/ /

The 16 Best Hikes in Oregon: Complete Oregon Hiking Guide

It’s time for me to talk once again about the most magical place on earth. A place where the fir trees grow tall, where waterfalls cascade into clear blue pools, where snowy mountains dominate the landscape, where rugged ocean coastlines crash into basalt headlands, and where the high desert spreads as far as the eye can see. 

How, you ask, can all this wonder be packed into one geographic location? Well, friend—you must be in Oregon! And the best way to see the great Beaver State is on your own two feet. Today you’ll catch a glimpse of the 16 best hikes in Oregon to see the state’s diverse landscapes and savor all of its splendor.

Your guide will be none other than moi—a (near) lifelong Oregonian and lover of all things Oregon—the people, cities, coast, forests, mountains, valleys, and desert. I’ve been hiking in Oregon for as long as I can remember so let’s get going and see everything this state has to offer!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

Tips for Hiking in Oregon

Before we get into the specific hike recommendations, let’s go over a few things you need to know before you set out to tackle the best hikes in Oregon.

When to Go Hiking in Oregon 

Depending on how far you’re willing to travel, how intrepid you are, and whether you’ve got snow tires, you can enjoy the outdoors anytime of the year in Oregon. The Willamette Valley and coast rarely get snow, and if we do it only lasts for a few days.

That’s not to say, however, that you won’t encounter rain. You will. And probably lots of it no matter what time of year you’re tromping around. You’ll definitely see less of it if you’re hiking east of the Cascades (but you’ll see a ton more snow in the winter). As far as each season goes, here’s my best advice: 

Summer is a no-brainer for pretty much anywhere. For someone like me who can’t do a ton of heat, I prefer other seasons for trekking in central and eastern Oregon. If you do decide to tackle these hikes, start early in the morning, and don’t forget your hat and sunscreen!

Fall is the best for everything everywhere (is it obvious that fall is my favorite season?), but you’ll likely be seeing some rain (less so these days thanks to climate change). Around October the snow will start falling on the mountains, so shoot for September for perfect hiking weather (and no bugs!) nearly everywhere.

Winter is a nice time to do your valley and coast hikes because it usually doesn’t get prohibitively cold. That said, I love a good snow hike but I only do trails I’m well versed in (like Angel’s Rest or Saddle Mountain) or if I’m with someone who’s skilled in winter trail navigation. There are also a ton of good snow-shoeing opportunities around Mt. Hood like Ramona Falls or Mirror Lake

Spring is the best time to catch wildflowers or to see the desert regions, especially far eastern Oregon in the Wallowas or way southeast on Steens Mountain or the Owyhee Canyonlands. Depending on snow melt, some rivers and creeks may be quite high in the spring, so use extra caution around any hike that requires stream crossings.


Most hikes I’ll suggest here are easily accessible by most cars (unless there’s snow in which case you should always travel with chains or snow tires).

Additionally, some of the trailheads are down unpaved, rugged roads and a high-clearance vehicle will be your friend (RIP Delores the Civic’s muffler on the road to Silver Star Mountain—I learned my lesson!).

If any of the approaches are particularly rough I’ll give you a heads up so you won’t ruin your car too. 

Passes and Parking

If you plan on hiking a lot in Oregon within a single year, there are two parking passes you might consider. One is the Northwest Forest Pass (which also gives you access in Washington) at $30/year, and here’s a handy map showing you everywhere it’s valid. 

The other is the Oregon State Park pass, which is valid everywhere shown here. This one also costs $30 and is good for a year. 

Most day-use parking lots charge $5, so you’d need to use these at least six times a year to make it pan out. You may want to map out your potential hikes and decide which one makes more sense for you. 

Even if you don’t end up using it that often, you still may want to get one for summer galivanting so you don’t have to worry about having cash on you or finding a pay station (not all trailheads have an easy way to pay).

