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3 Magnificent Day Trips from Portland, Oregon

3 Magnificent Day Trips from Portland, Oregon


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 08/10/2018 17:24:12
Trip Date 07/12/2018  

Destinations | Oregon | Scenic Drives near Portland Oregon | Day Trips from Portland | Cannon Beach | Oregon Coast | Historic Columbia River Highway | Mount Hood Scenic Byway



There are so many things to do and places to explore right in the city of Portland that, even if you spent all day every day trying to do them all you probably couldn't make it everywhere in a month! Sometimes, however, you deserve a break from the city and need to see some of the surrounding beauty. Try one or more of these day trips where you can experience either the ocean, the waterfalls and gorge or the tallest peak. If you leave Portland early in the morning, you can complete each of these drives in one day ... but there is so much beautiful scenery that you may not want to!


1. Northern Oregon Coast

Located about 1 1/2 hours away from Portland, a visit to the Pacific Coast is a great way to spend a day - especially if you luck out with nice weather. In addition to some memorable views, you'll have the opportunity to do some shopping, hike, explore ... and maybe even wade in the ocean. But beware, no matter what time of year you visit, the water will be cold!

The longest part of your drive is the distance from Portland and back. The actual coastal drive of the Round Trip Portland to Oregon Coast Drive described below is less than 10 miles long, however you'll want to park, get out of your car and explore as you make your way south.


Route for Round Trip Portland to Oregon Coast Drive

Route for Round Trip Portland to Oregon Coast Drive

Cannon Beach

Head west on US-26 through the moss covered trees in Clatsop State Forest. When you reach US-101, travel south along the Oregon coastline until you reach the city of Cannon Beach. Named one of "The World's 100 Most Beautiful Places" by National Geographic in June 2013, the city is surrounded by ocean beaches, rivers, forests and mountains plus you'll find some unforgettable viewpoints.


Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach

Filled with specialty retail and food shopping, art galleries and restaurants, Cannon Beach is a perfect small artsy town to explore on foot.

Haystack Rock and The Needles

Just south of downtown Cannon Beach, you'll catch your first glimpse of Haystack Rock, one of the most popular and recognizable landmarks on the Oregon coast, which will be quickly followed by The Needles. If you are lucky enough to have nice weather and are up for a little exercise, a walk on the stretch of beach from "the city" to Haystack Rock would be very enjoyable.


Haystack Rock (L) and The Needles (R)

Haystack Rock (L) and The Needles (R)

Arcadia State Recreation Site

About a mile south of Cannon Beach, consider stopping at Arcadia State Recreation Site. Just off the highway, you'll find a shady grove where you will be just steps away from the ocean.


Hug Point State Recreation Area

Continue south down the Oregon coast until you approach Hug Point. Both Hug Point and Hug Point State Recreation Area were named after the trail along the beach. In years gone by, pioneers had to "hug the point" as they travelled via stagecoach. If you are visiting at low tide (and have nice weather), consider taking a walk along the original road north of the parking area where you can apparently still see wheel ruts carved into the rock from the stagecoaches that once travelled the route.


Sea Cave at Hug Point

Sea Cave at Hug Point

Klootchy Creek County Park

If you have some time on your return drive to Portland, make one final stop just over 2 miles from the intersection with US-101 on US-26 at Klootchy Creek County Park. The concrete and steel one-lane bridge over the Necanicum River might catch your attention, but you should also look for the giant Sitka Spruce tree, one of the oldest living things in Oregon. At an estimated 750 years, it doesn't rise as high as it once did due to a lightning strike, windstorms and being cut back in an effort to ensure visitor safety. The good news, however, is that you are still supposed to be able to tell how massive it once was!


Necanicum River at Klootchy Creek County Park

Necanicum River at Klootchy Creek County Park





2. Historic Columbia River Highway

From Troutdale, Oregon to The Dalles, Oregon (the end point of The Oregon Trail), the 75 mile scenic drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway is a must do. With a full day to devote to your combination car and foot journey, you'll have enough time to enjoy the absolutely stunning scenery along the first ever scenic roadway planned for the United States.


At the official end of the famous highway, the Round Trip Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland route described below takes you across a bridge into Washington state. While your journey will be along the same Columbia River, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy some views that you didn't see on your outbound drive.


Route for Round Trip Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland

Route for Round Trip Historic Columbia River Highway from Portland

Chanticleer Point

From the city center, head east toward the Historic Columbia River Highway (Historic Route US-30) where you are sure to marvel at the engineering required to begin building this road over 100 years ago. A stop at Chanticleer Point, home of the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Overlook, provides your first view of the Columbia River and the Columbia River Gorge. You'll also have a view of Vista House in the distance, the next stop on your journey.


Columbia River Gorge from Chanticleer Point

Columbia River Gorge from Chanticleer Point

Vista House

Continue down Historic Route US-30 towards Vista House at Crown Point. Before entering the octagonally shaped building, enjoy the unforgettable views from the parking area.


Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point

Columbia River Gorge from Crown Point

With its light gray sandstone exterior, green tiled roof and amber-green tinted windows, Vista House has an interior rotunda supported by 8 columns. The interior stairways lead either up to a balcony (with views from all around the building) or down to restrooms, a gift shop and small museum.


Vista House

Vista House

Cascading Waterfalls along the Columbia River Highway

Continuing down the winding "figure-eight loops" of Historic Route US-30, you will be surrounded by moss covered trees, and along the next few miles, a number of amazing waterfalls - each slightly different from the last. Based on your available time, below are some optional stops and / or hikes.


Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls, located on Latourell Creek is just under 3 1/2 miles west of I-84 and is the closest to Portland. Depending on your hiking preferences, there is a viewpoint which allows you to see the lower falls which requires just a short walk. A view of the two-tiered upper falls requires a hike along the creek on a loop trail. After viewing the upper falls, the trail heads down to a picnic area and then to the base of the lower falls.


Lower Latourell Falls

Lower Latourell Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Although the lower hike to the viewing platform is not too terribly long (1/3 mile), the partially paved trail is quite steep and has several switchbacks. The hike also requires climbing on some staircases, and depending on recent weather conditions, the trail leading to the platform built to see Bridal Veil Falls may be muddy.


Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

There is also a 1/2 mile interpretive loop upper trail which was designed to take advantage of numerous viewpoints of the Columbia River Gorge.

Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls

Connected by a short path to the more popular Multnomah Falls, you will first come to Wahkeena Falls. Because of the popularity of Multnomah Falls (which really should be a must see for everyone), the parking area tends to fill up quickly. If you see an available parking space and are able to walk a short distance, consider grabbing it just in case the next lot is full.


Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Stand in the viewing area carved out of the rock cliffs (along with everyone else) and gaze in awe at both tiers of Multnomah Falls. If you are up for it, hike the 1/4 mile mostly paved trail up to Benson Bridge where you'll be able to enjoy another perspective of both tiers of the waterfall. Don't miss out on a visit inside Multnomah Falls Lodge, home to a gift shop, restaurant and information center - in addition to a kiosk selling hot chocolate!


Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

From this point, the drive along IH-84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River to The Dalles (the endpoint of both the scenic highway and the Oregon Trail) will take about one hour. There is lots of parkland with plenty of hiking opportunities and more waterfalls, so your available time will dictate how many additional stops you make.


Washington State

Rather than retracing your steps along IH-84, cross over the Columbia River on US-197 into the state of Washington. On your return, you'll have the opportunity to take in the scenery from the opposite side as you drive alongside the river on WA-14.

Beacon Rock State Park

After passing the half way point between The Dalles and Portland, you'll come across Beacon Rock State Park. If you have time, Beacon Rock appears to have something for everyone. In addition to camping, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and rock climbing, you'll find views that will take your breath away. Entrance to the park requires a Discover Pass which can be purchased at an automated pay station in the park ($10.00 for day or $30.00 for year - both valid for all persons in vehicle at recreational areas in Washington).





3. Mount Hood Scenic Byway

From Troutdale, Oregon to Hood River, Oregon, a drive along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway will take you in a semi-circle around the highest point in the state. Throughout your journey, you'll be able to stop, stretch your legs and soak in your beautiful surroundings. If you are up for more of a work-out, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy whatever form of exercise makes you happy - hiking, biking, mountain climbing, horse back riding, year round skiing and a variety of water sports.


The Round Trip Mount Hood Scenic Byway from Portland route described below takes you to the western start of the byway in Troutdale. From there, you'll travel along the 105 mile scenic byway ending in Hood River. Your return drive to Portland will be along the Historic Columbia River Highway (described in # 2 above) however this route has you traveling in the opposite direction.


Route for Round Trip Mount Hood Scenic Byway from Portland

Route for Round Trip Mount Hood Scenic Byway from Portland

Wildwood Recreation Site

From Troutdale, you'll pass through the cute town of Sandy, Oregon, the Gateway to Mount Hood before beginning your uphill ascent. Wildwood Recreation Site, your first optional stop along your journey, can be found on your right ($5.00 per vehicle entrance fee paid in automated pay station; fee waived with America the Beautiful Annual Pass).


Wildwood Recreation Site

Wildwood Recreation Site

Situated on 550 acres of land in a bend of the Salmon River, this day-use area is a destination in itself with a variety of trails, a playground, family and large group picnic areas and even a ball field. The interpretive Cascade Streamwatch Trail, a 3/4 mile long easy to walk accessible trail (part paved, part boardwalk), will take you on a leisurely walk through the trees. With optional stops at the River Overlook, Watershed Watch and Underwater Viewing Window, this trail is just one of many to choose from.


