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  • A tranquil moment at Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon
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    Portland Region: Scenic Beauty Meets Authentic Culture

  • Cycling winding roads through Mt. Hood National Forest on Oregon’s Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway
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    Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge: Majestic Mountain and Waters

  • Kayaking on Elk Lake with mountain views
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    Central Oregon: Outdoor Adventure Outpost

  • Traveling the open road in Eastern Oregon via motorcycle
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    Eastern Oregon, Part 1: Hot Springs and Painted Hills

  • Taking a behind-the-scenes tour at Barley Brown’s Beer in Baker City, Oregon
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    Eastern Oregon, Part 2: Connecting with Nature and History

  • Awaiting sunrise at Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon
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    Southern Oregon: Everything from White-Water Rafting to Winery Hopping

  • Fat tire biking along the Oregon Coast at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint
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    Oregon Coast: A Remarkable Coastline Home to a Legendary Lighthouse

  • Cycling the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
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    Willamette Valley: Oregon’s Storied Wine Country

  • Stunning views overlooking the Oregon Coast
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    Back to the Coast for an Iconic Beach and Fishing Village

Exploring the Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon
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Oregon Road Trip: The Ultimate 7 Wonders Adventure

By Christi Womack

  • Route distance:
    2263.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    2 weeks +

This epic road trip reveals why every corner of Oregon must be explored.

From its stunning Pacific Ocean coastline to pristine lakes, mountains, vineyards, forests and rivers, the scenic state masterfully blends nature adventures with charming cities. Begin your quest to visit the 7 Wonders of Oregon and find inspiration at every turn. See for yourself why the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Smith Rock, Painted Hills, Wallowa Mountains, Crater Lake and the Oregon Coast made the list of seven. Stop often to sip an Oregon wine, bike a mountain trail or simply pause to take in the views.

01
A tranquil moment at Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon
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Portland Region: Scenic Beauty Meets Authentic Culture

Pick up a car at Portland International Airport (PDX), then start your Oregon road trip by unwinding in beautiful surroundings just 25 minutes away. Two blocks west of the Willamette River, explore the serene Lan Su Chinese Garden, designed by experts from Suzhou, China, Portland’s sister city. At the Teahouse, sip a cup of Chinese tea and enjoy steamed buns, mooncakes and a noodle or dumpling bowl. Once refreshed, head about 20 minutes west to Oyatsupan Bakers in Beaverton, where you can pick up authentic Japanese baked goods for the road. (You can also sample the bakery's sweet and savory treats at Umami Cafe in the Portland Japanese Garden.) Next stop: Forest Grove and SakéOne, an American brewery creating award-winning sake made from the pristine waters of the Willamette Valley. Tour the facility to see the brewing process and learn about Japanese traditions. Visit the Tasting Room to try several aromatic varieties, some sweet and some dry, but all pleasing to the palate. There are many lovely hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts to make your base as you explore the Portland region. South of Portland, leave ample time to see Willamette Falls, the largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest by volume. Better yet, find an outfitter (eNRG Kayaking is one favorite), and book a kayak or paddleboard trip that takes you close to the base of the nearly 13-meter cascade. Before leaving the area, visit the Central Eastside Portland neighborhood and sample the region’s culinary specialties. Local makers offer everything from sustainable honey to made-from-scratch confections and specialty sea salt – items that are perfect take-along treats for your trip.

67 km
0.75 hours by car
02
Cycling winding roads through Mt. Hood National Forest on Oregon’s Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway
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Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge: Majestic Mountain and Waters

This leg of the trip features two of the state’s seven wonders, Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood. Head south to Mt. Hood Territory, where the terrain surrounding the snow-capped volcanic mountain offers four seasons of outdoor fun, including opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in the summer months. For a cycling trip, follow the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway along the Clackamas and Breitenbush rivers on a winding, challenging ride through lush forest territory. Begin near downtown Estacada, then pedal 114 kilometers on remote roadways to the end, where you can take a break to rest and eat in Detroit. Explore more of the area’s scenery at Wildwood Recreation Site and Cascade Streamwatch in Welches. Wander along interpretive trails and serene boardwalks in wetlands and along streams.

Next, head toward the Historic Columbia River Highway and admire gorgeous views of cliffs, river and forest on the way to Cascade Locks. Here, you’ll discover Thunder Island, home to the Port of Cascade Locks Marine Park and beautiful views of the Bridge of the Gods. The cantilever bridge spans across the Columbia River and crosses the Pacific Crest Trail (tip: book a hotel or lodge with a view of the river). Step inside Thunder Island Brewing Co. to enjoy craft beers at the seven-barrel brewery and taproom in Cascade Locks. Board the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler sightseeing cruise to witness the breathtaking scenery and waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area from the river itself. Back on land, drive east to the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center & Museum to learn about the history of the river, local geography and animals; time a visit to see one of the live raptor presentations. Before heading south to your next step, spend some time on the nearby Riverfront Trail in The Dalles and explore the scenic, paved path along the river.