If you’re planning on hiking at Crater Lake, an America the Beautiful Pass might come in handy – this one covers entry to National Parks, parking at National Forests (so you won’t need a Northwest Forest Pass), and entry to National Monuments. It pays off if you’re planning on visiting three or more national parks. 

The other parking caveat is the undeniable fact that hiking is just really popular here in Oregon, and the best hikes are almost always busy. Most of the popular hikes will become quite crowded by 9:00 am on a Saturday or Sunday, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes getting there just an hour earlier. There’s always an option of going mid-week, but I know that’s not always doable for the nine-to-fivers among us.  

If you’re dead set on doing a hike like Multnomah Falls, look into the Sasquatch Shuttle service to save yourself the hassle of parking.

The Best Hikes in Oregon: A Complete Guide to Hiking in Oregon

I’ll organize these by region so you can better gauge what hikes are realistic depending on where you are or how far you can travel. I’ll break them up by the Coast, Willamette Valley, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Central Oregon, and Southern and Eastern Oregon. 

Additionally, I’ll try to recommend the best times of the year for specific hikes, and travel tips for those that might be farther away from your home base.

The Oregon Coast

Oregon is unique in that all of its coastline is publicly owned. This is largely thanks to the state’s most famous governor, Tom McCall, who served from 1967 to 1975 (and whom Tom McCall Park on Portland’s waterfront is named after). 

When a large hotel in Cannon Beach attempted to cordon off a section of the beach to be used only by hotel patrons, McCall rallied the press to join him on the beach where he flew a helicopter in to draw attention to the issue. 

This galvanized public support and the state’s legislature passed the Beach Bill in 1967 which officially made all of Oregon’s beaches open to the public. Lucky us!

PS: We have an entire guide to hiking on the Oregon Coast with even more great coastal hikes to add to your Oregon bucket list.

Neahkahnie Mountain

Neahkahnie is the Tillamook word for “place of the gods,” and the indigineous people of the northern Oregon coast couldn’t have picked a better word to describe the majesty of this small but mighty mountain by the ocean. Once you get to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain, be it by the short and easier 2.8 mile route (but still a climb) or the longer and more scenic 8 mile route, you’ll see why. 

The top of Neahkahnie looks down onto the beach below and further south to Tillamook Bay. Though, due to the temperamental nature of the Oregon coast, catching this hike on a clear enough day to take in the sweeping views is a feat in itself. 

You’ll have better luck in the afternoon after the fog has had a chance to burn off, but even then it’s no guarantee. That said, there’s something extra magical about getting to the top of a peak and knowing what’s right below your feet yet not being able to see it.

Don’t let the weather stop you, even if it’s raining because this hike is beautiful on its own as you journey through gorgeous, old growth coastal forests.

Cascade Head

  • Length: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,310 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Knights Park Trailhead
  • Pass Required: None

Just north of Lincoln City lies Cascade Head, a 102,110 acre scenic area that’s actually a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve stretching from the Salmon River to a basalt headland.

It’s home to native coastal prairie and diverse wildlife. Black bear, elk, osprey, gray and humpback whales, and endangered species like the spotted owl all call Cascade Head home, making this a unique area to hike around and explore. 

This hike is moderately difficult, but can feel more challenging because after the first mile or so of spruce forest, there’s little to no tree cover and if the sun’s beating down on you it may slow your pace.

Be prepared for the elements here as you never know what will hit you on this exposed headland. I’ve been caught in downpours, heavy gusting wind, and blinding sun. 

But the views at the top will take your breath away and it’s one of the best hikes in Oregon to experience the coast at its finest. From the top you’ll see wildflower meadows, the Salmon River Estuary, and Three Arch Rocks (where you can spy Steller sea lions and their pups!). 

