National Parks and the Oregon Coast
Adventurer & Photographer
National Parks and the Oregon Coast
Start / End
Redwood, Crater Lake
At least 14
The only problem you are going to have on this trip is to figure out how you are going to spend your time. But that’s a good thing. The Oregon Coast and Willamette Valley are filled with one thousand things to do. We are going to take you across the highlights, and give you some great advice on the best way to see these remarkable areas, but this trip can be endlessly adapted to your specific tastes. If you want to spend more time visiting the coast, you can do that. If you want a brief overview on the coast and head inland to the great wineries in the valley, you can do that too. Oregon is your oyster, and there are pearls everywhere. The trip will take you in a oval, landing in Portland, heading to the coast and down, before crossing into the eastern part of the state to the Columbia River Gorge and back up to Portland. Now, speaking of Portland, there is so much to do in this town, you should plan to spend at least a few days here. But we would recommend you do it on the end of your trip. This will give you a few days to relax and enjoy all there is to do before heading back home.
We recommend at least 14 days to accomplish everything there is to do in the trip. This trip takes you through two states and you will have a lot of driving. The bigger towns are well worth the stops and can offer you many opportunities for nightlife, but the smaller towns have a charm to them that is well worth an overnight stop and will add a uniqueness to your trip. This itinerary is full of suggestions of some of the best places to stop, especially during your longer days on the road. So plan your trip accordingly so that you can experience the places that spark your interest the most. These areas can be crowded in the summertime, and for good reason. There are multiple events and the weather is beautiful. If you want to avoid crowds we suggest traveling at the end of spring or the beginning of fall. If you can’t make that happen then we suggest visiting the smaller towns on the weekends and the national parks, monuments and bigger towns on the weekdays. Wintertime is still beautiful in these places, however, you will need to pay attention to any road closures there might be.
ARRIVAL IN PORTLAND
2 HOURS/97 MILES
On landing in Portland you will need to collect your things, rent a car and head north on the 5. This route will take you along the Columbia River to the delta and is a beautiful drive. But if you are looking for a scenic drive along a highway, we recommend taking Hwy 30 to Hwy 202. This route will take you through the beautiful forests and farmlands of Oregon. Upon arrival in Astoria, find a place to stay and get ready to stretch your legs after a long flight.
ASTORIA TO TILLAMOOK
1.5 HOURS/65 MILES
From Astoria and Seaside, you will head south down the coast through Bay City to Tillamook. Driving along the coast on the celebrated Pacific Coast Highway, you will have plenty of photo opportunities, but one place that is not to be missed is Cannon Beach. This is a world famous area and if you have ever seen the movie “The Goonies” you will instantly recognize it. From there it’s on to Bay City and a stroll around town before arriving at your overnight destination, Tillamook. Tillamook is a fun place to stay and there are a multitude of things to do and places to see, but if you want an absolutely fun tour, head to the Tillamook Creamery. It is a free and self-guided experience where you can watch cheese being made.
TILLAMOOK TO NEWPORT, VIA DEPOE BAY
1.5 HOURS/70 MILES
Are you ready to see some whales? Because today is the day to do it. Your route will start away from the coast as you travel through the coastal woods of the Siuslaw National Forest before picking the coast back up again at Lincoln City. Again, there are a million and one things to do on the Oregon Coast, and we will give you plenty of suggestions, but seeing whales in the ocean is a trans-formative experience and we would recommend dedicating a big part of your day to making that happen at Depoe Bay. Known as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast”, there is a resident pod of Grey whales which makes its home off Depoe Bay from March through December. Visitors from everywhere come to whale watch either from the new Whale Watch Center, the many shore observation spots or you can take a charter out for a closer look. From Depoe Bay, it’s a short jaunt down the coast to the larger town of Newport.
NEWPORT TO EUGENE, VIA CORVALIS
2 HOURS/100 MILES
Today you leave the coast behind for a few days while you head inland to the exquisite southern end of the Willamette Valley. You head due east on Hwy 20 over the Central Oregon Coast Range. Once you do, you will be in wine country. There are a multitude to choose from but we will give you some of our favorite options. Once you get to Corvalis, before heading south to Eugene for the night, take a quick detour to visit the Historic Carousel and Museum in Albany. It’s a short detour but well worth it. Once you get to Eugene, be prepared for some city life. Eugene is Oregon’s second biggest city and you should take advantage of that fact.
