooler and have a nice barbecue. These areas are first come, first served, and weekends in the summers can get quite crowded. There is also lake and pond fishing available. Feel free to go for a dip in the lake for a nice swim, too.
But if you’re looking for a bit more of an active day, there are plenty of other options. The hiking trails around Trillium Lake are mostly considered easy and have the most rewarding views. Mountain biking is also permitted in designated areas. You could also go kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boating — but there are no equipment rentals at Trillium Lake, so you’d need to bring your own.
6. Explore an Active Volcano at Mount St Helens
Total distance: 70 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 30 min
The idea of an active volcano may seem half-crazy-slash-half-intriguing, but it really is one of the most unique experiences in Oregon. You (or your parents) might remember the last major eruption, which happened in 1980. The ash plume exploded all the way to 16 miles above sea level. Within an hour, the ash cloud reached Idaho, and dust from the eruption travelled all the way to Edmonton.
Luckily, there hasn’t been nearly as catastrophic an eruption since, though there are has been steam seen as recently as 2008.
Mt St Helens is deemed safe to visit, though! So much so, they even allow super adventurous folks to climb it — with proper permits. There are hiking trails you can easily explore, or you can take a helicopter tour or adventure tour. If you’re not feeling a volcanic adventure, there are simple viewing areas at either the Johnston Ridge Observatory (admission fee charged) or the Forest Learning Center (free).
1.5-2 Hour Day Trips from Portland
7. Bagby Hot Springs
Total distance: 66 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 45 min
Experiencing a hot spring is something everyone should do at least once in their life, and Bagby Hot Springs are easily the most popular in Oregon. And easily accessible as a day trip form Portland!
The Bagby Hot Springs reach a temperatures of up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit / 37 degrees Celsius. For $5, you can soak til your heart’s content. You can also make your way to a private bathhouse and soak au natural if that’s more your bent. Note that there is only a charge for use of a soaking tub, not for admission or parking.
To get to Bagby Hot Springs, there is about a 1.5 mile hike from the parking lot. Please remember to practise leave no trace when visiting. This goes for every day trip on this list, of course, but the hot springs have had problems with visitors in the past. Also note that there is absolutely no cell service in the area, so get ready to unplug and relax.
Total distance: 98 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 45 min
Do you recognise this house? If you do, it’s because it’s the house from The Goonies! There have actually been a lot of movies filmed in Astoria. There have also been a handful of other movies filmed in Astoria, such as Kindergarten Cop, Free Willy, Short Circuit, and The Ring Two. Fans of The Goonies will definitely be able to spot famous filming locations around town, though.
Astoria is also home to a handful of different museums – a film museum, a maritime museum, and more. (The film museum, appropriately, is also the jail from The Goonies.) Use your day wandering around downtown, visiting different museums, and sampling various food at the many food trucks.
You can also get out into nature in Astoria. There is Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, which is like a cross between a nature walk and a museum. The Astoria riverwalk is also a beautiful spot to walk alongside the Columbia River. You can take a trolley, too.
9. Get Some Culture in Eugene
Total distance: 109 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 45 min
Eugene is the second largest city in Oregon and home to the University of Oregon, making it a great destination for a day trip from Portland. It has all the culture, craft beer, and coffee that Portland do, but without the hustle and bustle.
For museum lovers, there are a handful in Eugene. There is the Museum of Natural and Cultural History located on the university campus which has nearly a million archaeological artifacts. Also on the campus is the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, which focuses on American, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean art. There is also an air and space museum and a science center.
A trip to the public market gives you shopping, restaurants, and cafes all in one place. But if you go on a Saturday from April through November, the Saturday public is extremely popular and they require the actual artisans to sell their products, so it’s a neat experience. The food scene in Eugene is pretty great, too.
Of course, you’re in Oregon, so there are plenty of outdoor activities like an arboretum, rose gardens, and plenty of nature walks.
Total distance: 115 miles
Drive time: 1 hr 45 min
Olympia is the capitol of Washington state and has an abundance of natural beauty and things to do.
Nature lovers will enjoy how much of the great outdoors they can explore in Olympia. You could spend all day in Tumwater Falls Park, visit a wildlife refuge, or just hang out by the docks. There are the Mima Mounds, too, which are a bunch of little mounds over a 445 acre park. It’s a mystery how they actually came to be — some say aliens!
There is also a really great downtown area in Olympia, and it’s designed to be a historical site. Downtown, you’ll have a number of options for amazing craft beer, or you can take a coffee cupping class. If you want to explore the region and love wine, Olympia is a stop on the south sound wine trail.
2-2.5 Hour Day Trips from Portland
11. Relax at the Beach in Newport
Total distance: 131 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 15 m
Cannon beach is often listed as the go to beach day trip from Portland. It can be quite crowded, though, and there are so many amazing coastal cities with beaches. Instead, Newport is an amazing little coastal town which is much quieter but still packs a good punch.
If all you’re looking to do is spend a day at the beach, do your thing, honey. Nye Beach is a lovely place to relax, smell the salty air, soak in the sun, and take the occasional dip in the Pacific. During the summer, beach parking can be hard to come by, so you might have a less frustrating time find any old spot nearby and walking.
There are also several natural areas where you can enjoy the beautiful rocky coast, a fishing pier, and state beach recreation areas. In town, there are also many great restaurants and places to grab a craft beer.
12. Experience the Beauty of Mount Rainier
Total distance: 138 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 15 min
You could spend days exploring Mount Rainier, but if all you have is a day, there are options for you. Like Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier is also an active volcano, but the last time it erupted was 1894.
If you’d prefer to drive, Mt Rainier offers several scenic drives for you to tour. Those of you who are super early birds can drive all the way to Sunrise Point, which is the highest point to which you can drive your car. There are also a ton of day hike options at Mt Rainier National Park ranging from 20 minute loops to 4 hours. Note that no dogs are permitted on any trails in the park.