Item of note: no dogs are allowed in this area to protect native wildlife.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Area

  • Length: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 154 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate (only because it gets steep!)
  • Trailhead Location: Natural Bridges Trailhead
  • Pass Required: None

I’m kinda cheating with this one because I’m really going to recommend a few different hikes within this 12 mile corridor of wonder. The information and mileage noted above is for the Natural Bridges Cove hike which lets you see what the area is most famous for, its natural bridges. This very short hike is also incredibly steep and often slippery, so don’t go thinking you can tackle it in flip-flops!

The Samuel H. Boardman area is worth a visit from every Oregonian (and Californian, Washingtonian, and everyone else!), but there aren’t a lot of options for longer hikes unless you want to do a car drop (and if you can do one this is the trail for you). 

But since most people can’t drive two cars at once I suggest exploring this area in a series of shorter hikes, punctuated with a few jaunts in the car.

Another must-see areas are Secret Beach, which you can get to via this 1.6 mile trail that takes you past a waterfall and down to the beach surrounded by towering rock walls. Pay attention to the tides anytime you’re around here! High tide can make Secret Beach (and others) inaccessible and dangerous. 

Another stop to add to your day is this 1.1 mile hike down to Indian Sands Beach, but note that even though it’s a shorter hike you should definitely download the map because it can get a little tricky to stay the course. 

Portland and the Willamette Valley

Between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges, and stretching from Portland down south through Eugene is the fertile Willamette Valley. Because this area mostly sees mild winters and warm, dry summers, it’s the ideal destination for nature lovers all year long. 

Plus, after your adventures you’ll be close to some of Oregon’s best cities so you can easily pair a gorgeous hike with a visit to a local brewery or winery.

PS: Read our guide to hiking in Portland to discover more amazing hikes in and around Portland.

Pittock Mansion Hike

  • Length: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,210 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Lower MacLeay Park Trailhead
  • Pass Required: None

This is the only Portland hike on the list, and I almost didn’t include it until I did it again recently (for like the 20th time) and brought along a friend from out of town. Seeing it again through the eyes of someone new reminded me why it remains a perennial favorite for so many. 

Forest Park is littered with great hiking options, but this one feels quintessentially “urban” and “Portlandy” and really shows what the park has to offer. 

The hike starts at Lower MacLeay Park, just steps away from the trendy neighborhood of Nob Hill. The first attraction you’ll come to is the Witch’s Castle (actually an old public restroom) which has been covered in graffiti for quite some time, but I kinda like it that way. 

Climb a little farther until you reach Cornell Rd., but before you cross pop into the Portland Audubon Society and say hello to Aristophanes the raven and Ruby the turkey vulture. 

Onwards up the trail and you’ll eventually come to the imposing Pittock Mansion that makes for an ideal rest spot and gives great views out to Mt. Hood and the city center below. When we did the hike everything was shrouded in a thick fog and I loved it just as much as if I could see for miles. 

Trail of Ten Falls

  • Length: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,210 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location: South Falls Lodge Trailhead
  • Pass Required: Oregon State Parks Pass

This is a spectacular trail and one that should be on every Oregonian’s (and every Oregon lover’s) hiking to-do list, though it does come with some caveats. Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon and as such it draws more than a million visitors a year. 

This loop is the most popular in the park, and though it’s only 7 miles it’s pretty easy so you’ll see all stripes of people setting out on it on any given day. 

If you’re fine walking alongside throngs of other ooo-ers and aww-ers go anytime you like. However, this is one of the few hikes that I actually RECOMMEND doing in the rain! Like I said, it’s not difficult and would probably be rated as easy if it weren’t for the mileage. 

The rain adds to the power of the waterfalls (PS: make sure to read our guide to the best waterfalls in Oregon!) and will steer away at least half the visitors you’d normally see. And, the ones who are left will be just as dauntless as you. 

All the falls are spectacular (with four you can actually walk behind), but the most picturesque is South Falls standing at 177 feet. Since it’s all at a fairly low elevation you can really hit it up any time of the year. 

The Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge always takes my breath away, even though I’ve lived next door to it for my whole life. For approximately 90 miles, the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains and lava flows that are 10 to 15 million years old. 

