Best Day Trips from Portland OR

Looking to explore the best day trips from Portland, OR?  This round-up guide features 10 scenic Portland road trips.

Portland is a diamond in the Pacific Northwest region located in Oregon, United States.  Outside of the fun, hip city is a world of beautiful nature.  Think dramatic waterfalls, mountains, gorgeous valley drives, and coastal paradise.  Just 3 hours north is bustling Seattle to shake things up!

These top 10 Portland road trips can easily be extended into Portland weekend getaways.

Let’s get planning!

Portland OR Details

Portland by Justin Shen on Unsplash

Location: Oregon, United States.

When to visit: Fall and Summer are high season in Oregon.  Winter and Spring are low season due to less predictable weather.  Winter temperatures are cold, and spring rainfall is high.  However, I did greatly enjoy my spring visit!

How many days: Spend 1 – 3 days exploring a Portland itinerary before adding in a day trip from Portland.

Columbia River Gorge

Distance from Portland: 25 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Carson Hot Springs Golf & Spa Resort

Columbia River Gorge by Leslie Cross on Unsplash

A Columbia River Gorge day trip is a great way to escape the city for a quick getaway.  Really, you could explore it over several days depending on your travel focus.  Mountain bikers, hikers, and photographers meet along various points of the gorge for adventurous activities or lowkey relaxation.

It takes approximately 1.5 hours to drive the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway roundtrip with no stops.

The national scenic drive is open to the public and no permits are required for entrance or parking.

Multnomah Falls

Distance from Portland: 40 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Skamania Lodge

Multnomah Falls by Blake Verdoom on Unsplash

Some visitors make a trek out to the Columbia River Gorge specifically to check out the Multnomah Falls.  There’s a reason it’s one of Oregon’s most photographed attractions, with an average of 2 million visitors annually.  The plunging 620 feet waterfalls provide access for all visitors.

If you are looking to chase a few more waterfalls before heading back into Portland, consider LaTourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, or Bridal Veil Falls.

If you are not visiting other attractions along the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is an easy morning or half day trip if you are short on time.  I recommend turning it into a full day trip by combining with other Columbia River Gorge stops, or with Hood River if you have the time!

Consider a Multnomah Falls tour from Portland if you do not have a car rental.  Certain times of year, timed entry tickets or parking passes are required for Multnomah Falls.  Neither was required during my March visit.  Check the website online to confirm your details before you go!

If you are staying overnight, choose a hotel directly on the gorge, in Hood River, or drive back to Portland.  As Multnomah Falls is so close to both Portland and Hood River, I truly recommend choosing whichever accommodation is most affordable for you!

Fruit Loop Hood River

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 15 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Best Western Plus Hood River Inn

Fruit Loop, Hood River day trip from Portland OR

Fruit Loop Hood River is one of the BEST things you can do in Oregon (in my totally not biased opinion)!

The Fruit Loop refers to the trail of beautiful farm stands located in the town of Hood River, beneath Mount Hood.  Oregon’s largest fruit growing region features 28 farm stands ranging from fruit, vegetables, flowers, wineries, and more.

One of the most popular Fruit Loop Hood River farm stands is the Hood River lavender farm, for its delicate purple lavender beds beneath the mountains.  The farm offers seasonal lavender picking and sells several lavender products in their shop.

Several farm stands are seasonal, so confirm availability online before your trip.  At least 3 of the Fruit Loop’s businesses operate year round, so your trip may be worthwhile in any season.  However, I do recommend planning your visit in spring – fall.

Summer is the high season for the farm stands.  Fall is when apple orchard season begins!

Apple Orchards

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 15 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Best Western Plus Hood River Inn

Some visitors venture to the Fruit Loop at Hood River to prioritize an exceptional apple picking experience unlike what you may find in other parts of the USA.  During fall, visitors are bestowed orchards upon orchards beneath mountainous landscape.

The following apple orchards on Fruit Loop in Hood River provide U-Pick experiences for visitors to hand pick their own apples: Pearl’s Place, the Gorge White House, Packer Orchards and Bakery, Draper Girls Country Farm, Kiyokawa Family Orchards, Mt. View Orchards, and Hood River U-Pick Organic.

