You don’t know real Oregon until you see these bucket list destinations.
Last updated: November 21, 2023
The 8 Best Places You Must See in Oregon: Bucket List Destinations for Outdoors Lovers
Oregon… Home to a new culinary darling of the country, the world’s largest used and new books bookstore, frequent rains, and an easier way of life.
For some, it’s the ultimate travel destination. For others, those who despise rain, it’s one of the most dreadful states to travel to during the fall and winter seasons. Yet one thing you can’t take away from Oregon is its diversity and an abundance of natural bucket list destinations.
Arid lands, snow-dusted mountains, astounding river canyons, gushing waterfalls, and rugged coast to die for… Oregon is a state of contracts. It amazes with its nature, inspires with its vibrancy, and promises the most unexpected experiences in the great outdoors.
South or north, a vast valley or an impenetrable forest, every region of Oregon harbors its own unique bucket list destinations. Some are world-known. The majority, however, reserve their charm to a handful of locals that venture deeper into the state’s wilderness.
We’ve been to Oregon twice, exploring its popular and secluded bucket list destinations during different times of the year. One thing we can say for sure, the Beaver State with its four distinct seasons in one area and practically no winter along the coast can easily jeopardize your painfully-planned itinerary.
But while suddenly closing one door, Oregon opens a narrow alley to another bucket list destination, a place you didn’t know you needed to see until nature itself pointed you in the right direction.
THE 8 BUCKET LIST DESTINATIONS IN OREGON EVERY NATURE LOVER MUST SEE
1. Crater Lake National Park
The deepest lake in the country, Crater Lake is Oregon’s most favorite bucket list destination. The park is located in the southern part of the state and astounds with its grandeur, scenic hikes, and deep blue color of the lake.
As deep as 1,943 feet in the most cavernous depressions, Crater Lake sits in the center of the national park. Once home to an active volcano, the area adapted to a more peaceful and reliable natural state thousands of years ago.
Some 7,700 years ago, the volcano erupted. Hot lava rushed out, destroying everything on its way. Over the next centuries, the massive caldera, inaccessible by any land rivers, was a lonely place. Only rain and melted snow dared to descend into the dark abyss until the level of the precipitation inside reached the brim of the caldera.
All over sudden, the unappealing area became one of the most alluring bucket list destinations in the state of Oregon. Nearly half million people travel to this secluded area to feast their eyes on the bluest lake in the country and hike along its tree-dotted rim. The most adventurous nature lovers even dare to swim in the freezing cold waters of one of Oregon’s prime destinations.
2. Silver Falls State Park
Nestled a little bit over 1 hour north of Eugene, Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s bucket list destination skipped by many visiting nature lovers. The state park is relatively small, approximately 9,000 acres. But it holds an astonishing number of waterfalls, raging from short cascades to towering plunge falls.
The best part, all of these waterfalls sit along the 7.2-mile Trail of Ten Falls, which itself is nothing short of a remarkable bucket list hike in southwestern Oregon.
Yes, the name of the trail doesn’t lie. 10 waterfalls are nestled along a picturesque canyon, surrounded by dense coastal forests, generously flecked with Oregon’s iconic moss-covered trees.
For centuries, the area had been home to the Kalapuya and Molalla people. Starting in 1812, when the first white settlers arrived, the Native American were slowly driven aways. The area, however, hasn’t lost its raw appeal and has been an alluring bucket list destination for Oregonians and visiting nature lovers since the early 1930s.
3. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
While Portland, the largest city in Oregon, entices with its urban vibe and culinary scene, the Columbia River Gorge is the ultimate bucket list destination for outdoor adventurers.
The enchanting canyon sits mere 16 miles east of Portland. Spanning 80 miles and reaching up to 4,000 feet deep, it’s home to 90 waterfalls, a profusion of hiking and biking trails of all lengths and for all activity levels, and the most irresistible views in the state. And I dare to say there is something special in the air that makes you want to come back again and again.