Today it’s left us with incredible hikes up to ridges overlooking Oregon and Washington, towering waterfalls, and world-class windsurfing.

PS: Guess what? We have a complete guide to hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, which has the best hikes to tackle in the Gorge and some of the best places to re-fuel post-hike (aka post-hike recovery donuts).

Latourell Falls

  • Length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 625 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location: Latourell Falls Trailhead
  • Pass Required: None

This is one of the best waterfall hikes in Oregon, and I prefer it to Multnomah because it sees fewer people and I actually enjoy the hike better.

Latourell can still  get busy, but not nearly as much as Multnomah (though if you can find a parking spot there is a 4.9 loop hike will take you past the grand Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls). 

Lower Latourell Falls stands 224 feet and plunges dramatically off its basalt walls into the pool below. Due to the moisture-rich Pacific Northwest climate, the walls of the amphitheater surrounding the falls are always covered in a day-glo green coating of lichen. 

The trail starts at the lower falls and is just over a mile to upper falls. It’s relatively easy and is a great option if you’re exploring with kids, though the smaller ones might need the option of being carried in a backpack part of the way. 

I recommend doing the loop clockwise to get your first striking views of the lower falls followed by a lovely hike up Latourell Creek to the upper falls that stand at 120 feet. The loop then takes you back down on the other side of the creek and into Guy W. Talbot State Park. 

You’ll hike under the highway bridge and after hugging the side of a basalt wall, you’ll be given another incredible view of the lower falls as it emerges into view as you hike up a steep slope. 

Dog Mountain

  • Length: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,800 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderately Hard
  • Trailhead Location: Dog Mountain Trailhead
  • Pass Required: NW Forest Pass + $1.50/person parking permit on weekends from March 31st to July 1st

I’m cheating on this one too since it’s technically in Washington (right on the other side of the river though), but I wanted to show my love to our neighbors to the north! Plus the views from the top are of Oregon to the south (that counts, right?).

At the right time of year Dog Mountain is the most beautiful in the Gorge—so much so that in 2020 they implemented a parking permit requirement to limit traffic during the spring when the wildflowers are at their peak. The permits aren’t too hard to get, but it will require a bit of planning (or just go mid-week when you don’t need one). 

The hike is a steady climb to the top, and there isn’t a decent break until nearly the end at Puppy Dog Lookout (though there’s a lower viewpoint about a mile and half in, but by then you’re just getting started). You can shave off a half mile of this hike by skipping the Augspurger Trail and starting on Trail 147, but I prefer this slightly longer loop (maybe it’s a little gentler on my knees? Hard to tell).

The top is an expansive meadow that’s chock-full of wildflowers in May and June and is really quite breathtaking.

Another thing that might be breathtaking is the incredible wind you’ll experience up at the top. You’ll have worked up quite a sweat hiking up and no doubt shed some layers, but that sweat will quickly start feeling like ice on your back once the wind hits. 

Bring a windbreaker and a hat at minimum. I’ve seriously been up there before when the wind was so strong it was actually dangerous and we opted to hike back down a bit before finding a place to have lunch.

Mount Hood

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful mountain than Hood. Rising 11,249 feet high and dominating the skyline east of Portland, it’s become synonymous with outdoor mountain adventures only an hour away from the city. 

In the winter it’s home to skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and sledding. In the summer the mountain offers some of the best hiking in the state on its nearly 1,000 miles of trails. 

PS: You’re not going to believe this. We also have a complete guide to hiking at Mount Hood, which features some of the hikes below, and a few other hikes to tackle around Hood.

Ramona Falls

  • Length: 7.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,035 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Ramona Falls Trailhead
  • Pass Required: NW Forest Pass

Ramona Falls is one of the most popular day hikes in Oregon and feels straight out of a fairytale. Like the Silver Falls loop, this is a must-see! It will be hard to find a time where you won’t encounter other hikers, but if you can leave early you’ll have an easier time finding parking. 