Alternately, you could take a Mount Rainier gondola ride up the mountain for unbelievable views from the Crystal Mountain Resort. At the top there are hiking trails, little shops, bakeries, and a restaurant with spectacular scenery. The best part is that if you like to travel with your dog, little furry friends are allowed everywhere at Crystal Mountain, including on the gondola rides, on the trails, and they even have a “pawtio” at the restaurant.
Total distance: 144 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 15 min
Tacoma is a great town to explore located on Puget Sound. If you’re looking for a day trip just to get away and wander somewhere new, it could be a great option.
If you’re into nature, there’s a nature center, plenty of parks, a conservatory, and places to enjoy being by the water – all with incredible views. Lakewood Gardens is also beautiful, plus there’s a conservatory garden.
There are also upwards of a dozen different museums. The Museum of Glass is truly a cool experience — outside of that, there’s also a bridge of glass. Other museums include a living history museum, a car museum, a state history museum, of course an art museum, and more.
14. Hiking and Waterfalls in Mt Hood
Total distance: 99 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 30 min
Regardless of what kind of nature you’re looking to enjoy. Mt Hood National Forest has something for you.
There are dozens of hiking trails in Mt Hood, ranging from 0.1 miles to more than 36 miles. Of course, you’re not going to be able to accomplish a 30+ mile hike in a day, but there are plenty of options for longer hikes if you’d prefer. Most of the short hikes are easy enough. There’s also an easy 6.4 mile hike (Eagle Creek) which only has an 800 feet rise in elevation. If you want a super challenging day hike, consider Cast Creek which is a little more than 5 miles long or the 8 mile Pioneer Bridle.
Mt Hood is also home to many of Oregon’s waterfalls. There is also rock climbing, horseback riding, and water activities you can do. Note that motorised boating is allowed in some areas of Mt Hood, but jet skis and other personal motorised water crafts are not permitted anywhere.
2.5-3 Hour Day Trips from Portland
15. Rock Climbing in Smith Rock State Park
Total distance: 142 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 45 min
Unlike most of the day trips on this list, rock climbing is an activity best enjoyed outside of the summer months. If you’re looking to enjoy a good climb at Smith Rock State Park, they recommend Autumn, Winter, or Spring.
At Smith Rock State Park, there are more than 2000 options for climbs. If you’re an experienced climber, there is up to a 5.14 climb you can do. For beginners, there are many options for instructors and climbing guides to help you experience rock climbing safely.
16. Explore Rugged Coast in Yachats
Total distance: 155 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 45 min
Just a bit further along the coast than Newport sits one of the most picturesque coastal towns of Yachats (that’s said: YAH-hots). While there are solid options for food and drinks, the splendour of Yachats really lies in the coastal views.
Start on the Captain Cook Trail, which is less than a mile round trip and an easy walk, to see the tidepools, Cooks Chasm, or Spouting Horn. If you’re interested in viewing the tide pools, double check the tide forecast, because they are only able to viewed at low tide. If it’s high tide, check out Spouting Horn, which is a natural fountain produced by the ocean. You can also only view Devils Churn at high tide, and it can be viewed from a lookout area off of highway 101 or by doing an easy, paved half mile round trip walk along the Restless Waters Trail.
If you’re coming to check out the coast and you want to explore the rocky beach, always use caution and have proper footwear to give you good traction. The rocks can get slippery, and the waves can pack an unexpected mean punch if you’re not careful.
17. Have an Adventure in Seattle
Total distance: 174 miles
Drive time: 2 hr 45 min
Seattle is a whole destination unto itself, but if you’re local to Portland or in the Portland area for business, Seattle is a great day trip.
If you want to experience as much of Seattle as you can in a day, you might want to consider getting a Seattle City Pass. It gives you access to the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, the Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour, either the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) or Woodland Park Zoo, and either Chihuly Garden and Glass or Pacific Science Center. It’s worth noting that there are other zoo and aquarium options in places throughout the day trip suggestions, but we’re not advocating environments where animals are not in their natural habitats.
For those inclined to enjoy adult beverages, Seattle is rich with local craft beer and wine produced at incredible local vineyards. There are also a handful of boozy boat tours ranging from cheap one hour rides all the way to chartering a private booze cruise. Don’t forget to visit the Pike Place Market and swing by the original Starbucks while you’re there.
18. Oregon Dunes
Total distance: 177 miles
Drive time: 3 hr
To visit sand dunes is like an otherworldly experience. The Oregon Dunes are inside of the Siuslaw State Forest, and while they’re the furthest day trip on this list, they’re absolutely worth exploring.
If you’re feeling up for the challenge, there’s an 8 mile hike through the dunes where you can explore on foot. If you’ve never walked through dry sand, though, watch out. It is extremely challenging!
For more of an adventure, there are some super cool equipment rentals. Visitors can rent equipment to go sandboarding — which yes, is like snowboarding — and hop on slopes made for beginners or more advanced riders. There are also areas where ATVs and dune buggies are permitted for you adrenaline junkies. If you’re not local or don’t have your own, they’re available for rent, or you can join in on a dune buggy tour for a truly unique experience.
We hope you found an interesting day trip option somewhere on this list. If you explore a destination on this list, or know of another great day trip from Portland, let us know in the comments!
PS We’d love to be friends on Instagram if we’re not already 🙂
Hi friends, I’m Adriane! I’m a travel photographer and writer from Detroit, the creator behind This Wandering Spirit, and founder of Travel Boss. I love the smells of the ocean, musical theatre, Game of Thrones, everything Henry VIII, and exploring the world with my favourite four-legged partner-in-crime, Toby.