Salmon River Bridge

Salmon River Bridge

Mount Hood National Forest

Before entering the Mount Hood National Forest you'll come to the Zig Zag Ranger Station and accompanying Wy'East Rhododendron Gardens (on the right just two miles up the road) where you might want to enjoy a self-guided tour of the grounds. For a view of Mount Hood peeking around a bend about 8 miles past the ranger station, make a brief stop at the scenic overlook on the right side of the road.


Mount Hood

Mount Hood

Mirror Lake

You'll soon come across parking on the shoulder of the road, with a narrow bridge leading to a trailhead. If you are interested in some backcountry hiking, consider the popular one mile uphill hike on the Mirror Lake Trail for some reportedly awesome views. With an increased level of difficulty, the trail continues for 2 more miles up to Tom Dick and Harry Ridge.


Mirror Lake Trailhead

Mirror Lake Trailhead

Timberline Lodge

You'll pass through the town of Government Camp before reaching a turn-off for Timberline Lodge on the left. A six mile uphill scenic drive will take you to the 1930's era lodge and National Historic Landmark. A stop at Timberline can provide unforgettable views from one of the hiking trails or even from riding a chairlift.


Mount Hood

Mount Hood

Hood River Valley

Return to US-26 and drive 2 more miles until you reach Highway 35 where you'll head north toward the town of Hood River. As you begin your descent toward the Hood River Valley, you'll continue to see Mt. Hood through the large forest of trees. As you enter the valley, the large trees will be replaced with farms, orchards, vineyards and, depending on the time of day and year, maybe even some fruit stands manned by locals.


Panorama Point Park

When you come upon signs for Panorama Point, take the short uphill drive to the small park at the top where you'll be greeted with spectacular panoramic views of the Hood River Valley. With both restrooms and picnic tables, this is a great place for a picnic if the timing coincides with your hunger!


Hood River Valley from Panorama Point

Hood River Valley from Panorama Point





Tips for Enjoying Day Trips from Portland

Here's a few tips to help you prepare for your drives so that make the most out of each day:
  • Plan ahead. Review the route for your planned drive, look at the pictures and take a look at some of the websites referenced above. Talk to those with whom you'll be traveling and agree on the top stops that you want to include in your drive. If you plan to hike, you'll need to budget your time so that you can make it to all of your desired stops in one day.
  • Prepare a lunch and pack some snacks and drinks. You'll find that several of the recommended stops along each of the routes have picnic tables, and you'll be able to save some time (and money) if you avoid stopping at a restaurant for a meal.
  • Make sure that you have your valid annual Discover Pass and/or America the Beautiful Pass (if you have one or both) in the vehicle that you'll be using for your drive.
  • Check the weather - it may be cooler than you would expect, so it's best to have a jacket along with you.
  • If you plan to hike, make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes.
  • Get an early start (as early as you can) so that you have more options for hiking, sightseeing, photographing ... or just enjoying the views.

Fun Things to Do in Portland

If you are in search of things to do while you are in Portland, check out our post titled 23 Fun Things to Do in Portland, Oregon. You will find free things to do, low cost activities as well as some fun food experiences.

Scenic Drives

Of the three scenic drives described in this post, which sounds most appealing to you?
  1. Northern Oregon Coast
  2. Historic Columbia River Highway
  3. Mount Hood Scenic Byway




Weather:91F Clear


3 Magnificent Day Trips from Portland, Oregon



Related Stories  

   Driving the Mount Hood Scenic Byway   Driving the Mount Hood Scenic Byway

   All in a Days Drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway   All in a Days Drive on the Historic Columbia River Highway

   23 Fun Things to Do in Portland, Oregon   23 Fun Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

   In Search of Sunshine at Cannon Beach   In Search of Sunshine at Cannon Beach

Created On 08/06/2018 17:16:36  
Updated On 08/09/2018 14:57:13
Scheduled On 08/06/2018 19:24:12
Posted On 08/10/2018 17:24:12
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Portland, Portland, OR, United States
LinkId  3DayTripsPortland
StoryId  1533590196222





Comments    
Portland Day trips

avatar  Mary S  http://www.theworldisabook.com
Date:08/19/2018 01:27:54  

These are all such great day trips. It's really worth extending a trip in Portland just to visit these places. We've only done the Multnomah Falls trip but I'd really love to do the Cannon Beach area and Mt Hood. Beautiful photos and these remind me that we really need to visit Oregon again soon. Thanks for the travel inspiration.
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Mount Hood & Cannon Beach Day Trips

avatar  Stacy  arewethere-yet.com/wordyexplorers
Date:08/19/2018 22:24:37  

Hi Mary -

Thanks for reading this post and for your comment. All 3 of these drives were beautiful (even on the dreary day that we had at Cannon Beach), and each was truly unique. I would highly encourage you to plan another trip with time for at least one of the drives. (I always have convince myself to return to a city that I have already visited, but I am happy that I did as I always see new things that I can't believe I missed on previous visits.)

Happy traveling, Stacy
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