With only one national park to its name, Oregon may seem like it doesn’t have much to offer in the way of outdoor recreation. However, once you dive into its collection of varied state parks, scenic areas, and natural rivers, you’ll quickly change your mind.
- Crater Lake National Park
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
- Ecola State Park
- Silver Falls State Park
- Smith Rock State Park
Crater Lake National Park
Nearest City: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Crater Lake, a caldera-formed body of water in the park’s center, is the deepest lake in the United States. Additionally, it’s said to hold some of the clearest and cleanest water in the entire world.
Recreation at Crater Lake National Park—the fifth oldest national park in the United States—is largely centered around the lake and its caldera walls, which provide access for several rim drives. Visitors can travel from one scenic location to the next via automobile.
Oregon’s sole national park also manages and maintains an elaborate hiking trail system. Facilities include a restaurant, camp store, several campgrounds, two lodges, and a few gift shops.
Visitors wishing to stay in the park overnight should make reservations several weeks, if not months, in advance. In the summer months, the park experiences its busiest season.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Nearest City: Roosevelt, Washington, & Arlington, Oregon
The Columbia River Gorge winds throughout the Cascade Range, following the path of the Columbia River. In total, the Columbia River Gorge stretches for nearly eighty miles, and is over 4,000 feet deep at its deepest point.
The gorge serves as the boundary between the states of Washington and Oregon. It’s also known for its abundance of idyllic scenery and waterfalls.
Now protected as the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the Columbia River Gorge can be explored via automobile or hiking trails.
One of the premier attractions is Multnomah Falls. They reside near the Historic Columbia River Highway, which weaves alongside the gorge and through the mountains of northern Oregon.
Ecola State Park
Nearest City: Cannon Beach, Oregon
Ecola State Park stretches across Oregon’s western coast, about three miles north of Cannon Beach. It’s revealed much about the Tillamook people that once lived there.
In 1806, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery embarked on a voyage to the area now protected as Ecola State Park. During their voyage, the group searched for a beached whale. Instead, they discovered burial canoes forged by the Tillamook.
Today, Ecola State Park is consistently visited for its hiking and sightseeing attractions, as well as its rich history.
The park—particularly Indian Beach—was featured in the 1985 cult classic The Goonies, as well as in several scenes of Twilight.
Silver Falls State Park
Nearest City: Silverton, Oregon
Silver Falls State Park is the largest state park in Oregon. It protects more than 9,000 acres, and includes over 24 miles of hiking and walking trails. Additional trails are geared for horseback and bike riding.
The park is well-known for its array of large and powerful waterfalls. Its most visited waterfall is the South Falls, although the Double Falls are significantly larger. Unfortunately, they’re more remote, and troublesome to access for inexperienced or casual hikers.
Don’t despair, however: the Trail of Ten Falls will provide visitors with access to the majority of the park’s most notable waterfalls.
Sport some sturdy footwear if you plan on hiking this one, since the trail occasionally grows slippery.
Smith Rock State Park
Nearest City: Redmond, Oregon
Smith Rock State Park is located in central Oregon, in the state’s high desert. As a result, the terrain and environment vary greatly from the other parks on this list.
As a climber’s paradise, Smith Rock provides a number of challenging and unique routes perfect for traditional rock climbing, sport climbing, and bouldering.
Visitors not interested in rock climbing, however, will still find several other recreation opportunities. These include hiking trails, as well as an overnight camping area.
Wildlife in Smith Rock State Park is abundant, in some areas. During your trip, you might spot mule deer, river otters, beavers, golden eagles, and a number of other interesting species.
Oregon: Diverse and Wild
From waterfalls to extreme rock climbing routes, the national park and state parks of Oregon have plenty to offer outdoor enthusiasts.
Just be sure to book your campsites early, and map routes beforehand when possible: the summertime brings a flood of visitors to the state parks of Oregon, but particularly Crater Lake National.