I recommend reading trip reports before heading out, especially if there’s been heavy rain as the Sandy River can wash out crossings and make this a not un-dangerous trek. However, you don’t need to be afraid, just aware.  

The hike itself is fairly easy, with a steady yet gentle climb to the ultimate elevation of 3,470 feet. The falls are truly amazing and if you can catch them on a sunny day when the rays filter through the trees and onto the veil of water it really looks like the whole wall is glowing. 

Matt and Alysha (the co-founders of this site) at Ramona Falls

It’s hard to describe to one who’s not been there, so get out there! This can also be a great choice for winter snowshoeing, but you’ll have a little farther to hike (2.5 miles) since the road leading up to the trailhead is closed from December 1st to April 1st. 

McNeil Point

  • Length: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,585 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead Location: Top Spur Trailhead
  • Pass Required: NW Forest Pass

This is a hard hike, but one that should be on everyone’s bucket list who’s interested in getting up close and personal with Mt. Hood. 

The trailhead can get incredibly crowded on the weekends since there are so many different route options, so if you don’t feel like fighting crowds you can always start at McGee Creek Trailhead which only adds another half mile. However, if you get there early or mid-week, you should be fine. 

The novelty of McNeil Point is the stone shelter that was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and it makes for a great lunch spot (or refuge from the elements if you’re unlucky enough to be caught in a rain or snow storm). 

Scramble a bit higher above the shelter to take in views of Lost Lake, Mt. St. Helens, Mount  Rainier, and Mt. Adams. In addition, you’ll traverse around Bald Mountain where you’ll gain magnificent views of Hood and look down upon the Sandy River about 2,000 feet below. 

The trail is always well maintained due to its popularity, but you should wear good footwear to avoid sliding on loose rocks. Also, if there’s been heavy rainfall, you may be looking at some potentially wet creek crossings.

Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain

  • Length: 9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,709 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Trailhead Location: Mirror Lake Trailhead
  • Pass Required: NW Forest Pass

I’ll go ahead and say it: this is my favorite hike on Mt. Hood—usually—as long as you can avoid the mosquitos. I suppose the pesky bugs plague most hikes on the mountain in early summer, but for some reason they seem especially bad here. 

Mirror Lake is nice, but there are better lakes nearby

This hike starts at the Mirror Lake trailhead which will fill up on the weekends even though it’s HUGE. The good news is that most of the foot traffic tapers off after Mirror Lake, which is only about two miles in.

And the lake itself? Meh? A lot of people like it, but there are better ones out there (like Trillium). Stop by if you like, and if not keep climbing for killer views from the top. 

The first major lookout you’ll reach is Harry (TDH is actually a ridge with three prominent peaks) and if this is as far as you go it will be well worth it. The views from Harry are top notch, looking down on the lake and out to Hood and the foothills below. Many people stop here for lunch, but it’s quite a large area so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to sit. 

However, if you still have gas in your tank I recommend hiking along the ridge another mile or so to Tom where you’ll see far fewer people and the views only get better!

I prefer going the whole way myself and aside from a bit of basic trail navigation (the brush gets quite overgrown on the ridge), it’s not that much harder to go all the way. 

Central Oregon

Having spent the majority of my life in the moist and mild Willamette Valley, everytime I travel east across the Cascades I’m reminded of Oregon’s geographic diversity. 

As you come down the east side of the mountains you’ll start to notice the trees shifting as you see more Ponderosa pine and fewer Douglas fir; you’ll notice thinner forests that start to give way to high desert; and even if it’s overcast and drizzling in the Valley, Central Oregon is often sunny and dry. 

In fact, Bend has an average of 263 sunny or mostly sunny days per year compared with Portland’s 144. With this you’ll get colder days and more snow, but with a warm down jacket you’ll be unstoppable! 

