I was inspired by a friend to create this post after they saw some Portland pictures on the Bedhead Nomad Instagram. Photography is one of my most favorite hobbies so of course being in a place as beautiful as the Pacific Northwest makes taking photos seem effortless.
If you haven’t made your way to the Northwest than you are definitely missing out on some of the most beautiful nature I have ever seen! As much as I love taking photographs nothing beats seeing Portland in person.
It doesn’t matter what time of year you decide to make your way up here because all four seasons are vividly shown when it’s their time. The cherry blossoms bloom in the spring, the hot summer sun reaches over 90°F in the summer, the leaves change from green to orange, red, and yellow in the fall, and every now and then we will be surprised with a few inches of snow in the winter.
It’s truly beautiful to see.
I don’t know what has taken me so long to write this post but I’m doing it people! Since I’ve been in Portland, I have tried to visit as many places as I can but there are so many destinations here that it’s way easier to make a list of all of the places you want to visit and check them off as you go.
But I managed to list some of my favorite must-see places that every one should visit at least once. I promise you won’t regret it. If you love hiking or just love taking Instagram worthy pictures, then here are 5 must-see places to visit near Portland, Oregon. Happy Hiking!
Opal Creek (Pictured above)
This natural beauty is just two hours southeast of Portland and is the perfect hike for a hot summer day. The water is generally around 42°F so it’s quite chilly (too cold for me lol) but if you don’t mind the cold than it’s totally worth swimming in. Be careful going on a weekend or holiday because parking is quite limited or just go early in the morning and make a day of it.
In order to park on the grounds you do need to purchase a parking pass (unless your staying in the lodges) which are $5 either cash or check. To buy the parking pass there are several little drop box posts on the side of the road where you place your payment in an envelope and then place the perforated piece of the envelope in your front window. There are lodges that you can rent there also but I’m not sure of the pricing for those.
This is about a three mile hike so make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and bring lots of waters and snacks with you. The trail for the most part is a paved path with little incline unless you go off the main trail. I have seen some families bring young children under the age of 10 on the hike but I wouldn’t recommend hiking too far because it can get tiresome. After about a mile or so you’ll run into the creek so you wouldn’t have to walk far if you wanted to bring your youngins along.
Home to wear the movie Free Willy was filmed as well as where the house from The Goonies resides, Astoria is a little over two hours northwest of Portland sitting at the tip of Oregon. We visited the Fort Stevens State Park which is right over the bridge from the little town of Astoria. In the park is where the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale (pictured above) still stands on the eroded beach.
You can camp in this historical park and take group tours if you like but we took our time and explored on our own. Since it was winter when we visited, it was quite chilly and raining most of the time (for those that may not know winter is our rainy season until summer) so it was more of a car tour lol although we did stop and checked out cool spots like the gun battery.
However, since the weather was not of great hiking atmosphere we didn’t get the chance to properly hike some of the trails so I can’t say how well they are. The area was not on much of an incline either so I would assume the hiking level is more of an easy/medium. If you’re only taking a day trip out to the park and not staying at the campsite, I didn’t come across any flushing toilets so I would recommend bringing hand sanitizer. There are some parks here in Oregon that don’t have water or sewage so that means no running sinks to wash your hands but don’t let that scare you!
Cannon Beach is about two hours west of Portland sitting right along the Pacific coast and is the absolute perfect summer day trip. Since it is along the coast the weather is generally warmer than it is inline making it great for a hot summer day. Although, I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the ocean unless you have a wet suit since the water stays pretty cold even in the summer.
The drive up to the beach is a beautiful view filled with evergreen trees and mountain ranges; also there are different viewpoints you can stop at along the way so you can take some breathtaking photos. We went to Ecola State Park ($5 for parking) which is located on a mountain, so just to warn you, the roads are a bit smaller but even if you don’t have four wheel drive you will manage just fine.
Once you arrive in the park there are two roads you can turn down, make sure to go down both! I can’t remember which road went where as it’s been a year since we went but one of them takes you to the cliff of the mountain where you can see the lighthouse and have a picnic in one of their pavilions and play volleyball. If you go down the other road it’ll take you to the bottom of the beach (pictured above) where you can spend the day relaxing. It is also very photogenic as you can look up to the mountains.
