Lisa Owen

When you think of travelling in the US, the west coast state of Oregon probably doesn’t spring to mind.

But if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then Oregon is the perfect place to visit – and you can cap off your days with a visit to one of the state’s craft breweries. Portland is the biggest city in Oregon – although not the capital – but it is home to a burgeoning craft beer scene and surrounded by state forests in every direction. So what should you do in Oregon? Here’s a list of some of the best activities.

Trail of Ten Falls Oregon USA

1. Take a hike on Trail of Ten Falls

Only a 90 minute drive from Portland is the Silver Falls State Park. The park is home to the Trail of Ten Falls – a moderate 14km trail looping past 10 waterfalls. The waterfalls range in size and you can even walk behind some and watch the water cascade down from above your head. North and South Falls are among the most stunning waterfalls in the park. The trail will take around four hours and is best in spring when water levels are at their highest.

To park in Silver Falls State Park, you can buy a Day Use Pass on site for about £3.80.

2. Go to the desert

Oregon is a state of contrasts. There’s green, pine tree filled woodlands and waterfalls in the west, but head to the centre or east of the state and you’ll come across the desert. Smith Rock State Park is one place to visit desert landscapes in Oregon. There’s a number of trails in the park – but one that will give you sweeping canyon views as well as river views is the challenging Misery Ridge Trail. The trail starts on the short Canyon Trail leading from the carpark – then winds steeply uphill past rock climbing walls and protruding rocks with views of the river below. You’ll be sure to work up a sweat in no time. 

But the effort is all worth it when you reach the top of the ridge. Then it’s all downhill from there as you wind past the Monkey Face rock – and wonder how people could possibly climb its steep walls, but they do – before walking alongside the river for several miles back to the carpark. The complete loop is about 6km.

Desert in Oregon

Campgrounds are located in the park and are £3.80 ($US5 payable at a ticket machine). The campground has bathrooms and hot showers. A stay in the campground also includes your Day Use Fee to hike in Smith Rock State Park. If you don’t camp, the entry fee is £3.80 and can be bought at the carpark.

3. Relax in a hot spring

The west coast of America has a rich volcanic history and Oregon has dozens of natural hot springs spread across its width to take advantage of the natural geothermal heat.

One of my favourites was the Bagby Hot Springs. You reach the hot springs via an easy wooded path that takes about half an hour to walk. The hot spring water runs into taps which feed straight into rustic wooden tubs. 

Bagby Hot Springs

You can get a group tub for 2 to 6 people depending on the size or grab a personal tub. Entry to the hot springs is £3.80 per person and tickets can be bought from a ranger at the trailhead.

Another hot spring to visit is the Terwilliger Hot Spring near Cougar Dam. The hot spring features five rock ringed pools ranging in temperatures from very hot to very warm. Entry is £4.55 ($US6) per person and tickets can be bought at the entrance. 

Be aware that hot springs in Oregon are 'clothing optional'.

4. Go inside a lava tube

Inside the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon is the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. From the Lava Lands Visitor Center, you can take a shuttle bus up to the Newberry Butte – a steep hill made from cinders from the volcano and look out to the Newberry caldera; go inside a lava tube cave; or visit the Lava Cast Forest. Access is possible between May and September and entry is £3.80 ($US5) per vehicle.

Lava lands

5. Admire the breathtaking views of Mt Hood

Snow capped Mt Hood dominates the sky line as you wind your way along Highway 26 up to Government Camp. But for a better view, you can hike up the opposite Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain and take a swim in Mirror Lake along the way. 

Mt Hood Oregon

You can reach the Mirror Lakes Trailhead in just over an hour’s drive from Portland. The hike takes about 3-4 hours return and is a steady uphill climb to the top with stunning views across to Mt Hood along the way. The return hike is 10km in total.

In the early morning, you may even be able to catch the reflection of Mt Hood as you make your way past Mirror Lake.

