Oregon is home to some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in America. From Crater Lake National Park, to the summit of Mount Hood, to the canyons of Smith Rock, the supply of adventure seems to never end. You could spend weeks in the Columbia River Gorge alone and still only scratch the surface. With spring just around the corner, it's time to start mapping out your adventures and this list should help get the ball rolling. We'll see you out there!
Oregon Bucket List
33 Places You Must Visit and Top Things To Do in Oregon
Places to see & things to do on the Oregon Coast
With 363 miles of coastline to explore, it’s no surprise that the Oregon coast tops my list for places you must visit in this beautiful state. The best part is that the whole shore is open to the public and free to visit thanks to state laws. Our family loved our time along the Oregon coast!
One thing to keep in mind when visiting this region is it’s not like California beaches. Even in the summer, the temperature rarely reaches above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so you’re far more likely to don a sweater than a swimsuit.
But, don’t let that keep you from the Oregon coast, because there are still plenty of things you can do all year long. /What you can do along the Oregon coast varies greatly depending on where you are. If you want the grand tour of the entire coast, you’ll want to catch Highway 101 at either end of the state. But, if you want to pick a few places to get to know better, here are a few of our favorites.
Samuel H. Boardman Park
Listen to the sea lions at Sea Lion Caves
Ride horses on the beach in Bandon
Bandon is located on the Southern Oregon Coast and has a much slower pace than its coastal cousins found further north making it the perfect place to take a relaxing vacation. This charming coastal town offers incredible ocean vista’s and what better way to enjoy the views and see the monolithic rock formations found here then on a horseback ride right on the beach!
See Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
Run up and down sand dunes
Drive across Astoria-Megler bridge
Right on the Colombia River and Pacific Ocean, Astoria is one of Oregon’s coastal towns that deserves its own spot on our list. Originally a trade center for the entire Colombia basin, Astoria remains a busy hub of activity that also makes a great vacation spot.
Places To See & Things To Do In Central Oregon
Visit the Painted Hills
The Painted Hills get their name from the intensely colored stratification in the soil which can be seen splashed across the hillsides here. Vivid greens, fiery reds, burnt orange and shimmering pink and gold colors cover the landscape at this surreal Central Oregon destination. It’s not hard to see why the Painted Hills are one of the ‘7 Wonders of Oregon’.
Related: Visiting the Painted Hills
This is another place most people choose to take a day trip to, but you can certainly pick one of these places to stay near the Painted Hills and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Hike South Sister
Stand-Up Paddle Board on Devils Lake
Devils Lake would have to be the most vibrantly turquoise-colored lake you’ve ever seen. It is hands down the most beautiful lake in all of Oregon and it’s the perfect place to spend a summer day.
Take a Scenic Drive Along Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway
Visit Smith Rock State Park
With literally thousands of climbs throughout the park, there’s no shortage of avid rock climbers who frequent Smith Rock State Park. But, with breath-taking sights and a myriad of wildlife to spot, there’s plenty for everyone here.
Although nobody is sure how this rocky area got its name, one thing is certain: it’s a must-see for vacationers in Oregon. Because it’s only around half an hour outside of Bend, it’s a great place to day trip to when visiting Central Oregon. /Day use parking is $5 per vehicle, but if you’re going as a hiking or biking group, it’s $8 per person.
Places To Stay Around Smith Rock State Park
Although you’re more than welcome to make visiting Smith Rock State Park a day trip from Bend, you can also stay near the park if you want to spend some more time there. Here are a few options for you:
Float the Deschutes River in Bend
Visit Tumalo Falls
Hike out to the Blue Pool
Oregon’s Tamolitch Falls which is also famously known as the Blue Pool, is a popular summer destination for hikers and is a top Oregon bucket list item for tourist’s traveling through Oregon.
The Blue Pool’s turquoise waters are so vibrant and clear it almost doesn’t seem real. The water is so clear that most people assume the pool to be only around five feet deep, however the pool is actually around 30 feet deep in most spots.
The glass-like pond sits around 38 degree’s on average and is so cold that you could go into hypthermic shock immediately if you were to submerge yourself. This is why it is discouraged that you swim here.
