It's no wonder that Oregon has become a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts – this corner of the Pacific Northwest is blessed with a stunningly-diverse landscape. From towering shield volcanoes that have (mostly) simmered down to coasts strewn with driftwood the size of fresh-cut timber, with  wind-scoured high desert and wild and rivers, there's no shortage of varied terrain to explore.

If you're eager to take your hiking boots out for a spin, we have narrowed your Oregon hiking bucket list down to the top 25 trails for every kind of hiker. Ranging from short easy hikes for families that reward you with waterfalls and wildflowers to challenging summits and backpacking trips that take you deep into Oregon's vast alpine wilderness areas. 

WASHINGTON - Hiker overlooking the Columbia River from the Dog Mountain Trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
Hiker overlooking the Columbia River from the Dog Mountain Trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area © Alamy Stock Photo

Dog Mountain

7.2 miles round-trip

The most popular hike in the Columbia River Gorge is also a very steep and challenging 7.2 miles round trip. The uphill is unrelenting but it ends at open fields full of some of the best blooms anywhere and gives you sweeping views over the Columbia River. Expect high winds anytime of year and dress in layers. To manage crowds and reduce impact on the ecosystem, this hike now requires an inexpensive permit April 18 through June 14 (Saturday and Sunday only). Individuals can purchase up to four permits (per day) starting March 1.

Timberline Trail

40 miles; plus smaller segments of varying lengths 

The mother of all trails is the (approximately) 40-mile Timberline Trail, which circumnavigates Mt Hood along a scenic wilderness of waterfalls, quiet reflecting lakes, wildflower meadows and mountain vistas. Parts of the trail may be closed due to washouts or fallen trees, so check with ranger stations as you plan your hike, especially in spring.

The trail can be accessed from several points – noteworthy sections include the hike to McNeil Point and the short climb to Bald Mountain, both offering breathtaking scenery. From Timberline Lodge, Zigzag Canyon Overlook is a 4.5-mile round-trip through meadows of wildflowers to a canyon vista. Some trails can be snowbound until late July, and fording rivers can be a challenge, so stop in at a ranger station for details before you decide which part of the trail to take on.

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The Rogue River Trail

40 miles

The 40-mile Rogue River Trail, best hiked in spring or fall, follows the river from Grave Creek to Illahe in southern Oregon near Grants Pass. Once used to transport mail and supplies from Gold Beach, the route follows a relatively easy grade through scrub oak and laurel past historic homesteads and cabins. The full hike takes four to five days, but rustic lodges along the way can make your itinerary flexible.

Multnomah Falls is the most visited outdoor recreation site in the whole Pacific Northwest © Christopher Gardiner / Shutterstock

Multnomah Falls 

2.2 miles; further 7 miles to Larch Mountain

The top attraction in the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is so beloved there's even a version built out of Legos on display in the Portland Airport's baggage claim area. A 2.2-mile hike with 700 feet of elevation gain leads to the top of the falls, but you can continue up forested Multnomah Creek and the top of Larch Mountain (another seven miles). Don't expect to have Multnomah Falls to yourself, but do fuel up for your hike at the Multnomah Falls Lodge, which has a restaurant and snack bar in addition to a visitor's center.

The Oregon Coast Trail

400 miles

This adventurous 400-mile route runs through sandy beaches, verdant forests and rocky headlands, as well as coastal towns and cities from just this side of Washington to California. The OCT isn't necessarily a hard route, but it'll take about a month to hike the whole thing. Keep in mind that there are a few gaps in the hikeable sections of trail;  you'll want to make connections by road at a few points, such as the Sixes and Elk rivers. You'll also want to consult a tide table, as some beach passages aren't feasible at all times of day depending on what the Pacific Ocean is up to. The hike is best done north to south due to prevailing winds and available literature. Hike it all or just a few sections of it, and enjoy the spectacular views – there's one around every corner or two.

Neahkahnie Mountain

2.5 miles

It's no secret that Oswald West State Park is full of fantastic hikes, but one of the real gems is the 2.5 mile climb (one way) to the top of 1660ft Neahkahnie Mountain, which towers above Nehalem Bay and offers amazing views – on a clear day, you can see 50 miles out to sea. Start at the North Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead and enjoy the views of Cape Falcon and the Devil's Cauldron far below the summit.

The Islands in Time trail passes through Blue Basin in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Blue Basin and Island in Time

4 miles; plus 1 mile

This ethereal landscape in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is a testament to the explosive forces that shaped Oregon millions of years ago. Those geologic events painted Blue Basin an unusual pastel hue that you can see up close and personal on these relatively short, easy hikes. The Blue Basin Overlook trail is four miles-long, while the Island in Time trail is just over a mile. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a hat, though – there's very little shade, and temperatures can soar in the summer. 

