Day trips from Portland, Oregon:
Situated on the Willamette River (pronounced Will-am-it), lies the city of Portland. With snow capped Mt Hood to the east and Mt. Saint Helens to the north (yep, the active volcanic mountain that blew it’s top off in 1980), Portland, OR lies in the most optimal spot for day trips in all directions.
Whether you are looking to hit the slopes of Mt. Hood, smell the ocean from Cannon Beach or sip wine in the Willamette valley you can easily venture out for a day trip and be back home in time for dinner.
Below I will share 4 day trips in each direction from Portland. Enjoy!
To the north:
Mount St. Helens – Drive 1 hour and 30 minutes on I-5 north to Mount St. Helens in Washington state.
Mount St. Helens is home to a maze of lava tubes that are available to hike through called Ape Caves. They formed over 2,000 years ago from lava that erupted out of St. Helens.
Legend has it that Ape Caves have been known to have had Sasquatch sightings! In 1924 some miners and a family of Bigfoot apes are said to have had a skirmish. The story has taken on a life of it’s own and the entire area embraces the lore of Bigfoot sightings.
You will need to bring a flashlight and be prepared to pay $5.00 for the day to park your car on the mountain. My husband and I hiked this about 3 years ago and it was an experience I will never forget. I recommend wearing gloves, as it is dirty and wet inside the caves. Be prepared to climb an 8 foot wall at one point during the hike. Don’t worry there is a ladder.
In the summer time you will find berry stands along your drive, (once you exit the highway) as you near the mountain. Embrace the road trip and pull off to enjoy some fruit! I recommend packing a lunch as there are not a lot of places to pull off for food.
To the east:
Hood River – Hood River is a small city that sits directly on the Columbia river nestled in the gorge just an hour east on highway 84 from Portland.
This city has a laid back vibe where everyone seems to be stuck in a time capsule from the early 2000’s. You will see locals dressed in quick silver, skater/snowboarder garb, trucker hats, billabong board shorts, all while spotting lots of late model VW’s with bumper stickers that sport the slogan “life is good”.
Hood river hosts windsurfing competitions in the summer as it happens to be one of the most windy places in the world to wind surf. Check out what the Hood River Chamber of Commerce has to say about it here.
Half way to Hood River from Portland do yourself a favor and pull off at exit 28 to see Multnomah Falls. You can take a short hike to the top of the falls for a different vantage point. This is a touristy spot, so the weekends in the summer tend to be the busiest and parking can be difficult although there is a wealth of parking spots. My advice is to go on a weekday if possible and go early.
In Hood River remember to bring quarters for parking. Yes the town still uses parking meters that take coins! Did I not tell you this cute town is stuck in the past? In a good way. There are some options to use your credit card at a few select parking areas, but for the most part coin meters are used.
Hood River has a handful of breweries in town such as Full Sail Brewery , Double Mountain Brewery, and pFriem Family Brewers just to name a few. Beer not your thing? Try Hood River Distillers or a wine tasting at the Naked Winery.
To the south
Willamette Valley – The beautiful wine country known as Willamette Valley is only an hour’s drive south on interstate 5 (I-5) from Portland. Head to the town of McMininnville and experience wine country at it’s best.
Stroll 3rd street and browse shops before stopping in Terra Vina Wines for a wine tasting. Pinot Noir is the Willamette Valley’s claim to fame.
To the west:
Cannon Beach – This picturesque coastal town is exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes from downtown Portland. The drive is easy, Just take highway 26 west and you will be smelling the salty ocean in no time.
Cannon beach is the cutest coastal town in Oregon in my opinion. You won’t find a corporate McDonalds or Starbucks here. This small town regulates what business come in and likes to keep it authentic.
It is also considered to be one of the top dog friendly beach towns in the United States. If you will be visiting the Oregon coast with your furry companion, consider checking out this great article from Your Dog Advisor, which provides a run down of the top 10 dog friendly activities on the Oregon coast.
Cannon Beach boasts a plethora of independent restaurants, coffee shops, and souvenir shops in it’s main downtown area along the ocean front. Grab a coffee from Insomnia coffee shop before taking a stroll along the beach toward picturesque Haystack rock.
When you reach Haystack rock take the opportunity to stop for a photo op and then play like a kid in the tide pool that lies directly in front. You will find crabs, barnacles and anemones!
At this point you have likely built up an appetite, so walk back into town and stop at Ecola Seafood and try the clam chowder and haddock fish and chips.