10 Portland Day Trips

Need to get out of the city? Try one of these 10 day trip ideas. Great for visitors and locals.

Spring break is right around the corner and it has me thinking about ways to get out of town.  Now if you’re like me and don’t want to spend a lot of money, one of the best options is taking day trips.  One or two day during a week off work will make you feel like you’re having a real vacation without the expense of airplanes and hotels.   Or on the flip side, if you are visiting Portland, it’s nice to leave the city for a couple days to see more of the beautiful pacific northwest.  So I put together 10 day trip ideas out of Portland: 

  1. Mt. Hood: Thanks to the freakishly nice weather this winter, you can enjoy summer and winter activities right now on Mt. Hood.  There is still skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline. Meadows has spring skiing with six lifts open and more than 5 feet of snow mid-mountain.  Timberline has four lifts open for skiing or I suggest simply driving up to enjoy the view and have lunch at the historic lodge.  There is not enough snow for skiing at Skibowl, but there is is still tubing. I highly recommend Cosmic Tubing on Friday and Saturday nights.  For spring break they also have the Malibu Race Cars, 800′ zipline and bungee jumping open…. and possibly the Alpine Slide!  
  2. Columbia River Gorge Loop:  Or spend the day in the Columbia River Gorge.  I suggest making a loop with Bridge of the Gods, SR-14, the Hood River Bridge and I-84.  Along the way you can do some hiking at places like Beacon Rock (easy and short), Dog Mountain (steep and long), Wahkeena Falls (moderate with lots of waterfalls) or visit famous Multnomah Falls.  If it’s raining or your just feeling a little lazy, try the Carson Hotsprings where you soak in 100-year old bath tubs and they swaddle you like a baby. Or just spend the day touring breweries like Pfriem, Double Mountain or any of the other eight on the loop.  
  3. Evergreen Aviation, Space Museum and Water Park: You can easily spend an entire day at Evergreen Air and Space Museum.  It’s great for kids but adults will have a lot of fun too.  You can see the famous Spruce Goose flying boat, watch a movie, then spend the rest of the day in the water park where it’s always 85 degrees and you slide out of a 747!  This place is especially nice on a cold winter day.
  4. Mt. St. Helens: How can you live in or visit the Northwest without seeing Mt. St. Helens?  The 1980 eruption was the deadliest volcanic event in U.S history.  I think it’s fascinating to learn about the destruction that happened right in our backyard, and see how the ecosystem is recovering 35 years later.  Make the drive to the Johnson Ridge Observatory on the west side of the mountain for views of the blast zone or spend time on the south side hiking and exploring lava tubes.  The biggest and most famous is Ape Cave, a 2-mile hike in the dark.  And don’t miss the Trail of Two Forests right across the road and a great stop for kids.  (Check road conditions before leaving, most years these attractions are snowed in until May).
  5. Seattle: Yes, it’s a 3-hour drive, but I’ve done it many times and I think it’s totally worth it to save on the cost of a hotel room.  Leave at 8am to get there in time for lunch at Pike Place Market.  Spend the day strolling the city, maybe hit the Experience Music Project,  Space Needle, or find the troll.  After dinner, head back down I-5, you’ll be home before midnight.  A long day, but really fun.
  6. Astoria: This little town is kind of a hip spot right now.  It’s filling up with cool hotels, restaurants and coffee shops.  Not to mention the Fort George Brewery that is so big it has two restaurants and tasting room.  Astoria is also popular with film lovers.  Some classic from the 80’s and 90’s were filmed there: Kindergarten Cop, Short Circuit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, and of course… Goonies. June 7, 2015  is its 30th anniversary and they are throwing a big party.  Or you can just tour the sights while walking through town.  There are also some great historical sights nearby, like Fort Clatsop where Lewis & Clark spent the winter and Cape Disappointment, home to some impressive WWII gun batteries.
  7. Woodburn Outlet Mall: Locals may find this shocking but the number one tourist destination from Portland is the Woodburn Outlet Mall!  Oregon has no sales tax and visitors love it! The outlet mall grows bigger every year, so if you haven’t checked it out recently, it’s just a 30-mile drive down I-5.  
  8. Lincoln City: If you want to do some shopping plus have some fun, try a day trip to Lincoln City.  You shop at the Tanger Outlet Stores, spend some time on the beach and for the 21+ crowd, do some gambling at the Chinook Winds Casino.  Plus during the winter, they have a cool promotion called Finders Keepers, where they hide glass orbs on the beach for visitors to find.  I haven’t found one yet, but I’m going to keep trying.  
  9. Wine Country: For adults, a day in wine country might be the perfect vacation.  The towns of Dundee and Dayton are the real hot spots, but there are wineries all over the Willamette Valley.  This is one area where my personal knowledge falls short, so I’ll direct you to oregonwinecounty.org to plan your trip.  I’d consider signing up for a commercial tour or hiring a driver so you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving. 
  10. Silverton: Spend the day enjoying the sights around Silverton.  The town is cute, but it’s just a gateway to much more.  Continue on the highway through town for another 16 miles and you’ll get to Silver Falls, one of Oregon’s most popular state parks.  Hike the famous Trail of 10 Falls, a 7-mile loop with, you guessed it, 10 waterfalls!  Or take a stroll through The Oregon Garden, it’s open year-round and has two dozen themed gardens.  (Note: Pets are not allowed on the Trail of 10 Falls, but they are allowed in the Oregon Gardens, plan accordingly.)

That’s just a short list of ideas, there are dozens of day trips you could take from Portland.  Do you have any day trips to suggest?  Send your ideas my way and I’ll file them away for next year’s list.  Happy travels.

10 Portland Day Trips Where to go if you don't have the time or money to travel

6 Comments on 10 Portland Day Trips

  1. Special note that with the warm weather we are happening, the Tulip Farm is going to be opening early too and is a very easy day trip and your family and friends not from here wonder if you just went to Holland

  2. Seattle is definitely worth the 3 hour drive. Great list.

  3. I love these ideas! We are fairly new to Portland, so I appreciate the recommendations.

  4. I’m glad they are helpful! Welcome to town.

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