It's no secret that Oregon is full of opportunities for adventure. From the Cascade Mountains to the Oregon Coast, and everything in between, it would take a lifetime to see everything the state has to offer. But even if you don't have unlimited time, Oregon is full of readily accessible mountains, beaches and waterfalls that can be experienced in a day or a weekend.
A wise man once told me Trillium Lake looks almost "as if God put it there on purpose." God didn't do it, but the Department of Fish and Wildlife could not have come up with a better location when in 1960 they constructed the dam that formed the lake. Just a short drive off the highway (or snowshoe - the road closes in winter), Trillium Lake is as accessible as it is gorgeous. Try going at sunrise for an incredible light show on Mt. Hood's east flank, and to avoid the crowds that often populate the area on summer weekends.
Bald Mountain Viewpoint
An offshoot of the legendary Pacific Crest Trail, Bald Mountain is difficult to find - but well worth the adventure. Overlooking Mt. Hood's western glaciers and the raging Muddy Fork, it's far more common to see deer and other wildlife than people, despite its proximity to Portland.
Tucked away in the nether reaches of Oregon's Central Cascades, Tamolitch Pool is like nowhere else on Earth. Surrounded by old growth Douglas Firs, massive ferns and the idyllic McKenzie River, the pool appears seemingly out of nowhere. Springing up from an ancient lava flow, the water is deep blue, perfectly clear, and freezing cold.
The trail itself is fairly short and fairly flat, but with some rough terrain near the end. Give yourself adequate time to enjoy the hike along the way, and then drive a few minutes up the road to nearby Sahalie and Koosah Falls, two of the most underrated waterfalls in Oregon.
Terwilliger Hot Springs
Just down the road from Tamolitch Pool, Terwilliger Hot Springs comes bubbling out of the hillside above Cougar Reservoir at a comfortable 112 degrees. Unlike most other hot springs in Oregon, Terwilliger is a public facility, and the pools are constructed only of stacked boulders. The springs can be crowded on weekends, so we suggest going on the morning or on a weekday to enjoy the location's natural setting in peace. And like most natural hot springs deep in the woods - clothing is optional.
Located in what might best be described as the middle of nowhere, Toketee Falls is not Oregon's largest waterfall, but could easily considered its most spectacular. With gorgeous turquoise water and a stunning basalt amphitheater framing each side, Toketee Falls is a must-see.
Getting to the falls is only a short hike from the parking lot, but the trail ends at a viewing platform high up on the hillside. Ambitious photo-seekers have been known to scamper down the muddy hillside to the base of the waterfall, from where spectacular, face-on pictures can be taken. While in the area, be sure to check out Umpqua Hot Springs, as well as Watson Falls - the 3rd tallest waterfall in Oregon.
Perhaps no natural site in the entire Northwest is better known than Multnomah Falls. The tallest waterfall in the state - Multnomah feature a gorgeous arch bridge crossing halfway up the cliffside, as well as the Columbia River (and many more waterfalls) just steps away. Located just off Interstate 84 and very close to Portland, Multnomah Falls is easy to find and highly photogenic. In the fall, the hillside's deciduous trees turn gold, and during winter cold snaps, the Falls have been known to freeze entirely, creating a stunning scene.
Multnomah Falls only has one trail itself - which goes from the base of the falls to the top - but the surrounding Columbia River Gorge is full of trails waiting to be explored. After stopping at Multnomah Falls, consider the hiking to Triple Falls, Latourell Falls, or taking the legendary Eagle Creek Trail to Punchbowl Falls.
Crater Lake National Park
Oregon's only National Park, Crater Lake is the legacy of Mt. Mazama's explosive volcanic eruption approximately 8,000 years ago. The eruption, roughly 42 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens' 1980 eruption, produced a circular caldera from which rain and snow cannot escape, forming a natural lake nearly 2,000 feet deep. With no rivers flowing into it and no nearby pollution sources, Crater Lake has some of the purest water on Earth. In fact, in a 1997 test, scientists were able to see all the way to bottom at the depth of 175 feet! Crater Lake's dark blue color is the product of the lake's depth and purity.
Crater Lake hosts is home to a number of trails, one of which descends from the Crater Rim to water surface level. Great for recreation in summer, Crater Lake is perhaps even more spectacular in Winter - a season with few people and an unmeasurable number of unreal views.
Samuel Boardman State Park
What was once nearly a National Park itself, Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a collection of short trails paralleling Highway 101 on Oregon's Southern Coast. The park's rugged coastline features numerous rock arches, coves and sea stacks, many of which are lined with fir trees. The Natural Bridges, pictured below, are a cluster of rock arches that form a hidden cove. For a fun adventure challenge, try locating the aptly named Secret Beach, which is only accessible at low tide.
Cape Kiwanda at Pacific City
Home to one of the only beaches in Oregon on which cars are allowed to drive, Pacific City is an excellent spot for camping, exploring, and drink local craft beer at the beachside Pelican Brewery. Cape Kiwanda State Park is the sandstone bluff that towers over Pacific City Beach, extending far out into the Pacific and hosting an array of rock formations, tide pools and wildlife. Most of the Cape is technically off-limits to the public, but motivated adventurers will find an uncrowded abundance of natural beauty on the other side of an easily hoppable fence.