What’s the best way to experience Oregon’s gorgeous scenery? From the open road. 

The state’s myriad landscapes are like a playlist of Mother Nature’s greatest hits. In a single day, you can drive from the high desert to the Pacific Ocean, passing through forests, vineyards and mountains along the way. Stops on the route might involve sipping wine, exploring caves and taking in a national park.

Whether you’re searching for a scenic driving route or a multi-day road-trip extravaganza, these top road trips in Oregon will fuel your next adventure.  

A vineyard in fall, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
In between wine tastings, admire the beautiful vineyards of the Willamette Valley from your car © tomwachs / Getty Images

1. Oregon wine country

Best road trip for wine and culinary experiences 
Portland to Salem; 47 miles (76km)

Oregon is home to more than 900 wineries, most nestled in the hills of the Willamette Valley. Take to the road to visit a few. If you're thinking about a trip to Willamette Valley, check out our first timer's guide to the region. 

Kick off in Portland, where you can sip local varietals from the 19 different winemaking members of PDX Urban Wineries. Just over an hour away, McMinnville has more than 20 downtown tasting rooms, with 250 more within a 20-mile radius. Highlights in this area include the renowned Burgundy-style bottles at Resonance Wines’ tasting rooms in Carlton and Dundee Hills. Afterward, head to Soter Vineyards in Carlton for some of the region’s best bubbles. Finish the evening with a tasting menu centered around wild local mushrooms at Joel Palmer House Restaurant. Lodging options in the McMinnville area are plentiful: top choices include the upscale boutique Atticus Hotel and cool retro digs at The Vintages Trailer Resort

End this road trip itinerary at the state capital of Salem. For a unique spin on the tasting-room experience, sample different varieties of local single-flower honey at Flying Bee Ranch: once you try meadowfoam honey you may never be content with the grocery-store stuff again. Wineries in this area include the lovely Mexican family–owned Cória Estates.

Planning tip: The Oregon Truffle Festival showcases the Willamette Valley’s prized wild delicacy between February and March. Events include truffle-dog competitions, educational seminars, foraging opportunities and culinary events. 

A young woman enjoys a drink by her car on the edge of Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA
The Scenic Rim Drive offers beautiful views of Crater Lake, the deepest in the USA © Cavan Images / Getty Images

2. Crater Lake 

Best road trip for experiencing Oregon’s only national park 
Bend to Klamath Falls; 154 miles (248km)

Bend, the start of this road-trip itinerary, is the outdoor-recreation capital of Oregon. The high-desert regions in the center of the state was once a hotbed of geological activity – as evidenced by a network of underground lava tubes just outside town. In addition to spelunking, popular activities here (depending on the season) include rafting, fly fishing, kayaking, hiking or climbing at Smith Rock State Park

Bend boasts more than 30 craft beermakers, including Deschutes Brewery, one of the pioneers of the Oregon beer scene. As you walk from pub to pub, enjoy Bend’s vibrant public art, which includes dozens of outdoor sculptures and murals. In the evening, Brasada Ranch in nearby Powell Butte offers a variety of lodging options with resort-style amenities like a spa, golf course, swimming pools and horseback riding. 

Some 90 minutes from Bend, Crater Lake National Park – Oregon’s lone entry on the roster – is home to the deepest lake in the USA. Burrowed in a caldera on top of Mt Mazama, Crater Lake is a bright blue sapphire in the wilderness, plunging to depths of 1943ft (592m). The Scenic Rim Drive circumnavigates the lake, offering extraordinary vistas at every turn. Along this curvy and narrow, 33-mile (53km) loop, you can discover waterfalls, hiking trails, picnic spots and overlooks. In summer, boat rides to Wizard Island and wheelchair-accessible trolley rides are on offer. 

After you’ve had your fill of the park, finish the itinerary at Running Y Resort in Klamath Falls. Enjoy the resorts’s golf course and spa, and explore shops and restaurants downtown. 

Planning tip: Crater Lake National Park receives more than 40 inches of snow in winter. The white is stunning against the brilliant blue lake, but snowy conditions usually affect travel. The NPS website is a good resource for road closures and weather-related information. 

