Although there are plenty of things to do in Portland, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest is a region that’s meant to be explored outside of its main cities.
After spending a year and a half living in Portland, Oregon, and taking at least one day trip a week during that time, I got to know the best day trips from Portland inside and out.
Grab some good walking shoes and a reusable water bottle, because you’ll have a full day of exploring with these day trips from the city.
All of these Portland, Oregon day trips are less than three hours from the city and provide a good day’s worth of activities.
Best Day Trips from Portland, Oregon
Columbia River Gorge
Distance: 43km (27mi), 30-minute drive
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular day trips from Portland, Oregon.
Although a good portion of the Gorge was destroyed during the devastating 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, there are still plenty of trails and waterfalls that are open to the public.
With that said, it’s worth it to do your research ahead of time so you can double-check conditions for the trails you want to hike.
Most people come to the Columbia River Gorge to see the iconic Multnomah Falls, which is a beautiful waterfall in its own right but has become extremely touristy in recent years.
Start your day early at Multnomah Falls to see the famous view of the falls for yourself, but then spend the bulk of your day tackling a few short hikes around the Gorge to get a full chasing waterfall experience.
A few other waterfalls that are worth visiting and hiking to, in addition to Multnomah Falls, include Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls and Fairy Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.
If you’re looking to explore the Columbia River Gorge in a green way, think about riding the $10 shuttle Columbia Gorge Express that leaves from the Gateway Transit Center in East Portland or doing a Columbia River Gorge bike tour with Pedal Bike Tours.
Distance: 77km (48mi), 50-minute drive
One of the best Portland day trips for wine enthusiasts! The Willamette Valley is Oregon’s most renowned wine region and it just so happens to be close enough to Portland to make a good day trip. The Willamette Valley is especially known for its Pinot Noirs but is also known to have good Pinot Gris, Chardonnays, and Pinot Blancs.
The easiest way to get to the wineries is to rent a car and drive yourself since they can be fairly spread out. However, it’ll be hard for you to do much wine tasting if you’re the designated driver.
For that reason, I recommend hopping on a group tour from Portland to explore the Willamette Valley if you plan to go wine tasting.
In addition to their Columbia River Gorge bike tour, Pedal Bike Tours also has a wine country tour that leaves from Portland. There are a number of other tour operators who offer different types of wine tours around the Willamette Valley as well if biking between wineries doesn’t sound like a good time.
A Great Oregon Wine Tour and Backcountry Wine Tours are a couple of good options for wine tours from Portland. If you’re not interested in wine tasting, taking a road trip through the natural beauty of the Willamette Valley is a worthy day trip in itself.
For a scenic drive, I’d recommend driving the 88km (55mi) Silver Falls Tour Route or the 106km (66mi) Over the Rivers and Through the Woods Scenic Byway.
Distance: 101km (63mi), 1-hour drive
Just 40 minutes past the Columbia River Gorge, you’ll find Hood River. This is an unsuspecting town that’s known for kitesurfing and good beer.
Spend the afternoon walking around the historic downtown area and poke your head into the small boutique shops, enjoying the slower pace of life in Hood River.
Next up, watch the kite surfers along the river, or take a lesson yourself. If you’re not looking for that much of an adrenaline rush, you can rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard to explore the river.
If you have the energy, tackle the nearby 4.8km (3mi) Indian Creek Trail. Alternatively, the easy Hood River Waterfront Trail is good for a stroll.
Before you leave, stop in at Pfriem, Full Sail, and Double Mountain Brewery to taste test the local craft beer scene. Pfriem, especially, is known as one of the best breweries in Oregon. Oregonians take their craft beer seriously.
Similar to the Columbia River Gorge, you can get to Hood River either by car or on the Columbia Gorge Express.
Silver Falls State Park
Distance: 89km (55mi), 1.25-hour drive
Nestled near the Willamette Valley you’ll find Silver Falls State Park. If you want to see more waterfalls in Oregon, Silver Falls is a good place to start.
