3 road trips to see Oregon’s natural beauty

Fall in love all over again with the state known for being an absolute stunner.

A sunset at Neskwoin Beach where a woman has written Oregon in the sand

Sunsets on Neskowin Beach are hard to beat. | Photo by PDXtoday staff/@benmcbeephoto

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Love is in the air, but not just between sweethearts exchanging chocolates on Valentine’s Day. February 14 also happens to be Oregon’s birthday, and today, the beautiful state we live in turns 165 years old. We’re offering our affections by sharing ideas for road trips that show off its dazzling natural beauty.

A deep blue small lake surrounded by forest

It may look enticing, but visitors are asked not to swim. | Photo by PDXtoday staff/@benmcbeephoto

Ben McBee

Little Crater Lake | 1 hour 38 minutes | 75 miles

Most have probably heard of it’s much larger namesake — Oregon’s only national park — but Little Crater Lake is more of a hidden gem (or sapphire?), and only a 10-minute detour off of Highway 26, east of Mt. Hood. Getting there is doable as a day trip, or you can pitch a tent at the campground and hike a trail that links up with the PCT.

Proposal Rock after sunset

Proposal Rock always provides engaging views. | Photo by PDXtoday staff/@benmcbeephoto

Proposal Rock | 1 hour 55 minutes | 89 miles

We’re not trying to drop hints … but there are not many places more romantic or scenic than the Oregon Coast’s aptly named Proposal Rock. Take a stroll down the beach to the Neskowin Ghost Forest, where petrified trees stick out of the sand like a finger waiting for a ring. With ocean cottages, a general store and restaurant, plus two golf courses, it’s an ideal place to nestle down for a couple’s retreat.

A landscape photo of Oregon's Painted Hills.

Even Michelangelo couldn’t paint this. | Photo by PDXtoday staff/@benmcbeephoto

Painted Hills | 3 hours 58 minutes | 200 miles

Witnessing firsthand the otherworldly formations located in the vast John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is the definition of a bucket list experience. Layers of bright red, ochre, and black make the Painted Hills look like an outdoor art museum — that’s been in the making for 39 million years. There’s no water and it’s extremely isolated, so come prepared. Mitchell is the closest town with lodging, but staying in Bend is also not out of the question.

Whatever the duration of your outing, be mindful of the season when traveling — in most cases, spring through fall is your best bet.

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