6. Take a roadtrip to the Oregon coast

The Oregon coast is full of rocky cliffs and wild seas. The most recommended section to drive is between Newport and Florence. You can also get a bird’s eye view of the Oregon Coast by hiking up to Cascade Head.

Cascade Head winds steadily up the cliffs opposite the Salmon River before a steep climb. On your way up you’ll get beautiful views of the sea and cliffs below to give you a taste of the state’s stunning coastal landscapes.

7. Drive one of Oregon’s most scenic highways

The historic Columbia River Gorge Highway winds past vistas and waterfalls. The most famous of the waterfalls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall, Multnomah Falls. The waterfall cascades down 190 metres and is sectioned off by a picturesque bridge. Expect crowds at the falls so head there early.  The highway is located about an hour’s drive from Portland.

Other waterfalls to check out include Horsetail, Wahkeena and Lautorell falls. 

8. Hike up to Crater Lake National Park’s highest point 

Crater Lake was the result of an eruption of a 3,600 metre volcano following a major eruption about 7,700 years ago. The volcano’s crater collapsed in the eruption and formed a caldera that then became a lake fed from rain and snow. The lake is the deepest in the USA.

You can get spectacular views of the crater by hiking to the top of Mt Scott – a 2,692 metre high mountain located above the lake. 

Crater Lake National Park

The hike isn’t as hard as it sounds with just an elevation climb of nearly 400 metres. The 4.2km hike (one way) gradually winds up the mountain before you reach a fire lookout tower at the top of the peak and look down at the blue waters of the lake. 

If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also get good views of the lake from the Cloudcap Lookout opposite the Mt Scott Trailhead. In the summer months, you can drive around the entire lake in about an hour. Hiking and driving around the lake is only possible during the summer months when the roads are open. The area received heavy snow during the rest of the year.

You can stay nearby Crater Lake at the Diamond Lake Resort or camp at the Diamond Lake Campgrounds.

9. Quench your thirst with some beers

You can’t visit Oregon without visiting one of the state’s many craft breweries. Among the most popular establishments is Deschutes Brewery which has locations in both Portland and Oregon’s adventure capital of Bend. 

Deschutes Brewery Oregon

You can’t go past the sample tray from Deschutes Brewery featuring six beers for you to try. Food is also available.

There are a number of other breweries to try in Portland. Some of my favourites were Green Dragon with its large beer garden and Bridgeport with a large beer offering and delicious meals.

10. Jump into a waterhole

Beautiful clear waterholes abound across Oregon – but be warned the water is cold! Some of the best spots are Three Pools on Opal Creek, and Tamolitch Blue Pool. A day use fee of £3.80 ($US5) applies to these scenic areas and can be bought on site.

Not far from Tamolitich Blue Pool is the stunning Sahalie Falls. A short walk from the carpark will take you to the falls. The trail falls part of the scenic McKenzie River Trail. Access to Sahalie Falls is free. 

Sahalie Falls

Things To Know:

  • A day or recreation pass is required at most of Oregon’s trailheads and recreation areas. You can usually buy these at the location and they cost $US5 per day (£3.80). If you’re planning on spending several weeks in Oregon, consider buying an annual pass for $US30. Ranger stations are located across the State Forests if you have any questions or need to buy a pass.
  • Camping is a great budget way to stay in Oregon. There’s hundreds of campgrounds across Oregon. Some have facilities such as toilets and hot showers, while others are simply a place to pitch your tent for the night. You can get a map of Oregon and a list of campgrounds from the Tourist Information Centre in downtown Portland.
  • The water is cold in Oregon so you probably won’t stay too long in the water at the freshwater pools. But never fear, there’s also lots of hot springs spread across Oregon. Some are natural, while others are a more commercial setting within a resort. Many of the natural hot springs are clothing optional.
  • The best time to visit Oregon for outdoor activities is during the summer months. Roads into the mountain areas receive snow and many are only open during the summer months such as in Crater Lake National Park.


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.