Mt Scott

4.2 miles

This strenuous hike takes you to an incredible lake vista atop 8929ft Mt Scott, the highest point in the Crater Lake National Park. It starts easily, through a meadow then climbs more steeply the higher (and more out of breath) you get. Because of the high elevation you can expect snow around the top of the trail year-round. It's said that this is the only place in the park where you can get the entire lake in a camera frame. This is also a great place to spot Grouse, Clark's Nut Crackers, Steller's Jays and other birds.

Eagle Cap

various trails

Many of the most popular hikes in Oregon are in close driving distance of Portland or along the coast – but eastern Oregon shouldn't be overlooked. Eagle Cap in the stunning Wallowa Mountains is the largest wilderness area in Oregon, full of dramatic granite peaks and jewel box alpine lakes. While many of the trails in this sprawling region are best suited for backpackers with a few days to spend on a trek, you can summit Eagle Cap itself from Two Pan trailhead – if you're up for a 20-mile-day and ascending 4000 feet. You'll be rewarded with 360° views from the top, and a better understanding of why the Wallowas are often compared to the Swiss Alps.

A pair of hikers overlook the Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon from the summit of Mt Howard © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Mt Howard in the Wallowas

various trails

Another can't-miss peak in the Wallows is Mt Howard, and this one involves a little assist on your way to the top. The Wallowa Lake tramway climbs 3700 feet up the side of 8241-foot Mount Howard, taking you from the green summer camp vibes at the mountain's foot to a rocky, wintery world at the top. From the tram's top stop, it's up to you to explore several trails by foot, including an easy two-mile loop to the summit where you'll be greeted by an ocean of peaks spread out to the horizon all around you. Because of the elevations, it's a hike best done from July to September – and even then you might see snow at the top. Dress in layers, and be sure to charge your phone. Although there's a small restaurant and warming station by the tramway, they don't have electrical outlets available for visitors.

Carroll Rim Trail

1.6 miles

This short, easy trail in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument offers a site you don't see very many places on earth – painted hills banded with rich hues of red, yellow, and pink layered by eons of geologic events. A series of eruptions drifted into beds hundreds of feet deep, layering the brick-red, yellow, black, beige and ochre-hued ash that you now see. It's a fabulous, uncommon sight, best viewed just before sunset. The Painted Hills Unit is nine miles north of Mitchell, off Hwy 26.

Tumalo Falls

6.5 miles

Bend, Oregon may be in the high desert, but there's still plenty of water spilling over Tumalo Falls in the Deschutes National Forest. You can see it for yourself on this 6.5 mile out-and-back hike that's only moderately challenging and promises big rewards. In the summer you can expect plenty of company on the trail, but in winter you might dodge some of the crowds if you're willing to slip on your snowshoes. 

Portland, Oregon, USA skyline at dusk with Mt. Hood in the distance.
The Pittock Mansion offers clear views of the city due east toward Mount Hood © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

Pittock Mansion

5 miles

You don't have to leave the city to find a good hike in Portland. Case in point, the Forest Park trail to the Pittock Mansion is a moderate hike perfect for filling up an hour or so of your afternoon. Accessible by public transit and boasting incredible views of Portland and, on clear days, Mount Hood, it's easy to see why newspaper magnate Henry Pittock – himself an avid mountaineer and one of the founding members of the Mazamas club – chose this spot to build his glamorous abode. Start at the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead and follow the Wildwood Trail and its switchbacks to the top.

Rowena Crest

2.5 miles

This is an absolutely lovely 2.5 mile loop stroll over a plateau with views over rolling hills and up and down the Colombia River Gorge. Rowena Crest sits on the backroads between Hood River and the Dalles and is a great choice for families, although there are some rocky and rough spots on the trail. Bright yellow balsamroot carpets the hills here as well as anywhere in spring and summer. There's also a longer and more strenuous option from the same trailhead to hike the 3.25 mile round trip McCall Point Trail which offers views of Mt Adams. 

Ramona Falls

7 miles

A popular trail on the upper Sandy River on the west side of Mount Hood loops for seven miles and shows off lovely Ramona Falls, which tumbles 120ft down a face of mossy columnar basalt. To reach the trailhead from Zigzag, turn north onto Lolo Pass Rd, continue for four miles, then turn right onto USFS Rd 1825 and drive three miles further.

Hikers at Umpqua Sand Dunes in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the central Oregon coast
Hikers traverse the dunes on the John Dellenbeck Trail near Florence, Oregon © Alamy Stock Photo

John Dellenbeck Trail

6 miles round-trip

For some of the biggest dunes in Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (including the tallest at 500ft), take the John Dellenbeck Trail, 10.5 miles south of Reedsport, which leads out across a wilderness of massive sand peaks before reaching the beach. The round-trip hike is six miles and involves some tough dune climbing, though there's a one-mile interpretive loop on packed gravel if you just want to take a look.

