Portland and its funky, coffee-fueled vibes may be what bring people to Oregon, but what's found beyond the hipster capital’s city limits just might be what keeps them coming back time and time again. From the rolling dunes to the majestic mountains, Oregon boasts what can feel like a world of landscapes all within its borders. Whether you’re just visiting or you’re looking to get to know your home state a little better, here are a few of the can’t miss stops.
The Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is an easy day trip from Portland, and well worth the time. Multnomah is the most famous of the Gorge’s waterfalls, visible from the freeway but even more astonishing up close. If it’s waterfalls you’re after, dozens more line the Columbia River Highway - Horsetail, Ponytail and Bridal Veil, to name a few. You might find the hike at Oneota Gorge a little crowded, so check out Dry Creek Falls if you want something just a little off the beaten path. By now everyone knows to check out Hood River, so you might think about heading to Cascade Locks instead. While you're in the area, stop at Eastwind Drive-In and get what could be argued as the world’s largest soft serve cone, or grab a cold one at Thunder Island Brewing Co .
Photo Credit: Michael Matti
The second most climbed mountain in the world and the only year-round ski resort in North America, Mount Hood is the Everest in Portland’s backyard. Skiing, biking and climbing galore can be found on and around this 11,250’ beauty, not to mention the camping spots and alpine lakes just waiting to be explored. Trillium Lake offers a million dollar view of the mountain over crystal waters -- photographers should comes with their cameras ready, fishers with their lines baited. Foodies have plenty to explore in the area as well, as the Hood River County Fruit Loop offers thousands of acres of orchards, wines, lavender and wildflowers. Packer Orchards has pies and cinnamon rolls that will make you want to keep eating long after you’re full, and you can head to Gorge White House to enjoy wines from numerous vineyards throughout the area.
Photo Credit: Rahul Alvares
The birthplace of American sport climbing, Smith Rock is located in Central Oregon and, unlike it’s rain famous cousin Portland, is home to 300 sunny days a year. Climbers from all over the globe travel to Oregon’s high desert to have a go at scaling Smith Rock’s gorgeous towers of volcanic ash. Don’t worry if you’re new to the game - everyone from beginners to experts can find something to their liking among the basalt and tuff structures. Non-climbing adventurers shouldn’t feel discouraged, as the area boasts golfing, caving, paddle boarding on the Deschutes and skiing at nearby Mt. Bachelor. Craft beer fans also have their pick of 24 breweries and counting in Central Oregon, with 17 in Bend alone. Kick off your very own trip along the Bend Ale Trail at Three Creeks Brewing Company .
Photo Credit: Robert Shea
Neskowin Ghost Forest
You may have heard that the Oregon coast is unlike any other, and Neskowin Ghost Forest is proof. Once a spruce forest lining the coast, an earthquake caused the shoreline to shift and sent the remains out to sea. When the conditions are right, the stumps spotted in the misty surf give the fascinating wonder its haunting name. Low tide in winter is the best time to see the phenomenon, though a few stumps can be seen year-round. An easy stop on Highway 101, access to the forest is best reached by parking in the public lot at the Neskowin turnoff and entering directly in front of Proposal Rock. If you hit the timing just right, stumps should be visible to the south.
Photo Credit: loa bacon
The deepest lake in America, Crater Lake is located in Southern Oregon and offers breathtaking shades of blue against an incredible mountain backdrop. Take a dip in the lake or explore one of the countless hiking trails weaving through the National Park. Rim Drive offers views of the lake that are well worth the winding road it takes to access them. Set up camp and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis, which has been known to pop up in the area from time to time. About an hour south in Central Point you’ll find Rouge Creamery ’s historic cheese shop, where you can enjoy a mind-blowing grilled cheese sandwich alongside Rouge Ales.
Photo Credit: psyberartist
From Florence to Coos Bay, the Oregon Dunes extend for 40 miles along the breathtaking coastline, making them the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America. The dunes are the place to be for off-roading, water-sports or even just a good old fashioned walk on the beach. The coastal forests extend nearly to the ocean and offer peaceful hikes among towering Douglas fir and Sitka spruce. A drive up the coast offers spectacular views to the west and little seaside towns to explore along the way. Blue Heron Bistro in Coos Bay serves fresh, local seafood alongside traditional German fare, and has a secret recipe chowder that can’t be beat.
Photo Credit: Noël
From the deepest river gorge in North America to crystal lakes and snowcapped mountains, it’s safe to say the Wallowas offer a little bit of everything. There is no shortage of sights to see and adventures to have in this gorgeous pocket of eastern Oregon, and it’s said to offer some of the wildest country left in the lower 48. Feed your sense of adventure with rafting on Hells Canyon, skiing in the Wallowa Mountains or mountain biking in the backcountry. If you like your natural wonders with a side of next-level dining, check out one of Field & Vine ’s Dinner in the Field events, held March through December at vineyards, farms and estates throughout the area and boasting mouthwatering six course meals. For something a little more low-key, the area is dotted with picturesque communities offering breweries, art galleries and restaurants that rival the gorgeous scenery surrounding them.
Photo Credit: Christof Teuscher
Sunset is said to bring out the best color in the Painted Hills, but this high desert landscape is spectacular at all times of the day. Staying true to their name, the Painted Hills are vibrant and color soaked; well deserving of their spot in the lineup of Oregon’s seven wonders. Sheep Rock Unit, another spot within the bounds of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, is about an hour drive from the hills and boasts a spectacular green hued canyon, numerous hikes, and views that are just begging to be Instagrammed (#nofilter). Lunch spots will be few and far between out in the desert, but Sidewalk Cafe and Little Pine Cafe in Mitchell offer delicious comfort food at a near perfect halfway point between the hills and Sheep Rock.
Photo Credit: B J IMAGERY
*Feature Image Credit: matt northam