One Trip Itinerary: Portland

Published on July 27th, 2022

The next one tank trip in our series is from Portland, Oregon. If you’re visiting the Pacific Northwest, you might notice that there’s a ton to do in this area. In fact, the hardest part is figuring out which direction to head in for a day trip! From Portland you can easily visit the beach, lush forests, wine country, waterfall hikes, or head east to the high desert. But where to visit?

For this one tank trip, we’re going to head east and south from Portland to explore the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, and beyond to Crater Lake National Park. This trip is 321 miles and takes about 6 hours and 40 minutes by car. As usual your mileage and times may vary depending on where you stop, your car or rig, and other factors. But if you’re ready to see spectacular waterfalls, dense forests, and sparkling lakes, it’s time to explore outside of Portland!

Portland

As with our other one tank trips, this one starts in a large city – this time Portland! Plan a few days to explore all the fun things there are to do here. Need some ideas of places to check out? How about seeing why Portland is called the City of Roses at the Portland International Rose Test Garden? Or visit the highly rated Portland Japanese Garden to wander among the beautiful cultivated plants. Don’t miss the Portland Saturday Market for local art and crafts. And if museums are your thing, stop by the Portland Art Museum or Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Then it’s time to fill up the gas tank and head out on the adventure!

Columbia River Gorge

The first stop after Portland is a drive through the Columbia River Gorge. This incredible stretch of land is only 30 miles east of Portland. Check out some of the 90 different waterfalls, explore the area on the many hiking and mountain bike trails, and stop at the scenic overlooks for sweeping views of the gorge. You can drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway and stop at the trailheads or pullouts along the way.

There are many great places to stop along the route. One is Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Bridal Veil Falls is another fantastic waterfall hike. And be sure to walk or bike along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail that is made up of several paved paths along the historic Highway 30.

State parks also line this region, and offer fantastic options for hiking, exploring, and even camping. You’ll have your pick of parks like Viento State Park, Memaloose State Park, and Ainsworth State Park all within an easy drive.

Many of the waterfalls and trails in the Columbia River Gorge are open all year. During the summer months, timed permits for each vehicle are required in certain parts of the area to manage crowds. You can find more information on the permits and reserve one if needed at recreation.gov.

Hood River

As you drive east through the Columbia River Gorge, you’ll eventually get to the town of Hood River. This scenic town is situated right along the river and surrounded by rolling hills dotted with orchards. It’s a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts and it’s easy to see why with all the outside activities it offers. If it’s a nice day, spend some time on the river kiteboarding, windsurfing, or stand up paddleboarding. With all the wind that funnels up the gorge, Hood River is actually one of the best places for kiteboarding and windsurfing! If you don’t want to try it yourself, head down to the river to watch the colorful kites and sails of those on the water. And if you want to try it out, several local outfitters offer rentals and lessons.

If you’d rather stay on land, explore some of the waterfalls and cliff views that surround the town. Visit the Vista House, an octagonal shaped observatory and museum that sits on the top of a basalt cliff and offers visitors sweeping views of the area. Or take the Mount Hood Railroad for a scenic ride through the surrounding countryside and woods.

And if you’re looking for a little detour outside of town, head to the Fruit Loop. This stretch of 35 miles traverses the nearby rolling hills and orchards. It takes you through the small towns and farms where vendors and farmers sell locally produced goods such as cider, jams, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and more. Depending on what time of the year you visit, some vendors may be closed for the season, with summer and fall being the most bountiful.

Mt Hood National Forest

After the town of Hood River, it’s time to visit the majestic Mt. Hood. So far, we’ve technically been following part of the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway – a 100 mile stretch of roads that follow the Columbia River Gorge and then head south and west to circle around Mt. Hood and back to Portland. From the town of Hood River, we’ll head south on SR 35 and continue on the Scenic Byway for woods, orchards, and mountain filled views as we make our way into Mt. Hood National Forest.

There’s tons to do in this national forest year-round. If you’re visiting in winter, it’s known for all sorts of skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing opportunities. But summer is just as great! With many hiking and biking trails throughout the forest, you can easily spend a week here exploring the area. Be sure to take the Trillium Lake or Mirror Lake trails to get some amazing photos of peaceful water with Mt. Hood in the background. Or visit the iconic 1930’s Timberline Lodge for lunch and to view the interpretive site to learn about its history and preservation.

This is also a fantastic place to camp for the night (or a few days)! There are almost 100 camping area inside the national forest that are run by the Forest Service. Many of these offer RV camping, and primitive camping is also available in some areas.

Bend

Instead of driving back to Portland on this one tank trip, next we’re going to head southeast to Deschutes National Forest and Bend, Oregon. Deschutes National Forest covers almost 1.6 million acres (yes, million) so don’t worry about not finding something to see! And nestled right smack in the middle is the outdoor adventure destination of Bend.

Hiking and bicycling fans will have plenty to explore. There are hundreds of hiking trails that cross through Deschutes National Forest, and there are over 300 miles of singletrack trails outside of Bend. In fact, there are 14 biking regions in the area for you to explore. And if you haven’t seen enough waterfalls, Tumalo Falls is located 10 miles west of Bend. It showcases a 97-foot plunge waterfall for visitors to view from an observation deck.

And don’t forget to check out the city of Bend itself! Don’t miss a visit to the High Desert Museum, a forested nature preserve that offers exhibits and live animals. There’s plenty to keep both kids and adults entertained. If you want to get some hiking in but don’t want to leave town, head up Pilot Butte for a sweeping view of the city and Cascade Mountains. (You can also drive up there if you just want to see the view). Then spend the afternoon checking out some of the shopping and local restaurants and breweries in the Old Mill District and downtown.

If you’re visiting during the warmer months, be sure to take advantage of the Deschutes River or any of the mountain lakes in the surrounding area. There’s everything from whitewater rafting to tubing to leisurely stand up paddleboarding to choose from and plenty of local outfitters to offer lessons, guided tours, and rentals.

Crater Lake National Park

Last on our one tank trip from Portland is Crater Lake National Park. This is the only national park in Oregon, and the lake itself is actually the deepest lake in the USA! The lake was formed by a collapsed volcano over 7,700 years ago and the national park preserves the pristine beauty of the surrounding area.

Explore the lakes, forests, mountains, and peaks throughout the park by hiking over 90 miles of trails or on the 33-mile bicycle route. If you’re looking to spend time on or in the water, you can swim, boat, scuba dive, fish, or even take a boat tour on the lakes. Local outfitters offer boat tours of Crater Lake that are both full of gorgeous scenery and informative. And if you visit during the winter months, skiing, snowmobiling, and ranger-led snowshoe tours are all great activities.

Feel like staying in your vehicle? Drive the scenic 33-mile Rim Drive that circles Crater Lake with over 30 different overlooks and trailheads to check out. It’s often been called one of the best scenic drives in the US! Or take a 2-hour narrated trolley tour around the park during the summer months to learn about the local area and history. here are plenty of places to camp in the park if you’d like to turn this into a multi-day stay (and we recommend you do!) on your trip.

Take a one tank trip

That’s the end of this one tank trip from Portland, but be sure to check out our others like this beach filled trip from Houston, a nature filled adventure in Salt Lake City, and a desert drive from Las Vegas. Need a RV for your trip? Head over to RVshare.com to check out the great selection of local RV rentals.

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