Best Road Trips in Oregon & Top Oregon Scenic Drives

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through one of these links we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions and suggestions are our own and we are grateful for your support.

This Pacific Northwest US state is full of spectacular natural beauty. So, it’s no surprise that taking scenic drives in Oregon is a top activity. But what are the best road trips in Oregon, and how do you plan your route? Read on, and we’ll tell you!

The well-maintained Oregon scenic byways and highways will take you through lush forests, farmland, vineyards, and even desert. They will take you along a stunning coastline, into charming towns and past countless waterfalls, rivers, and lakes, as well as some pretty unique natural wonders. An added bonus is that much of the time you’ll also have views of majestic snow-capped mountain ranges.

With so much to see, planning an Oregon road trip itinerary is not an easy task. It will depend on many factors including how much time you have, who you’re traveling with, and what beautiful Oregon sights you most want to see.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our personal favorite Oregon road trips, along with suggestions from fellow Pacific Northwest explorers. Each of the following road trips in Oregon can be done individually, or they can be combined with other suggested routes to create a longer itinerary if you have more time.

We’ve suggested the minimum amount of time to allow, including overnight stays, based on experiencing at least some of what’s on offer. Some of these Oregon road trips can be done in one day if you’re really pressed for time but to fully appreciate the beauty of Oregon the more time the better!

Where you begin your road trip will, of course, depend on where you’re coming from. If you live in Oregon you’ll obviously begin from home, wherever that may be. 

If you’re driving in from Washington State you’ll probably begin in Portland, Astoria, or Hood River. From California, Lakeview, Ashland, or Brookings will be your most likely start point. Coming from Idaho you’ll have a bit of a drive through very undeveloped areas before connecting with the more popular Oregon routes.

Flying into Oregon, your best bet will be to arrive at Portland International Airport and hire a car or RV rental from there. There are several other airports in Oregon including one in Eugene but flight options will be fewer and usually more expensive.

Wherever you decide to begin, we’re sure you’ll find these suggested Oregon scenic drives very helpful in creating your own memorable Oregon road trip.

Oregon Road Trip Map

Top Road Trips in Oregon

Northern & Central Oregon Coast Road Trip 

Aerial view of Cannon Beach Oregon

Start & End: Astoria to Newport (or reverse)

Distance/Drive Time: 133 miles along Highway 101/ 3 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 2 nights and 2 full days. 

Despite the relatively short distance, don’t make the mistake of thinking of doing this Oregon coast road trip in one day. It’s true that the scenery from your car window alone will be epic. But, it’s the stops along the way and the many Oregon coast attractions that make this Highway 101 road trip one of the most popular scenic drives in the Pacific Northwest.

Spend a bit of time in historic Astoria, home to some lovely Victorian architecture, and the filming site for movies like The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop. If you have time Fort Stevens State Park and Fort Clatsop are beautiful spots for a hike or beach walk.

Head south to the quintessential Oregon beach town of Seaside with its lovely boardwalk promenade and main street full of arcades and candy stores. Next stop is Ecola State Park which is full of wonderful hikes, beaches, and stunning views including a view of the iconic sea stacks on Cannon Beach which you’ll recognize from every Oregon coast brochure.

If you like lighthouses Cape Meares is a must for an up-close look and a postcard-perfect photo. Carry on and you’ll find Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda, Depoe Bay and Yaquina Head Lighthouse plus many more “must-stop views” along the way. The final stop on this Oregon coast road trip is the charming seaside town of Newport where you can explore the cute waterfront main street and have some fresh seafood at the famous Moe’s

Where you choose to stay overnight will depend on how long you have for this road trip and whether you plan to continue down the southern part of this Oregon coast drive as detailed below. You will find hotels, BnB’s, cabins and camping all the way along Hwy 101 but it’s best to book ahead especially from July-Sept.

~ Read more from Sarah at Live Dream Discover

Choice Hotels on the Northern Oregon Coast:

Choice Airbnb’s on the Northern Oregon Coast:

Tip: If you’re new to Airbnb sign up with this code and get up $52 off your first booking

Southern Oregon Coast Road Trip

Thors Well at sunset on an Oregon road trip

Start & End: Yachats to Brookings (or reverse)

Distance/Drive Time: 181 miles along Highway 101/ 4 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 2 nights and 2 full days

One of the best Oregon Road Trips anyone can experience is a drive down Highway 101. This scenic road reveals one of the most impressive coastlines that exists anywhere in the world.  The most photogenic stretch lies between the coastal towns of Brookings and Yachats.

The drive itself is 181 miles and takes just under four hours. While you could easily make the trip in a short day, consider taking at least 1-2 nights if possible. This will allow you to enjoy the dramatic west coast sunsets over some of Oregon’s most iconic spots and discover the jewels that dot your route.

