If you are a hiker and want to find one of the best views of Crater Lake National Park, put the Watchman Peak Trail on your bucket list. (Photo credit: Stacey Malstrom)

As the Outdoor Adventure Ask Oregon expert, I’m often asked questions that are difficult to answer. The most recent question like this: “What are the 20 best hikes in Oregon?” This state is so diverse that picking 20 hikes was too hard. I decided that the best way to answer the question was to come up with 20 different hikes that in my opinion are the best in their category. I have a lot more exploring to do and eventually I would like to expand this list to 5 hikes per category. Here’s the list I came up with to answer this question:

Best hike for kids: Sweet Creek Falls Trail (near Mapleton/ Central Oregon Coast)
The next time you’re driving the Oregon Coast Scenic Highway and want to take a side trip with the kids, follow the Siuslaw River, near Florence, to Sweet Creek Falls. The trailhead is easy to find and the trail is mostly flat. I love this trail because of its numerous waterfalls. Kids of all ages will be impressed with waterfalls around every bend. In the summer, take off your shoes and wade in the cool water. This is a kid favorite!

Best hike for a scenic view: The Watchman Peak Trail at Crater Lake National Park (Southern Oregon)
Everyone’s bucket list should include Crater Lake. If you are a hiker and want to find one of the best views in the National Park, follow the Watchman Peak Trail to the top. The trail is steep, but not terribly long and there are places to rest along the way. At the top of trail you’ll find an active fire lookout tower and a spectacular view of the lake.

Best waterfall hike: McKenzie River Trail (Central Oregon)
This isn’t just the best waterfall hike, this is the best hike for ancient lava flows, crystal clear water, hot springs, natural wonders.. I’ve been on this trail as a hiker and a mountain biker and every person I have ever come across was friendly. It is the iconic forest trail. It’s one of the most popular trails in Oregon, yet never crowded. Just west of Clear Lake is Sahalie Falls; this wheelchair-accessible waterfall has a viewing platform and those who are up for hiking can venture down the trail to Koosah Falls. The round-trip hike between the Sahalie Falls parking area to Koosah Falls is about 1 mile.

Best historic hike: Fort Stevens (Astoria, North Coast)
Built near the end of the Civil War to guard the Columbia River from rogue Confederate ships, Fort Stevens is now an 11 square-mile state park that is rich in history. You can explore everything from a military museum to the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale and also watch Civil War re-enactments. This is a must for history buffs of all ages.

Best Oregon Coast hike: Cape Perpetua (Yachats, Central Coast)
Picking a best hike on the Oregon Coast is similar to picking a favorite color of M&Ms (by the way, blue is the best). The coast hike that stands out to me as iconic is Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. You can explore tide pools, watch for whales, enjoy the power of a winter storm, hunt for agates and floats in the most natural setting.

Best hike among the tallest peaks: South Sister (Central Oregon)
No matter where you are in Oregon, you can’t help but notice the Cascade Range. Many of the peaks can be climbed, but none should be attempted without taking the proper precautions and without being fully prepared. With that said, the third highest peak in Oregon is South Sister and there is a trail to the top. You can hike to the top in a day, or hike up to the meadow, camp and summit the next day. You don’t need technical climbing gear, just a lot of perseverance, water, snacks and a clear weather outlook. From the top you can see 360 degrees of Oregon. When I made it to the top for the first time, I applauded myself for defeating the voice in my head that kept telling me it was too hard.

Best multi-day hike: Three Sisters Loop (Central Oregon)
This hike is for those who enjoy the wilderness, backpacking and camping under the stars. There are numerous options for hiking in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I recommend a loop that starts at Driftwood Campground near Sisters. The trail is slightly easier if you go counterclockwise, so head northwest from the campground. You’ll hike through meadows full of wildflowers, past creeks and viewpoints and a trail that leads to some glacial lakes on Broken Top. Expect a 23+ mile hike.