To reach Tamolitch Blue Pool you need to hike two miles along the McKenzie River Trail.
Places to see & things to do in and near Portland
Portland is Oregon's largest city and is a haven for eco-activists, cyclists, artists, outdoorsy folk, hipsters and vegans. The city has a laid back feel and is filled with charming neighborhoods and a hip downtown area. It is best known for it’s quirky character’s and it’s “Keep Portland Weird” slogan.
Portland is one of our favorite U.S. cities to spend time in and you can find out why in this post - 7 Reasons You Should Visit Portland.
There is so much to see and do in Portland! Some of the highlights include St John’s Bridge, Washington Park and the Portland Saturday Markets. The city is also known for it’s large amount of brewery’s (there is one on practically every corner) and food pods that offer every type of food imaginable at very reasonable prices (unlike other cities).
For a full list of things to do and experience’s you must have in Portland see this Portland Bucket List.
Walk Across St John’s Bridge in Sth-East Portland
St Johns Bridge is iconic to Portland and structurally the most beautiful suspension bridge ever built. You can take a walk across the bridge which spans the Willamette River although I will warn you it can be a little nerve-wracking because the sidewalk is so narrow and vehicles are flying past only inches away from you!
Afterwards, you can spend some time strolling beautiful Cathedral Park which is located underneath the bridge. From the park you can view the Gothic arches of the bridge’s legs which many visitor’s enjoy taking pictures of and is a popular backdrop for wedding photographer’s.
For beer and chocolate lovers it is worth stopping at Occidental Brewing Co. who specialize in German-style beers and the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe which are both located on the edge of Cathedral Park.
Our favorite place to eat in the St John’s neighborhood is the Santa Cruz Taqueria which serve authentic Mexican food and the best horchata’s you will ever have! You can find the taqueria on the main street through town inside a Mexican grocery store which also features a yummy bakery section.
The city of Vancouver is closer to St John’s then downtown Portland so if you’re looking for affordable accommodation stay in Vancouver.
Watch a Trailblazers game at the Moda Center
The Trail Blazers are Oregon’s official basketball team and watching a home game at the Moda Center during basketball season is a favorite past time for the local people of Portland.
Whether you are a basketball fan or not, attending a Trail Blazers game is a quintessential Portland experience! I must warn you though that tickets are in high demand during the season. You can look up Trail Blazer game dates and ticket prices here.
The Moda Center is also a popular venue for concerts featuring big name act’s so if you would prefer seeing a live show you can search for concert’s that are happening during your travel dates here.
The Moda Center is located just south of downtown Portland. There are a few nice hotels that are within walking distance of the Moda Center and will save you having to pay for parking at the game if you stay nearby.
Hotels we recommend staying at:
Photograph Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls is a well-known landmark in Oregon and the state’s most popular attraction. You really can’t visit Oregon and not tick this place off your Oregon bucket list!
Oregon’s tallest waterfall is 620 feet high. There is a bridge which spans the waterfalls first tier called Benson Bridge.
From the bridge you get some great views of the top of the falls and is a good spot for picture taking. If you would like to continue further, you can hike all the way to the top of the falls from here.
Related: Guide To Visiting Multnomah Falls
Day trip to Columbia River Gorge
The Historic Columbia River Highway which runs through the Columbia River Gorge was the first ever scenic highway in the United States and is therefore a designated National Historic Landmark. The highway is 75 miles long and transitions between temperate rainforest to dry grasslands.
The mighty Columbia River which cuts through the gorge is bordered by the cliff’s of Washington state on one side and Oregon on the other. The area is best known for its high concentration of waterfalls and if you’d like to learn more about where to find these falls you can see this post on Best Waterfalls To See in the Columbia River Gorge.
There are plenty of other activities to enjoy such as hiking, fishing and sailing and several places of interest including the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery and the Bridge of the Gods. You can see this article on a Guide To The Columbia River Gorge to learn about all the must see sights in the area.
There are several towns located along the highway should you wish to plan an overnight stay. These include the town’s of The Dalles, Hood River, and Troutdale.