Of particular note, be sure to schedule time for Cape Perpetua outside of Yachats. In addition to amazing forest trails and several one-of-a-kind seascapes, this region is also home to one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon; the dangerous but beautiful Thor’s Well. To ensure a safe visit, queue up this guide to learn everything you need to know about visiting Thor’s Well.

Other highlights of this route include the otherworldly seascapes at Pistol River and the world-renown Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor.  

The best options for accommodation are in the towns of Yachats, Bandon, Gold Beach, and Brookings. Of these options, Bandon is the most charming, and the nearby beaches feature some of the most interesting sea stacks in all of Oregon.

Brookings also is a vibrant city close to Samuel Boardman and Harris Beach State Park that is worth considering.  If nothing else, be sure to grab a bite at Superfly restaurant on your way through!

~ Read more from Sophie & Adam at We Dream of Travel

Choice Hotels on the Southern Oregon Coast:

Choice Airbnb’s on the Southern Oregon Coast:

Tip: If you’re new to Airbnb sign up with this code and get up $52 off your first booking

Short Road Trip from Portland

Little boy walking along Lincold City beach Oregon

Start & End: Portland to Lincoln City

Distance/Drive Time: 116 miles/ 2.5 hours 

Time to Allow: Minimum 1 full day

A trip from Portland to Lincoln City can be done in less than two hours by heading southwest on Highway 18 or I-5. However, if you want to turn it into a scenic Oregon road trip take the US-26 W and OR-6 W to Tillamook and then go south on Highway 101. Drive time will only be increased by about 30 minutes and you’ll get to see so much more.

Portland is one of the top places to visit in Oregon and since this road trip starts in “Stumptown” as it’s sometimes known, you may want to enjoy some of the attractions before you head out. Check out places like the Pittock Mansion, Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Gardens, and the many food trucks and craft breweries Portland is known for.

When you’re ready, head towards Tillamook. Stop at the Tillamook State Forest Center to learn about the area and try to make time for a hike. Before you get to the coast, visit the Tillamook Creamery where you can learn how it operates, sample cheese, and enjoy some ice cream or a meal at the cafe. 

Next, make your way down the Oregon coast, arriving in Lincoln city. There are tons of beach houses available on Airbnb or you can stay at the Pelican Shores Inn, located directly on the oceanfront.  

After settling in, take advantage of the beach by playing in the water, going for walks along the shore and spend your evening around a bonfire roasting hot dogs, smores, and other treats while listening to the waves crash. 

Nearby you can visit Devil’s Lake for some fishing or watersports and when you want to take a break from the water visit the Lincoln City Glass Center where you can blow your own glass creation.

~ Read more from Dan Bagby at Cabin Critic

Choice Hotels in Portland

Choice Airbnb’s in Portland

Tip: If you’re new to Airbnb sign up with this code and get up $52 off your first booking

Willamette Valley Loop Road Trip

Vinyards and trees with a blue sky

Start & End: Portland-Eugene-McMinnville-Portland

Distance/Drive Time: 240 miles/ 5 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 1 night and 2 full days

The romantic Willamette Valley is nestled in between three mountain ranges and the Columbia River making it a gorgeous scenic drive in Oregon. It’s not a huge area but there are lots of things to see and do, especially if you like wine and nature.

If you’re starting in Portland or Eugene a loop along I-5 in one direction and Hwy 99 W in the other is a great way to cover most of the top sights in Willamette Valley. An overnight in either city is a great choice and allows for a full day to each direction which is the bare minimum if you want to make numerous stops. If you plan to enjoy some wine tasting you can also choose the cute foodie town of Mcminnville, home to over 20 tasting rooms. Or have a cool Oregon glamping experience in nearby Dundee. Both spots are within 20 miles of 200+ wineries.

Whichever route you decided to travel there are some top spots along the way that shouldn’t be missed. Woodburn is a popular shopping stop because of the Premium Outlets and in the spring the fields of tulips in bloom is an impressive colorful display. Historic Salem is the capital of Oregon and has some cultural sites and museums.

If you have an extra day consider spending it at Silver Falls State Park and hike to some of the 10 waterfalls. Nature lovers and adventure seekers should also think about adding a day or more around Eugene which is less than 2 hours from the spectacular natural wonders of Clear Lake and Diamond Peak.

Heading north from Eugene you’ll find yourself immersed in Oregon’s wine country. Venture just a little off Hwy 99 W and you’ll find dozens of off-the-beaten-path wineries around Corvallis, Monroe, and Albany and even more as you close in on McMinnville and Carlton.

