Surrounded by some of the best natural scenery in the USA, there are plenty of seriously beautiful places to visit on nearby short trips. From idyllic vineyards and national parks to cool cities and quaint small towns, here are the best day trips from Portland, Oregon all of which are under a three-hour trip…
1. Willamette Valley Wine Country – a beautiful place where you can have a magical day out
Portland may be famous for its craft brewing scene, but the countryside around the city forms the unexpected center of one of the country’s best wine-producing regions, the Willamette Valley. This gorgeous stretch of land hosts two-thirds of Oregon’s vineyards, most of them owned by passionate small farmers who are serious about the quality of their vintages.
One of the best things to do in wine country is to explore the different vineyards and go to tastings, particularly for the famous local Pinot Noir. The Willamette Valley also boasts a robust culinary scene, picturesque towns, and even opportunities to take a hot air balloon ride.
- The Willamette Valley is about an hour’s drive away from Portland
2. Sauvie Island – one of the largest river islands in the United States where you can enjoy a day out in nature
One of the best things to do when taking a day trip out of Portland is to get into nature, and Sauvie Island is the perfect place to do that. This sprawling island, which covers thousands of acres, is only a few miles away from downtown Portland but might as well be in another world.
On Sauvie Island, you can go hiking along several trails that take you through the woods and along the beach. Check out Oregon’s smallest lighthouse. Or, come with your family and explore the several U-Pick farms, where you can pick your own pumpkins, berries, and more, depending on the season.
- Sauvie Island is located about 35 minute drive from Portland
3. Astoria – a city definitely worth visiting where you can explore its history and beauty
Portland may be Oregon’s most famous city, but there are other interesting towns in the state as well, such as Astoria. This city is located on the mouth of the Columbia River, right by the Pacific Ocean. Besides spectacular views of the river, Astoria is worth a visit for an insight into state history; it is Oregon’s oldest city.
While you’re in town, check out some of the iconic museums, such as the Columbia River Maritime Museum and the Oregon Film Museum. Be sure to save some time for walking through the historic port and admiring the Victorian houses.
- Astoria is located about 1 hour 45 minute drive from Portland
4. Bend – an ideal day out option for those who love to appreciate the sunshine
The city of Bend is a great base for exploring some of Oregon’s natural wonders but it is also a great day trip destination in its own right. The laid-back, outdoorsy city is the perfect place to relax. Check out one of the city’s many spas, dig into the fine dining scene, or explore a micro-brewing culture that rivals Portland’s most famous breweries.
If you want to combine your trip to Bend with an excursion into nature, you have plenty of options to choose from. Learn more about Oregon’s volcanic history with a trip to the lava tubes or get your adrenaline on by exploring some caves.
- Bend is located about a 3-hour drive from Portland
5. Seattle – the best place to go for coffee as it’s known for its coffee culture
Seattle is less than three hours away from Portland by car, making it a feasible day trip destination. On your visit, be sure to check out iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. The Museum of Pop Culture is another can’t-miss Seattle destination, particularly since the city gave us Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.
If you’re a fan of alternative music, Seattle is a must-visit and some remnants of the DIY scene are still around. Check out a gig while you’re in town, and maybe even stay overnight.
- Seattle is located about a 3-hour drive from Portland
6. Timberline Lodge, Clackamas County – a stunning natural wonder where you can have a unique day trip
Mt. Hood’s gorgeous peaks overlook Portland, so it makes sense that as a day trip you may want to check out the mountain. During your visit, be sure to stop at historic Timberline Lodge, which is a luxurious hotel and ski lodge that was used as the exterior location for the Overlook Hotel in the iconic Stanley Kubrick film “The Shining.”
Skiers and adrenaline lovers also come to this alpine lodge so they can use it as a base to hit the slopes. Even if you prefer your winter holidays to be a little more sedate, Timberline Lodge is a great destination. The building is a National Historic Landmark and has been in operation since 1938. Admire the gorgeous architecture and learn about the history of skiing in the area.
- Timberline Lodge is located about a 1-hour 30 minute drive from Portland
7. Smith Rock State Park – makes a fantastic day trip from Portland for outdoor lovers
Smith Rock State Park is one of the best day trips from Portland for nature lovers. The main attraction in this park are the massive rock spires that create an alien, eerily beautiful landscape. Smith Rock is great for taking pictures, but if you want to get closer to the rocks or need a hint of adrenaline to make your day feel complete, then you can check out some of the thousands of rock climbs.
If you prefer to explore nature with your feet firmly on the ground, check out some of the many hiking trails with breathtaking views of plunging canyons and craggy rocks. You won’t believe that you’re only a few hours away from an urban center.