159 km
2 hours by car
03
Kayaking on Elk Lake with mountain views
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Central Oregon: Outdoor Adventure Outpost

After arriving at Central Oregon's Smith Rock State Park, see the amazing faces of the basalt rock cliffs that are a mecca for climbers. Other park options include biking or running the Summit Trail or hiking along the River Trail, where you can sit on a bench and watch climbers. For a refreshing outing, go paddleboarding on the Deschutes River with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe outfitters in Bend, voted the best paddleboard getaway by Outside Magazine in 2014. Reward yourself after a day of exploring by enjoying pub food at the Bend Brewing Company, downtown. Wash down your meal with a pint of an extra-hoppy IPA or a full-bodied stout. In the nearby Deschutes National Forest, see lakes, lava flows and summits at Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Hike the 2,433-meter Paulina Peak, and board a shuttle bus from the Lava Lands Visitor Center to reach the Lava Butte summit. While you’re exploring the area, stay at Black Butte Ranch, a former ranch turned resort. In the summer, play golf, go fly-fishing or canoe in Phalarope Lake with lovely views of the Cascade Mountains in the distance. In the winter, try skiing and snowboarding nearby at Hoodoo Ski Area or Mt. Bachelor. Follow the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to reach Sparks Lake, a pretty escape with a four-kilometer hiking loop. If there’s snow, snowshoe this striking terrain. Another great place featuring picturesque routes for cyclists is the Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway northeast of Bend.

180 km
2.25 hours by car
04
Traveling the open road in Eastern Oregon via motorcycle
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Eastern Oregon, Part 1: Hot Springs and Painted Hills

At the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, see another Oregon wonder: the Painted Hills. Here, claystone hills in hues of red, gold and black are found on the remnants of an ancient flood plain. Visit the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center to learn about the plant and animal life that inhabited this magnificent landscape some 40 million years ago. Cast a line for bass or steelhead in the nearby nationally designated Wild and Scenic John Day River. This 457-kilometer tributary of the Columbia River winds its way north through ponderosa forests, rugged canyons, charming communities and the impressive Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Continue east to Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, where you’ll get a glimpse of early 1900s Chinese settler culture in a building that once housed an herbal medicine dispensary and general store. Learn about the two Chinese immigrants who made their business a community gathering place; it still looks much like it did in 1948.

At this point, you’re likely ready for a refreshing craft beer. Head south to Burns and stop at Steens Mountain Brewing Company, where the motto is “Basecamp for Adventure.” Savor regional brews that highlight must-see local spots (for example, go to McCoy Creek after sampling a Scottish Ale named after the site, or try the pale ale inspired by Harney Valley). End this part of your trip by visiting Crystal Crane Hot Springs in the middle of the high desert. Soak in the soothing, hot spring pond or in a private soaking tub. Go for the day, or stay overnight in a waterfront cabin, bunkhouse or even a teepee.

277 km
3.25 hours by car
05
Taking a behind-the-scenes tour at Barley Brown’s Beer in Baker City, Oregon
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Eastern Oregon, Part 2: Connecting with Nature and History

On your way to see the Wallowa Mountains, stop in at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to get a glimpse of pioneer life through interactive living history exhibits. Enjoy the amenities in historic Baker City, which for three years was named one of Rand McNally’s six most beautiful small towns in the USA. Featured on the National Registry of Historic Places, this former mining town has an impressive historic walking tour. Scope out the stately Geiser Grand Hotel or a comfortable inn to stay the night. Once you’ve completed your stroll, enjoy handcrafted beverages at a trio of local establishments. The family-run Copper Belt Wines makes its varieties with grapes grown locally on an original Oregon Trail pioneer homestead. Inspired by the region’s mountain landscapes, Glacier45 Distillery specializes in vodka, both plain and with locally sourced flavorings, such as cucumber, huckleberry and pepper. Don’t miss Barley Brown’s Beer, a brewery known for its award-winning beers and savory bar food. Satisfy your cravings with bangers and mash, a flat iron steak or a locally sourced burger.

Enjoy touring local farms and ranches featuring goats, cattle and fresh produce on the nearby Cove-Union Farm Loop driving tour. A short drive north lies the Wallowa Barn Tour, another self-guided option featuring the region's signature historic barns amidst the striking Wallowa Mountain range. Spend some time marveling at the natural beauty of this place, which includes the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Lake and Hells Canyon. Reserve the next day for traveling back through southeastern Oregon, meandering through small towns along the way, to see another wondrous site.

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752 km
8.5 hours by car
06
Awaiting sunrise at Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon
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Southern Oregon: Everything from White-Water Rafting to Winery Hopping

That drive across the state pays off enormously with your first view of Crater Lake National Park. The 594-meter-deep lake – the deepest in the USA – formed after a volcano collapsed 7,700 years ago. Hike or bike along the rim of the cliffs that surround the pristine deep-blue waters. Later, take a two-hour drive southwest to Gold Hill for family-friendly white-water rafting. Join an outfitter’s guided trip on the Rogue River through the section that includes the Nugget and Powerhouse class IV runs. Enjoy the forested canyon scenery while splashing through the rest of the class II rapids. Relax afterward at Kriselle Cellars in nearby White City. Atop the highest hill at the vineyard, the winery’s tasting room serves cheese plates (and wood-fired pizzas on weekends) along with a versatile collection that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc. About 90 minutes away, more hiking, biking, kayaking and birdwatching experiences abound in the region surrounding Klamath Lake. If you have time, drive the full 27-kilometer loop around the lake to explore the mountains, waterfalls and numerous trails. Stop at the Rocky Point Resort to rent watercraft, enjoy a meal and stay overnight in a cabin. Next day, head out for an exhilarating experience at the Crater Lake ZipLine in Klamath Falls. Soar through the tree canopy of the Fremont-Winema National Forest and see astounding views of Klamath Lake and the Cascade Range.

