Fall is arguably the best time of year to take a weekend jaunt in our gorgeous state. The changing trees, mild weather, farm harvests, and festivals make us want to go day-tripping every weekend. Oregon has something for just about everyone. We’ve rounded up five can’t-miss Oregon day trips that will get you out adventuring!
Connect with the Nature in the Painted Hills
Who says fall colors are only for trees? When you enter the Painted Hills, you’re surrounded by gorgeous hues of yellow, red, orange, and gold—all in stone. The Painted Hills are a four-hour drive from Portland, and this day trip could definitely be a whole weekend if you want it to be. Even the drive for this Oregon day trip is an adventure. It will take you from lush forests to high desert with prairies in between. With an average high of 65 degrees in October and the summer crowds gone, fall is the perfect time of year to explore this Oregon gem.
Where it’s located: Just outside (about 20 minutes) of Mitchell, Oregon. This is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Where you should eat: Nearby Mitchell offers hometown diners with tasty options. Swing by the Mitchell Stage Stop (once the Little Pine Café) for tasty burgers and pizza. Afterwards, head over to Sidewalk Café and More for pie or a milkshake!
Why you can’t miss it: The Painted Hills are a unique treasure in Oregon. You can literally see the evolution of landscape in the hills. This area was once floodplain, and it was home to camels, rhinoceroses, and saber-tooth tigers. It’s pretty cool to check out the fossils on one (or all five!) of the hiking trails and imagine what the land once was. This stunning geological portrait is an adventure nobody should miss.
Fun side note: Our own Mark and Beth Farrell were just at the Painted Hills last week. Love this shot of them having a great time!
College Town Tour—Eugene, Oregon
Fall means football, and that calls for a day trip to Eugene. Before a home game, take a walk on the University of Oregon campus to see over five hundred different types of trees in full color. If you enjoy museums, tour The Museum of Natural and Cultural History and learn more about Oregon’s past.
Even if you’re not a Ducks fan, Eugene has plenty of hot spots for fall frolicking. The Eugene Saturday Market is a great place to start. Find flea market treasures and take home delicious fresh produce from the local fall harvest. After the market, enjoy one of the amazing city parks in Eugene, like Hendricks Park, which is filled with native plants and trails.
Where it’s Located: Two hours south of Portland
Where You Should Eat: Try the Cornbread Café with vegan comfort food or Papas Soul Food Kitchen and BBQ, where you can catch a weekend concert in the backyard.
Why You Can’t Miss It: Eugene is filled with an energy you can only get from a college town. Combined with gorgeous outdoor opportunities and a ton of tasty dining options, Eugene has got to be on your fall to-enjoy list.
Take a Relaxing Oregon Day Trip to McMinnville
If you’re looking to experience Oregon’s wine country and the Willamette Valley, McMinnville is the perfect destination for a fall day trip. Fall is the ideal season for wine tasting and vineyard tours. The weather is mild, the grapes are at their peak, and the scenery is gorgeous. McMinnville is just made for romantic getaways or a girls’ spa and wine-tasting trip.
Where it’s Located: One hour southeast of Portland
Where You Should Eat: The choices are endless! McMinnville is a foodie destination, so you honestly can’t go wrong. Try Red Fox Bakery and Valley Commissary for brunch. End the day with a fine dining experience at Thistle for farm-to-table food or La Rambla for tapas and paella.
Why You Can’t Miss It: Oregon’s Willamette Valley is truly stunning. It showcases the natural beauty Oregon is known for, as well as its rich agricultural industry. McMinnville is the place to go for true relaxation. Check out Visit McMinnville for everything you need to know about wine tours, festivals, dining guides, and more.
Surround Yourself with Fall Color
If you really want to immerse yourself in the colors of autumn, hiking and fishing are a must. Mt. Hood and the Salmon River are the epitomes of adventure, all in a gorgeous setting. Of course, with a whole mountain to explore, you could spend weeks hiking, camping, rock climbing, and kayaking. But for a quick trip, the Old Salmon River Trail is the perfect fall hike. It borders the Salmon River and is only 1.9 miles, so bring the kids!
Fishing the Salmon River is definitely worth doing, too. The Salmon River is great for catching trout in the fall. A one-day fishing license costs nineteen dollars, and kids are only ten dollars. If you’ve been wanting to give fly fishing a try, here are some links to get you started.
Where it’s Located: Ninety minutes east of Portland
Where You Should Eat: Why not pack a picnic for your road trip? Stop by Govy General to pick up some supplies before you head up to the mountain.
Why You Can’t Miss It: There’s no better way to experience a season than to be out in nature, right in the middle of it. There are so many ways to experience the gorgeous colors and bubbling rivers in the Mt. Hood area. Just choose something that looks exciting to you and get outside in the glorious fall!
Follow the Fruit Loop (No, Not the Cereal)
Harvest time in Oregon means fresh fruit from roadside stands and you-pick farms. The Hood River County Fruit Loop has made it easy to take a delicious and beautiful drive through Oregon farm country. With well over twenty farms stands, wineries, and orchards on the loop, you can get your fill of fall seasonal goods like apples, pears, chestnuts, and pumpkins. Pack your bushel baskets and bring an empty stomach before venturing out.
Where it’s Located: Ninety minutes east of Portland
Where You Should Eat: Go to Bette’s Place for a warm, fresh cinnamon roll and other delicious brunch choices. If you’re in the mood for some classy pizza and river views, eat lunch or dinner at Solstice Wood-Fired Café.
Why You Can’t Miss It: Fall is the best time of year to take advantage of Oregon’s amazing fruit. Not to mention that all of those fruit trees have beautiful, vibrant fall colors! The fruit loop is truly a relaxing drive in the country. It’s the prefect trip for a family with kids or a couple looking to get out of the city for the day.
Fall for Adventure
Are you ready to hop in your car and explore Oregon? The weekend can’t come soon enough! Hopefully you’ll be able to check off these five can’t-miss Oregon day trips from your bucket list soon. If you’d like to see more articles about our glorious Oregon in your inbox, be sure to sign up for our emails!