August – October is high season for the apple picking at Oregon Orchards along Hood River but be sure to check the Hood River website, and individual websites for each of the orchards ahead of time.  Each Fruit Loop Hood River farm stand is run independently and sets individual hours.

Eugene, OR

Distance from Portland: 2 Hours

Hotel Recommendation: Inn at the 5th

Hendricks Park in Eugene, Oregon by Trijit from Budget Buff Travel

One of my favorite day trips from Portland is to the vibrant city of Eugene, located about 110 miles south of Portland. Known as the “Emerald City,” Eugene offers a mix of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and a laid-back atmosphere that makes it one of the best places to live in Oregon.

I highly recommend visiting Eugene because it provides a delightful blend of outdoor activities and urban amenities. One unique thing to do is exploring the beautiful trails and gardens at the University of Oregon. The campus is adorned with lush greenery, including the stunning Hendricks Park, which boasts an impressive rhododendron garden. Another highlight is the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, showcasing an extensive collection of contemporary and historic artworks.

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the nearby Mount Pisgah Arboretum is a must. This 209-acre living museum features a variety of ecosystems, including forests, meadows, and wetlands, providing ample opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, and picnicking.

When it comes to accommodation, the Inn at the 5th is an excellent choice. This boutique hotel offers luxurious rooms and suites, along with top-notch amenities and exceptional service.

To get to Eugene from Portland, the most convenient option is to travel by car. It takes approximately two hours via Interstate 5. Alternatively, you can also take the Amtrak Cascades train or the Greyhound bus, both of which provide comfortable and scenic journeys.

An extra tip for visitors is to explore the vibrant food scene in Eugene. The city is renowned for its farm-to-table cuisine and numerous craft breweries, so make sure to indulge in the local culinary delights.

Contributed by Trijit from Budget Buff Travel

Salem, OR

Distance from Portland: 1 hour

Hotel Recommendation: Grand Hotel

Salem, OR by Laura from Hi Friend’s It’s Laura

Nestled in the Willamette Valley one hour by car south of Portland is the state capital, Salem. From a charming downtown, miles of bike trails, and plenty of wine tasting rooms, Salem brings visitors lots to explore.

Start your day at the Sassy Onion for breakfast. Try the infamous Apple Cinnamon French Toast, made from their enormous cinnamon rolls!

After breakfast, take a bike ride through RideSalem.  There are six rental stations near the heart of Salem. Enjoy your ride through Riverfront Park, which has picnic tables, playgrounds, a splash pad and the iconic Riverfront Carousel. Head across the pedestrian bridge to Minto-Brown Island Park, with miles of trails to enjoy plus a dog-park, so your doggo can stretch his legs.

Wind down with some wine at one of the region’s wineries or breweries. The Barrel & Keg is dog-friendly, and has more than twenty wines, beers and ciders on tap, plus small bites and charcuterie.

Finish with a stay at the Grand Hotel in Salem, a three-star, dog-friendly hotel near Riverfront Park. The kids can enjoy the pool, while you enjoy the free wifi and fitness center.

I recommend traveling from Portland to Salem via Amtrak, Coast Starlight train, to fully enjoy a scenic ride from windowed observation cars.

Wilamette Valley, OR

Distance from Portland: 35 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Allison Inn and Spa

Wilamette Valley by Karen from Earth Jubilee

Want to get away from the busy city and enjoy serene moments amidst picturesque farmlands, rolling hills, and lush green vineyards?  Willamette Valley occupies a special place as the perfect Portland OR day trip.  Known for its wine, breathtaking scenery, and charming small towns, Willamette Valley is an excellent place to visit with friends or on your own.

Start your day by visiting Downtown Carlton.  This charming, quaint downtown is a popular spot for visitors, featuring art galleries, boutiques, and antique stores. The downtown is also known for its wine tasting rooms, artisanal food shops, and restaurants that offer a wide range of cuisines. Besides savoring the wine and culinary delights, you can walk around and explore the town’s history. Visit the historic train depot on Main Street, which has a

collection of old railcars, or walk down to the Ladd Park to enjoy a picnic or a playground with your kids.

