The Pacific Northwest is a land of magic and majesty, a place where breathtaking landscapes and quirky culture wait around every corner. Few states are a better example of this than Oregon. Mossy wetlands, rugged shoreline, and ancient forests give this state a primordial and dreamlike atmosphere.
As one of the most geographically diverse states in the nation, Oregon offers an array of outdoor activities. From active volcanoes to tranquil mountain waters, the Beaver State has it all. Oregon has its fair share of superlatives as well, including the country’s deepest lake and the world’s largest living organism. (See if you can guess what it is before we tell you later in this article). As you can imagine, the state is a top destination for road trips, and RV rentals in Oregon are plentiful.
Even the more densely populated areas in Oregon seem like something out of a utopian novel. The state’s economy is largely reliant on agriculture and tourism – Oregonians have immense pride in their state’s natural beauty and cultural diversity. Its largest city feels less like a bustling metropolis and more like a community where environmental sustainability and individuality are cherished.
In this article, we’ll cover the top ten places you must add to your Oregon itinerary.
1. Crater Lake
It’s only natural that Crater Lake is first on this list, as it’s usually the first destination people think about in Oregon, and for good reason; Crater Lake is truly a marvel. Thousands of years ago, a volcanic eruption caused the collapse of the Mount Mazama Volcano. The remaining crater began to fill in with rainwater and snow, creating a pristine mountaintop lake that’s nearly 2,000 feet deep. Its waters are so pure that it seems to mirror the deep blue sky above perfectly.
While getting hypnotized by the serene beauty of Crater Lake is certainly something to do here, it’s not the only thing to do. Hiking trails and scenic drives are abundant in the park. Rim Drive is particularly astounding as it takes you around the edge of the lake, offering photo opportunities around each turn. Guided boat cruises will bring you around the lake and give you a chance to hike its central island, all while teaching you about the history of this long-dormant volcano. There’s even a small area where you can take a quick dip in the lake – but be warned – it’s COLD.
Information About Crater Lake
Address: No physical address
Contact: (541) 594-3000
Price: $15 entry fee
Where to Stay
There are two developed campsites in the park, though only Mazama Campground can accommodate RVs. Campsites come with a picnic table and a fire ring. Features include a bathhouse, laundry facilities, and a camp store. Be sure to make a reservation at Mazama Campground, as spots fill up quickly. Rates are $31 per night, no hookups.
2. Hood River at Columbia Gorge
The town of Hood River sits on the banks of the Columbia River and Hood River junction. The state’s tallest peak, Mount Hood, towers just to the south. The area itself is known for its bevy of orchards and vineyards. The landscape is covered in fruit trees that bloom throughout the year. Take a trip on the 35-mile drive around the Fruit Loop to try the region’s best ciders, pies, wines, jams, and other home-grown products.
Though small, the town of Hood River offers a great deal of culture. Its downtown district is packed with boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. There are museums and art centers throughout the area, as well. Hood River County has plenty for the more active adventurer in your family, too. Wind and water sports are a popular pastime, and in fact, Hood River County is known as the windsurfing capital of the world. And of course, Hood Mountain offers some of the best hiking and rock climbing in the state.
Information About Hood River
Address: Hood River, OR 97031
Contact: (541) 386-2000 (Chamber of Commerce)
Where to Stay
It makes sense that this gorgeous valley would have dozens of campgrounds throughout the area. Just across the river from the town of Hood River is Bridge RV Park and Campground. This top-rated park offers full hookups, Wi-Fi and cable, showers, laundry, and most importantly – convenience. You’ll be just steps away from everything Hood River and the surrounding towns have to offer. Rates are $55 per night. Good Sam members get a 10% discount.
3. Multnomah Falls
While you’re in the Mount Hood area, don’t miss Multnomah Falls. This staggering 620-foot waterfall is one of the most visited places in the Pacific Northwest, drawing more than 2 million people each year. According to legend, the daughter of a Native American chieftain once sacrificed herself here to save her beloved from the plague that gripped the village. She appeased the Great Spirit by jumping off the tall cliff. As her body lay broken on the rocks below, a stream of water began to rush over the top of the cliff, creating the waterfall that still flows today. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of her spirit in the surrounding woods.
Though we wouldn’t recommend jumping off the cliff yourself, you can hike to the top of the falls for an impressive view. If the climb sounds like too much for you, there are several other vantage points along the hike, so you can customize the experience to your skill level. After a long day of hiking, head back down to the Multnomah Falls Lodge and sample their award-winning wine list while you dine on fresh PNW cuisine.