Misery Ridge

  • Length: 6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,774 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Smith Rock Trailhead
  • Pass Required: Oregon State Park Pass or $5 day-use parking fee

For a six mile hike, you wouldn’t expect a name like Misery Ridge. And, while this hike isn’t too hard, it does have stretches when you’re climbing over the ridge that are in complete, penetrating sun. 

If you hit it at the wrong time of day (or year) you’ll feel sufficiently miserable. Aside from that, this hike really packs a punch and let’s you take in the majesty of this volcanic rock formation and is really some of the best Oregon hiking you can experience. 

This place is always busy and pretty much no matter when you go you’ll be surrounded by crowds, but they tend to thin out once you get on the trail as most sightseers don’t stray too far from their cars.

My favorite part of this hike is that it goes right past Monkey Face, an exposed 350 foot column popular with climbers (and it really does look like a monkey face). 

Green Lakes

  • Length: 9.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,187 ft.
  • Trail Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location: Green Lakes Trailhead
  • Pass Required: None

The Green Lakes trail is one of the most popular in the Three Sisters area, so don’t count on a remote hike all to yourself even if you go mid-week.

The trailhead is close to both Bend and the popular resort town of Sunriver, and it will likely become impassable in late fall/early winter and into spring. Don’t attempt to snowshoe this hike unless you have considerable experience with trail navigation. 

Despite its length, it’s actually a rather easy hike that takes you past a nice waterfall as your trek beside Fall Creek. 

Soon the trail will take you through volcanic rock and an obsidian flow area and then onto the Green Lakes (of which there are three) where you’ll see Broken Top to the east and South Sister to the west. If it’s hot, take a dip! The water will be cold no doubt, but you (probably) won’t regret it. 

Pro tip: even though it offers the least expansive views, the third lake is the best for swimming since you can find spots on the shore to jump into some pretty deep water.

If you want to make this a loop and can handle an extra four miles, you can take the Soda Creek trail back and see more waterfalls! 

The South Sister

The view from the top of the South Sister

Though this is a day hike, I strongly recommend camping at the Devils Lake campground the night before to get an early start on the mountain.

It’s a non-technical climb, but it’s the toughest of the Oregon hikes I’m highlighting and you’ll want to start as early as possible to ensure you have enough time. 

South Sister is the third tallest mountain peak in Oregon coming in at 10,358 feet and is unique in that you can walk up to the top. That said, this is not a hike for beginners as it gets especially steep near the summit. When you get to the top you’ll get unparalleled views of the surrounding area including the other two sisters, Three-fingered Jack, and Mt. Bachelor. 

This long hike starts off easy, but don’t let that fool you! It soon starts climbing and doesn’t let up as it takes you past Moraine Lake, the Clark and Lewis Glaciers, and Teardrop Lake.

You’ll traverse up steep trails of loose, soft sand and rocks making it essential you have good footwear and crampons if there’s any chance of snow or ice. 

Southern and Eastern Oregon

I feel a little bad lumping southern and eastern Oregon together as they’re both deserving of our love. The fact is that many of these spots are just hard to get to, but that doesn’t make them any less spectacular! 

The crown jewel of the area is probably Crater Lake, the deepest lake in America and the only national park in Oregon, but the rest of the state is gorgeous too!

The southern and eastern parts of the state are much drier environments but still have plenty of plains, high desert, mountains, and canyonlands to explore.

The Watchman (Crater Lake)

Anywhere else, this trail would be a very “easy” hike at only a little more than 1.5 miles, but you’re starting at 7,600 feet. Unless you’ve already spent a few days at this elevation, you’ll be surprised how much harder this “easy” hike is. 

The summit of this trail will give you 360 views of Crater Lake, Wizard Island, and the surrounding area (and sometimes as far south as Mt. Shasta). 

Try to hit it early in the morning or at sunset for less penetrating sun and fewer fellow hikers. A must-do hike when visiting Crater Lake. 