Best Places To Stay in The Dalles:
Best Places To Stay in Hood River:
Best Places To Stay in Troutdale:
Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s leading wine region and is home to more than 530 wineries. The area which is nestled between the Cascade Mountains and the Coastal Range is recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir producing areas in the world.
The majority of the wineries found in the Willamette Valley are family-owned establishments dedicated to a handcrafted, artisanal wine-making approach.
The Willamette Valley is a popular tourist destination featuring many high-end inn’s and several bed & breakfast’s along with a host of fine dining restaurants to choose from.
The proximity of Portland to the Willamette Valley makes Portland a great jumping off point to visit the area.
There are several tours that operate day trips to the wineries from Portland. Here are two of the most popular:
Canoe on Trillium Lake
Trillium Lake is a beautiful spot not far from the quaint town of Government Camp. It is best known for it’s spectacular views of majestic Mount Hood which is reflected in it’s waters.
There is an abundance of recreational opportunities here such as boating, swimming, fishing and of course photography. Visitor’s can also enjoy hiking and biking on trails that are in the vicinity including the two mile Trillium Shoreline Trail that circles the lake.
There is a campground nearby which accepts reservations and has campsite’s that are first-come first-serve.
Ski or Snowboard at Mount Hood
Mount Hood’s perpetually snowy peak is visible from many miles away and is the iconic volcano that can be seen from Portland.
The Mount Hood Ski Area boasts one of the longest skiing season’s in the world and is home to a total of six ski area’s! It also has some of the most affordable lift tickets in the USA which makes it an attractive ski/snowboard destination for all.
If you’re not interested in partaking in winter sports, it is still a beautiful destination to visit in winter. The drive to get there is gorgeous and at the end of your road trip you can relax at the Historic Timberline Lodge (which is featured in the horror film ‘The Shining’). The lodge was constructed out of stone and wood from the surrounding forest and feature’s a cozy fireplace and offer’s food and beverage options.
Places to visit and things to do in Southern Oregon
Snowshoe at Crater Lake
Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America with a depth of 1,943 feet. It is most famous for it brilliant blue water’s which come directly from rain or snow. Because there are no other inlets into the lake it is able to maintain it’s stunningly clean and clear water from the lack of sediment’s being deposited.
Crater Lake is also one of the snowiest places in the USA receiving about 43 feet of snow annually! Many of the roads into and inside the park close during the winter however the main road into the National Park is kept cleared and accessible.
Even though the majority of facilities close for the winter, there are still a host of winter activities you can enjoy here such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and snowmobiling.
The winter season lasts from November to April but snow can linger into May and June. Check park conditions before visiting.
Toketee Falls is Oregon’s other famous waterfall that is on many visitor’s bucket list. This impressive waterfall plunges over columnar basalt formations into a large deep-blue pool.
To reach Toketee Falls you need to take a short hike along a 0.8 mile trail located near Idleyld Park. The trail is easy and suitable for all skill levels.
Toketee Falls is a great destination to visit and should be on any Southern Oregon road trip as there are a few other really cool natural attractions nearby.
Soak in forest Hot Springs
Oregon is home to a number of hot springs that can be found across the state. The most popular of the hot springs to visit (if we were to go by the amount of post’s on Instagram) is the Umpqua Hot Springs found in Southern Oregon.
Umpqua Hot Springs is located not far from Crater Lake National Park along SR-138. TThere is a parking fee of $5 a day.
These hot springs as previously mentioned are very popular therefore expect it to be crowded during any time of the day.
Places to see & things to do in Eastern Oregon
Photograph fall colors at Boardman Tree Farm
The Boardman Tree Farm is about a three hour drive east of Portland and is located right beside the I-84. The tree farm is hard to miss because of it’s unique position surrounded by flat agricultural land that is lacking of any other tree’s (besides the tree’s planted at the farm).
The tree’s are a hybrid of five different poplar’s named Pacific Albus and have been planted in evenly spaced rows on a 25,000 acre property. The tree farm is private property therefore you probably shouldn’t trespass. However it is still possible to photograph the tree’s from the edge of the farm.
