Those who live in the Portland, Oregon, area are particularly spoiled because they have access to some of the best day trips imaginable. Whether your family is full of hikers looking for new trails, or you're more of a kayak clan who wants to paddle the estuaries of the Pacific Ocean, Portland day trips are sure to thrill or chill as desired. Since taking care of family is already enough work without planning excursions, we've thrown together this quick guide to help you plan the perfect day trip!
5 Breathtaking Day Trips from Portland, Oregon, for the Whole Family
Cannon Beach is one of the most accessible beach towns to reach if you're planning a one-day getaway. It is best known for its iconic Haystack Rock, which you might recognize from the end of the movie The Goonies The town itself has many shopping and dining options, and the beautiful Ecola State Park is just a short drive north.
At a little over an hour's drive, Tillamook is the quickest coastal town you can do in a day. You'll find sandy beaches and tide pools in and around the area, not to mention several manmade attractions like the Tillamook Creamery.
Just like Cannon Beach, Astoria has a couple of remnants from the movie The Goonies you should check out if you're a fan. These include the film's pizza parlor, one of the starring kid's homes, and the jailhouse, which has been converted into the Oregon Film Museum. Just make sure to indoctrinate your kids, so they're up to speed on the movie when you visit. If you're not a Goonies fan, there's a lot of other family-friendly things to do in town, like scaling the Astoria Column and throwing balsa wood airplanes off to see who will fly the farthest.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River Gorge is hands down the most majestic and convenient of all the outdoor recreational areas to visit from the Portland area. More or less a national park, the gorge is an excellent destination for a range of outdoor activities. Hot spots families will enjoy include the majestic Multnomah Falls and the gorge's Vista House, which has impressive views, a tiny museum, and of course, a gift shop. You can always take "The Bridge of the Gods" to the Washington side of the gorge to double your sightseeing when making a round trip.
Nearby National Parks
While none of the national outdoor areas near Portland are officially referred to as "parks," they still offer your family more or less the same enjoyable experience. Here are some besides the Columbia River Gorge that you can do on a pleasant day:
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
This famous national volcanic monument can be seen from PDX and reached in about two hours. Once you're there, you can enjoy hiking trails that meander through wildflower patches, views from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, and a lot more.
Mount Hood National Forest
There's a lot to do in this forested outdoor area, such as — surprise, surprise! — visit Mt. Hood. If you're into aquatic recreation and it's the right time of year, you could consider cooling off in Trillium Lake. Meanwhile, if you want to show your kids something extraordinary, drive up the Timberline Lodge, which you might recognize as the exterior shooting location of the Overlook Hotel from Kubrick's movie version of "The Shining." We're sure your kids will love this about as much as The Enchanted Forest.
Nearby State Parks
There are state parks all over the Pacific Northwest, many of which are just a short drive from the Portland area. These are some of the most well known and loved.
Silver Falls State Park
While here, we suggest walking the particularly popular Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park. Similarly attractive is South Falls, which is near a coffee shop that goes by the same name.
Smith Rock State Park
If you're just as into the road trip as you are the destination, Smith Rock might be your huckleberry (or marionberry, since we're talking Oregon). Although it's about a three hour drive away, you'll pass through the Mt. Hood National Forest, so it's a great way to fit in a family fun two-fer.
Ecola State Park
Although we already mentioned it above, we figured we'd remind you about this popular beach destination. While we would advise you not to hold your breath in hopes of a clear day, do make sure to stop by Cannon Beach while you're in the area.
Nearby Oregon Cities
There are quite a few Oregon cities that you can visit in the day if you're heading out from the PDX metro area. As the capital, Salem and its state capitol building are an obvious choice. Drive just a little further, and you can visit Eugene, where you can check out attractions like the Museum of Natural and Cultural History or enjoy biking on the scenic Willamette River Bike Trail. Finally, suppose you're already considering driving through the Columbia River Gorge. In that case, you might as well go all the way through to the city of Hood River. There you can enjoy shopping, dining, and a few historic attractions.
Who Didn't Make the Cut?
Many people don't realize it, but the Willamette Valley is one of the world's most famous wine regions. As such, there are many different AVAs you can visit that are only a short drive from downtown Portland. While cities with wine tasting rooms like Newberg are only a little over a 30-minute drive away, some other small towns include McMinnville and Dundee. Of course, day trips full of drinking and driving don't mix, so bookmark this one for a later day.
Seattle is great, but believe us; it's too far to do as a decent day trip. It gets even worse if you hit traffic on the way, which, if the past is any predictor of the future, you definitely will. Trust us. Just. Don't. Do. It.
Do you have any favorite day trips from Portland, Oregon, to take with the whole family? Help some fellow parents out by sharing your tips on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!