Bored in Portland and don't know what to do? Fear not, for there are so many incredible day trips to be had. From cascading waterfalls, mighty volcanoes, and sumptuous hot springs to wine-and-food-tours, state parks, and beautiful beaches, there's a trip for every taste at just a stone's throw from this vibrant Oregon city. If there's a whole day or two to spare in Portland and it's not quite known how to spend it, consider these memorable excursions that surely won't disappoint.
9 Multnomah Falls
Located in the Columbia River Gorge just 30 minutes from Portland, the stunning Multnomah Falls is one of the country's most famous and photographed waterfall areas. Why? These falls are over 600 feet tall and are officially the USA's third-highest.
The majority of visitors arrive and walk five minutes to the parking area to view the falls, however, those that venture up the 1.2-mile path to the very top will find the best panoramic views of them from the observation deck. The trek is short but steep, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and take it easy on this particular hike.
8 Breitenbush Hot Springs
A visit to Breitenbush Hot Springs is one of Portland's most relaxing. There's something about soaking in the natural geothermal hot springs at this holistic resort that provides guests with the ultimate stress-busting experience. As a plus, the resort also offers a delightful spa - The Sanctuary - where yoga and daily meditation classes take place.
Visitors can also unwind with meditative hikes on the resort's aptly named trails such as the ‘Inner Path,’ ‘Emerald Forest’ and ‘Spotted Owl’, all of which deliver gorgeous mountain vistas, pretty river views, and scenes of ancient forest cathedrals along the way. Couple such serenity with the resort's enticing menu of massages, and it's undeniable that this spot is one of Portland's best for a wellness retreat. And, what's even better is that they cater to dietary needs with their organic vegetarian cuisine selection.
7 Mount Hood
Less than 80 miles from Portland is the activity hub of Mount Hood - a place renowned for its adrenaline sports in winter and zen pastimes in summer. Skiing and snowboarding are fantastic here in the colder season, whilst spring and summer are great for hiking, biking, and fishing.
One of the best ways to explore the area is by taking a guided fishing tour, or alternatively renting a canoe or kayak at Trillium Lake, which is widely cited as one of the most beautiful spots for swimming, paddling, and water activities in all of Oregon.
Not just for adrenaline-junkies and lovers of the great outdoors, history, film, and literature buffs will also be in their element; the Timberline Lodge lies in this very area - a National Historic Landmark that was actually used in aerial shots for the world-famous movie The Shining based on Stephen King's best-selling horror novel. And because the site is located at the midway point of the mountain, having lunch or dinner there affords heart-stopping views of the iconic mountain peak.
6 Willamette Valley
This one's for the wine fans; it's one of the best Portland wine-tasting adventures out there. Willamette Valley - the largest AVA in Oregon - boasts more than 200 wineries producing internationally-renowned fine wines and pinot noir. This celebrated wine region is impressively vast, starting off at Columbia River to Portland's north and venturing through Salem all the way to the Calapooya Mountains. Making almost three-quarters of all wine in Oregon, the region is also one of the leading wine producers in all of America.
A particularly perfect spot within the region for vino aficionados to check out is The Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area located in North Willamette Valley, where four dozen wineries with tasting rooms invite visitors to enjoy a flavorful trip of the senses. And although the main prize and product here is wine, this entire region of drinks-and-foodie heaven also produces prolific amounts of other tempting treats, including organic cheeses, piquant preserves, fresh meats, and even artisan chocolates.
Head 90 miles southwest of Portland to find the famous town of Tillamook - the one and only hub for the most obsessed of cheese fanatics. The town is the home of the Tillamook Cheese Factory, where hungry visitors can indulge their senses at what's often said to be one of the very best factory tours in the USA's west.
The self-guided tour is available daily and allows guests to observe workers as they fulfill the cheese-making process, whilst useful information displays explain what it is exactly that's going on as the master cheesemakers create their stomach-grumbling-inducing cheeses before entire blocks of the delicious dairy products are packaged and boxed along a conveyor belt. Even though there's an on-site café serving up mouth-watering cheeseburgers, mac n' cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches, visitors will probably be full by the end of the experience due to the factory's generous free cheese samples to be savored.