We returned to this Oregon bucket list destination twice during our 4-day road trip across the state a few years ago. Rain was a perpetual companion of the area in late winter. It seemed like the canyon tried to scare away all human visitors and give sufficient time for nature to restore itself before more hikers would flock to the area.
True enough, only the most ardent outdoor lovers relished the splendor and tranquility of this cherished Oregon bucket list at that time. Slippery trails were mostly empty. But the waterfalls at the end of those hikes bewildered with their force and uninterrupted flow.
4. South Falls
Most of the more than 230 waterfalls in Oregon are bucket list destinations of some kind. In southwestern Oregon, such a desiring natural attraction is South Falls. Located in Silver Falls State Park, the plunge waterfall drops 177 feet over an overhanging basalt cliff into South Silver Creek.
Deafening sound of the dropping water announces the waterfalls a short walk away from the South Falls Day Use parking lot. A few minutes later, the first waterfall along the Trail of Ten Falls sets the bar so high that you inevitably compare all other waterfalls along the path with this towering bucket list plunge.
Apart from its dramatic look, South Falls is also known as one of four waterfalls in the park you can walk behind. A little alcove separates the dropping water from the cliff wall. It’s not as deep as at North Falls, but spacious enough to let you stay dry while admiring the “watery curtain” in front of you in summer.
TIP: In late winter and spring, when the waterfalls are at their peak flows, you may need to wear a raincoat or use an umbrella while strolling behind our Oregon bucket list destination number 4.
5. Willamette National Forest
The Willamette National Forest adds to your Oregon bucket list a number of scenic hikes, hidden hot springs, cascading waterfalls, and pristine rivers and lakes.
One of the highlights of the area are Terwilliger or Cougar Hot Springs. Nestled 53 miles east of Eugene, these concealed natural pools have become a hot spot among local and visiting skinny-dippers.
About a mile away, the Blue River amazes occasional drivers with its clear water and unspoiled surroundings, before emptying into the McKenzie River.
6. Multnomah Falls – Oregon’s Tallest Bucket List Waterfall
The tallest waterfall in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is also one of the top bucket list destinations. At 620 feet, this Columbia River Gorge’s giant surpasses all other waterfalls in the entire state.
Two forceful tiers of the falls are visually separated by the Branson Bridge. The footbridge is suspended between the upper drop and lower cascade. It can be reached via a well-trodden 0.2-mile trail, festooned by moss-covered trees on both sides.
Unlike the majority of the other bucket list sites on this list, this Oregon’s most admired attraction is an easy pull-off along the Historic Columbia River Highway.
7. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
In southwestern Oregon, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is one of the biggest natural landmarks. The 12-mile scenic drive stretches between Bandon and Brookings and boasts a number of breathtaking sites, such as Natural Bridges, Secret Beach, Arch Rock, and Whaleshead Viewpoint.
This Oregon bucket list is one the most enticing destinations on the South Coast all year round. Moderate temperatures, scenic hikes, and untamed waves playing at the bottom of the majestic cliffs allure nature lovers from all over the state and other parts of the world even in winter when the place surrenders to seasonal calmness and tranquility.
8. Latourell Falls
Almost as famous as its neighbor, Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls is another beautiful bucket list waterfall Oregon’s nature lovers traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway like to stop at.
Significantly shorter, about 250 feet, Latourell Falls entices with its powerful drop and pristine location. The water plunges over a lichen-plastered cliff and lands on a basalt platform. Here it splashes into different directions, so close to the Latourell Falls Trail that you can feel the drops on your skin or even walk all the way to the waterfall and enjoy its ice-cold sprays.
The water hardly ever stays at the bottom of the falls. Once reaching the rocky ground, it rushes to unite with Latourell Creek. The stream runs under a wooden footbridge and then continues its uninterrupted course through the Columbia River Gorge.
The Latourell Falls Trail, however, doesn’t stop at the bottom of the waterfall. Gradually ascending, it runs along the canyon to upper falls.