Then, take a scenic drive through Newberg and Gaston.  The region surrounding Willamette Valley is famous not only for its wine but also for its scenic beauty. There are many scenic drives that you can take from Carlton, but I recommend exploring Newberg and Gaston. The drive offers you a breathtaking view of the lush vineyards, rolling hills, and farmlands. One of the popular spots to visit on this drive is the Chehalem Cultural Center, which houses art exhibitions, music performances, and other cultural events.

Extend your day trip from Portland by staying at the luxurious Allison Inn & Spa. The resort offers a wide range of accommodations, from spacious guest rooms to private suites.

The easiest way to reach Willamette Valley is by car driving from Portland. It takes around 35 min to drive from Portland to Newberg.

Contributed by Karen from Earth Jubilee

Mount St. Helens

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 45 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Lone Fir Resort

Mount St. Helens by Sydney from Sydney to Anywhere

Did you know there’s an active volcano less than 2 hours from Portland OR?  Washington’s Mount St. Helens makes for a fascinating day trip from Portland, filled with stunning, natural beauty and impressive geological wonders.

The journey from Portland to Mount St. Helens takes approximately two hours by car, and what a drive this is! The gradual transition from urban landscape to scenic mountain terrain surrounded by lush, leafy forests is breathtaking.

Once you arrive at the National Volcanic Monument, you’ll find tons to explore. The Johnston Ridge Observatory, located at the end of State Route 504, offers a panoramic view of the volcano and the incredible surrounding landscape. The observatory has interactive exhibits on the 1980s eruption, the geological processes that shaped Mount St. Helen, and the ongoing efforts to monitor volcanic activity.

For a more in-depth look at the area, guided tours are available, led by knowledgeable experts who can offer detailed information about the volcano’s history, geology, and ecosystem.

If you’d rather explore on your own, there are a variety of Mount St. Helens hiking trails. Opt for an easy route like the .5-mile Eruption Trail or the more challenging 8-mile Lake Trail where you’ll see wildflowers as vivid and striking as those dotting the coast of Laguna Beach. For a real thrill, head to Ape Cave and venture underground inside the country’s longest lava tube!

From unique volcanic formations to clear alpine lakes, Mount St Helens National Monument is one of the best day trips from Portland, OR.

If you’re looking to make it an overnight trip, head to one of the nearby towns like Cougar, Washington where you can get cozy at the homey Lone Fir Resort.

Contributed by Sydney of Sydney to Anywhere

Silver Falls State Park

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 15 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Smith Creek Village

Silver Falls State Park by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler

Silver Falls State Park, near the small town of Silverton, is one of the best day trips from Portland OR if you’re looking for a dose of the great outdoors. It offers a stunning landscape, with a towering cathedral of pine trees, dripping with moss; low-hanging fog; and massive primeval ferns. The park is actually so dreamy-looking, that it was used as a filming location for the Twilight movies!

The aptly-named state park’s most famous feature, however, is its waterfalls. Home to the Trail of Ten Falls, the park has a dizzying variety of falls that you can hike past—and actually four that you can hike behind! The best time to enjoy this trail is in the spring when the waterfalls are at their very fullest—just be prepared to get a little wet!

Alternatively, if you happen to be visiting in the summertime, the park has a shallow swimming area that’s perfect for cooling off after a long hike.

Silver Falls State Park is located just over one hour south of Portland.

If you’re interested in staying overnight, consider renting your own cabins onsite at the rustic and cozy Smith Creek Village.

Contributed by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler

Seattle

Distance from Portland: 2 hours 50 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Warwick Seattle

Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle is the closest major city in the Pacific Northwest to Portland.  But why would you leave Portland to explore a different city?  Seattle has culture and charm, all of its own.