EUGENE TO CRESCENT CITY, VIA COOS BAY
4 HOURS TO CRESCENT CITY/221 MILES
Today it’s up early and back to the coast. This is a longer driving day, but it will take you through some of the most beautiful inland scenery Oregon has to offer. You get back to the coast via Hwy 38 as it takes you back over the Coastal Range and the Elliot State Forest. Once you get back to the coast, take a few hours to stretch your legs in Coos Bay. This little town on the bay has a lot to offer and a walk around its downtown area is a great way to spend some time. Make sure not to miss the serenity of the Japanese landscaping at Mingus Park. Stop by the Fisherman’s Seafood Market on the Coos Bay Boardwalk for some straight from the ocean seafood. You won’t regret it. From Coos Bay you dip down into California and a visit to the majestic redwoods and Crescent City.
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
4 HOURS/184 MILES
Its back into Oregon today and to the east side of the Coastal Range and Klamath Falls. Klamath Falls is known as Oregon’s City of Sunshine for its 300 days of sun a year. Once you arrive in Klamath Falls, we would recommend finding a place to stay, and heading south again back into California for the hour and a half drive to Lava Beds National Monument. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions on the Medicine Lake shield volcano have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features. More than 700 caves, Native American rock art sites, historic battlefields and campsites. This is a landscape like no other, and it’s not to be missed.
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
3.5 HOURS/165 MILES
Crater Lake National Park is amazing. That is really all there is to it. We would recommend planning on spending most of your day here before heading up to Bend. The Rim Drive is a spectacular scenic drive and a great way to see the whole of the park, but there are many side adventures to be had here, and we have some excellent suggestions for you. One recommended stop, however, is the Visitor’s Center. You will pass by it on your way into the park and it’s a great way to get some information on the park. Once you get to Bend you will be in a great college town, home of the Oregon State University’s Cascade Campus. You should plan on spending the whole of your next day enjoying Bend and the myriad of things to do in the area, before continuing up north on your Oregon road trip.
Bend sits on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range along the Deschutes River. The pine trees and high alpine features of the mountains transition here to the high desert, which means as an outdoor destination, Bend has every opportunity you could hope for. But the town itself is alive with culture and hums with activity. In 2015, Men’s Journal ranked Bend as one of The 10 Best Places to Live Now, and its not hard to see why. One recommendation we have is to stop by the Bend Visitor Center, located right downtown. They have a friendly and knowledgeable staff and will help you on your way to enjoying all that Bend has to offer. They can also clue you in to the Bend Riddle Routes, which is a scavenger hunt around town, and a great way to see the town.
Best spot for a picnic:
Best place to stay with friends:
Largest Ale Trail in the west:
Can’t miss it:
Best night out:
TAKE YOUR PICK-BEND HAS OVER A DOZEN BREWERIES AND A NUMBER OF WINERIES AND DISTILLERIES
Where the locals get coffee:
BEND TO LA GRANDE, VIA OREGON’S HIGH DESERT
6 HOURS/325 MILES
Today is more of a road trip day, as it is the longest driving time of your trip so far. But worry not, get your favorite playlist ready and prepare to drive through some of the most solitarily beautiful landscape the United States has to offer. This is classic East Oregon High Desert country. On this leg of your journey, we will send you through two great smaller Oregon towns before ending in the Grande Ronde Valley and the town of La Grande, nestled at the foot of the Blue Mountains.
LA GRANDE TO THE DALLES
3 HOURS/176 MILES
Today will take you over the Blue Mountains and down into the Columbia River Gorge. The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest and the fourth largest river in the United States. The scenery along this drive is simply majestic, so don’t be shy about pulling over to snap some photos. You should also take some time to stop at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area. It’s a great little park and will give you a chance to stretch your legs at the confluence of the Columbia and Deschutes River. Once you get to The Dalles, one recommendation we have is to head over the Columbia for a quick jaunt into Washington and the Yakima Reservation.
Ahh, Portland. The city of Roses. This is truly one of America’s great cities. With a population of around 650,000, Portland is a big city with a small town feel. The cultural experiences here are not to be missed. From the Downtown area to the eclectic neighborhoods and districts, there is nothing but fun to be had. But Portland is also on outdoor town, with places like Forest Park, Tyron Creek State Natural Area and Mount Tabor Park. The easiest way to get around is the city’s centerpiece, the MAX Light Rail. Our recommendation is start your adventure off by heading to the Portland Visitor’s Center. Located in the heart of downtown, it’s a great way to begin your stay.