Top 12 Best National Parks To Explore Near Portland

If you’re living or just visiting Portland you definitely need to visit the truly stunning natural scenery surrounding the city.

The beautiful states of Oregon and nearby Washington are filled with towering mountains, thick forests, volcanoes, glaciers, canyons and fossil-strewn deserts. Here are the best National Parks to explore near Portland, Oregon…

1. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area – one of Oregon’s favorite impressive national beauty spots

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area - Oregon

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a canyon that’s part of the Columbia River. It measures 4,000 feet in depth and is 80 miles long passing into the Cascade Range. 

It is worth a visit to Columbia River Gorge because you can not only see this beautiful canyon landscape, but you can also access other special places such as the Mark O Hatfield Wilderness area which is home to the Pacific Crest Trail.

Go kayaking or do other water activities in the Klickitat and White Salmon Wild & Scenic Rivers or go picnicking, hiking, camping, scenic driving, and more.

Address: Hood River, OR 97031

Established: November 17, 1986

Phone Number: (541) 308-1700

Distance from Portland – 22 minutes

2. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon – an inspirational park to its visitors known for having one of the clearest lakes in the world

Crater Lake National Park - Oregon

Crater Lake National Park is located in the Cascade Mountains in the southern area of Oregon. It is worth a visit to this national park because you can travel along Rim Drive around Crater Lake to view the awesome volcanic formations that have been at the park for years. 

Another wonder is Crater Lake’s aquatic moss. If you were to dive deep into Crater Lake, you would see that the moss reaches 100 ft to 450 ft in depth which has been a part of the lake’s ecology for the paeven encounter a Bull Trout, which is a part of one of the park’s conservation projects. 

Established: May 22, 1902

Phone Number: (541) 594-3000

Distance from Portland – 4 hour 25 minute drive

3. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – one of the most visited beautiful national parks in the country

Mount Rainier National Park - Washington

Mount Rainier National Park is nearby some well-known volcanoes including Mount Adams. Speaking of volcanoes, it’s worth a visit to this national park because you can view its namesake, which is an active volcano called Mount Rainier.

The volcano is known as the most glaciated peak in the United States. 

Another great feature of the park is their 5,400-ft high area called Paradise where you can see breathtaking mountain views and beautiful flower pastures. If you are trying to look for a specific trail in the park, you can find the trailheads looking from atop Paradise. 

Established: March 2, 1899

Phone Number: (360) 569-2211

Distance from Portland – 2 hours 40 minute drive

4. Olympic National Park, Washington – a majestic park that was designated a World Heritage Site

Olympic National Park - Washington

Olympic National Park is located centrally on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It’s worth a visit to this national park because you can relish a variety of ecosystems all in one park.

Climb mountains, travel through its forests and backpack the trails on the cold and icy Mount Olympus. 

Even though the glacial area has reduced over the past 35 years, there is much to explore on Mount Olympus and the surrounding icy terrain at Olympic National Park. 

There are almost 1 million acres to explore at Olympic National Park, which is impossible to do in just one visit. It would take a lifetime to thoroughly explore this vast area. 

Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362

Established: June 29, 1938

Phone Number: (360) 565-3130

Distance from Portland – 2 hour 55 minute drive

5. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Oregon and Washington – a very charming park with a high-spirited urban landscape and exceptional culture to explore

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site - Oregon and Washington

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is named after Captain George Vancouver and is known as a 19th-century fur trading post. It is worth a visit to Fort Vancouver because of the historical objects and archaeological pieces you can view during your visit with over 2.5 million components in their museum collection.

Most of these objects have been extracted from archaeological excavations that began at the park back in 1947. 

There are a wide array of animal species you can spot during your visit as well including mammals such as muskrats, bats, and coyotes, 7 different bee species, and 3 amphibian or reptilian species. 

Address: 1501 E Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661 

Established: 1824

Phone Number: (360) 816-6230

Distance from Portland – 20 minute drive

6. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Oregon – a fun park where history comes to life perfect for kids

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park - Oregon

Lewis and Clark National and Historical Park commemorate the explorers’ expedition in the 1800s. Located nearby the Columbia River, it’s worth a visit to see the Fort Clatsop look-alike building that was home to the Corps of Discovery from 1805 to 1806. 

During summer trips, there are costumed characters and rangers throughout the park to give you a historical feel of what happened during the days of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Enjoy the exhibit hall, two historical films, and the park bookstore to get the most of your history learning out of this experience. 