Washington’s largest city is home to Seattle’s infamous Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Museum, and Pike Place Market.  Want to try something different?  Snap a few photos at Seattle’s bubble gum wall!  Or explore its random architecture, like red popsicle statues or a troll under a bridge.  Visitors truly have their pick at which activities they will explore on a trip to Seattle in one day.

Whimsical Seattle provides strolls along beautiful piers, green parks with skyline views, and the TALLEST ferris wheel on the continent!

If you have even more time, consider extending your trip to Olympic National Park.

And for the beach towns…

Cannon Beach

Distance from Portland: 1 hour 25 minutes

Hotel Recommendation: Tolovana Inn

Cannon Beach by Sean D’Auria on Unsplash

A Portland to Cannon Beach road trip is the perfect way to spend your day away from the city.  Cannon Beach, Oregon transports visitors into a sandy experience like no other.  It’s no wonder it sees over 750,000 visitors per year!  Come for the famous views from the Goonies, and stay for breathtaking sunsets above Haystack Rock, local shops, and ultimately, a relaxing beach vacation.  There are so many fun things to do in Cannon Beach that make it a relaxing Portland road trip.

Some visitors prefer to drive 10 minutes from Cannon Beach to Seaside for accommodation as the costs tend to be significantly lower.  Consider combining your Cannon Beach trip with another beautiful coastal Oregon town.

Lincoln City

Distance from Portland: 3

Hotel Recommendation: Star Manor Hotel

Lincoln City by Alec from Explore with Alec

The Oregon Coast has many unimaginably beautiful areas – many of which are overrun with tourists yearly. While Lincoln City sees its fair share of visitors, it’s nowhere like its sister cities to the north.

Yet, the beauty of Lincoln City is present as soon as you reach its city limits. With long beaches, a small-town vibe, and plenty of hiking and sightseeing to do, it’s truly a gem on the Oregon Coast.

The list of activities is long, but my favorite things to do in the area are hike to Cascade Head, visit Drift Creek Falls (with a suspension bridge over the top), and watch the local herd of Roosevelt Elk.

For where to stay, that’s easy!  Nearly every resort is literally on the beach, making your decision not more complicated than throwing a dart at the board. But I had a great stay at the Star Manor Hotel with oceanfront views.

Lincoln City is a beautiful 2 hour drive from Portland.

Contributed by Alec from Explore with Alec

Portland OR Day Trip Packing List

Here are a couple of can’t-miss items to toss in your suitcase when completing Bryce Canyon in one day.

Supportive Shoes– Many of these Portland OR day trips involve a lot of walking.  In my book, comfort is ALWYAS key when exploring.

Water bottle– I always recommend a water bottle for long days exploring.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Packable backpack– if this is what you fancy!  Love it because it collapses/folds so easily into your travel suitcase or backpack.  It’s an ideal size for day exploring.

If you decide to go hiking on one of your day trips, I recommend the following additional items:

Trail Shoes– I cannot stress the importance of comfortable shoes with strong traction.  Be good to your feet!

First Aid Kit– Safety first.  Never know when you’ll need a first aid kit!  Always be prepared on the trails.  Band-aids, gauze wrap, motion sickness medication, etc.

Water Bottle– Hydration, hydration, hydration!  I recommend at least a gallon of water per person for a full hiking day.

Hydration Backpack– Consider packing your water into a Hydration Backpack like a Camelback or similar..  I have found this much less strenuous on my back, and there are still enough side pockets to hold your camera, snacks, and a sandwich.

For the chilly weather…

Base layers– Wear warm clothing under your jacket and pants.  Alternatively, consider fleece-lined leggings with a water-resistant exterior.

Puffer jacket– I prefer a puffer jacket to a long parka because this is also packable, and easy to roll up into your backpack if you get hot.

Rain shell– Wear this over your puffer jacket to make sure you stay dry if it snows.  The best part is these are lightweight and packable!  Weather fluctuates, but your comfort shouldn’t.

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Alyssa

As a full time employee who loves her job, learn how I honor my wanderlust while working a 9:00-5:00 (because I want to!) This blog welcomes all, and specifically provides resources for those seeking travel intertwined into a busy schedule (3 days to 5 weeks).