Portland has quickly become a haven for the young, trendy folk of the US. Get outside the hipster hype with these one-day trips outside of Portland’s city limits! Beyond the microbrews, food carts and bike parades lie untold natural wonders waiting to be explored.
Find out about the best day trips you can take from Portland, Oregon.
1. Hike Cooper Spur
Are you ready for a rigorous yet rewarding hike? Drive to the Cloud Cap campground to begin your trek (and don’t be scared off by the potholes). Hike partially up Mt. Hood and follow the ridge up through thick forests, alpine brush, and charred remains of a forest fire. Eventually, you’ll reach slick snowpacks that remain well into the summer. This hike ends on the spur itself.
The spur brings you right near the peak of Mt. Hook for an up-close look at its rocky face. To your left, you’ll receive a soaring view of Oregon’s forested hills and mountains. To the right, you’ll look down into a deep ravine where an icy river flows down from the mountain’s snow. Look up and you’ll see the huge Eliot Glacier. This journey is 6.4 miles (10 km) but quite challenging. You should allow a full day to complete.
Hike Cooper Spur
Address: 11000 Cloud Cap Rd, Mt Hood, OR 97041
Website: Cooper Spur
2. Incredible Views of the Coast on Saddle Mountain
Saddle Mountain is just a short drive northwest from Portland. You’ll begin this rigorous 5-mile (8 km) round trip hike through tall dark evergreen trees and continue upward until you emerge through the clouds to a craggy precipice. Wooden steps, steel mesh and steel cables will keep you safe in the steeper areas (just don’t stray outside their bounds). Saddle Mountain is a part of the Cascade Mountain Range and is the tallest in the county. This means that if the weather is clear, your efforts will be rewarded with a soaring view of stretching forests and shimmering ocean. You might even be able to spot Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens!
The best time of year to trek up Saddle Mountain is early summer. You’ll have a better chance of sunny weather and there will still be some lingering wildflowers in the higher altitudes.
Bonus: If you head out on this adventure early in the morning, you can combine the Saddle Mountain hike with a visit to Cannon Beach (see Day Trip #6) or a visit to Astoria (see Day Trip #4).
Address: Saddle Mountain, OR 97138
Website: Saddle Mountain Hike
3. Lush forests and huge waterfalls around Multnomah Falls
No visit to the greater Portland area is complete without a stop at Multnomah Falls. You will not be disappointed by the huge waterfall, which is an iconic part of the Oregon landscape. However, Multnomah Falls can get very crowded, especially during summer. Push past the crowds and set out on the 7-mile (11 km) loop that will lead you through forests of deep green to see multiple more stunning waterfalls.
Bonus: On the drive out, pull over at Crown Point for a spectacular view of the Columbia Gorge.
Address: 50000 E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Bridal Veil, OR 97010
Website: Multnomah Falls
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4. See sea life in Astoria
Astoria is a seaside fishing town located where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Get a feel for Astoria’s maritime heritage by strolling the Astoria Riverwalk, which begins at the Port of Astoria. Along this walk you can also stop at the Maritime Museum.
Grab lunch at Bowpicker, a stationary boat that has been converted into a casual restaurant. You’ll grab your fish & chips to go and continue on to the East Mooring Basin. This boat dock has been taken over by sea lions and makes for an impressive sight. The creatures sun themselves on the docks and completely cover all available space. While impressive to see, it’s worth knowing that the sea lions interfere with the operations of local fisherpeople.
Next, drive or walk up to Astoria Column. If you don’t mind heights, take the spiral staircase straight to the top! The column was built to resemble the Trajan Column in Rome and is decorated by a frieze designed by an Italian immigrant. The column honors the early settlers of Astoria and lights up at night in their honor.
Finally, drive out to Fort Stevens State Park. Here you’ll find the remains of a WWI military fort along with plentiful wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, seals, sea lions and brown pelicans. Don’t miss the shipwreck on Clatsop Spit. In 1906 the Peter Iredale ran ashore and was abandoned here. It’s one of the most accessible shipwrecks on the West Coast!
Bonus: Before hitting the highway to drive to Astoria, grab breakfast at Beesaw’s on Northwest 21st. Get there right in time for their 7:00 am opening to avoid a lengthy line. Beesaw’s is a cozy brunch locale steeped in local history. Then pick up a coconut milk mocha for the road at Coffee Time, a quintessential Portland coffee shop.
Website: Astoria, Oregon
5. Bagby Hot Springs
At Bagby, you can take a soak in natural hot springs while surrounded by dense old growth forest. Just a short hike into Oregon’s Mt. Hood National Forest and you’ll find three options for a relaxing bath. You might choose to bathe privately in a hollowed out log or jump into the big whiskey barrel bath with 8 of your friends.
Bagby Hot Springs has a long history of helping folks relax! The site was popular among Native Americans for hundreds of years prior to the prospector Bob Bagby’s arrival in 1880. In 1920, the first bathhouse was constructed. The location is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bagby Hot Springs
Address: Bagby Rd, Estacada, OR 97023
Website: Bagby Hot Springs
6. Stunning beauty at Cannon Beach & Ecola State Park
The great looming shape of Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s defining natural wonders. The huge storm battered basalt rock protrudes from the Pacific Ocean and is flanked by a few smaller siblings. Each rock makes home to many interesting species of seabird. Visit when the tide is out. You’ll be able to walk up to the rock and peek at a plethora of bright jellyfish, sea anemones, crabs and other tiny sea creatures.
It should only take you about 30 minutes to walk out to Haystack Rock and back. Then, leave the crowds behind and drive to Ecola State Park. Ascend through moss-clad trees on the Clatsop Loop. You’ll get a stunning view from above of the Tillamook Head Lighthouse (also known as “Terrible Tilly”). The beaches below also feature more basalt formations that jut from the ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for concrete bunkers that held a radar installation during World War II.
Finish your day by spreading out a blanket on Indian Beach (at the trailhead of the Clatsop Loop). Break out some picnic fare (and maybe even an Oregon microbrew) and watch the sun set over the Pacific.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Website: Cannon Beach
7. Experience the Charm of Hood River
Drive down to the hip town of Hood River for a casual afternoon. On your drive, you’ll see striking rock formations along the shimmering Columbia River. Hood River is tucked under the shadow of Mt. Hood and is famous for its sailing and windsurfing scene. If you want to get out on the water, we recommend Big Winds Hood River. This company rents windsurfing, paddle boarding, and kite boarding equipment.
The small town also has a thriving food culture. For a casual meal, visit Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar for homemade pizzas. This pizzeria boasts homemade standard and gluten-free crusts. Try one of the signature pizzas like the “Solstice” with house made Canadian bacon, pineapple-chutney, shredded mozzarella, & a spicy jalapeno cream sauce. Or choose from a wide range of ingredients to make your own!
Bonus: On your return drive, pull over to view the Bridge of the Gods (as seen in the movie “Wild”)
Hood River, Oregon
Website: Hood River
Oregon's natural wonders
As you can see, visitors can find incredible natural beauty just a few short hours outside of Portland’s city limits. If you’re an adventurous outdoor lover, it’s worth it to make time for a few day trips during your Portland vacation.
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