~ Read more from Sarah at All About Glamping

Choice Hotels in McMinnville

Choice Airbnb’s in McMinnville

Tip: If you’re new to Airbnb sign up with this code and get up $52 off your first booking

Columbia River Gorge Drive/ Mount Hood Scenic Loop

Lkae in foreground with snow covered peak of mount Hood in background

Start & End: Portland-Mount Hood-Portland

Distance/Drive Time: 200 miles/ 5 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 1 night and 2 full days

Most visitors plan a road trip in Oregon to begin in the most populated metropolis: Portland. Equal parts quirky, laidback and exciting, this city makes a great stop on any Oregon itinerary. There are plenty of fun things to do in Portland, but when you’ve had your fix of city life, get ready for an adventure past waterfalls, a mighty river, thick forests, and past ruggedly beautiful mountains. 

Depending on how much you want to pack in, this route could be done as a (very long) day trip and you could even return to Portland by evening. However, if you have the time, there’s plenty to see and stretching it out over a few days will give you more flexibility for stops along the way.

Head east on Interstate 84, and just outside the city limits, the landscape will start to shift as you enter the Columbia River Gorge. This lush canyon follows the Columbia River and is dotted with waterfalls and hikes of all levels and distances. While crowded, be sure to stop at the iconic Multnomah Falls, which is located just 30 miles outside of Portland. This two-tiered waterfall towers at 620 feet, and the bridge between the two sets of falls makes for a stunning photograph at all times of the year.

Continue alongside the Columbia River and stop at any of the waterfalls along the way that strike your fancy, keeping in mind that some are much more popular than others. 

Tip: To avoid the crowds, choose waterfalls that require a bit of a hike to reach and you’ll likely find some peace and quiet instead of being surrounded by selfie sticks.

Once you’re done “chasing waterfalls”, make a pit stop in the charming town of Hood River. Enjoy a brew at one of the city’s best breweries like pFriem, Double Mountain, or Full Sail. And be sure to look out on the river, as this area has world-class kiteboarding and windsurfing. If you’re traveling at a more leisurely pace, Hood River is a perfect spot to spend the night. But if you’re tight on time, get back in your car, and begin heading south toward Mount Hood.

Continue on until you reach the base of Mount Hood. Depending on how much time you have, this is the perfect opportunity to do some real hiking. There are short and easy trails as well as those that will bring you in the backcountry on a multi-day hike, so there is an adventure in this area for everyone. For one of the best views of Mount Hood, head to Trillium Lake, and relax with a picnic or get on the water with a SUP or kayak.

From here, you can head back to Portland where you began your trip, or you can continue on to explore more of the incredible state of Oregon.

~ Read more from Katie and Ben at Two Wandering Soles

Choice Hotels in Hood River

Choice Airbnb’s in Hood River

Tip: If you’re new to Airbnb sign up with this code and get up $52 off your first booking

Crater Lake/ Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Road Trip

Blue lake with mountain in the background

Start & End: Bend to Crater Lake (or reverse)

Distance/Drive Time: 200 miles/ 4 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 1 night and 2 days

Being active and enjoying nature are some of the best things to do in Oregon and the area from Crater Lake National Park to Bend, Oregon is an adventure lover’s paradise. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet deep. It was formed 7,700 years ago when an eruption caused the collapse of Mount Mazama volcano and created a stunning caldera with incredibly pristine, clear, impossibly blue water.

Open year-round and beautiful in all seasons, summer is the most comfortable time to visit. You can hike multiple trails, go for a swim, take a boat tour, and drive around the Rim road to check out all the viewpoints. Overnight options range from camping in one of the campgrounds to a hotel stay at Mazama Village or the historic Crater Lake Lodge.

To continue enjoying the great outdoors on your way to the recreation hotspot of Bend, you can see some amazing Oregon gems along the way. Toketee Falls, less than an hour from the Rim Village Visitor Center, is a 0.8 mile round trip trail to get to one of the most famous waterfalls in Oregon with incredible basalt columns.

From Toketee Falls, take the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to Bend for a full day or days of fun. You will pass by multiple lakes including Crane Prairie Reservoir and Little Lava Lake that are favorite spots of fishing enthusiasts. Devil’s Lake and Sparks Lake are filled with people kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and swimming. Hikers will enjoy the 6.8 mile out and back hike from Benham Falls to Dillon Falls along the rapids of the Deschutes River. 

Each one of these areas has a campground where you can stay overnight or for multiple days. This short Cascades Lakes road trip definitely belongs on a USA bucket list and is packed with unlimited fun.

