City Cast

Best Last-Minute Road Trips From Portland

Rachel Monahan
Posted on August 31
bridge between Washington and Oregon at Astoria

Astoria-Megler Bridge (EmergentProperty/Cacophony)

Even if you don’t have plans for the weekend, it’s not too late to hop in the car. We got advice from Norther Emily of Wild Solitude Guiding on the best weekend road trips from Portland for last-minute adventure:

North Coast Loop

Norther Emily recommends 202 to Astoria and then driving down the coast to Lincoln City and taking Highway 18 back.

Here are some stops to consider:

  • Before you get to Astoria, “Youngs River is a really beautiful river that I never hear people talk about. There's a cool waterfall you can stop and swim at.”
  • “Go to Astoria. Go to the shipwreck.”
  • “Go to the little touristy towns. Go to the little cute towns that aren't touristy.”
  • “I love the tunnel on the beach at Oceanside.”
  • “I love Hug Point. It's the classic; never get tired of that.”
  • Cascade Head is so, so beautiful, and that would be a great way to end the day — to hike out there, and look at the little black sand beach. At the end of the hike, [there’s] sea lions. Then you can hike back in the sunset through the spruce forest."

Crater Lake

blue sky and blue water

Since 1902, Crater Lake has been a national park. (Bonnie Moreland)

It’s a bit far for a weekend drive, but if you’ve got a few extra days, visit Oregon’s one big national park.

“Not many people go to Southern Oregon, so this is kind of like a fun way to introduce yourself to the area if you're not super familiar,” says Emily.

It’s built for car touring with a bunch of pull outs around the lake. “You will get tired of looking at the lake from every single angle.” Her advice: “If everybody else is going counterclockwise, you go clockwise and stop at the stops that everybody was already sick of stopping at.”

For hiking nearby there are lots of options, including Mount Scott. “Mount Scott is actually one of the taller peaks in the state of Oregon. That is a really nice half-day hike.”

On the Way There: North Umpqua River

From Roseburg, take the route along the North Umpqua River: “It's nicer to open up the trip by starting with this super scenic drive up this really beautiful river.”

Stop at the little waterfall hikes and Umpqua Hot Springs. “It's pretty well regulated. And there's a lot of really great camping,” says Emily.

Bonus: “I've seen some cute little bears. It's a pretty rugged area, but it's still really accessible for how wild it is.”

McKenzie Pass

Always check the weather, says Emily. And so this one’s for another time: There’s currently a forest fire shutting down the road. Look for a time when the snow isn’t blocking travel — generally July to November — and neither are the fires.

The high-mountain pass was too hazardous for the covered wagons of pioneers, but was originally a trail for Native tribes. Later, ranchers drove their cattle over the mountains. Now it’s an outdoor paradise.

It’s about eight hours of driving, round trip, “which is pretty reasonable for a weekend,” says Emily. “I've done that trip as a day trip before. A friend of mine mentioned that she had never been east of the Cascades and I was like, get in the car, we're leaving right now”

It doesn’t take a lot of advance planning for activities, because “there's very clear stops,” says Emily. “Stop here and look at this awesome waterfall. Now stop here and look at this also awesome waterfall. Stop here and climb to the top of this neat little lava castle and look out over the vast lava fields. You can stop and swim. You can pick berries.”


Norther Emily has made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. Listen to her advice on what to do before you hit the road.

We want to hear from you: What are your favorite weekend road trips from Portland?

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