Looking to get out of the city? Don’t take for granted all the incredible day trips you can do from Portland. No matter which direction you drive in, you’ll find some of the most incredible natural scenery in the country.
Coming from someone who doesn’t live in Portland, I totally envy the people who do. There were so many things I loved about it: the people were friendly, the food scene was to die for and moody weather was totally a photographer’s dream. But what really sold me was the scenery. The views are easily the best I’ve ever seen.
We’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring the area and since we usually base ourselves in the city, we’ve racked up a list of our favorite places within driving distance. While you’re going through this list, keep in mind we love driving and long distances don’t bother us too much, but our road trips tend to be packed and a little rushed. If you prefer to spread these itineraries out over a few days and plan to camp or stay along the way, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more.
Please don’t take PNW living for granted, get out there!
Here’s a list of our favorite day trips/weekend circuits.
Columbia River Gorge circuit (driving East)
The Columbia River Gorge is packed with views the entire way along the drive. Our favorite time of year to visit is definitely Autumn, when the leaves turn gold and the weather is just right, but this route is gorgeous pretty much year-round.
Stop #1: Multnomah Falls - a 40 min drive from Portland
A classic stop and one that most Portland natives might scoff at for being your typical tourist trap, but I can’t help but imagine myself stepping into the land of Rivendell from Lord of the Rings every time I see it.
Stop #2: Rowena Crest Viewpoint - a 1 hr 30 min drive from Portland
While it’s true that Rowena Crest is really just a photogenic bend in the road, it’s worth a stop just to take in the views from across the valley. Even better if the leaves are golden.
Stop #3: Stop for lunch in Hood River - a 1 hr 10 min drive from Portland
Hood River is a small mountain town with tons of character and plenty of great food and coffee shops. Our recommendation: Try the pizza at Solstice Wood Fire Pizza - Cafe & Bar.
Stop #4: Trillium Lake - a 1 hr 30 min drive from Portland
Show up around sunset to catch the magnificent reflection of Mt Hood on Trillium Lake’s glassy waters.
Stop #5: Stop for a pick-me-up at Mt Hood Lodge - a 1 hr 25 min drive from Portland
For movie buffs, you’ll notice Mt Hood Lodge (also known as the Timberline Lodge) gives you the creeps. That’s because the exterior was actually used in the The Shining. The inside, however, is warm and inviting and it’s the perfect place to stop for a coffee or drink on the way back to the city.
2. The Hot Springs circuit (driving South)
Hot Springs are good for the soul and the Pacific North West has no shortage of hot, natural springs for you to soak all your cares away. These are just a few of our faves but there are actually over 19 you can find by just doing a quick search online.
Many of these springs are clothing optional so be aware that you may encounter nudity. In fact, you should probably expect it.
What to pack for this trip:
- Your swimsuit (or not)
- A towel (we prefer microfibre towels as they dry quickly and are very lightweight)
- Sandals or flip-flops (natural hot springs also come with natural hazards such as sharp rocks or twigs, these will make your pool-hopping experience much more comfortable)
Please don’t bring:
- Soaps or shampoos (these are wild, natural places and bathing or washing using man-made soaps or shampoos can have a devastating effect on local wildlife, or the pools themselves. If you must bring soap, make sure its biodegradable and eco-friendly.)
- Alcohol or drugs (mainly for the fact that most of these springs are located in very remote locations that require you to drive in, but also the fact that they are family-friendly and we’ve noticed many people who pack in alcohol don’t bother packing their trash out)
Stop #1: Terwiliger (Cougar) Hot Springs - a 2 hr 45 min drive from Portland
Stop #2: Bigelow Hot Springs - a 30 min drive from Terwiliger (Cougar) Hot Springs
Stop #3: Umpqua Hot Springs - a 4 hr drive from Portland
Yes this one is a bit further out but it’s well worth the drive. There are numerous pools of varying temperatures that you can play Goldilocks in and if you can always stay in Eugene for the night if you’d like to explore more of the area. There’s much to see here including…
Stop #4: Toketee Falls - a 15 min drive from Umpqua Hot Springs
Climb down and explore beautiful Toketee Falls, one of our favorite waterfalls in all of America. Take a dip in the freezing cold water, if you dare.
3. The Coastal Route (driving West)
This isn’t your typical beach day. No really, it’s not. That’s because I’m not a huge fan of beaches but Oregon’s coastline is truly something else. You’ll recognize iconic Cannon Beach because you’ve probably seen it a million times on Instagram and if you’re not a beach person either, the answer is: yes, it’s worth the drive.