Information About Multnomah Falls
Address: Multnomah Falls, OR 97014
Contact: (503) 695-2372
Where to Stay
The Lodge doesn’t offer RV camping, unfortunately. The closest campground is Crown Point RV Park, about 10 minutes to the south. They only have 21 RV sites, so make sure to reserve a spot early. Amenities include free Wi-fi, on-site laundry, and a handful of shops and grocers within 1 mile. Rates start at $40 per night. For other options in the Columbia River Gorge area, check out this list of RV parking in Oregon.
4. Malheur National Forest
Malheur National Forest encompasses nearly 2 million acres in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. Here resides the largest living organism in the world – a massive fungus (did you guess it?). The Armillaria takes up an estimated 3.5 square miles and weighs upwards of 35,000 tons. It may be one of the oldest living organisms in the world, too, dating back some 8,000 odd years or so. Of course, its appearance above ground is much humbler; it presents as small clusters the yellowish mushrooms throughout the area. If you’d like to walk amongst the shrooms for yourself, head to the Reynold’s Creek area in the northeastern section of the forest.
The humongous fungus isn’t the only thing to see in Malheur. The Cedar Grove Botanical Area is another highlight, as it’s one of the few places you can see (and smell!) an isolated Alaskan Yellow Cedar grove in the United States. Magone Lake is another popular spot for swimming, fishing, and hiking. Don’t miss the opportunity for wildlife observation at Strawberry Mountain Wilderness; it’s home to five distinct ecological zones and an array of rare species.
Information About Malheur National Forest
Address: Malheur National Forest, OR 97820
Contact: (541) 575-3000
Price: Not listed
Where to Stay
There are five RV campgrounds throughout the forest. Magone Lake offers the most convenient location and variety of activities. Campers will enjoy views of the lake, as well as boat access and a sandy beach. Keep in mind that none of the campgrounds in the forest have hookups, so be prepared to boondock. Rates start at $13 per day.
5. Weird Stuff in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon is the epicenter of all things quirky. As such, there are plenty of odd and unusual things to see in the Portland area. We could tell you about all the regular tourist attractions, sure, but you’ll likely bump into those on your own time. Instead, why not check out the Woodstock Mystery Hole, a strange hole in the ground that reaches unknown depths. Visitors can descend into the darkness and explore the rune-covered tunnels for themselves. Or, try your hand at opening The Door That’s Never Been Opened (which is fortunate, because it looks exactly like a huge version of IT’s entryway). There are several mysterious attractions above ground as well.
Don’t miss The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium while you’re in town, either. Established in 1967, the Peculiarium serves as a museum for the creepy, weird, and gross. Exhibits include an alien abduction experience, a zombie apocalypse room, a giant yeti, and even an exhibit where you can see what it’s like to be buried alive. Oh, and an informational exhibit featuring a bathtub full of human limbs and organs – in case you ever wanted to know how selling organs on the black market works. Snap a few selfies before you stop by the gift shop to pick up some gruesome souvenirs.
Other notable stops in the Portland area include the Witch’s Castle, the Shanghai Underground Tunnels, the Zymoglyphic Museum, and Cathedral Park.
Where to Stay
Unlike most cities, which don’t offer much in the way of RV camping, Portland has a handful of RV parks throughout the city. Columbia River RV Park is a highly-rated park that’s adjacent to a marina. It’s within walking distance of shopping, dining, and RV dealers in Oregon for repairs. Amenities include full hookups, free Wi-Fi, DirectTV, and a pet park. Rates start at $40 per night. Good Sam members get a 10% discount.
6. Bagby Hot Springs
Bring along some hot tea for this next stop, because you’re in for the ultimate day of relaxation. These hot springs feature 10-foot long bathtubs carved out of Cedar trunks and an irrigation system that pumps in water at a balmy 136 degrees Fahrenheit. Soaking in the tubs is a nice way to wind down after hiking about 1.4 miles through the forest to get there, especially if you go in the fall or winter. There are several private baths as well as group bathtubs. However, it might not be the best place if nudity isn’t your thing, since most of the guests will be in their birthday suits.