Hike to Ice Lake in the Wallowa’s
Ice Lake is located in the Wallowa Mountains which can be found in Eastern Oregon. The Wallowa’s are fondly known as the ‘Swiss Alps of the USA’ and are a nice surprise from the rest of the desert landscape of Eastern Oregon.
You can visit this stunning lake on a 16-mile return trip hiking trail. It does take quite some time to get there but I promise it’s worth the effort. Especially in the fall when the mountain-sides are splashed in red and gold colors.
Be sure to visit the cute mountain town of Joseph on your way up! In Joseph you will find really good restaurants, boutique stores and fun vintage shop’s.
Related: Hiking to Ice Lake in the Wallowa’s
Take a drive to the top of Steens Mountain
Steens Mountain is the largest fault block mountain in North America and is located in the remote south-east corner of the state. Due to it’s remoteness this area is one of the least visited destinations in Oregon.
The fact that not many people have heard about Steens Mountain is a good thing because it makes a great place to get away if you’re looking for solitude and to escape the crowds found in other area’s of Oregon.
There is a 52 mile-long road called the Steens Mountain Backcountry Byway which will lead you to the mountain summit and provides access to breathtaking scenic viewpoints that look over Kiger Gorge and the Alvord Desert below.
Camp out on a Playa at Alvord Desert
The Alvord Desert is unlike anywhere else in Oregon. The Alvord Desert sits on the east side of the Steens Mountain Range and is a desolate landscape that is rarely visited. Here, snow-capped peaks soar high above the salt flats of the desert playa.
Visitors may camp on the desert playa for free as it is considered BLM land. Nearby you can find several hot springs to soak in and there are many other unique natural attractions to explore.
Best Festivals & Events in Oregon
Pendleton Whisky Music Festival
The Pendleton Whisky Music Festival has become the biggest music festival in Oregon featuring some of the hottest artist’s in the music industry. Previous performers headlining the festival have included Blake Shelton, Maroon Five, Pitbull, the Zac Brown Band, 50 Cent and Post Malone! The event takes place every July in the small town of Pendleton.
Pendleton is located in Eastern Oregon and is quite a commute from the western half of the state. However, we assure you it is well worth the effort to get there and attend this top summer music festival! Besides being an absolutely fun and exciting day, it will give you a reason to visit and explore Oregon’s high desert region.
You can visit the festival’s website to stay updated with the line up and to learn more about tickets and camping.
Pendleton Round Up
Pendleton makes this Oregon bucket list again for the Pendleton Round Up!
Thousands of people flock to Pendleton annually in the second week of September for this week long cowboy event.
The main street of Pendleton closes down for a full week and becomes a carnival grounds to host vendor’s, live music. and nightly shows. The week begins with a dress up parade held on the Saturday before the round up week begins followed by the Outdoor Kick-Off Concert which is held in the arena. Previous artists have included Reba McIntire, George Strait and Scott McCreery.
Events during Round Up week include bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer roping, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping. The All-Around Cowboy award goes to the competitor who earns the most prize money in more than one event.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival marks the beginning of spring time in Oregon showcasing dreamy tulip fields that are comparable to those in Holland. You can stroll through 40 acres of brightly colored tulip fields which are set against a stunning background of majestic mountains looming in the distance and expansive vineyards.
The month long festival which takes place in April is run by a family owned farm in Woodburn. The tulips are planted in October and start to bloom some time in March depending on the previous years climate.
Besides looking at the pretty flowers, there are many other activities the whole family can enjoy here including wine tasting, food trucks, face painting, games and wagon rides.
Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto
The Grotto’s ‘Christmas Festival of Lights’ is the largest Christmas choral festival in the world and takes place in Portland, Oregon. This festival features a dazzling forest of lights consisting of over half a million light bulbs and more than 160 holiday concerts performed by the local community. The indoor concerts are scheduled each evening in the Grotto’s 500 seat chapel.
Festival attendee’s can walk the one quarter-mile long lights trail, enjoy outdoor caroling, see puppet shows and visit the live petting zoo. Holiday foods and beverages are available for purchase.
This extravagant celebration begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs through to the 30th December.
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How many of these bucket list items have you completed? Got any questions or suggestions about this Oregon bucket list? Let us know in the comments below or on our facebook community page!