~ Read more from Jenifer at The Evolista

Choice Hotels in Bend

Tip: If you’re new to Airbnb sign up with this code and get up $52 off your first booking

Choice Airnbnb’s in Bend

Eastern Oregon Road Trip

Painted Hills of red, orange and yellow on an Oregon road trip

Start & End: Crater Lake to Painted Hills

Distance/ Drive Time: 600 miles/ 14 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 6 nights and 7 days but 10 days is ideal

Heading from Bend to Crater Lake is a sure route to take but instead of heading west to the Oregon Coast or south into Northern California have you ever thought to head east? Eastern Oregon is definitely the least visited area of the state but it’s very worth a visit!

After heading east from Crater Lake you’ll immediately notice a difference in the landscape. You’ll go from lush forests and mountains to arid steeps and alien landscapes. Here are some of the highlights on this eastern Oregon route:

Stop by Summer Lake for a dip in their hot springs and hike up to Hagar Mountain. Ride through Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and over to the Steens Mountain. There are hikes and a scenic ride at the top of the mountain and down below, Alvord Desert. You can take your car on to the salt flat for a fun ride and the Steens Mountain as your backdrop. There’s even another hot spring on the playa!

Head up north towards John Day and hike, chase a waterfall, and camp in the beautiful Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. End your road trip through the alien landscape in the John Day Fossil Beds. You’ll find ancient rock formations in the Clarno and Sheep Rock Units and vibrant layers at the Painted Hills Unit.

Cool Places to Stay:

Crystal Crane Hot Springs –  Sleep in tipis and, surprise! Another awesome hot spring to relax in.

Summer Lake Hot Spring – You know what’s here, and they also have cozy cabins to stay in.

Alvord Hot Springs – You can camp right on the playa with your own tent or stay in a rustic bunkhouse. 

~ Read more from Nina at Oregon is for Adventure

Choice Places to Stay in Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon is largely undeveloped so this road trip is ideal for camping, especially in the places Nina mentioned above. Plus, in our opinion, it’s also the best way to fully experience this part of the State. If camping or rustic accommodations aren’t your thing you’ll be fairly limited on options.

Oregon Outback Scenic Highway

Old cabin

Start & End: La Pine to Lakeview (or reverse)

Distance/Drive Time: 185 miles/ 3 hours

Time to Allow: Minimum 1 night and 2 days

The Oregon Outback Scenic Byway offers an opportunity to explore the untamed wilderness of Oregon’s cowboy country. The 185- mile road trip begins in La Pine and ends in Lakeview near the California border, where Highway 31 joins route 395. To best experience the magic of the area, the road trip requires at least two days. 

Along the Oregon Outback, sweeping vistas, mirage-like lakes, sprawling ranches, and shallow pastel-colored mountains define much of the landscape. Highlights of the drive include the tuff monolith of Fort Rock, and the therapeutic waters of the Summer Lake Hot Spring.

Fort Rock is the first major road trip attraction along the scenic byway. The towering tuff ring rises from the barren high desert like a fortified castle. The area contains a few hiking trails that provide views of the monolith and its surroundings. 

Continuing on from Fort Rock, the drive traverses Lake County’s brush-covered hillsides and winds around its numerous shallow Alkali lakes.

At the southern end of Summer Lake, an artesian mineral hot spring resort boasts a 100-year-old bathhouse and three rock-walled soaking pools. The Summer Lake Hot Spring features geothermally heated cabins, a campground, and RV hookups. Overnight accommodation includes 24-hour access to the indoor soaking pool and mineral springs.

While the Summer Lake Hot Springs lie near the end of the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway, travelers wishing to extend their road trips can continue on toward Lake Abert, the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, or the California border. 

~ Read more from Erika at Erika’s Travels

Choice Hotels in Oregon Outback

Oregon Road Trip Tips

  • Oregon is a year-round destination but the best time for an Oregon road trip is spring and fall when the weather is pleasant and the roads and Oregon sites aren’t as busy. Like most Pacific Northwest destinations summer is the busiest with lots of family travel while the kids are out of school and winter is the quietest because of the predominantly grey wet days.
  • Allow plenty of time. Although some of these Oregon road trips are short in length it will always take you longer than you’d expect because you’ll constantly be wanting to stop for views, sights, and photos. Also, the Oregon Coast drive and sights like Multnomah Falls can get pretty busy in high season.
  • For the more popular Oregon road trip routes it’s wise to book accommodations and campgrounds well in advance or you may find yourself sleeping in your car. This is especially true of the Oregon Coast between June and September.
  • For longer Oregon road trips or if you plan to visit Oregon more than once in a year it’s worth considering a $30 Oregon State Parks Pass. If you don’t get a pass you’ll have to pay $5 each time you enter a State Park. 
  • With any road trip we recommend downloading an offline map for use when you’re in more remote or low-service areas.

Pin It For Later or Share with Friends!

4 images of Best Road Trips & Scenic Drives in Oregon
4 Images of Best Road Trips in Oregon