Oregon lets you explore attractions situated off the beaten track, so you can enjoy beauty and excitement, with a dash of solitude. From man-made wonders to otherworldly landscapes, there are an abundance of breathtaking points of interest in this Pacific Northwestern state. Stay at one of many Oregon vacation rentals for your upcoming getaway. Whether you want to soak in a natural thermal spring or watch as the Pacific Ocean drains down a hole in the sea, you can do it all in Oregon. Here are the state’s top hidden gems.
1. Pillars of Rome, Rome
View the Pillars of Rome without needing a passport–as long as Rome, Oregon is your vacation destination. Standing near the Owyhee River crossing, the pillars measure about five miles long, two miles wide, and 100 feet high. These landmarks reminded pioneers on the Oregon Trail of architecture in Rome. The formations feature white and tan colors, rich with volcanic ash deposits and fossils. The morning and evening sun reflect off the bluffs, giving you the most beautiful hues for taking photos.
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2. Terwilliger Hot Springs, Blue River
Rest your weary bones with a relaxing soak at Terwilliger Hot Springs, which are also called Cougar Hot Springs. The geothermal spring in the Willamette National Forest, about a quarter of a mile from the parking area. The water cascades into a series of four soaking pools, with the top one featuring the hottest water at about 107 F. The temperatures grow a little cooler down to the bottom pool, which measures about 90 F. Clothing is optional at this site, which opens from noon until sunset year-round. During the winter, the road frequently closes due to snow and ice.
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3. Natural Bridges Cove, Samuel Boardman State Park, Brookings
Spend some time at North Island Viewpoint, China Beach, to see Natural Bridges Cove, on an easy half-mile out-and-back trail that features wild flowers. Besides Natural Bridges and Arch Rock, you get to experience rugged cliffs, secluded coves, and seaside prairies. The park features 27 miles of trails that wind through 300-year-old spruce trees and seashell middens left by Native Americans. The best time to visit the park is from March to October.
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4. Toketee Falls, Idleyld Park, Glide
Simply think of it as the greatest escape as you are off the grid when you visit Toketee Falls. Leave all the electronic gadgets at your Glide vacation rental or locked out of sight in the car as this place gets no cell coverage. The waterfall lies deep within a basalt canyon, dropping about 120 feet on the North Umpqua River. Visitors hike to the waterfall year-round on a trail that accommodates all skill levels.
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5. The Oregon Garden, Salem
Load up the kids and your dog for a visit to the Oregon Garden an unusual botanical garden in Silverton. Sprawled across 80 acres, more than 20 specialty gardens include the Rose Garden, Sensory Garden, Pet-Friendly Garden, and Children’s Garden. Kids enjoy dinosaur digs and playing in the hobbit house in the Children’s Garden, and Fido can kick up his paws and smell the flowers in the Pet-Friendly Garden. The site is open and beautiful 365 days a year.
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6. Devil’s Staircase Wilderness
The Devil’s Staircase Wilderness gets its name from a seldom-seen waterfall–The Devil’s Staircase. The waterfall consists of cascading pools, and it lies so deep in the Wassen Creek watershed that it hiking to it takes at least a day. The old growth forests in this wilderness area await a congressional designation for permanent conservation.
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7. Thor’s Well, Yachats
All along the rugged Pacific mid-coastal area, picturesque gems abound, and it’s easy to overlook the scenic and mysterious Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua. Called the drain pipe of the Pacific, it looks as if a bottomless sinkhole drains the water out of the ocean. This mesmerizing natural phenomenon is large, but the depth goes down only about 20 feet. At high tide when the view is most spectacular, the water crashes among the rocks and into the hole, creating a violent swirl that onlookers need to avoid.
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8. Painted Hills, Mitchell
Nine miles northwest of Mitchell, a country road leads to a geological wonderland in Oregon’s high desert, the Painted Hills. The park station at the foot of the hills has picnic tables, a drinking fountain, and restroom facilities. A short, well-maintained dirt road leads to the lookout point where you get a stunning view of the area. There’s a small shade structure, a bench, and a trailhead. Walking among the painted hills feels like stepping onto the landscape of a distant planet with brilliant bands of red, orange, gold, and black. Artists and photographs particularly like capturing the beauty of the yellow flowers that bloom amid the hills in April and May.
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9. Petersen Rock Garden, Redmond
Set your imagination free in Peterson Rock Garden, a four-acre rock garden and museum created by Rasmus Petersen, a Danish immigrant. He collected rocks, petrified wood, bits of glass, and sea shells from the area, with which he began building sculptures of castles, buildings, and bridges. The collection includes small copies of the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. Capitol building, and Independence Hall. Beautifully landscaped paths meander among the monuments, and three bridges cross ponds. Inside the museum, look for the fluorescent room to see glowing minerals among other treasured items Petersen collected. The family opens the garden every day, allowing visitors to stroll at their leisure until dusk.
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10. Winema Beach, Cloverdale
Winema Beach sits so far off the beaten path that visitors reach it via a drive along a gravel road. The parking area is really small, but it doesn’t matter since few people besides the locals know about it. Enjoy the clean, beautiful sandy beach, and walk north toward the rocks to find a fun little cave to explore and rocks for climbing. Among the interesting geological features, there’s a giant rock rising up in the tide line. When you scale it, you find a lovely grassy spot on top where you can sit to drink in the amazing views. Walk just a mile farther to reach some very secluded spots of Nestucca Bay.
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