Portland is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the USA, and there’s also an incredible array of great places and activities to get involved in. From fun and uplifting to relaxing and scenic, here are some of the best things to do near Portland, Oregon…
1. White Water Rafting on the White Salmon River – a fun adrenaline pumping activity not too far from Portland
At barely over an hour north of Portland, the White Salmon River offers a popular Class III white water rafting experience, along Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. The run takes in breath-taking churning rapids along some wild and rugged, natural scenery. The river’s icy cold, glacier-fed water is a crystal clear blue.
It was once a lava tube, but now the river runs through narrow, soaring volcanic basalt canyons until it reaches a stunning, forest-clad valley. The river offers different sections, each with its own unique beauty and challenges. Most visitors kayak or raft down “The middle” from BZ Corner, to the spectacular Husum Falls.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 17 mintues
2. Relax, swim or surf at Cannon Beach – one of the most popular things to do near Portland
A favorite with visitors, Cannon Beach is a picturesque seaside town in Oregon, just 90 minutes west of Portland. This coastal tourist destination is famous for its iconic landmark, Haystack Rock, which is a 235 ft high sea stack formed from igneous rock. Located close to shore, it can often be accessed at low tide in summer, when you can explore its small, natural cave system.
As part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Haystack Rock is a State protected marine environment. Cannon Beach’s rocky shoreline has fascinating tide pools just waiting to be explored, and the sandy beach is a lovely scenic area for relaxing at the beach and enjoying family picnics.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 30 mins
3. Hike or Climb Smith Rock State Park – a great place to visit near Portland
Visitors to the high desert region of central Oregon can pitch their tents in the camping grounds of Smith Rock State Park, for a scenic getaway. The area is well known for its tuff and basalt cliffs that attract rock climbers of all levels of ability. With over 1 800 different climbing routes, it offers opportunities for sport climbing and traditional climbing of all levels, sometimes up sheer cliffs.
Visitors and climbers are treated to sweeping, scenic views across the deep river gorge. The Canyon Trail is popular for walking, hiking and bird watching, particularly between April and September. The Misery Ridge Loop Trail Run is a moderate to difficult 3.6 mile round trip from the park’s Welcome Center and offers marvelous views of awesome spires and rock formations.
- Distance from Portland: 2 hours 55 mins
4. Visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria – a great family-friendly activity near Portland
The Columbia River Maritime Museum on Marine Drive, Astoria, is located about ten miles south of the mouth of the Columbia River. This fascinating museum traces the history of the region from wooden canoes through the age of sailing ships to the present day. It tells the stories of the Columbia River bar, one of the world’s most dangerous maritime passages. Today, the Columbia River Maritime Museum is considered one of the finest maritime museums in the United States.
It houses an extensive collection of seafaring vessels, art, and maritime artefacts presented in fascinating, informative exhibits. The visitor can experience demonstrations and real hands-on activities. People of any age can experience what it takes to pilot a tugboat or participate in a simulated Coast Guard rescue on the treacherous Columbia River bar.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 50 mins
?5. Seaside Promenade – one of the most relaxing things to do near Portland
Seaside is a charming little coastal town in northwest Oregon. It has the quaint beachside vibe of yesteryear. Running alongside the Pacific Ocean, the Seaside Promenade stretches 1.5 miles from south of the town at Avenue U, along the length of the town to 12th Avenue at the northern end. It was originally a wooden walkway that was paved in the early 1920s.
It offers all the best visitor attractions like restaurants and eateries, shopping, and fine accommodation. A popular drawcard is the remarkable 35 ft long Gray Whale skeleton. The promenade famously features a ‘turnaround’ which is a unique roundabout that was created to turn traffic around when the street ends at the seashore.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hours 30 mins
6. Ski and Snowboard Mount Hood – a fun seasonal thing to do
If you’re looking for some spectacular snowboarding and skiing experiences in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t go past Mt. Hood. This is Oregon’s grandest volcanic peak, located just a 90-minute drive from Portland. The snowfields here are ideal for beginners to learn to snowboard or ski, and it is the perfect place for families. The more adventurous can try snowshoeing, following trails through the old-growth forests.