Item of note: dogs aren’t allowed in Crater Lake National Park (or any national park for that matter).

Mount Scott (Crater Lake)

This is the other must-do hike near Crater Lake that takes you up to the 8,649 foot summit of Mt. Scott (not to be confused with the much smaller Mt. Scott in SE Portland that stands at a measly 1,019 feet). 

It’s a pretty steady climb to the top, but there’s not a ton of shade so dress appropriately and like Watchman Peak, this is best done either early morning or late afternoon for the sunset. 

Crater Lake visits can be tricky for timing, and you really only have about a three month window to get up there, June through September, as the park closes for the season once the roads become impassable due to snow.

If you’re traveling outside of this window, check conditions before you set out. 

Painted Canyon Loop Hike 

  • Length: 9.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,145 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Hard – only for experienced hikers
  • Trailhead Location: Carlton Canyon Trailhead
  • Pass Required: None, but a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle is highly recommended. The road to the trailhead is rough.

Ok, this place is really out there, and I haven’t done it personally, but it’s always been on my bucket list and a good friend of mine just got back from a week-long trip here.

Ideally, you’ll spend a few days exploring these canyonlands (and rafting the Lower Owyhee River or enjoying the nearby hot springs!), but if you can only do one hike, this is it! 

The Owyhee Canyonlands are an incredible desert ecosystem, but also not for the faint of heart. Avoid this hike in the summer as it’ll be too hot and instead opt for spring or winter.

This hike can also be dangerous if there’s a lot of rain as flash floods are common. Bring more water than you think and protect your body from the sun. Also, you’ll likely lose cell service. Cautions out of the way, get ready for some spectacular landscapes! 

The painted canyon is exactly that—purples, pinks, reds, and oranges marbled onto the sides of 300 foot canyon walls and volcanic rhyolite spires. The whole area is larger than Yellowstone Park and offers the most solitude you’ve ever experienced.

If you’re looking for a shorter hike, try the 3.3 mile Juniper Gulch Trail that will let you see all the wonders of the canyonlands with a but less excursion. 

Notable Omissions

There’s simply too much good stuff out there to include it all, and while I won’t dwell on every hike I neglected, I feel I must address a couple. 

Wallowa Mountains

One of my favorite places in Oregon is the Wallowa Mountains in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It’s not hyperbolic speaking when you hear this place described as “little Switzerland” because you actually do feel like you’re hiking in the Swiss Alps!

The thing is though, it’s almost a disservice to recommend a day hike since you really need to commit to a backpacking trip to see the best spots. 

So, while I highly recommend this area for those with a few days (or a week) to throw at it, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend a day hike as one of the “best.”

But if you are looking for a backpacking option do this one! And while you’re in the area, stop in Joseph to walk down the cute main street and grab a burger at the R & R Drive-In.

Steens Mountain

And a big shout out to Steens Mountain! It’s about a seven hour drive from Portland, making it one of the least accessible spots in the state. This area is best done in spring or fall, but you really do need to catch it on a non-sweltering hot day, and a non-rainy/snowy day, which makes it hard to warrant the trip out with so much riding on the weather.

In the summer it’s just too damn hot, and it’s so remote that attempting it in bad weather can actually be dangerous. But if you can manage to work around this, the breathtaking beauty is yours for the taking!

Other Honorable Mentions – Even More Oregon Hikes We Love

  • Saddle Mountain: Love this one in the winter, or anytime of year really. 

  • Hamilton Mountain: Maybe the perfect hike? Also in Washington, but what do our arbitrary state lines really mean in the scheme of things?

  • Cooper Spur Hike: Hike up to Cooper Spur, the highest point on Hood you can reach by trail at 8,510 feet and view the Elliot Glacier.

  • Broken Top and No Name Lake: The lake at the top is stunning, but be warned: the road up to the trailhead is rough!


If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve got you covered with all sorts of super detailed travel guides to our favorite places in Washington and Oregon.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.