Address: 92343 Fort Clatsop Rd, Astoria, OR 97103

Established: May 29, 1958

Phone Number: (503) 861-2471

Distance from Portland – 1 hour 50 minute

7. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon – a park that maintains a record of over 40 million years of world evolution 

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument - Oregon

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is named after the John Day River. The river was named after John Day from the 1800s when he made an expedition to a trading post in Astoria and suffered robbery. As people would recall his robbery, that is how the river got its namesake. 

It’s worth a visit to John Day Fossil Beds because you can see how the river has played a vital part in archaeological fossil findings from how it has eroded the surrounding rocky environment.

The rocky formations are like a museum of animal and plant evolution that has taken place throughout the past 40 million years in the area. 

Address: 32651 OR-19, Kimberly, OR 97848

Established: October 8, 1975

Phone Number: (541) 987-2333

Distance from Portland – 4 hours

8. North Cascades National Park, Washington – a serene park perfect for relaxation with the sound of the cascading waters 

North Cascades National Park - Washington

North Cascades National Park. It is worth a visit to North Cascades because of its beautiful alpine landscape that includes 300 plus glaciers throughout its peaks.

The Stehekin Valley that travelers utilized to get through the North Cascades are now used by campers and explorers on their adventures. 

Enjoy historical places throughout the park named after the native people that came from the area centuries ago. Ancient names include Hozomeen, Sahale, Shuksan, and more.

Cliffs around the Chelan Lake include pictographs from the Chelan Tribe that were carved using red ocher as a link to part of the area’s history. 

Address: 810 State Route 20 Sedro-Woolley, WA

Established: October 2, 1968

Phone Number: (360) 854-7200

Distance from Portland – 5 hours 15 minutes

9. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – a very special place that has one of the most astonishing scenery

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is on the Oregon Coast, which spans into areas of the Coos River located in North Bend and Siuslaw River located in Florence. It meets up with Honeyman State Park on the westward side. 

It is worth a visit to Oregon Dunes because it is touted as one of the biggest sand dune formations worldwide. The sand dunes come from sedimentary rock that was uplifted over 12 million years ago.

This area has beautiful scenery nearby the surrounding rivers, ocean, and forests. It spans 31,500 acres and was designated as a national recreation area in 1972. 

Address: 855 US-101, Reedsport, OR 97467

Established: March 23, 1972

Phone Number: (541) 271-6000

Distance from Portland – 3 hours 11 minutes

10. Deschutes National Forest, Oregon – one of the most popular national forests in the state with awesome adventures to try

Deschutes National Forest - Oregon

Deschutes National Forest is located throughout 4 counties in the Oregon area including Klamath, Jefferson, Lake, and Deschutes. 

Located on the eastern side of the Cascade Range and measuring 1.8 million acres, it’s worth a visit to this national park because of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

You can explore 54,000 acres of lakes, geological features, and lava areas. Paulina Peak is the highest summit at the volcanic monument, measuring close to 8,000 feet. This allows you to have a wider view of the Cascade Range from high up. 

Don’t forget to visit Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort in the colder months. Enjoy Nordic skiing and snowshoeing with family and friends. 

Address: 63095 Deschutes Market Rd, Bend, OR 97701

Established: July 1, 1908

Phone Number: (541) 383-5300

Distance from Portland – 3 hour 20 minutes

11. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area – a stunning natural attraction with several recreation opportunities

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area - Oregon

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area spans throughout the Idaho and Oregon’s state borders. The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest manages this recreation area. 

It is worth a visit to Hells Canyon because you can view North America’s river gorge that has the most depth. Travel He Devil mountain that’s 9,000 feet above sea level for a different view of this river gorge.

Hells Canyon Dam and Snake River and two nearby bodies of water in the area. 

With over 652,000 acres of mountainous terrain and trails for hiking, Hells Canyon is a landmark nature trip beyond your imagination. 

Address: US-95, Riggins, OR 83549

Established: December 31, 1975

Phone Number: (541) 523-6391

Distance from Portland – 6 hours 30 minutes

12. Newberry National Volcanic Monument – an ideal car trip to explore a vast area that includes waterfalls and peaks 

Newberry National Volcanic Monument - Oregon

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is within the parameters of Deschutes National Forest in Bend, Oregon. The monument area was established in 1990 to protect the Newberry Volcano, which continues to remain active with eruptions. 

It is worth a visit to this monument because there are over 54,000 acres of volcanic areas and lakes to explore amongst a breathtaking geologic landscape.

Climb Paulina Peak, which is the highest point of the monument at almost 8,000 feet high. You can enjoy the scenery from the Newberry Caldera and the Cascades from a different viewpoint from up that high. 

Address: Bend, OR 97702

Established: November 5, 1990

Phone Number: (541) 383-5300

Distance from Portland – 3 hours 50 minutes

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