There are three excellent ski resorts to choose from on the peak. Mt. Hood Meadows boasts over 2 150 acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain, while Mt. Hood Skibowl offers the most extensive night skiing terrain in America. Timberline Lodge is the only ski-in, ski-out lodge in Oregon. Each area provides downhill and snowboarding lessons, and you can rent equipment on site.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour
7. Rowena Crest Viewpoint – a must-see experience near Portland
Off the Historic Columbia River Hwy, near Mosier in Oregon, nestles a scenic state park with breath-taking panoramic views across the Columbia River gorge. The Rowena Crest Viewpoint is a short hike on a plateau that offers spectacular scenery. Vultures soar above you while the river runs through the gorge below. Access to the viewpoint is via a narrow, winding road that features a memorable loop that is visible from the viewpoint above.
The views from the broad paved area at the Rowena Crest Viewpoint take in the river gorge, the distinctive horse-shoe road loop, jagged rock formations and cliffs, and a hidden lake. Across the river, you can see as far as Washington, and the peaks of Mount Hood and Mount Adams in the Cascades.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 16 mins
8. Saddle Mountain State Natural Area – a beautiful destination to see which is a drive from Portland
The Saddle Mountain State Natural Area is a state park in northwest Oregon, with marvelous views of the Pacific Ocean in the distance, the Columbia River mouth and the Cascade Mountains. There is a 2.5 mile long hiking trail that will take you to the saddle-shaped summit of Saddle Mountain. The park abounds with natural forest cover and wildlife, including cedar and spruce, and sometimes herds of elk can be spotted.
Visiting in summer will treat you to a colorful display of masses of wildflowers covering the mountain meadows. The main trail to the peak becomes quite difficult and steep but there are gentler trails visitors can choose from for an easier hike, like the Humbug Mountain viewpoint trail. The park offers a rather basic campsite for tents, ensuring serenity and solitude for that quiet getaway.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 10 minutes
9. Hike along Abiqua Falls Trail – see one of Oregon’s most scenic waterfalls
The Abiqua Falls Trail is popular, at around 1 kilometer long, on private land that is open for recreational use. The trail is considered moderate in difficulty and features a wonderful waterfall that certainly makes the hike worthwhile. Dogs on leashes can accompany hikers. The trail and the Abiqua Falls are in the Santiam State Forest.
The trailhead can be hard to locate. The trail that veers to the left, although steep in places, offers the easiest way down to the creek. The trail to the right becomes extremely steep and much more difficult. The trails have ropes along the way. The hike is pretty and the view of the falls makes any effort worth the trouble. The pool at the base of the waterfall makes a cool, refreshing swimming hole.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 20 minutes
10. Explore Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City – a stunning beauty spot to see near Portland
You will find Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area in Pacific City, Tillamook County, Oregon. It is a state park located on the Three Capes Scenic Route which takes in Cape Meares and Cape Lookout. Cape Kiwanda is a sandstone headland to the north of Pacific City. Visitors can hike the rather steep climb to the summit of Cape Kiwanda to enjoy scenic views from Cape Lookout in the north, all the way south to Nestucca Bay.
You can see Pacific City’s recreational beach below, and the fishing port that harbors the dory boats. Cape Kiwanda hosts the annual Dory Days Parade, and the surrounding areas offer biking, hiking, surfing, and kayaking activities. There are also lighthouse tours, art galleries and scenic drives that make the city a popular recreational destination.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 50 minutes
11. McKenzie River Trail – a popular single-track hiking and biking trail
The McKenzie River flows through western Oregon. It is a 90 mile long tributary to the Willamette River, running below the Cascade Range. Along the river is the McKenzie River Trail which is a biking and hiking trail that goes for 26 miles through stunning scenery. It takes in forests clad in Douglas firs, scenic waterfalls, old lava flows, and wonderful river views. It is considered one of the best mountain bike trails in the country.
