Five Hidden Gems To Find In Oregon


Oregon, the Beaver State, is a vastly underappreciated state for travel. In recent years, it's become widely popular as a destination for travellers looking for the quintessential "Pacific North West" experience; fog, forests, waterfalls and, dare I say it, craft breweries (something that's become increasingly synonymous with Portland).

To many, you can't say the word 'Oregon' without conjuring the images of the lush Northern Rainforests of the Columbia River Gorge and Willamette Forest, and nowadays, some the most widely visited sites are places like Multnomah Falls and Oneonta Gorge. In peak season, the entire region is bursting with tourists.

To others, Oregon is an adventure sports paradise, where small towns like Bend have built solid reputations as a mountain biking and climbing Mecca.

In all cases, Oregon is so abundant with striking landscapes that there are many astonishing sites that simply fall through the cracks, and if you're a discerning traveller that hates crowds (like me), these are the spots that will prick up your ears.

In this post we'll talk about a few of the lesser known landmarks you'll find across Oregon's many varied landscapes. You'll probably have heard of one or two, but hopefully there's something new for everyone!

Crater Lake

Crater Lake is probably the most widely known hidden gem on this list, but for something so stunningly beautiful, it doesn't receive nearly as much attention as it ought to.

Crater Lake is a remnant of a former volcano in central Oregon. When this supposedly 12,000ft monster erupted, it collapsed in on itself, forming an enormous, almost perfectly circular crater. Over millions of years, this crater has filled with rain water, creating one of the deepest, purest and bluest Lakes in the world. I've seen plenty of blue lakes in my time, but this is quite possibly the most striking of all.

A visit is an absolute must for first time travellers to Oregon, but expect to spend most of the day getting there. Bring plenty of snacks and a full tank of gas!

The Tamolich (Blue) Pools

The Blue Pools, near McKenzie Town, deep in the heart of Oregon's lush northern forests is a bona fide hidden gem. If you didn't know they were there, you would almost certainly never find them.

The waters in the aptly named Blue Pools are an absolutely unbelievable Cobalt blue, and to reach them, you'll have to follow a gentle two mile trail through the forest. For most of the way, the river appears to be a normal colour, just like any other, but suddenly, as you reach the final pool, the blue colours explode with vibrance.

The waters are known for being exceptionally cold, and deceptively deep, so swimming is generally only recommended on hot summer days.

For the best experience, either visit in summer or in the Fall. In summer, the sun rises higher in the sky, allowing the sun to reach and light up the waters properly. In Fall, however, the trees turn a brilliant yellow colour, and really make the waters pop. Either time is worth a visit!

Tamanawas Falls

Tamanawas Falls is a lesser known waterfall in the Mount Hood region. This is another waterfall that you might miss if you're not looking for it, and it's accessed by a short 3.4 mile out and back hike.

The waterfall cascades 110ft over a large lava cave, meaning you can actually walk behind the waterfall (although use caution, as the ground can be quite slippery).

One of the best features of this waterfall is that it's still accessible in winter, when, due to the frozen spray, the entire area turns into a winter grotto. If you're planning to visit in winter, snowshoes are highly recommended.

Thor's Well

Thor's Well is a bizarre feature that you'll find on the Oregon Coast, in a place called Cape Perpetua. It's a tiny curiosity on the shoreline that draws photographers in their thousands each year.

Thor's Well is a small underground tunnel that has gradually formed in the rocks over thousands of years. As waves hit the rocks, the wave continues into the tunnel, and pushes the water out through a hole in the ground. As the wave recedes, the water is then sucked back down the hole again. To describe the phenomena doesn't do it justice, but for a photographer, the blurred bubble trails left by the water are an absolute delight!

The Rowena Crest Viewpoint

You may have seen photos of this scenic loop before and wondered where on earth it's hidden! Perhaps unsurprisingly, you'll find it in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge area, less than 80 miles from the City of Portland.

The reason this spot is becoming increasingly popular isn't simply because of the loop in the road (yes, it makes for great photos, particularly long exposures), but also for the other views you can enjoy from this spot . The expansive, panoramic views of the Columbia River Valley are as breathtaking as they are peaceful, and I highly recommend visiting first thing in the morning.

Visitors to Portland can start their day here and slowly make their way back to the city, stopping at the many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge (Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls, Wahkeena Falls and more) along the way. If you time your visit right, you can also even catch the annual salmon run in the Columbia River!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this list is just a small glimpse of the many treasures hidden in Oregon's vast wilderness. Oregon is packed with hundreds of wonderful sights and adventures, so, even if you don't make it to any of the items on this list, investing in a few days of exploration around the state would be well worth your time.

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I’m a travel and outdoor adventure writer with a passion for exploring and discovering new things. My mission is to push more people out of their comfort zones and off their couches and inspire travel.

Tualatin, OR

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