Post Summary: The Best Day Trips From Portland, Oregon
Do you have a free day to spend in Portland, Oregon? There is so much to do in the city of roses, but sometimes you just want to spice it up with a little outdoor adventure!
It doesn’t matter if you are a local or just a visitor – this guide is for YOU! We’re showing you epic day trips from Portland to discover giant waterfalls, gorgeous PNW hiking trails, and some of the best stops along the Oregon coast just a quick drive from the city.
Scroll to the bottom to find our map of Portland day trips (you can save it, too!) and read through the post to discover some amazing spots to plan an adventurous day.
Let’s get started!
First Of All, What Qualifies As A Day Trip From Portland?
Basically, any destination you can reach and still return to sleep in your own bed at night is a Portland day trip in our books.
Berty and I have definitely had our fair share of huge driving days – waking up at 4:00 am and arriving back in Portland well after dinner time. However, for the sake of your sanity, we’re keeping these day trips from Portland very doable – no more than around a 2-hours-ish drive out.
This way, you can spend a lot of time exploring and less time in the car, which is all that we want from a good day trip, right?
Now without further ado…
15 Day Trips From Portland, Oregon
Day Trips From Portland To The Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is the most popular area for day trips from Portland, for its proximity, numerous outdoor options, and amazing scenery. Along I-84, you can experience some rewarding hikes, gorgeous waterfalls, and amazing water and land activities along the river.
Some of the most popular things to do here are visiting the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls, and you can even take a leisure tour of several of them on the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway.
Multnomah Falls is by far the most popular to visit (and the tallest waterfall in Oregon), but here are some others to consider for your day trip from Portland to the Columbia River Gorge:
- Latourell Falls (2 miles round trip)
- Wahkeena Falls (4.7-mile loop to see Multnomah and Fairy Falls)
- Bridal Veil Falls (0.5 miles round trip)
- Dry Creek Falls (3.6 miles out and back)
- Ponytail Falls (0.8 miles round trip)
Note: The Eagle Creek Fire of 2017 devastated much of this area and some hikes/waterfall trails are still closed for restoration. Click here to be updated on real-time trail openings in the Columbia River Gorge.
Finally, take some challenging hikes in the Columbia River Gorge like Mount Defiance, Dog Mountain, Indian Points Loop, or Munra Point for incredible views of the river, and across it to Washington state!
Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park is the perfect place to take a day trip from Portland if you love waterfalls! One of the park’s most famous trails is called the “Trail of Ten Falls” which connects ten Oregon waterfalls in a 7.6-mile loop.
This is a can’t-miss opportunity to see some of Oregon’s prettiest waterfalls, which includes the popular Double Falls, Middle North Falls, and South Falls.
Now, waterfalls aren’t the only things to see at Silver Falls State Park – you can mountain bike the exciting Catamount Trail or even swim at the South Falls Day Use Area. There is something to do for the entire family here!
Portland Day Trips To Mount Hood
Mount Hood is a great option for a Portland day trip if you are seeking calm lakes, gorgeous wildflowers, and forest hikes.
Just a 1.5-hour drive east from Portland will bring you to the shores of Trillium Lake. On a clear day, you will be able to see the reflection of the picturesque Mount Hood beautifully framed in the distance! Other lakes in Mount Hood include Frog Lake, Lost Lake, and Mirror Lake – each with their own unique reflection of the mountain.
For a longer Portland day trip in the mountains, consider the 8.2-mile hike to Ramona Falls. This gorgeous horsetail falls is hidden deep in the forest, but the payoff is huge once you see it with your own eyes. Care for a short waterfall hike for your Portland day trip? Consider Tamanawas Falls, an easy 3.3-mile trail with a gorgeous view!
Want to challenge yourself? Here are some long hikes in the Mount Hood area for a full-day trip from Portland:
- Tom Dick and Harry (9 miles out and back)
- Bald Mountain (6 miles out and back)
- McNeil Point Trail (9.6 miles out and back)
The Willamette Valley Wineries
The Willamette Valley is one of the closest day trips in Oregon, but it’s also a trip that feels like you are visiting an entirely new country at the same time!
The beautiful Willamette Valley is popular for its agricultural ventures and many local farming communities. One of the easiest ways to experience this area is to come for a day for a wine tasting with your friends!