386 km
4.5 hours by car
07
Fat tire biking along the Oregon Coast at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint
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Oregon Coast: A Remarkable Coastline Home to a Legendary Lighthouse

There is no way to prepare for the jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged Oregon coastline. Stop at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, a state park in Bandon, where rocks called sea stacks jut out of the ocean. Walk down steep stairs to the sandy beach at low tide. It’s part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, so expect to see baby seals and a variety of nesting seabirds, including tufted puffins (a protected species, so take caution to stay clear of their nests and habitats as you observe them). Drive north on U.S. Route 101 (also known as the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway) for about two hours to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Surrounded by the Siuslaw National Forest, the circa-1894 lighthouse built on a rocky bluff is said to be haunted by the Gray Lady ghost. Find out if the legend is true by booking a stay in the bed-and-breakfast in the light keeper’s cottage. Next morning, get an early start to drive 19 kilometers north to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area on the edge of the forest. Venture onto the visitor center’s deck for sweeping views of the pristine coastline, then set off to explore some of the 42 kilometers of trails. Nearby, you’ll find Cook’s Chasm and the Spouting Horn, a geyser shooting water from a rock inlet. At high tide, you can also see Thor’s Well, a deep-sea cave taking in water as the tide swells and spouting it out six meters high. Explore at low tide to view sea creatures living in shallow tide pools. Make sure to follow tidepool etiquette: Step on bare rock whenever possible; look, but don’t touch (or only touch gently); and don’t remove items from tidepools. Another way to tour Oregon’s 584-kilometer coast is to park the car and book a fat-tire bike excursion – cruising the sandy and rocky terrain gives a different perspective of the spectacular coastline.

177 km
2 hours by car
08
Cycling the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
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Willamette Valley: Oregon’s Storied Wine Country

Enjoy every minute you are in the Willamette Valley, so pretty with its rivers, hills, valleys and vineyards. See the countryside on a cycling tour of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway. To see six covered bridges, pedal the 32-kilometer loop in Cottage Grove and around Dorena Lake. About 165 kilometers north, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, visit Silver Falls State Park where hiking trails offer views of canyons and dense forests. The signature attraction is the park’s exquisite waterfalls. Via the Trail of Ten Falls, walk behind the famous South Falls and see the 54-meter cascade from a unique vantage point. Go rustic and spend the night in one of the park’s cabins. No visit to the Willamette Valley is complete without visiting a winery and tasting some of the region’s varietals. Combine two experiences into one to visit Arcane Cellars at Wheatland Ferry outside Salem. Paddle along the Willamette River Water Trail in a kayak or canoe and “park” right at Arcane Cellars. Bordering the Willamette River and the Eola Hills, grapes grown in this 12-hectare vineyard produce 23 red and white varietals. Check out the picnic area, bocce court and campground. Also visit Willamette Valley Vineyards to see why it earned Sunset Magazine’s “Best Vineyard/Tasting Room Experience” and was called “One of America’s great Pinot noir producers” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Known for its sustainable wine production, Willamette Valley Vineyards also offers a fabulous Estate Tasting Room experience. With valley vistas before you, enjoy wines paired with a meal featuring locally sourced ingredients. Sip an Estate Pinot noir while eating grilled steelhead trout or an Estate Chardonnay as you savor every bite of the salmon ravioli.

110 km
1.5 hours by car
09
Stunning views overlooking the Oregon Coast
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Back to the Coast for an Iconic Beach and Fishing Village

Head west again to experience the beauty and wonders of Oregon’s North Coast. The first stop is Pacific City, where surfers go to Cape Kiwanda year-round. Take in the views of Haystack Rock and the fleet of flat-bottom dory fishing boats used for hundreds of years. (Keep a safe distance as the boats beach themselves to return with their catch.) Visit one of the restaurants serving salmon, crab, tuna and rockfish that the fishermen bring back. Stop often at scenic spots and inviting towns along U.S. Route 101 on the two-hour drive north to the historic city of Astoria. Built in 1926, the Astoria Column rises 183 meters above sea level. The observation deck provides views of Young’s Bay, the Astoria-Megler steel cantilever bridge, the Coast Range and the Columbia River that are worth the climb. Jump aboard the Riverfront Trolley, a vintage streetcar, for a fun tour of the city with stops at attractions and hotels. Stop by the Astoria Chamber of Commerce for a map with all the must-see sights. It will be hard to leave charming Astoria, but your road trip of Oregon’s 7 Wonders ends today. Drive 155 kilometers to Portland, where it all began, to turn in the rental car and catch a flight home.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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