If you just want to hike instead, there are tons of trails you can take that leads you to the near edge of the cliff where you can take the most stunning nature photos. I’m telling you guys it’s worth the hike! For the most part the hike isn’t too intense so young children probably over the age of ten would be fine to make there way through the quiet forest. Do bring snacks and drinks because I don’t believe there is a service station to refill on those necessities at the park.
The picture perfect view of the famous Mount Hood (pictured above) is located at Trillium Lake just a little over an hour east of Portland. The drive up to see the mountain is absolutely stunning with some lookout points that are totally worth stopping at. Your driving up a winding mountain with evergreen trees lined up along the road and snow covered mountains are just ahead in the horizon.
Spend the weekend along the lake where you can camp out with friends or have Sunday picnics. There are tables you can eat at as well as a mini pier that extends out into the lake where you can fish from; mostly trout is caught there. Also, there is a boat ramp for those who would rather enjoy the scenery on the water.
The hiking level here is fairly easy and great for any age group since the trails are small and only go around the lake. The ground stays leveled and are paved so you will know where you’re going. Do be sure to bring a jacket especially if you’re going in the spring/ early summer or fall because the temperature is usually around the 40s. I haven’t been during the middle of summer so I’m not too sure what the temperature is like but I would bring a jacket just in case. Also, you don’t have to pay for parking here.
While you’re out there stop by the Timberline Lodge only a a few minutes down the road from the lake sitting on the famous Mount Hood itself. This hotel has been around since the late 1930s and is also where President Roosevelt had stayed at one point. Here, you can spend the day snowboarding or skiing whether you bring your own gear or rent from the lodge (book in advance if you want to rent). If you have time, tour the little museum at the base of the hotel where President Roosevelt stayed in as well as what it was like back during the 30s. Then, make your way up to the second floor of the hotel to the Ram’s Head Bar and Restaurant where they have the most delicious foods! In the restaurant there is a huge fireplace that sits right in the middle and you also have views that look out to Mount Hood while you eat. I can’t remember the name but there is a coffee cocktail that you have to try; you would never know there was alcohol in it. You won’t regret it… or you might lol!
Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge is one the most popular and well known attractions here in Portland and it’s less than an hour east of town. Home to more than ten different falls, you can hop your way around to each one, all of which that have their own unique personality. Taking the Historic Columbia River Highway is a stunning drive it feels like driving through a tunnel of trees. My favorite time of the year to drive down the highway is fall, for sure. The color changes of the trees is the most magical thing I have ever seen.
The most famous waterfall known in the area is Multnomah Falls (pictured above) which is set in the middle between all the other falls. Since it is popular, parking can be difficult and can cause traffic to occur especially during the weekends and summer. No worries though, you don’t have to pay for parking at any of the falls but not all of the waterfalls has actual parking stalls, you will have to park on the side of the road. Also, you can buy snacks and drinks at the outdoor cafe in case you get hungry after your hike and there are restrooms available as well.
For the most part, the hikes can vary on their level of difficulty but they’re mostly on the medium level so I wouldn’t recommend it for smaller children. They are for the most part on an incline and because of the moisture there can be mud so don’t wear your good shoes! I’ve hiked at least seven of the waterfalls and till this day hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls was the most difficult in my opinion. The reason being that the closer you get to the top the more of a steep incline it becomes meaning, you’ll definitely feel soreness the next day. It’s still worth the hike though, it’s the most stunning view looking out to the gorge and being at the same level as the waterfall.
Even if you didn’t want to do any serious hiking, there are some waterfalls that you can see from the road and there are some where you walk less than a mile so taking your smaller children on the mini hikes shouldn’t be a problem. To anyone who wants more of an extreme hike compared to the other waterfall hikes I would recommend the Oneonta Falls hike. Getting to the waterfall requires climbing on large rocks at the beginning then for the rest of the hike you have to walk through water. I must warn you though, there is a small section where the water gets to be about five feet high so wear waterproof clothing unless you can make your way along the rocks on the edge. Good Luck! But, the waterfalls is beautiful either way once you make it through so it’s worth the work for sure.
Adventure is waiting for you here in Portland! It’s a place I would say you need to visit at least once in your life because you’ll fall in love with all of it’s natural beauty. If you make your way out to any of these destinations take pictures and tag us on Instagram @bedheadnomad so I can check out your stunning photos!
Don’t take life too serious and create memories you’ll never want to forget so you’ll have awesome stories to tell your grandchildren.
I love you all and I’ll talk to you soon!
Have you traveled to Oregon? Where was your favorite destination?