Escape From Portland: Day-Trips Outside The City
Gwen Amsbury, City of Portland Archives and Records Center
If you think there are a ton of places to visit in Portland, once you step beyond the city limits the options feel endless. Whether you like touring historical sites, visiting small towns packed with things to do, or just getting out in nature and exploring trails (especially the latter), there’s a day-trip for you!
Just Outside of The City
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (30 minutes) – Technically in Sherwood, this is a great place to quickly get away from the city (and people) and go for a relaxing nature walk.
Fort Vancouver (20 minutes) – Just across the Columbia River, this is a national park that includes four historical sites: Fort Vancouver, Vancouver Barracks, Pearson Air Museum, and the McLoughlin House.
Sauvie Island (30 minutes) – Fruit picking, fresh produce and events at both Kruger’s Farm and the Pumpkin Patch, as well as $6 you-cut lavender at the Sauvie Island Lavender Farm. You can walk out to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse (Warrior Point Trailhead) and there are multiple options for beach access including Collins Beach – where you can find the Sauvie Island UFO. (There’s also a nude beach in case you were wondering.)
Mount Talbert Nature Park (20 minutes) – With a four-mile trail network and picnicking area at the trailhead, this is an easily reached place to go wandering if you don’t want to drive too far.
Champoeg State Heritage Area (40 minutes) – Fishing, hiking, the Newell House Museum, living history in a pioneer log cabin, and yurts!
A Little Farther Afield
Enchanted Forest (1 hour) – Oregon’s second oldest, continuously operating theme park is a piece of living cultural history. Enchanted Forest never disappoints with its DIY animatronics, rickety rides, and unique flare (and, yes, they do have churros).
Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary, Library and Museum (1 hour)– Visit the abbey to see their world-renowned library and an eclectic museum that includes taxidermy and a mineral collection. You can also take a hilltop walking tour to enjoy the grounds and the views.
Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (1 hour) – Home of the Spruce Goose, the museum offers a wide variety of aircraft and artifacts from aviation history.
Mount Hood National Forest (1 – 2 hours) – Wildwood Recreation Area is a close-in favorite to hike and picnic. Or continue on up the mountain to visit Government Camp or (up near the summit) Timberline Lodge. Bunsenbrewer in Sandy is a great stop on your way to or from the mountain. If you have the time to drive a little further, and don’t mind paying day use fees, be sure to visit the breathtaking Lost Lake.
Willamette Valley Oregon Wine Country (.5 – 2 hours)– The website for Oregon Wine Country has a helpful map to search for wineries and other places to eat and drink along (and just off) the I-5 corridor all the way down to Cottage Grove.
The Columbia River Gorge
Hikes and Waterfalls (varies) – Sometimes it feels like you’re trekking through Middle Earth when you explore the trails and waterfalls in the Gorge to the east of Portland. Horsetail Falls, Oneonta Falls, Angel’s Rest, Dog Mountain, and Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek are among a few to try. Many of the trails are short enough that you can do multiple hikes in a day and see the waterfalls along the Gorge. For example, go out McCord Creek and you can take a marked fork to visit Elowah Falls. For those who don’t want to hike, just driving I-84/Highway 30 you can see a number of waterfalls and include a stop at the famous (but usually crowded) Multnomah Falls (seen below looking a bit like Rivendell).
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum (1.5 hours) – Takes an interactive approach to showcasing both the natural and cultural richness of the Gorge and Wasco County. Outside of the museum you’ll find walking trails and scenic overlooks.
Maryhill Museum of Art (2 hours) – Including both Native American and 20th century European art, there is also a sculpture garden and the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden. There is a lot packed into the museum so I recommend going to the site for a full picture of what you’ll find.
Coastal Nature Areas (varies) -There are plenty of short, close-in hikes along the Oregon coast to explore. Cape Lookout State Park offers a variety of trails, picnic areas and beach access. If you enjoy a good tide pool, take a look at the Oregon Tidepools Map for locations and tips on visiting. Saddle Mountain, on the way to the coast, offers a view of the ocean to those who reach the top. The Siuslaw National Forest stretches along much of the Oregon coast and their website allows you to search by area to find hiking, day use areas, and scenic drives.
North Lincoln County Historical Museum (2 hours) – Among the museum’s exhibits is a permanent display about the long-gone amusement park Pixieland. While in Lincoln City there are secondhand book stores and antique malls to peruse, and tasty restaurants including The Sea Hag.
Tillamook Cheese Factory (1.5 hours) – Like cheese? Then you’ve probably heard of Tillamook. On a visit to the factory you can get a scoop of ice cream, tour the factory, and sample cheese to your heart’s content. Next door is Blue Heron if you haven’t had your fill of dairy (they also have tasty clam chowder).
Astoria (2 hours) – There is a ton to do in this small town. Museums, restaurants, the Astoria Column, a riverfront trolley, the Garden of the Surging Waves and (of course) the Goonies house. You can spend days exploring the town and surrounding area, but it’s close enough to take a short jaunt up to see some of the points of interest. The Columbian Café is one of the best places to eat in town.
Manzanita (2 hours) – This is my favorite coastal town and a great place to get a cute close-to-the-beach rental. If you’re just there for the day be sure to visit the Nehalem Valley Historical Society, get a bite to eat in any of the town’s fantastic restaurants, and trek along the beach or through the nearby Nehalem State Park.
Gwen Amsbury is an Archives and Records Management Specialist at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center. Currently Gwen is serving as Secretary and Membership Coordinator for Northwest Archivists, Inc. She spends her spare time reading, metalworking, and searching for abandoned amusement parks.