Choosing a where to go on a road trip from Portland is like trying to pick a meal at a restaurant with a novel-sized menu—the options are seemingly endless, and you’ll probably change your mind a million times anyway. Over 200 waterfalls, countless mountain peaks, and a smattering of hot springs make it easy to find beauty wherever you end up.
Thanks to Portland’s mega-close proximity to stellar nature, it’s easy to ditch the city for a weekend getaway. This itinerary comes from travelers Stephen and Marilee, who planned and embarked on an epic 3-day road trip featuring some of Oregon’s best campsites and must-see state parks. Here’s how they did it:
Step 1: Pick up your ride in Portland
Welcome to Portland! Our centrally located pickup depot is easy to find and we’ve got you covered on all of the essentials: cookware, bedding, chairs, and a fresh water tank. Once you’ve booked online and gotten your access code, pickup is a breeze—you’ll be on your way in no time. Pro tip: plan your recipes for the road ahead of time if you’re in the mood to be a chef.
Head south to Skinner Butte Lookout
Sweeping views of Eugene and Springfield are found at the top of Skinner Butte Lookout, a worthwhile stopoff when you’re passing through the neighboring small cities. It’s one of the oldest parks in the area, covering 100 acres with a popular loop hike that runs through it.
Ride time from Portland: 1 hour 50 minutes
Camp spot night 1: Lookout Campground
Nestled in the tranquil beauty of Willamette National Forest, Lookout Campground is an ideal place to park the van and hang your hat for the night. Tall evergreen trees shrouded in low-hanging mist make it a classic vision of the Pacific Northwest—with all the cozy vibes you could hope for. The grounds sit on an open meadow next to the Blue Water Reservoir without any designated campsites (other than 4 picnic sites) but it can accommodate up to 20 sites.
Ride time from Skinner Butte Lookout: 1 hour
Cost per vehicle: $15/night
Restrooms: Yes, vault toilets
Reservations: Can be made online
Terwilliger Hot Springs
The geothermal pools of Terwilliger Hot Springs can be reached by a short ¼ mile trail—bringing you to a series of six pools that are stacked one upon another, with Rider Creek Waterfall bringing them to life. They’re completely enveloped in the deep green hued wilderness, and clothing is optional should you fancy a real natural experience. Temperatures range from 85 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the pool, so you’ll always be toasty.
Ride time from Lookout Campground: 22 minutes
Bigelow Hot Springs
32 minutes in the van will take you to Bigelow Hot Springs, the little sibling of Terwilliger. Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit, as winter can be a bit chilly due to the small size fit for 2-4 people. If you’re lucky, you might just get it all to yourself!
Ride time from Terwilliger Hot Springs: 32 minutes
Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool)
Tamolitch Falls, mostly known as The Blue Pool, lives up to its namesake as a pristine, cerulean pool that’s notorious with both hikers and photographers. The water is too chilly to swim (37 degrees Fahrenheit on average) but it makes for an amazing mirror-like sight against the trees and deep green foliage. There are no restrooms or garbage facilities anywhere near the pool itself, so prepare yourself and leave no trace behind.
Ride time from Bigelow Hot Springs: 8 minutes
Camp spot night 2: Tumalo State Park
Just 15 minutes northwest of Bend lies Tumalo State Park, resting along the Deschutes River. Its close proximity to the town makes it easy for those last-minute grocery runs, but is still far enough to offer a pure wilderness experience.
Trout fishing, scenic hiking, mountain bike trails, and winter recreation at Mt. Bachelor are just a few noteworthy offerings in the area.
Cost per vehicle: $21/night
Restrooms: Yes, flush toilets and showers
Reservations: Can be made online
Ride time from Tamolitch Falls: 1 hour 12 minutes
Silver Falls State Park
You can’t miss the Trail of Ten Falls Hike at Silver Falls State Park, a nationally recognized hike through dense, moss-covered forestlands that takes you to a series of jaw-dropping waterfalls. If you’ve ever wondered what a 177-foot waterfall looks like from behind—now is your chance—as you can walk right behind South Falls, the most famous of the bunch. The full loop hike is 7.2 miles, but you can easily pick and choose shorter routes from connecting trails.
Note: Dogs are not allowed on the Canyon Trail for safety reasons. They’re good to go everywhere else in the park, however.
Ride time from Tumalo State Park: 2 hours 25 minutes
Head back to Portland
After an (almost) full loop of balmy hot springs, cascading waterfalls, and all the other unexpected gems you’ll discover along the way—it’ll only take you a little over an hour to get back to our depot in Portland. We want to extend a special thanks to Stephen and Marilee for sharing their awesome itinerary and photos with us. We hope it’ll inspire many more adventures on the same route.
Check out their trip map on Google to follow their exact directions.
Ride time from Silver Falls State Park: 1 hour 8 minutes
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