Catherine Creek 

6.9 miles round-trip

There are actually three hikes from this trailhead, but the best (arguably) crosses Catherine Creek on a plank bridge just below an old corral. You'll end up in forest and get to a small pond but there will be flowers the whole way up and down. As ever, the views over the Columbia River and looking out to the Oregon side of the gorge (this hike is on the Washington side) are spectacular. It's 6.9 miles round trip, and on the difficult side of moderate.

Watchman Trail

1.5 miles round-trip

For a steep but shorter hike in Crater Lake National Park, trek up to the Watchman, an old lookout tower on the opposite side of the lake that boasts one of the park's best views – and definitely the best views of Wizard Island. Wear good shoes to traverse a scree area. The lookout tower was built in 1932. Expect a colorful palette of wildflowers from late August into October and snow year-round. You'll only be hiking for about a mile-and-a-half round trip, but it can get windy up here so dress in layers.

IMG_20190519_113417 (1).jpg
The view from the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Loop

2 mile loop

The rolling hills of eastern Oregon are still scarred with wheel ruts dug by the thousands upon thousands of settlers who came through what is now Baker City by covered wagon in the 19th century. You can see them clearly from the promontory of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, where you can learn more about the role the Oregon Trail played in US history. But you can also see them up close on this two-mile loop hike, and literally follow in the footsteps of pioneers who poured into the territory that the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Nez Perce nations called home.

Three Fingered Jack

4.5 mile round-trip

For a serious but fabulous day hike, head up to Canyon Creek Meadows, where summer produces a vibrant wildflower display and great views onto the rugged 7841ft Three Fingered Jack. This shield volcano was shaped by dramatic lava flows and glaciers millions of years ago, making it a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts today, from hikers to backcountry skiers to rock climbers. To reach the trailhead from Sisters, drive 13 miles northwest on US 20. Just south of Suttle Lake, turn north on Jack Lake Rd, USFS Rd 12. It's about eight miles to the trailhead, at Jack Lake Campground. The hike is 4.5 miles round-trip; $5 day-use pass required in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. 

Oregon Caves National Monument

3.3 miles; plus 0.75 miles

It's a real treat to visit Oregon Caves National Monument and its swirling, undersea-like formations – not to mention the lovely, historic Oregon Caves Chateau lodge (currently closed for restoration). Guided tours let you explore the caves, but don't neglect the surrounding area. There's a handful of short nature trails, such as the 0.75-mile Cliff Nature Trail (offering good views) and the 3.3-mile Big Tree Trail (which loops through old-growth forest to a huge Douglas fir).

A young man standing on top of rocks, on top of Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
The pine that marked the top of Spencer Butte was recently cut down by vandals, but it's still well worth the climb. © Alamy Stock Photo

Spencer Butte Trail

2 miles

The most popular hike in all of Eugene is this nearly two-mile-trek to the top of a ridge line from which you can see the city below and, on clear days, even the Three Sisters that sit near Bend, Oregon. Don't expect much solitude, and consider starting early to get a spot in the trailhead parking lot. It's not a particularly challenging trail, with a gradual climb to an expansive viewpoint.

Sweet Creek Falls

2.2 miles

What's the best-kept secret tucked away in the Coast Range near Florence, Oregon? One local recommends hiking to Sweet Creek Falls, an easy 2.2-mile round-trip journey that begins 15 miles east of Florence on Hwy 126, toward Eugene. Start at the eponymous trailhead and enjoy chasing those eleven waterfalls along the way to the multi-tiered Sweet Creek cascade.

Yoran Lake

5.3 miles; plus 3.8 miles

From the west end of Odell Lake, energetic hikers should consider the 5.3-mile one-way hike to Yoran Lake for a great view of 8744ft Diamond Peak. Another popular hike from Odell Lake Resort leads 3.8 miles to Fawn Lake, below two rugged peaks. 

Prospect and Union Creek

various trails

A mile south of Prospect on Mill Creek Dr is the 0.3-mile trail to the awesome Mill Creek Falls (173ft). A side shoot leads to the Avenue of Giant Boulders, well worth the extra few steps, where the Rogue River crashes through rocky boulders (scrambling required).

A good 4.6-mile hike (one way) starts from either the Woodruff Bridge picnic area or the River Bridge campground; you'll get views of the pretty Takelma Gorge. You can also hike 3.5 miles (one way) between Natural Bridge, where the Rogue River borrows a lava tube and goes underground for 200ft, and the magical Rogue River Gorge, where a narrow, turbulent section of river cuts a sheer-walled cleft into a lava flow.

You may also like: 
7 reasons Bend, Oregon, is the ‘outdoor playground of the west’
The 11 best beaches in Oregon
The best tasting rooms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country

This article was first published July 2013 and updated October 2021

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