And while the trail is moderate in ability, there are some difficult sections to navigate. The hiking trail starts at the headwaters of Clear Lake, in the Cascade Mountain Range. It tracks gradually downhill, winding along the McKenzie River until it ends at the Lower McKenzie River Trailhead.
- Distance from Portland: 2 hours 40 minutes
12. Visit the King Estate Winery in Eugene – one of the best things to do withing driving distance of Portland
Nestled in a remote paradise, south of Eugene at the end of the Willamette Valley is a charming vineyard famous for its Oregon Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The King Estate Winery is open daily and visitors can select from a top range of quality, fine vineyard wines. The visitor center has a convivial, relaxed atmosphere with its own bistro and bar serving an American menu with their estate wines. The winery is the largest certified Biodynamic vineyard in the United States.
The owners are the King family, and their vision is for sustainability in all aspects of their organic horticultural practices. The estate is an integrated ecosystem comprising the vineyards with grasslands, wetlands, woodlands, beehives, orchards and kitchen gardens. The surrounding areas include rugged mountain peaks and wonderful vistas where nature and wildlife flourish.
- Distance from Portland: 2 hours 16 minutes
13. Stay, dine, hike, ski or gawk at Timberline Lodge – made famous by the Shining film
In Clackamas County, Oregon, you will find the Timberline Mountain Lodge perched high up the slopes of Mount Hood. Resting on a lofty shoulder of one of Oregon’s most iconic peaks, the Timberline Lodge ski resort offers world-class skiing and snowboarding vacations for beginners and experts alike. It was served as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining film from 1980.
Other thrilling experiences include snowshoeing, scenic snowcat rides, the Magic Mile Sky Ride, or snow tubing depending on the season. Visitors ready for an alpine adventure can also enjoy hiking, mountain biking and mountaineering or just enjoy the marvelous sightseeing. While sledding isn’t permitted at Timberline, snow tubing at the Summit Ski Area is just as much fun. The Summit Ski area is ideal for novices and families and you’ll find the Snow Bunny snow park there, for families to play in the snow.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 15 minutes
14. Visit Cape Meares State Park and National Wildlife Refuge at Tillamook – a stunning attraction near Portland
Just outside the town of Tillamook, the vertical cliffs of the Cape Meares State Park and National Wildlife Refuge overlook the Pacific Ocean, complete with an 1890s lighthouse and nesting seabird rookeries. The refuge is open all year round and entry to the Cape Meares Lighthouse is free. You can reach the lighthouse by following the Cape Meares Lighthouse trail or enjoy the ocean and beach views out from the overlook.
Cape Meares has one of the last stands of native Oregon old-growth coastal forests including the amazing native Sitka spruce. Looking out from the lighthouse, depending on the season, you may spy migrating whales pass by, while on the other side of the parking lot stands the amazing spiraling branches of the Octopus Tree. This is an Oregon Heritage Tree, more than 200 years old and 50 feet around, named for its odd, multiple branching ‘limbs’ in place of a central trunk.
- Distance from Portland: 1 hour 44 minutes
15. Go Kayaking in Bend – one of the best and most popular activities to do near Portland
Central Oregon is a popular national playground for enthusiasts of kayaking and canoeing. Bend is a town with plenty of sparkling lakes, rivers, and white water rapids perfect for these outdoor sporting activities. The region’s beautiful forests and rugged, soaring mountains form a splendid backdrop for thrill-seekers visiting Bend and its natural wilderness.
The adventurous holiday-maker can take a thrilling run down the Class III to Class V rapids on the wild Deschutes River which is 250 miles of river falls with exciting stretches of white water rapids. There are more designated Wild and Scenic Rivers close to Bend, including the Crooked River and Metolius River which are ideal for kayaking and canoeing, and for a more tranquil experience you can spend a day canoeing or kayaking around the scenic Diamond Lake in the beautiful Umpqua National Forest.
- Distance from Portland: 3 hours 20 minutes