Commonly referred to as “Oregon Wine County” this area hosts more than 500 wineries, each with their own unique take on Oregon grown grapes and flavors (but you’ve really got to try their Pinot Noir!). Spend some time exploring amazing wineries like Penner-Ash Cellars, Trisaetum, and Styring. Go even farther south to stay in Eugene, and experience King Estate Winery‘s award-winning pinot noir.
Abiqua Falls is one of the most stunning demonstrations of basalt cliffs on Oregon waterfalls in the entire state! It’s also one of the closest and most adventurous day trips in Portland if you like waterfalls and hiking together (besides the Columbia River Gorge ones, of course)!
The trail to Abiqua Falls is reserved only for the truest of adventurers. Parking is located in small pullouts scattered along CF 3000 Road, just off of Crooked Finger Road NE.
Park anywhere along this road to start your journey, but if you have a high-clearance vehicle/SUV, you can risk going down the road further to cut your trail time down. Be warned – the road gets significantly worse the farther you go, and many cars have gotten stuck without rescue here!
The 5.3-mile out-and-back trail is rated difficult, with steep slopes and wet conditions nearly the entire way. However, all the hard work and effort to get here will pay off – it’s one of the most stunning waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest! Stay awhile to enjoy the 92-foot-tall drop, incredible natural scenery, and the ambiance of the Oregon forest.
Want more activities to do for Portland day trips to the Columbia River Gorge? There are plenty of breathtaking places to see that don’t require a lot of effort. Consider taking a visit to the Vista House or the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.
But do you want to know the real star of the CRG? Rowena Crest.
Rowena Crest is a super easy 1-hour 20-minute drive from Portland on I-84, with a high up view of an iconic windy road near the river. This place is popular for photographers for many different reasons.
Some want to catch the sunrise as the road is lighting up, others want to catch tiny car driving on the road, and others want to visit at night and take long-exposure shots of car lights streaming across the path. No matter the reason you visit, come with your camera!
Falls Creek Falls
Falls Creek Falls trail is an excellent day trip from Portland if you love hiking! The journey to Falls Creek Falls is actually a Washington hiking trail, just across the Columbia River. Between lush green forests, bridges, and winding rivers, this trail provides excellent opportunities for forest bathing and escaping the busy-ness of everyday life.
The trail to this Washington waterfall is a 5-mile out-and-back trek, ending at a three-tiered (but only the bottom two are visible!) falls, plunging a total of 335 feet into the creek below. You can get close enough to feel the mist of the falls and it’s a perfect Washington photo spot if you are into photography!
Come in the spring season to see the full power of the water, but really, any time of the year is perfect for a Portland day trip to Falls Creek Falls!
Cannon Beach Is One Of The Most Iconic Day Trips From Portland
A trip to Cannon Beach is probably the most popular Oregon coast day trip from Portland out there! The picturesque beach town, massive sandy shores, and the iconic Haystack Rock make it a welcome oasis for people who are tired of city life.
Staying around Cannon Beach and Seaside are great options if you love long walks on the beach and incredible backdrops for sunsets along the ocean. Dogs are allowed to roam the shores of Cannon Beach, so bring your pup for a fun day at the beach!
If you want to explore a little deeper, consider driving to the nearby Ecola State Park. Here, there are several miles of hiking trails with incredible overlooks, secret shorelines, and dramatic cliff edges. Venture south of Cannon Beach to Neahkahnie Mountain for even more vistas and viewpoints of the Pacific Ocean.
Astoria is a town in the most northwest corner of Oregon, sitting at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astoria holds a wonderful combination of eclectic antique stores, delicious eateries & cafes, and lots of opportunities to get outside. Some local hikes include the trail to Cathedral Tree, and a lookout view to the Astoria Column.
Fishing is one of the main attractions for day trips from Portland out on the water. Salmon is a popular fish to catch here, and Buoy 10 fishery is the most popular place to catch them. If fishing isn’t your thing but EATING fish is, go ahead and try Buoy Beer Company, Hanthorn Crab Company, or Northwest Wild Products for some of the freshest seafood in Oregon.