Best snowshoe hike: Odell Lake Overlook (Central Cascades)
Snowshoeing is one of my favorite winter activities in Oregon and hands down my favorite trail is out of Gold Lake Sno-Park (near Willamette Pass). The Odell Lake Overlook trail is good for families, and those looking for great exercise, beautiful scenery and an option to snow camp in one of the shelters. The overlook offers an unforgettable panorama. You can hike to the overlook and return the way you came, or extend the hike to the PCT for an epic loop. The warming shelters are stocked with wood for the wood stoves.

Best hike in Portland area: Eagle Creek Trail (Columbia River Gorge)
If you love waterfalls and have ever wanted to hike behind a 120 foot waterfall, this is the trail for you. In addition to Tunnel Falls, you will pass numerous waterfalls like 30’ Punchbowl Falls. Expect a 12 mile roundtrip hike if you want to visit Tunnel Falls. The trail is not for those with fear of heights.

Best hike in Salem area: Silver Falls State Park
One of the best year-round hiking destinations is Silver Falls State Park, just outside of Salem. There are a variety of trails that range in difficulty from easy to moderate. The trails pass 10 waterfalls, 5 of which are over 100 feet high. In the spring, wildflowers are in abundance and in fall, the changing leaf colors are as soothing to the soul as a warm cup of hot cocoa by the fire.

Best hike in Eugene area: Tire Mountain (Oakridge, Central Cascades)
This trail could double as the best wildflower hike in June. This trail is rated easy and is about 7.6 miles round-trip. Enjoy sunny meadows , old-growth forest and a scenic panorama of the Cascade Mountains. The trail is rarely crowded.

Best hike in Bend/Central Oregon: Smith Rock State Park (Redmond, Central Oregon)
There are numerous trails and hikes in Central Oregon. This is my favorite because the surroundings are so unusual. The trail is really easy with lots of places to sit on benches, relax, and watch fearless climbers tackle seemingly insurmountable vertical traverses. The river is an inviting place to cool your feet after hiking and leashed dogs are welcome on most trails.

Best hike in Eastern Oregon: Steens Mountain
One of the tallest mountains in Oregon (9700 feet) is also one of the easiest to summit because you can practically drive to the top and then scramble up the trail to reach the summit. There are other hikes around here and a multitude of trails in the area.

Best hike in Southern Oregon: Oregon Caves (Cave Junction)
This hike can also be considered the best hike for spelunking . The only way to see inside the cave is to pay for the guided tour (1 mile, easy hike). Another hike from The Chateau (the Oregon Caves’ lodge) is out to Big Tree (one of the tallest Douglas firs in Oregon). This 3+ mile hike is a great way to burn off calories after lunch.

Best challenge hike: Pacific Crest Trail from Ashland to Bridge of Gods in Hood River (Mt. Hood/The Gorge)
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail extends from the border of California and Mexico to the Canadian border. Every year people hike the entire length. Many more hike sections of the trail. If you feel up for the challenge you can spend a month or so hiking the Oregon section of the PCT and see the wild side of Oregon on foot.

Best day hike on the PCT: Rosary Lakes (Crescent, Central Cascades)
I discovered this stretch of trail while snowshoeing. Just east of Willamette Pass Ski Area you’ll find the trailhead and PCT signs. Hike through the forest and to beautiful Rosary Lakes. You can also opt to take the Willamette Pass Gondola to the trail. Given the altitude, you’re best off waiting until late summer to hike this unless you don’t mind mosquitoes.

Best hike to pretend you’re Lewis or Clark: Tillamook Head (North Oregon Coast)
In search of whale blubber, Lewis and Clark’s expedition hiked 20 miles from Cape Disappointment to Cannon Beach. This trail is a fun way to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what the coast was like back in the 1800s. Start at the trailhead located in Ecola State Park.

Best hike for hot springs: Umpqua Hot Springs (Southern Oregon)
After exploring Crater Lake, treat yourself to a soak in natural hot springs. Umpqua Hot Springs is located off of Highway 138, relatively close to the north entrance of Crater Lake National Park. There is a short hike from the parking area and a stream to cross en route to the hot springs.

