6 Can't-Miss Day Trips From Portland

In Portland, Oregon, where nearly every street is packed with breweries, food halls, and festivals, it’s tempting to spend an entire trip within the city limits. But the authentic history and leafy wonders of the Pacific Northwest (and of course, more breweries) are mere hours, or even minutes, away. Follow along the Columbia River in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, who paved this trail back in 1805, and make your own groundbreaking discoveries. To help, we rounded up six day trips from Portland that are worth a detour.

1. Astoria

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Amy Meredith

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Amy Meredith

When it comes to the history of the West, it’s hard to compete with Astoria, a city at the mouth of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark formed their winter camp at Fort Clatsop after reaching the coast in 1805, but it was industrialist John Jacob Astor and his American Fur Company that made it thrive into the first permanent settlement on the Pacific Coast and gave it its name. Fast-forward and it became the filming location of the 1985 cult classic "The Goonies." In fact, the historic jail used in the film’s opening scene is now home to the Oregon Film Museum, housing 100 years of film memorabilia, from "Twilight" to "Free Willy." When you’re done geeking out, head over to the Columbia River Maritime Museum and Bowpicker Fish & Chips, which is located in a boat that's permanently moored on the Columbia River.

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2. Northern Coast

Photo courtesy of Flickr/TravelingOtter

Photo courtesy of Flickr/TravelingOtter

To reach the Oregon coast, hop on U.S. Route 26, which winds through the towering Douglas firs of the Tillamook State Forest. Longtime Oregonians know that no trip to the coast is complete without a visit to the 162-year-old Tillamook Cheese Factory. Along with unlimited samples, visitors can enjoy house-made macaroni and cheese and an oversized scoop of cookie dough ice cream. And don’t forget to bring a cooler to stash your limited-edition fine-aged Tillamook cheddar. From there, it’s a straight trip up to the coast on Highway 101. Wander into pretty beach towns like Manzanita, the jumping off point to Neahkahnie Mountain trail and Seaside. Sink your teeth into saltwater taffy at The Seaside Candyman or try your luck at the 1950s-era arcade game Fascination at Funland Arcade. There's also Cannon Beach, which is a sanctuary for a flock of tufted puffins. Comb the beach at low tide and get your picture taken in front of the 235-foot Haystack Rock.

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3. Multnomah Falls

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Don Graham

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Don Graham

Even casual hikers shouldn’t have a problem with the switchbacks that wind through the leafy hardwood forests and up to the tallest waterfall in Oregon. The drive to Multnomah along the Columbia River Highway takes about 45 minutes, but you’ll feel like you’re following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark on the last leg of their journey. The tumbling falls can be viewed from the bottom, along with the old-fashioned Benson Footbridge. For a dizzying view of the Columbia River Gorge, hike up to the 611-foot cascade. Then, grab a giant chocolate chip cookie from the concession stand on your way out as a reward for your hard work.

4. Hood River

Photo courtesy of Claire Shefchik
Photo courtesy of Claire Shefchik

Located an hour east of Portland, Hood River and its howling winds have become a mecca for windsurfers and paddle boarders. You’ll understand why when your hair gets whipped back in the breeze as you tap out a melody on the waterfront’s oversized xylophone. Then, head straight to the world-renowned pFriem Family Brewers. With a focus on Belgian-style ales, it’s home to some of the best IPA in Oregon. Order a bowl of pickled vegetables to go with your flight of beers, which range from the effervescent Wit to specialties like Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout. 

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5. Fruit Loop

The 35-mile Fruit Loop, or Oregon’s answer to Napa Valley, is just about an hour-and-a-half from Portland. Take East Side Road to Panorama Point, which offers jaw-dropping views of nearby Mount Hood. From there, it’s your choice: Packer Orchards and Bakery for house-baked cookies, Gorge White House and Smiley’s Red Barn for apple jams and salsas, or Wy’East Vineyards for Pinot Noir Reserve. Cider fans will flip for Fox-Tail Cider, where you can order a flight. Start out with the dry Mora Rosa, a blend of apples and raspberries, then work your way up to the sweet Strawberry Rheum.

6. Vancouver, Washington

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Sam Churchill

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Sam Churchill

Since 2013, this city was known as Vansterdam as a result of the legalization of marijuana in Washington. During the summer, visitors can head to the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival, the largest jazz event in the Pacific Northwest. Folks should also check out Burgerville, which focuses on local and seasonal ingredients like sweet potato fries and asparagus. And while you’re there, stop by to see the river scene at beloved local chain McMenamins on the Columbia. For a touch of history, visit Fort Vancouver, the 19th-century fur trade outpost that belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company; then, take a spin through the stately homes of Officers Row.

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