Information About Bagby Hot Springs
Address: Bagby Hot Springs Trailhead, NF-70, Estacada, OR
Contact: (503) 630-6861
Price: $5 soaking fee
Where to Stay
Bagby Hot Springs Campground is adjacent to the trailhead and has about 15 sites for tent or RV camping. It’s a bare-bones campsite that is equipped only with the basics, like fire rings, picnic tables, and toilets. However, the proximity to the hot springs is worth the night of boondocking. Plus, you’ll have plenty of privacy in the depths of this beautiful old growth forest. Rates are $17 per night.
7. Cannon Beach
You really can’t go to Oregon without visiting Cannon Beach. This seaside village is home to a variety of galleries, museums, studios, and performance centers. In fact, it’s been named as one of the top 100 art towns in the country – so, you know, culture galore and all that. Cannon Beach is a great place for outdoor recreation as well. Ecola State Park is an old growth rainforest with miles of hiking trails and plenty of places to stop and take in the view. And of course, you’ll also have the opportunity to take photos and explore tidepools at the famed Haystack Rock.
Information About Cannon Beach
Address: Cannon Beach, OR 97110
Contact: (503) 436-2623
Where to Stay
It’s nice to stay in an upscale campground once in a while, right? The RV Resort at Cannon Beach is a welcome change to the more basic campgrounds we’ve covered on this list. Here, you’ll enjoy amenities like an indoor pool and spa, a park-like setting with spacious sites, a clubhouse and game room, a convenience store, and more. Full hookups include free Wi-Fi and cable. Rates range from $37 to $52 per night depending on the season. Check out this list of top RV parks in Oregon for more high-end campgrounds.
8. Enchanted Forest
Enchanted Forest began as Roger Tofte’s endeavor to bring family fun to the hills of Salem, Oregon. What started out as a handful of fairytale attractions is now a full-fledged mini theme park. There are several rides, including a log ride, adventure ride, and a roller coaster. Other attractions include Storybook Lane, a western town and European village, a water fountain with light shows, and more. What makes Enchanted Forest so unique is its quaint and folky feel – the Tofte family continues to do most of the work themselves today.
Information About Enchanted Forest
Address: 8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392
Contact: (503) 371-4242
Price: $12.50 for adults, $10.95 for seniors and children ages 3-12, free for kids 2 and under. Ride tickets cost extra.
Where to Stay
Emerald Valley RV Park is just a few minutes south of the Enchanted Forest. According to reviews, the park is clean and well-maintained. Amenities include full hookups and Wi-Fi is available. Otherwise, the park has fairly basic offerings. Some full-time residents. Rates are not listed.
Astoria is a small city at the mouth of the Columbia River. Its history reaches far back as the first city in Oregon, though most people probably know it for being home to the 1985 flick, The Goonies. Downtown offers plenty of opportunities to learn about Astoria’s history and modern-day culture. Or, explore the dozens of secret footpaths and trails that wind through the city’s forgotten spaces, AKA the Goonie Trails. They’ll certainly add an air of mystery to the experience as you traverse the town.
Information About Astoria
Address: Astoria, OR 97103
Contact: (503) 325-5821
Where to Stay
There are a couple of options for camping in Astoria. The Astoria KOA Seaside Resort is a top-rated campground in the area that offers an array of campsites in a picture-perfect location. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, sports courts, a hot tub, mini golf, and more. Rates range from $59 to $65 per night.
10. Lost Lake at Willamette National Forest
Deep in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest lies a strange natural phenomenon, Lost Lake. Each winter, the lake fills with rain and snow, making it appear like any other normal lake. But upon spring’s arrival, the lake drains itself into the the earth, creating a vast open meadow. Researchers believe the cause is an underground lava tube that collapsed long ago. Be sure to visit after the rainy season subsides if you want to peek into the depths of the mysterious drainage hole.
Information About Lost Lake
Address: NF-835, Sisters, OR
Contact: (541) 225-6300
Where to Stay
Lost Lake Campground is a no-frills site with 14 spots near the lake itself. There are several vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables throughout the grounds. There are no hookups and no potable water sources. Rates are listed as $8 per night, though reviews claim camping is free.
Uncovering Mysteries in the Beaver State
A road trip through Oregon will have you feeling like you might encounter a long-forgotten mythical creature at any moment. The Beaver State has some of the most unique and picturesque destinations in the country. So, whether you want to keep it weird in Portland or carve out your own path in Oregon’s tangled wilderness, there’s something for everyone in the family. Happy trails!