Oregon is known for its natural beauty and miles of open spaces. It is a region with stark contrasts, from dense forests to coastal tide pools and beaches to canyons and desert in its eastern half. To see all it has to offer is nearly impossible but your Oregon road trip should include at least a handful of volcanoes, waterfalls and hot springs. The best place to start is among the bright lights of Oregon’s biggest city, Portland. Fly into Portland, or drive there, for the start of a road trip that features seven destinations you can easily cover in two weeks.
This Ultimate Oregon Road Trip Takes You To Volcanoes, Waterfalls, and Hot Springs
1. Mt. Tabor
Only a stone’s throw from downtown Portland, Mount Tabor is a dormant volcano. With its beautiful symmetric peak, it sports several trails for a day hike. Seeing Portland from the top is highly recommended, as the lights below light up while the sun sets.
2. Mt. Saint Helens
Okay, this one is Washington. But it’s only a couple hours north of Portland, and is a must see, so we included it in this list. It’s been almost forty years since the devastating eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, but the drive to this amazing, snow-capped peak is well worth the visit. Head north on your Oregon road trip by visiting Mt. St Helens for a hike or single track mountain bike ride in this area. We suggest Loowit trail for a hike through wildflower strewn meadows in spring, and Ape Canyon Trail for world class mountain biking with a panoramic view. Spend two days in this area, and find camping in the area.
3. Bagby Hot Springs
On day three, head out to a hot spring for a soak, but choose one you can reach in a half day drive, and enjoy affordable camping. In the Mt Hood National Forest sits the most developed hot springs in a “primitive” location, the jewel known as Bagby. The campground in the vicinity is reasonable, and the springs themselves cost only $5. You’ll need to hike a mile and a half to reach the soaking pools in cedar tubs. Temps range from 120 to 138 degrees. The road to reach Bagby is gravel so take your time getting here.
4. Bend and Surrounding Hot Springs
Head out of the Portland area, and drive to Bend, then head south to reach Lakeview and Hunter’s Hot Springs. It’s a good day’s drive by the time you reach the springs themselves, so pack food and save time by camping in the area. Your destination is Paulina Hot Springs, which requires a hike but overlooks a large and remote lake. The volcanic area includes a built up soak tub, but access only occurs in summer and early fall.
5. Paulina Falls
Near the lake you’ll find Paulina Falls, a fabulous hike on paved trails to a series of waterfalls with an 80-foot drop. As with the nearby springs, summer is the time to visit, as elevation is over 6,000 feet. This is a cascade and plunge waterfall.
6. Summer Hot Springs
Since you are in the area, continue south to Summer Lake Hot Springs, another remote location but with lodging on site. This Oregon road trip destination has reasonable lodging (about $85 a night) and mellow springs that range from 106 to 118 degrees, and it’s about two hours south of Bend—or two hours from Paulina. If you don’t want to pay for lodging, tent camping is available on the 145-acre resort here.
7. Koosah Falls
Winding your way back to Portland, check out Koosah Falls along the MacKenzie river in the Willamette National Forest. This fall is a 64-foot drop into a large and foreboding pool. To get there, there is a 2.5 well-maintained trail. Before heading back to the city, spend one last night under the stars at the adjacent campground.