Smith Rock State Park is located about a 2-hour 45 minute drive from Portland
8. Eugene – one of the favorites day trips in the state of Oregon
Eugene is one of Oregon’s best destinations for art lovers. Its museums and architecture even rival Portland’s excellent selection. Must-see destinations include the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House is a painted Victorian mansion that is a quirky destination for art lovers.
Once you’ve taken in all the culture that you can stomach, check out the local food scene or burn off some energy in one of the city’s many parks. If you want to check out the beach, drive to nearby Yachats, a quirky coastal town named one of the coolest small towns in the country.
- Smith Rock State Park is located about a 2-hour drive from Portland
9. Tillamook – one of the best day trips for the cheese lovers as it’s the home of notable Tillamook Cheese Factory
Tillamook County is one of Oregon’s best destinations for natural wonders. This area of the state is perched along the Pacific coast, offering breathtaking views and plenty of activities. You can visit any of the picturesque towns such as Bay City, a historic town that’s also a destination for skaters.
Or, go straight into nature and go camping at one of the county’s many state parks and beaches. No matter what you choose to do in Tillamook, be sure to set aside time to take in the majesty of the Pacific Ocean as it meets the Oregon coast.
- Tillamook is located about a 1-hour 20 minutes drive from Portland
10. Bagby Hot Springs – the ultimate day trip for relaxation and pampering
If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip away from Portland, the Bagby Hot Springs in the Mount Hood National Forest are the perfect place to go. This set of naturally occurring hot springs was popular among Native Americans living in the area for centuries.
Nowadays, the Bagby Hot Springs are surrounded by a bathhouse. For the nominal fee of $5, you can come soak in the three bathhouses on site. There is no parking, so treat this as a reward after the short hike from a Forest Service parking area nearby.
- Bagby Hot Springs is located about a 3-hour drive from Portland
11. Cannon Beach – brilliant day trip to have a relaxing time
If you’re looking for a beach getaway near Portland, Oregon, then Cannon Beach is the place to go. This laid-back coastal city is most famous for its long, sandy beach. Swimming in the Pacific Ocean may be a little too chilly, but you can always stroll along the shore and watch the waves go by.
One of Cannon Beach’s other main draws is Haystack Rock, a tall rock formation in the ocean that is a favorite resting ground for puffins. Go hiking in Ecola State Park for excellent views of the shore, or check out boutiques and restaurants in downtown Cannon Beach for when you need a few more creature comforts.
- Cannon Beach is located about a 1-hour 30 mins drive from Portland
12. Mt. Rainier National Park – excellent day trip for hikers with breathtaking surroundings
Over the state border in Washington lies another iconic peak from the Cascade Mountains. Mt. Rainier is an active volcano (although you aren’t in imminent danger of an eruption if you visit) covered in glaciers. The national park covers so many natural wonders that it’s hard to know where to start.
You can hike or drive throughout the park to try and make the most of your time here. Check out the different natural areas that change drastically as you go up in elevation, from Carbon River’s temperate rainforest to subalpine meadows covered in wildflowers.
- Mt. Rainier National Park is located about a 2-hours 20 mins drive from Portland
13. Mount Hood and Hood River – damn good day trip to get the best from Oregon
Hood River is a small city just an hour outside of Portland that is the perfect destination for nature lovers and gourmands. You can use it as a base to explore nearby wineries and natural wonders. If you want to do an extended exploration of Mount Hood, then Hood River is the perfect base to do so.
The city itself has plenty of things to keep you occupied. Check out the brewing and distillery scene, featuring makers such as Hood River Distillers. There are also plenty of delicious restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets.
- Mount Hood is located about a 1-hour 20 mins drive from Portland
14. Columbia River Gorge – an amazing place for a great day out to explore the national scenic area
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most breathtaking places in a state that is packed with natural beauty. This designated National Scenic Area covers a canyon that the Columbia River carved through the volcanic landscape. Get out of the car and hike the trails to see beautiful features such as waterfalls and cliffs.
Besides scenic natural beauty, the Columbia River Gorge is also home to many picturesque small towns where you can stop and refresh yourself during your trip.
- Columbia River Gorge is located about a 1-hour 10 mins drive from Portland
15. Mount St. Helens – outstanding idea for a day out
Portland is only a drive away from the infamous Mount St. Helens, whose eruption disrupted the Pacific Northwest in 1980. The volcano is now quiet after several decades of rumbling volcanic activity. Come for the excellent hiking trails and views as well as the adrenaline-packed bragging rights.
- Mount St. Helens is located about a 1-hour 40 mins drive from Portland
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My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my rescued Greek street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Laos, California and the surreally beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.