Outdoor Lover’s Road Trip to the Rogue

July 13, 2016 (Updated July 15, 2016)

If you’re looking for an adventure this summer, you can’t go wrong with a road trip through Oregon. All within a week’s drive, you can experience thriving city culture, glacier-capped volcanoes, desert rock formations, old growth forests, waterfalls and some of the best wilderness rafting in the nation. So stop hemming and hawing about what to do this summer, and go explore Oregon. Need some inspiration? We put together a seven-day itinerary that ends with a bang — a trip on the Wild & Scenic Rogue River.


Day 1: Portland

Start your Oregon road trip by satisfying your hunger in Portland. This culinary hub is a smorgasbord of low-budget options. For breakfast, discover why a line forms out the door at Pine State Biscuits, and order a biscuit with gravy that would make your grandmother proud. Burn it off during a walk along the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park. Once your hunger returns, hit up one of Portland’s many food cart pods. You can choose from menus around the world, but pay less than 10 bucks for a meal. Digest your lunch while wandering the aisles at Powell’s City of Books. When your appetite beckons, treat yourself to the award-winning Pok Pok on Division Street for dinner. They serve up some of the best Thai food outside of Thailand. To stay in the heart of the action, try a room at the Ace Hotel. A glance into their lobby reveals they have their finger on the pulse of hipsterdom in Portland.

Photo credit: Larry Geddis
Photo credit: Larry Geddis


Photo credit: Sumio Koizumi

Day 2: Multnomah Falls + Mt. Hood

Stock your cooler with a few Stumptown Cold Brews for a caffeine jolt and head out I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge. (We recommend leaving early to avoid the crowds and following these tips for touring the Gorge.) Stop by Multnomah Falls to hike off all you ate in Portland. Keep heading east until you get to Hood River. Then hook up with highway 35 and drive through the apple orchards below the glacier-clad slopes of Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. Either camp out in Mt. Hood National Forest or grab a room at Timberline Lodge, an icon of the Pacific Northwest and where The Shining was filmed. It’s the perfect launching pad for a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail for amazing views of Mt. Hood looming overhead.


Day 3: Bend

It’s only a two hour drive from Mt. Hood to Central Oregon’s recreation capital of Bend. Don’t miss Smith Rock State Park. The beautiful red rock towers and the graceful Crooked River make this an Instagrammer’s paradise. Whether you are climbing or hiking at Smith in the summer, it’ll get hot. So cool off across the road in the Deschutes River at Steelhead Falls. Is it the best swimming hole in the world? You can decide for yourself. The Deschutes also has great stand-up paddleboarding spots. After a full day outdoors, head for shade within the original Deschutes Brewery in downtown Bend. They have a tasty bison burger and a delicious selection of the finest craft beer in the Pacific Northwest.


Photo credit: Christian Heeb

Day 4: Toketee Falls + Umpqua River


Trade the arid heat of Bend for the cool old growth forest of the Umpqua River Scenic Highway. Drive past Diamond Lake and Mt. Thielson and stop a little further on at Toketee Falls. Do the short hike and take photos of one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Cascades. Choose any one of the numerous campgrounds along the route, but if you want to treat yourself, stay a night at the Steamboat Inn. This historic lodge is located in the middle of 31 miles of “fly fishing only” water on the North Umpqua River. Grab your rod and cast for steelhead in the swift jade current. When you hook into one you’ll understand immediately why the North Umpqua is legendary among fishermen.



Day 5 – 7: Rogue River Rafting

Now for the main event. Drive into the river town of Merlin, and meet up with an outfitter for a multi-day Rogue River rafting trip (be sure to book well in advance). Over the course of 42 miles and three-plus days, you’ll raft through steep, forested mountainsides, camp at idyllic riverside beaches and splash through tons of fun Class II-III rapids in between some of the Rogue’s more challenging rapids like Rainie Falls and Blossom Bar. If you want to up the adventure level, hop in an inflatable kayak for some of the trip, especially through Mule Creek Canyon where the river squeezes between hard rock cliffs in a boiling cauldron of unpredictable whitewater. If timing works out, stretch your legs at magical river sites like Zane Grey’s cabin, where the famous author spun entertaining Western yarns that landed on the New York Bestseller’s List, or try to find the infamous Tate Creek waterslide. This trip down the Wild & Scenic Rogue River offers plenty of hidden gems along the way. It’s the perfect finale to a week-long Oregon road trip.

About The

Tim Gibbins
Tim Gibbins lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. His articles have appeared in Outside Magazine, The Oregonian and Montana Outdoors. He’s also a regular contributor for O.A.R.S. Tim previously worked as a naturalist in Denali National Park.