Silver Falls State Park is a quieter and less busy alternative to the Columbia River Gorge. It is seen as a more local spot to enjoy Oregon’s nature.
As the largest state park in Oregon, it’s one of the best Portland day trips for a full day of hiking. In fact, there are over 39km (24mi) of hiking trails throughout the park.
Hike the 12.9km (8mi) Trail of Ten Falls to see all 10 waterfalls in the park. Waterfalls along the trail include the 54m (177ft) South Falls that you can walk behind (and which is a great lunch spot), as well as four other waterfalls that are over 30m (100ft) tall.
The best way to get to Silver Falls from Portland is to drive. There’s no public transit option to get to the park from Portland at this time.
Distance: 129km (80mi), 1.5-hour drive
There’s a lot to love about Cannon Beach. Parts of The Goonies were filmed on the beach, it’s the perfect spot to watch an oncoming winter storm come in from the coast, and its main feature is the photogenic Haystack Rock.
This small seaside community along the Oregon Coast is also home to one of my favourite craft breweries in Oregon – Pelican Brewing. Drink a pint at the brewery with an ocean view and explore the beach and its tide pools.
After you’ve had your fill of the beach, head over to Ecola State Park for more stunning views of the Oregon Coast from Ecola Point and a short hike or two. The park is also where you can learn more about the Tillamook people, a Native American tribe that once lived in the area.
To finish off your day, walk over to Indian Beach to watch the surfers and lookout for Roosevelt elk, bald eagles, and migrating whales that often swim close off the Oregon Coast.
The best way to get to Cannon Beach is to drive. There’s unfortunately not a good public transit option to get to this part of the Oregon Coast at this time unless you want to spend four hours on a bus.
Note: The Ecola Park entrance was closed due to landslides at the time of publication. Hopefully, the road into the park will be open soon. Until then, Oswald West State Park is a good alternative for hiking and good views.
Distance: 142km (88mi), 2.5-hour drive
Another one of the best day trips from Portland, Mount Hood is to hit the slopes in the winter. It also offers quality hiking opportunities and outdoor activities in the warmer months, making it a true year-round destination.
If it’s the right season, plan for a snow day up at Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort. Make sure to leave early for the drive from Portland to give yourself plenty of time on the slopes. Mount Hood Meadows has a wide range of slopes. So, it’s a good ski resort for all levels of snowboarders and skiers.
Before you head back to Portland, stop by Timberline Lodge where parts of The Shining were filmed. At the lodge, you can snowshoe and learn about the history of the hotel. Also, you can have a delicious dinner with a view at their restaurant, The Cascade Dining Room.
This historic hotel and ski resort dates back to The Great Depression-era. It stands at 1,829m (6,000ft), giving you panoramic views over Mount Hood National Forest. It’s an especially beautiful place to be to watch the sun go down. If you’re visiting in summer, Timberline Lodge is one of America’s only year-round ski resorts. So, you can still hit the slopes even in July.
Other activities include Ski Bowl’s summer adventure park, hiking to Mirror Lake and to the top of Tom. Additionally Dick and Harry Mountain and swimming at Trillium Lake.
The easiest way to get to Mount Hood from Portland is to drive. Alternatively, there is a Mount Hood Express bus that leaves from Sandy Transit Center and takes you to Timberline Lodge, making multiple stops at mountain communities along the way.
To get to the Sandy Transit Center from Portland, you can take the Sandy Local & Gresham Express that leaves from the Gresham Transit Center. The fare for the Mount Hood Express is $2 one-way, or $5 for an all-day pass.
Additional Day Trip Ideas
- Rowena Crest
- Smith Rock State Park
- Bagby Hot Springs
- Cape Lookout State Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Mt St Helens
- Sea Lion Caves near Florence
- Tillamook (for the cheddar cheese)
Although these are a few of my favourite trips, there are endless options for day trips from Portland, Oregon.
Oregon is an ideal state to road trip through because of its natural beauty and manageable distances. Most importantly, Portland is a solid central base to explore more of the Pacific Northwest.
About the Author: Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger, avid yogi, and paneer enthusiast. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.