Best hike for birding: Zumwalt Prairie Preserve (Enterprise, Northeast Oregon)
Zumwalt Prairie has one of the highest concentrations of breeding hawks and eagles in the world and is the largest remaining grassland of its kind in North America. Most of the preserve is closed to hikers, but a few short trails give you access to viewing sites.

Best hike for people who are alter-abled: Oregon Garden Resort (Willamette Valley)
The Oregon Garden is a treasure for those who are interested in flowers and plants of the northwest. The Garden can be explored by foot or by tram, making this an ideal destination for those who have limited mobility.

Happy travels!

About the Author: Cari Soong

Cari Soong is the Assistant Manager of the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Adventure Center in Springfield, Oregon. When she isn't sending visitors out on adventures throughout the region, she is pursuing her passion for outdoor recreation. From bicycling and hiking to snowboarding, she is always in search of the next epic excursion. She has called Oregon home since 2004 and thrives on finding new favorites around the state. She's always eager to share her expert advice and help others plan their trips.

This Oregon Story includes one of Oregon’s Seven Wonders. See one, or better yet, see them all!

Learn about all of Oregon’s 7 Wonders
Flag as Incorrect

Is any of the information on this page incorrect?

In this Oregon Story

These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

Share your thoughts Comments

Have something to say? Your Comment

  1. Vicki Rodino says…

    So true!Everyone’s bucket list should include Crater Lake!!

    Written on May 15th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  2. Kelsey says…

    Amazing list! These are now on my bucket list to hike when I finally get to move out there! Oregon is amazing and one of the most beautiful states!

    Written on May 15th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  3. Mary Schoen-Clark says…

    What a fantastic resource. Thank you this is just what my family and I were looking for to take advantage of summer.

    Written on May 15th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  4. John B Adams says…

    what? no saddle mountain?

    Written on May 15th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  5. randy christian says…

    THANK YOU, I AM MOVING MY FAMILY OF 6 TO VANCOUVER WA, IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS, I AM EXCITED ABOUT ALL THE NATURE THINGS, I CAN DO WITH MY 4 YOUNG CHILDREN AGES FROM 5 TO 9. IF YOU CAN KEEP ME POSTED ON THINGS TO DO, FOR THAT AGE RANGE, WE WOULD APPRECIATE IT, GOOD LUCK AND THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR EXPERTISE…

    Written on May 15th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  6. Karla says…

    I absolutly agree on the best waterfall hike. the Mckenzie river trail is one of the most beautiful places in the country! and I would include Clear Lake in the hike. I have been camping there since I was just 2 weeks old. and then with my own kids, and someday with my grand kids. awesome place.

    Written on May 15th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  7. schoenclark.com says…

    I have recommended this site to so many people the information is amazing. I would love to see a story on short easy hikes near and around Portland.

    Written on June 2nd, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  8. Mary Schoen-Clark says…

    “Easy hikes for kids and Grandma”…. would love some highlights for North Portland.

    Written on June 28th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  9. Heather says…

    Where are the hot springs on the Mckenzie River Trail you speak of? Are there natural hot springs? Or are you referencing the pools at Belknap Lodge.

    Thanks for the list! :)

    Written on September 20th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  10. lisa hawkins says…

    Hi Carli,
    Can you recommend a great hike near Eagle Crest in Central Oregon? We’ve done Smith Rock and Black Butte. Looking for something new this year? What’s the scoop on Tumalo Falls?

    Written on July 15th, 2014 / Flag this Comment
css.php
Close

Sign up for the

Travel Oregon

Newsletter

Stay in touch and get the inside scoop for your next Oregon adventure. We'll deliver Oregon stories, itineraries, contests and ideas of where to eat + drink and get outdoors and explore - right to your inbox, every month.

Success! You're all signed up to receive Oregon trip ideas delivered right to your inbox.

Hmm, something went wrong, please try later.

can't wait to hear from us?

Follow us Online