Sounds a bit too cheesy? No worries, before filling up on cheese, visitors can work up an appetite hiking the five-mile Cape Lookout Trail along the coast, which delivers stunning scenes of cliffs. Don't forget to keep an eye out on the ocean - humpback whales are occasionally seen passing by.
This trip is a bit longer, but it's definitely worth it. Wake up early and head out to the “Emerald City" of Seattle, where staggering mountains and blankets of lush forests surround the metropolis at every angle. Seattle is truly a magnificent USA city to behold, with numerous green parks, and the twinkling waters of Lake Washington to the east and Puget Sound to the west.
The three-hour journey from Portland will be worth every minute because there's simply so much to do and see in Seattle. From the legendary Space Needle and Mount Rainier in the distance to the Columbia Tower Observatory and the iconic Pike Place Market, classic Seattle attractions abound and are seemingly endless. There are also plenty of entertaining museums, as well as excellent nightlife to enjoy after dark. Throw in the city's incredible restaurants and food vendors, and it's highly likely that visitors will fall in love with the place, instead opting to stay for at least a couple of days - not just one.
3 Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens can be found about 70 miles north of Portland just after the Oregon border. The mountain sticks out in the distance with its scarred form - a feat of Mother Nature that quite literally blew its entire peak off during its 1980 eruption, destroying its once almost-perfectly symmetrical cone shape.
After the spectacular natural phenomenon, it left a horseshoe-shaped crater and obliterated much of the surrounding terrain, leaving it a damaged, barren wasteland. However, fast forward many decades later to the present day, and visitors will be impressed to see the place full of flora and fauna once again - a true testament to the will and perseverance of nature.
Whilst the mountain can be seen from endless angles, it's widely known that the very best views are from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is actually the starting point of The Boundary Ridge Trail that takes visitors a mile away where incredible scenes of the blast zone can be discovered. Furthermore, to learn about the eruption and the area's natural environment, people can also head to check out the many exhibits at the local visitor center.
2 Cannon Beach & Ecola State Park
A trip in and around Portland just has to include a day at the seaside, and among the very best of Oregon's beaches along its rugged coastline is Cannon Beach. At just 80 miles northwest of Portland, the short journey is only one of the reasons to go. The town offers a fun day out experiencing the coastal lifestyle with its lovely oceanfront restaurants and food joints, plentiful souvenir shops, and even some art galleries.
The town is and its beach is also home to a fascinating natural landmark; Haystack Rock - a huge monolith that's even been featured in several Hollywood movies, including much-loved long-time classics like The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop. Interestingly, Haystack Rock is also a protected wildlife refuge; it hosts a seabird nesting colony that can be observed from a short distance during summer. Plus, adorable nesting puffins can sometimes be seen in the area.
Nature enthusiasts will also like the many tide pools that form at low tide, where abundant marine species thrive from early spring to early summer. Once finished exploring the town and beach, there's even more outdoors to discover at Ecola State Park just 10 minutes to the north. The park offers superb vistas of the Pacific Ocean, along with the scenic, abandoned Tillamook Rock Lighthouse out at sea. Within the park, two other points of note are Indian Beach and Ecola Point and Indian Beach, both of which are lovely viewpoint spots at which to kick back, sit at a picnic table with some lunch, and soak up the magnificent scenery.
1 Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is the division between Oregon and Washington states, and one of the best ways to experience this remarkable place is by road-tripping through it. Starting out at Troutdale just to Portland's east, adventurers can follow the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is in fact the Northwest’s first paved road and the official first scenic highway in the United States. The route goes for 74 miles to The Dalles, along which plenty of panoramic views will take one's breath away. There are also several points of interest to stop at during the drive as well, including Crown Point - an otherworldly setting overlooking the gorge from 900 feet high above the river below.
Additionally, there are numerous other waterfalls off the highway that can be seen from the vehicle or after a short hike. Many of these extra trails also showcase vibrant exhibits of wildflowers in between the odd winery located across the route. Yet another point to check out on the way is the Bradford Island Visitor Center located just to the west of Cascade Locks. The spectacle to be seen here is the show put on by salmon and steelhead fish as they swim upstream, showing off their tiresome climb up the river. Thrill-seekers will be kept happy in this area too; it's popular for its outdoorsy activities, such as kiteboarding and windsurfing.