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Explore Oregon: The Natural Beauty of the Pacific Northwest

How can one state be home to so much natural beauty? Oregon is a feast for the eyes with its stunning scenery that ranges from cascading waterfalls and turquoise lakes to lush, fairytale-like gardens deep in the woods. The perfect destination for the whole family, start planning a vacation to Oregon where you’ll enjoy days filled with outdoor adventure and magnificent beauty. Let’s get started!

Waterfalls Full of Wonder

With at least 238 waterfalls in the state of Oregon, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a chance to see them all in person—especially since some of them are almost totally inaccessible to humans (by foot anyway). But a trip to the Beaver State wouldn’t be complete without making the rounds and seeing some of the spectacular waterfalls that burst forth out of the Cascade Mountains or the Columbia River Gorge. Let’s look at some of the not-to-be-missed waterfalls scattered around Oregon.

Elowah Falls

Like a scene from a fairytale, the Elowah Falls features a fantastic stark-white waterfall surrounded by brilliant yellow-green lichen. The contrast in color is breathtaking and very photo-worthy! However, it can be hard to capture its beauty in a picture, as the spray from the fall is far reaching. While this waterfall flows year round from the Columbia River Gorge, optimal viewing times are late winter and spring. At 213 feet high, 75 cubic feet of water plunge over the edge every second! You’ll find it near Warrendale in the Columbia River Gorge.

Multnomah Falls

Experience Oregon’s tallest waterfall by visiting Multnomah Falls, located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area about 30 miles east of Portland. Once here you’ll be in the midst (and mist) of an epic 542 foot-tall waterfall that features a two-tiered plume. This waterfall offers views from both the top and the bottom. Hike just over 2 miles to the top and ascend 700 feet in elevation for a view that will take your breath away. Or watch it flow from down below on the pedestrian bridge that is suspended over the water. Multnomah Falls is the second largest waterfall in the country and the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest with over 2 million visitors a year!

Proxy Falls

Located in the Cascade Mountain Range almost right in the middle of the state, Proxy Falls is a great family destination, as the hike in and out is easy and relatively short. This unique waterfall begins as one stream up above that divides into two lovely water flows that cascade down onto the lava below. If you’re into winter hiking, put this waterfall on your list. Not only is the snow-covered waterfall a spectacular sight (bring your camera!), but since this is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Oregon, you’ll avoid the crowds that happen during peak tourist season.

Salt Creek Falls

Powerful and magnificent, Salt Creek Falls has an annual water flow of 50,000 gallons per minute! The sight and sound of this will wow you! This is Oregon’s second highest waterfall at 286 feet tall. Thanks to a concrete observation deck that’s located just off the parking lot, a great view from the top is easy and guaranteed. Head toward Oakridge-Westfir in the Cascade Mountains to find the Salt Creek Falls.

Lovely Landscapes

Oregon has just one national park, but natural wonders can be found everywhere you look. The perfect state for outdoor lovers, the landscape includes dense forests, Japanese gardens, mountain ranges, and Pacific coast beaches. Here is just a sampling of the natural beauty of this west-coast state.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

When you think of Oregon, do sand dunes come to mind? I didn’t think so. But Oregon is home to a 40-mile stretch of a protected sand dune area that’s perfect for exploring, climbing, off-roading, whale watching, and digging your toes in the sand! Towering almost 500 feet above sea level, these dunes aren’t anything to sneeze at. They’re huge, and they seem to stretch on forever! Buggies are available for renting, or you can bring your own off-road vehicle to the motorized section. If you’re into wildlife, head to the highest part of the park, the Umpqua dunes, where you’ll have the best view for watching the whales migrate south from Alaska to Baja, California, from December to January and back up north anytime between March and June! Head to the Pacific to visit the dunes. They stretch from Florence down to North Bend, right along the water.

Crater Lake National Park

As Oregon’s only national park, Crater Lake is a must-see for anyone going to or passing through Oregon. Not only is it amazingly clear, but it has an interesting history to go along with it. Crater Lake was formed nearly 8,000 years ago when Mount Mazama erupted and then proceeded to collapse and form an expanse almost 4,000 feet deep. What it left behind has aptly been named Crater Lake and it’s the deepest lake in the United States—and the ninth deepest lake in the world! A great way to experience the magnitude of its beauty is by taking a boat tour around the lake and visiting Wizard Island. Once the site of Klamath Indian rituals, this large but lonely island sits quietly in the azure blue waters of the lake. Crater Lake is located in the southwest corner of Oregon in the Cascade Mountains.

Mount Hood

From the deepest lake in the U.S. to the highest mountain in Oregon, Mount Hood in northern Oregon is magnificent! Whether you head here in the winter or summer, there’s plenty to do on this second-most-climbed mountain in the world. Mount Hood has six ski areas and offers the only year-round skiing in North America, which makes it a popular place for Olympic-hopefuls to practice during warmer months. Mount Hood, which rises above the Columbia River Gorge and is surrounded by 12 glaciers, is actually an active volcano that could potentially erupt at any time, which is why the U.S. Geological Survey updates its status every Friday online and on Facebook. Aside from the threat of eruption, Mount Hood offers awesome opportunities for biking, hiking, skiing, windsurfing, wildflower and waterfall gazing, exploring the farm-fresh restaurants, and enjoying the hand-crafted beers and local pinots and chardonnays.

Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon

Step back into prehistoric times by making a visit to the Painted Hills, part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Located a little northeast of Bend, Oregon, in Mitchell, the Painted Hills are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon—and it’s easy to see why! Layers of soil in beautiful shades of reds, yellows, golds, and blacks make it a unique landscape that has been in the making for millions of years. Volcanic eruptions and the changing climate are responsible for the brilliant hues underfoot, and they seem to always be changing due to sunlight and rainfall. Embedded in the colorful ground scientists have found evidence of past plant and animal life. Fossils of prehistoric elephants, saber-toothed tigers, rhinos, and lush plants have been uncovered, revealing more information about what this area used to be like. Come here for a hike, to take frame-worthy photos, learn about the area’s past, or to just gaze at an epic landscape that can only be found here in Oregon.

The Oregon Pacific Coast

Don’t leave the state of Oregon without heading west to travel up and down the beautiful coast that stretches for 300 miles! There are areas where dunes rise high above the water and are great fun to climb up and then run (or tumble) down. There are also areas, like the Neahkahnie Mountain, that provide a jaw-dropping view of the ocean below. Or have fun watching the harbor seals splash around or bask in the sun along the sandy beaches. Whether you want to hike along the ocean, sunbathe, or make sandcastles with the kids, Oregon’s endless coastline offers fun for the whole family.

If you’re planning a trip to the amazing state of Oregon, make room in your schedule for these bucket-list stops. Take pictures along the way and share them with us on our Facebook or Instagram pages. They’re sure to inspire our readers to put Oregon on their list of must-visit U.S. destinations!

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