A person kiteboards on the Columbia River with green trees and Mt Hood in the distance, Oregon, USA
Mt Hood looms over the windsurfers and kiteboarders on the Columbia River © Tunde Gaspar / Shutterstock

3. Mt Hood Scenic Byway

Best road trip for mountains and fruit trees 
Hood River to Troutdale; 105 miles (169km)

This itinerary begins in Hood River, with Mt Hood looming like a 11,249ft(3429m)-tall Hollywood backdrop. Windsurfing and kiteboarding are huge here, and the many colorful sails against the river’s blue water make for exciting scenery. Hood River brims with shops, breweries and restaurants; the historic Hood River Hotel offers affordably priced accommodations in private rooms or hostel-style dorms.

South of town, you’ll find amazing scenery in the Hood River Valley. In spring, the fruit trees blossom, transforming the landscape from lush green to cotton-candy pastels. Next, head to Timberline Lodge in Government Camp, where the exterior shots were filmed for The Shining. Even if you’re not a movie buff, it’s worth stopping by to admire the nearly century-old wood-and-stone architecture. 

Before you end this trip in Troutdale, mountain bikers should carve out time for the Sandy Ridge Trail System, where 17 miles (27km) of mountain-biking trails for every skill level weave through the forest. 

Planning tip: If you’re driving after summer, bring your skis. The slope season in this area usually runs from November through May. 

An aerial view of Crown Point Vista House with cliffs overlooking the Columbia River, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA
Crown Point Vista House is perched on dramatic cliffs overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. “Scenic” doesn’t do this byway justice © Mint Images / Getty Images

4. Columbia River Scenic Byway 

Best road trip for waterfalls and scenery 
Troutdale to The Dalles, 70 miles (113km)

The Historic Columbia River Highway was constructed over 100 years ago to provide access to the breathtaking scenery of the Columbia River Gorge, today Oregon’s largest national scenic area. To see it, head from Troutdale to the 100-year-old Crown Point Vista House, which provides magnificent views of tall bluffs plunging into the Columbia River. 

The next section of this scenic driving route is famous for its waterfalls. The tallest, Multnomah Falls crashes 620ft (189m) to the ground in a glorious display of beauty and power. The theme of power continues at Bonneville Dam, which provided inexpensive electricity and much-needed jobs during the Depression era. 

Drive to Hood River for lunch at Riverside, located inside a Best Western, which has spectacular views of the gorge. Afterward, explore downtown Hood River’s collection of antique shops, boutiques and art galleries. 

Since all good things must come to an end, this trip concludes at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum in The Dalles. The exhibits highlight the geological and human history of the area, including the Lewis and Clark exhibition, the pioneers on the Oregon Trail and the Indigenous peoples who lived on this land for thousands of years. 

Planning tip: In The Dalles, don’t miss more the 33 colorful murals depicting the region’s rich history.

Woman taking a mirror selfie of the coast in a car on a road in Seaside, Oregon, USA
Oregon’s misty, rugged, nearly 400-mile coastline is picture-perfect © Cavan Images / Getty Images

5. The Oregon coast 

Best road trip for beaches and ocean views
Astoria to Brookings; 363 miles (584km)

The 363-mile Oregon Coast Scenic Byway follows the Pacific Ocean for the entirety of Oregon’s shoreline (keep your eyes peeled for sea lions and whales). Start in Astoria, the postcard-perfect town made famous by movies like Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies. For the best vistas, head to the Astoria Column, a nearly century-old monument with a hand-painted spiraling frieze. It’s 164 steps to the observation deck – and panoramic views of the Columbia River and the ocean are worth it. Note that while the interior of the column is not wheelchair-accessible, the rest of the grounds and park are. 

Next, spend a day in Seaside, where a 100-year-old, paved, wheelchair-accessible promenade runs along the beach for 1.5 miles (2.5km). Seaside is also the best place on the Oregon coast for quintessential beach-town pursuits like candy stores, kitschy souvenir shops and old-timey arcades. Before you leave this area, stop by to gape at 235ft(72m)-tall sea stack Haystack Rock, in Cannon Beach. Hotels in this area include the luxurious Stephanie Inn, located right on the beach and with views of Haystack Rock. 

Further down the coast, attractions include free tours of Tillamook Creamery, the historic Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Sea Lion Caves. In Reedsport, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area provides a natural playground of colossal mountains of sand. 

When you reach Brookings, spend an afternoon meandering through a grove of towering redwoods on the wheelchair-accessible Oregon Redwoods Barrier-Free Trail

Planning tip: Lodging can be expensive in summer. Rates are generally lower before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. 

Keep planning your trip to Oregon:

Here are the best things to do
Here’s what you need to know before your trip
Here’s how to get around the state

This article was first published Sep 16, 2021 and updated Apr 28, 2024.

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