Oregon has some of the best hiking in the country, ranging from high mountain peaks to breathtaking waterfalls and enchanting ocean vistas, all nestled in lush Oregon forests. With so many options, it might be hard for an eager hiker to choose where to go first. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with options, here are a few of our top hikes to help you narrow down your list.
God’s Thumb hike via the Knoll, Oregon Coast.
Located on the Oregon coast, this trail gets its name from the thumb-like cliff jutting out toward the ocean. The beginning of the trail traverses calm Oregon forests, eventually leading you out to sweeping vistas of the Pacific coast. The path leads to a somewhat steep ascent to the top of the “thumb” itself. Be aware, this trail can get quite muddy if the weather has been rainy. Check the trail reports to see what conditions look like before heading out so you have an idea of what to expect.
The Trail of Ten Falls, as you can probably guess, gives hikers the opportunity to see some of the most amazing waterfalls in the Oregon forests. Located in Silver Falls State Park, this trail loops around 10 striking waterfalls all in less than 8 miles. Since it’s a loop, you have a few different options for where you can start your hike. You don’t need to worry about too much steep elevation gain, making it a fairly manageable hike. Only a little more than an hour south of Portland, this trail makes for a great weekend morning spent in the great outdoors.
If you haven’t had your fill of waterfalls yet, head an hour east of Portland to the Mt. Hood National Forest and make the trek up to the breathtaking, 120-foot-tall Ramona Falls. The trail will take you along the southwestern side of the mountain, across a river and eventually to a loop that will take you past the falls. Be aware that crossing the river might be risky, so be sure to follow the Forest Service’s river crossing safety guide. And don’t be afraid to turn back if you don’t feel safe. If you choose to cross, though, you’re in for a treat.
View of Mt. Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon.
Also in the shadow of Mt. Hood, the Mirror Lake Loop is one of the most popular hikes in Oregon. This popularity means that you might find the trail a bit crowded, but the views at the lake make it well worth the trouble. The hike leads you through gorgeous Oregon forests before finally arriving at the namesake lake of the trail. The serene Mirror Lake reflects the stunning Mt. Hood, living up to its name.
Sharing a trailhead with the Mirror Lake Loop, the hike up to Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain gives more ambitious hikers a reason to stay even longer in the Mt. Hood National Forest. While the hike up to Mirror Lake is relatively easy, once you start heading up the ridge, the elevation really kicks in. If you can power through it, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most scenic views of Mt. Hood you can imagine.
Farther south near Bend, in the Deschutes National Forest, you’ll find the natural splendor of the Green Lakes Trail. While the nine-mile hike might seem daunting at first, there aren’t any particularly steep areas, making it an easier hike. Vibrant meadows filled with wildflowers, rushing waterfalls and towering mountains all await you on your journey. The trail follows along Fall Creek, leading you through the forests until you reach the Green Lakes, which lie in the shadow of the South Sister mountain. As a word to the wise, the trail gets pretty crowded pretty fast. You may want to consider going on a weekday (if possible) or getting there early in the morning.
View of Mt. Hood from McNeil Point Trail.
The McNeil Point Trail is one of the most beautiful—and the most challenging—hikes in the state of Oregon. Climbing up the side of Bald Mountain, you’ll come across glacial streams, stunning views and lush fields of wildflowers. The trail is a lollipop, leading you to a fork in the path that will take you around the top. Be mindful of your footing and take care when you encounter the rock scramble nearby. On a clear day, from the top, you’ll catch sight of not only Mount Hood, but Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams in the distance. Though the trail can be difficult, it’s one of the quintessential hikes the state has to offer.
A serious hike is anything but a walk in the park, even if some of the trails are technically in parks. Before you make your way to the trailhead, don’t forget these tenants of hiking.
Oregon forests are gorgeous, but the ground can be muddy and treacherous. Make sure you come prepared with a sturdy pair of hiking boots with good traction, and maybe even bring a spare pair of shoes to change into afterward. Don’t forget a waterproof rain jacket either. Oregon is a rainy place, particularly in the fall and winter, and the last thing you want is to get caught off guard by a downpour in the middle of your trek.
While Oregon might not be famous for its sunny climate, that doesn’t mean you can afford to skimp on the sunscreen. If you’re planning on spending any length of time outdoors, don’t forget to apply enough sunscreen to protect yourself. Even if the weather is gloomy, you’ll still need it. Bring a small bottle along with you as well so you can reapply when necessary.
The only reason we have so much beautiful wilderness is because of the continued stewardship of people who care for it. When you step out onto the trail, it’s your turn to take care of it. If you bring anything with you, don’t forget to bring it out. Your actions will make sure there are Oregon forests to explore for generations to come.
Learn more about Oregon’s forests and trees by exploring the Oregon Forests Forever website. You’ll find information about wildfire prevention, preserving Oregon’s many trees and wildlife and more.
Protecting human lives, property, and timber-producing forest
Oregon’s forests produce the highest quality water in the state
Supporting communities and the environment
Working forests are key in the fight against climate change
Offering a career path and future for everyone
Forest practice laws safeguard water, fish and wildlife
Different forest types create and maintain wildlife habitats
Oregon has the same amount of forestland now as 100 years ago