8 Spectacular Day Trips from Portland

With summer in full swing, adventures are a top priority and they are in no short supply here in the Pacific Northwest. So, get ready to strike out! These day trips are all under an hour away from Portland, making it super simple to head out after a leisurely breakfast and still make it home in time for dinner. Ranging from nature hikes and museums to bike rides and small-town charm, you just need to pack the diaper bag or backpack and hit the road. Read on for more!

photo: andy via flickr
Columbia River Gorge – Oregon Side
The classic Portland day trip does not disappoint, no matter what your final destination is. There are so many easy hikes in the Gorge that it’s a treasure trove of fun! Many hikes are re-opening after last fall’s Eagle Creek fire, so expect to see lots of renewed trails like Bridal Veil Falls, one of the top kid-friendly hikes. Short, easy and with a beautiful waterfall as the ultimate pay-off—it’s a winner. And of course Multnomah Falls is the granddaddy of them all, the best not-to-be-missed sight around. Take a break in the visitor center restaurant before tackling the whole (steep!) hike, or just walk up to the bridge for the most picture perfect moments.

And if you’re driving all the way to Hood River (about an hour from Portland), you’ll find 30 farms in the Fruit Loop, beautiful waterfront parks, tasty brews for the parents, and a perfect place to stroll for the day. Explore more!
Columbia River Gorge – Washington Side
Visited a little less often, the Washington side of the Gorge still deserves your love. With stellar hikes like Beacon Rock and the stunning Rodney Falls and Pool of the Winds, it’s set to impress. If your kiddos don’t have their hiking legs yet you can still enjoy the views just from driving as the road winds along the Gorge—the 2-lane highway is more intimate than I-84 on the Oregon side. Visit the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center for a little history and science, and stop in towns like Carson for their family friendly Backwoods Brewing. Explore more!

Pro-tip: want an overnight trip to the Gorge? Check out Bingen.

photo: henry via yelp
Bonneville Fish Hatchery
It’s part of Oregon’s Gorge, but it deserves it’s own section, to be honest. Bonneville is such a great family destination, good for little scientists and adults alike. The ground are well-kept and beautiful, making a perfect testing grounds for new walkers while their older siblings can count the fish they see (including Herman the Sturgeon, a whopping 75-year old dude!). You can tour a powerhouse, check out the fish windows, and even watch fish jump up the ladders at the right time of year.

Free admission
70543 NE Herman Loop
Cascade Locks, OR
Online: myodfw.com
This wildlife refuge is a happening place for migrating birds! Lots of trails allow for shorter or longer hikes, and you’ll even get a chance to see a traditional Chinook plankhouse, open during summer. Wetlands and meadows attract plenty of wildlife, and if your visit lands in the fall you’ll likely spot lots of migrating birds like geese and herons. Be sure to mark your calendars to visit during their annual BirdFest and Bluegrass Festival, every October!

$3/car parking fee
28908 NW Main Ave.
Ridgefield, WA
Online: ridgefieldfriends.org


photo: jen via yelp
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Explore the world of the pioneers with this interactive center! You’ll get to see an introductory 30 minute “Bound for Oregon” movie, then explore hands-on exhibits like candle-making, pioneer crafts, and the Henderson farm.

Combine a trip to the museum with Oregon City itself by visiting the city Elevator (one of 4 in the world!), the historic McLoughlin House, beautiful views of the Willamette River from Canemah Bluff park, or make it a full museum day with the Museum of the Oregon Territory.

$13/adults, $7/children 4-7, free for children 3 and under
1726 Washington St
Oregon City, OR
Online: historicoregoncity.org
Champoeg State Park
This state park has plenty of campsites and yurts for overnight stays, but it also makes a fantastic day trip for a quick visit. Bring your bike to explore the 4 mile trail that spans the park. It’ll bring you right to the Historic Butteville Store, the oldest general store in Oregon, which serves up ice cream, pies, and cold drinks to hot pedalers. Back under the shady trees of the park, you can get a sense of pioneer life by visiting the Mother’s Log Cabin, Newell House, and the visitor center.

8239 Champoeg Rd NE
St Paul, OR
Online: oregonstateparks.org

photo: oy via flickr
Explore Sellwood
The community of Sellwood is waiting to show you a good time! You’ll find plenty to distract the kids in this neighborhood with a small-town feel. From water play at Sellwood Riverfront Park, nature walks at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, and rides and games at Oaks Amusement Park, you’ll have to come back again and again to see it all! And that’s not to mention the adorable shops, restaurants, and cafes lining the streets. Explore more!
Explore St John’s
Another small-town in the big city, St John’s can sometimes feel like you stepped right back into the 50s. Sweet cafes, restaurants and shops hold onto their charm, and places like the St. John’s Twin Cinemas and Pub showcase it proudly. Or spend a day outside under the towering spires of Cathedral Park: perfect for your next family photoshoot, or a relaxing picnic. Explore More!

—Katrina Emery


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