Oregon Parks and Monuments

what to do in oregon

Thinking of planning a trip to Oregon? Check out the road trip along the coast here: Coastal Oregon.

Crater Lake National Park

crater lake national park

visiting crater lake

  • Reaching a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and deepest volcanic lake in the world. The water level only fluctuates 2-3 feet. Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama, a 12,000 feet high volcano, collapsed after erupting. It’s estimated to be the largest eruption in North America within the last 640,000 years. Receiving water only from snow and rain, Crater Lake is considered the world’s cleanest body of water in the world. The lake hasn’t completely frozen since 1949.
  • Wizard Island was formed by a smaller, later eruption. Watchman Overlook offers the best view of the island. 

crater lake at sunset

  • A 33 mile road, Rim Drive, circles the lake with more than 30 scenic overlooks. Rim Drive is open July – October. The only access to the shore of Crater Lake is by Cleetwood Cove Trail, a steep 2.2 mile path on the North side of the lake. 

Traveling Gingerbread Note: It took us about 2.5 hours to drive around the lake stopping at each overlook for a quick photo. 

us at crater lake

vidae falls

  • Cloudcap Overlook, just before Phantom Ship Overlook, is a popular spot to watch the sunset. Pack some foldable chairs, a cooler, and enjoy the beautiful display of colors as the sun slowly descends behind the rim of the lake. 
  • Phantom Ship, a small island 16 stories tall, is the oldest exposed rock in Crater Lake. The view from Phantom Ship Overlook is pictured left. Resembling a small sailboat, the island earned the name Phantom Ship. 
  • Vidae Falls, pictured right, is a 100 foot spring fed waterfall.

map of crater lake

Smith Rock State Park

bridge at smith rock state park

smith rock state park trails

  • Smith Rock State Park has been a popular rock climbing area since the 1980’s and has over 1,000 climbs. There are several hiking trails (Rim Rock Trail, Canyon Trail, River Trail, and The Chute) accessible behind the Welcome Center. The park map can be found here. The park is easy to explore and offers picnic areas, restrooms, water fountains, showers, and camping.

oregon plants and reptiles

smith rock state park oregon

  • The area pictured above is known as The Crooked River Caldera, formed millions of years ago when surface rock collapsed into an underground lake of molten lava causing an eruption of ash and debris filling the caldera. The ash and debris hardened, lava flowed into the area from a nearby passive eruption, and erosion by the Crooked River formed the stunning landscape visible today.

Mount Hood National Forest

mount hood national park

  • Mount Hood, a dormant stratovolcano, is the highest mountain in the state of Oregon and visible from Portland. Drive along the 105 mile Mt. Hood Scenic Byway for the best views of Mt. Hood. The Byway travels through Hood River Valley, an area rich with fruit, and ends where the Hood River, formed by runoff water from Mt. Hood glaciers, meets the Columbia River. 

Trillium Lake

trillium lake oregon

  • Trillium Lake, in the Government Camp area of Mount Hood National Forest, is popular for fishing, boating, and swimming.

Timberland Lodge and Ski Area

mt hood trillium ski lodge area

  • Even if you aren’t interested in skiing, we recommend driving to Timberland Lodge and Ski Area, a National Historic Landmark, for this view of Mt. Hood. There are 1,415 skiable acres and the longest trail is more than 3 miles.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Rowena Crest Viewpoint

rowena crest viewpoint

  • At the end of the 73 mile Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is Rowena Crest Viewpoint in Mayer State Park, popular for picnics and windsurfing. Take the old highway above the gorge to view the popularly photographed horseshoe curve in the road.

Thunder Island Brewing Company

beer on outside patio

  • Thunder Island Brewing Company, located in Cascade Locks, offers a small selection of draft beers and a menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and fries. We had a great view of the Columbia River from the large outdoor patio. 

Horsetail Falls

horsetail waterfall oregon

  • 176 feet tall Horsetail Falls can be seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway. A short path takes visitors to the base of the falls. 

Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint

bridal veils state park oregon

  • Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint offers 2 hiking trails, Bridal Veil Falls Trail and Overlook Loop Trail. The Bridal Veil Falls Trail, just over .5 miles from the parking lot, passes over Bridal Veil Creek to a platform to view the 120 foot, 2 tiered waterfall. 

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls Oregon

  • Latourell Falls, the third tallest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge, is located in Guy W. Talbot State Park. The 2 mile Latourell Falls Loop Trail passes over wooden bridges along Henderson Creek. A rough trail continues through the forest to the top of the waterfall. 

Traveling Gingerbread: Here is a map of the waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Not pictured are the popular Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls. Visiting during the pandemic, these falls had extremely long lines due to decreased trail and overlook capacity.  

Vista House at Crown Point State Scenic Corridor 

vista house overlook

  • Vista House, completed in 1918, rises 693 feet above the Columbia River Gorge. The building was designed as a rest stop, memorial, and observatory. Inside is an espresso bar, giftshop, and displays of historical items.

Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint

Women's Forum State Scenic overlook

  • Farther up the road is Portland Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint. Vista House can be seen sitting atop a cliff in the distance.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

john day fossil beds

oregon painted hills

  • John Day Fossil Beds National Monument has 3 units: Painted Hills Unit, Sheep Rock Unit, and Clarno Unit. The Painted Hills Unit near Mitchell, Oregon has 5 trails with parking to view the colorful landscape of black, red, and yellow clay. Some smaller painted hills can be seen along the road approaching the National Monument. 

john day fossil beds

  • The Painted Hills Overlook trail follows an old dirt road for .5 miles with stunning views of the striped hills below. The color of the clay is determined by the environment. Yellow clay is caused by cool, dry years. Red clay indicates years of warmer, wetter weather.

painted hills cove trail

painted hill cove trail

  • Continue down the dirt road to reach the Painted Cove Trail, a .25 mile boardwalk and dirt trail through the red clay hills.

Newberry Volcanic National Monument

lava field

Newberry Volcanic National Monument

  • The Newberry National Volcanic Monument located in Deschutes National Forest consists of more than 54,000 acres of volcanic lands and lakes.
  • A 1 mile loop Trail of the Molten Land begins at the Lava Lands Visitor Center and winds through basalt lava flows.
  • Hike past the visitor center to reach the base of Lava Butte, a 500 feet tall cinder cone that erupted 7,000 years ago. Follow a 1.4 mile paved road to Lava Butte summit for a view of the cascades and an optional .25 mile hike around the top of the cauldron. A shuttle also takes visitors from Lava Lands Visitor Center to Lava Butte every 20 minutes mid-June through Labor Day for $2/person. 

Newberry Volcanic National Monument crater

Traveling Gingerbread Note: Check out nearby Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint. Drive or hike up an extinct volcano for panoramic views of Bend, Oregon.

what to do in oregon

oregon sunset


September 2020

 

Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

The Traveling Gingerbread is a place for us to share budget travel tips for people with full time jobs, fun facts, itineraries, and where to find the best craft beer. We have been traveling together since 2013. Living and working full-time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. We cram each adventure with activities, tours, experiences, and local breweries. We can't walk by an Irish pub without stopping in for a pint of Guinness. In 2019, we brewed our first beer and were hooked, although, we have no intentions of brewing more than small batches. We'll continue our self appointed roles of professional testers and creating craft beer trails.

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