Read More: The Perfect Oregon Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City
Between iconic Oregon Coast views to stunning sand dunes, Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City is the perfect day trip from Portland, OR if you’re looking for an ocean breeze and crashing waves.
The coast is a little wilder here, with brave surfers and dory boaters launching themselves into the wild waves. It’s fun to sit and watch them awhile, and if you need a refresh we suggest popping into Pelican Brewing Company right off the water to continue your ocean views, but indoors.
Sit awhile and enjoy the view of Pacific City’s Haystack Rock (yes, it’s got the same name as its neighbor to the north!), or venture up to explore the sand dunes at Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. This is a steep hike and can be dangerous near the edges, so take caution!
God’s Thumb (Lincoln City)
Lincoln City is the perfect sleepy beach town for people who want to unwind along the ocean’s edge. Stay in town at Road’s End State Park or Nelscott Beach, or venture out onto the water at Siletz Bay for some kayaking opportunities.
Some of our favorite Oregon Coast hikes are located here, specifically God’s Thumb Trail, a unique cliffside vista that’s wrapped in a green mossy field. Drive just 45 minutes inland to Drift Creek Falls trail, if you are a fan of Oregon waterfalls!
Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens is in the neighboring state, Washington, but it’s an awesome Portland, Oregon day trip if you like nature and history!
Drive all the way east on Highway 504 to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Here, you can see Mount St. Helens up close, and learn about the history of the recent eruption in 1980. If you want to learn more about the area, make sure to stop by the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center and The Forest Learning Center, too.
Take the Hummocks Trail during the summer to see some incredible wildflowers and stroll the boardwalk at Coldwater Lake for distant views of the mountains. There are plenty of hiking trails around the area, and you can even summit the mountain in a Portland day trip with proper permits and preparation!
Washington State Waterfalls
We mentioned this day trip from Portland above with the trek to Falls Creek Falls, but that is just one of several Washington waterfalls that you can see on a Portland day trip! They aren’t all just on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge!
Panther Creek Falls is a long (but worth it!) hike to one of Washington’s coolest falls. For a little bit of a closer adventure, consider driving to see Lewis River Falls. There is a lower, middle, and upper falls, all with varying degrees of distance so you can choose your own adventure!
The McKenzie River Highway
If waterfalls, lush green forests, and hot springs are your jam, consider taking the long day trip from Portland to explore the McKenzie River Highway.
Along this route, there are so many amazing stops practically right off the highway! Start off with a quick trip to see the Lost Lake Lava tubes, and then head south to your first Oregon waterfall stop. Sahalie and Koosah Falls trail is an easy loop hike, and it’s a 2-for-1 waterfall stop, too!
Further south, you will find Tamolitch Falls (The Blue Pool), Bigelow Hot Springs, Belknap Hot Springs, and Cougar Hot Springs (also called Terwilliger Hot Springs). Take your pick on a dip that suits you best!
Before you leave, consider taking a detour on the Old Highway 242 to stop by and visit Proxy Falls! Proxy Falls trail is an easy hike, and one of the most beautiful places in Oregon.
One the way back to Portland, drive to Eugene and take Interstate-5 North all the way back home!
Climbing at Smith Rock State Park
This is likely the farthest you can get from the city and still call it a day trip from Portland! Almost 3-hours away from the city, Smith Rock State Park is a climber’s playground, with plenty of routes and adventures to be had!
There are more than 2000 climbing routes to choose from, with most of the popular routes able to be finished in just one pitch. One of the coolest routes is called Monkey Face, a 350-foot spire that looks seriously epic (and kind of scary!) to climb.
Not a climber? No problem. This is one of the most iconic Oregon photography locations, especially during sunrise and sunset. Set up your camera to capture the rocks with the Crooked River winding gracefully through.
The area around Smith Rock is perfect for boondocking (aka free camping) if you decide you want to spend more time exploring. Download the app The Dyrt before you head out, so you can find campsites nearby! Make sure to get the Pro version to use the features offline, and get access to cool features like BLM and National Forests map too!
Map of Day Trips From Portland, Oregon
Below, we’ve included a map of day trips from Portland, Oregon so that you can decide which one is best for you. You can also click the top left corner of this map to save it on your own phone and refer back to it for more adventures in the future! We hope you have a fantastic time!