Discover the 10 Best National Parks in Oregon

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: May 10, 2022
Image Credit Anderl/Shutterstock.com
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Suppose you fancy yourself as a bit of a discoverer. In that case, you will want to know about the best national parks you can visit in Oregon, from habitats full of diverse landscapes to epic forests with wild forests and rivers in between.

Situated in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Oregon is famous for its stunning coastline, magnificent mountains, unique rock formations, and barren high deserts in the eastern regions. The state is also home to some of the top-rated restaurants and breweries.

With so much outstanding scenery to behold across the state, choosing which national parks, recreational centers, and monuments to visit first can be tough. Check out the following ten best national parks in Oregon to help you make an informed decision.

1. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park - Winter
You might spot porcupines, elks, coyotes, and bears as you explore Crater Lake National Park.

Matthew Connolly/Shutterstock.com

Crater Lake National Park
Size183,224 Acres
Animal to SeeBear
Attraction to SeeWizard Island

Visit Crater Lake National Park and witness the blue, clear, and deep waters of Crater Lake, from which the park’s name was derived. Swimming is not allowed at Crater Lake, but you can explore the area on boating tours guided by a park ranger. Boat tours offer incredible views of the volcanic formations and Wizard Island near the lake’s western edge.

Hike through the diverse forests and enjoy the views of the park from some of the highest points. You might spot porcupines, elks, coyotes, and bears as you explore the park. There are also many species of birds living in the park.

Spend your night at Mazama Campground or at Lost Creek Campground to experience the extreme wilderness of the park that is filled with different sounds of animals.

2. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Centre

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Centre
At Oregon Dunes National Recreation Centre, you get to experience incredible hiking that transitions from the dunes to forests and then beaches.

Rebecca Kennison / Creative Commons – License

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Centre
Size31,566 Acres
Animal to SeeBlack-tailed Deer
Attraction to SeeDean Creek Elk Viewing Area

Experience incredible hiking that transitions from the dunes to forests and then beaches at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Centre. Visit the John Dellenback area and south of Reedsport to view some of the tallest dunes in Oregon.

You can choose any of the trails to hike or drive through the forests, wetlands, and along the beach. Spend some time watching elks, black-tailed deer, bobcats, bald eagles, and ospreys at Siltcoos Area or Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area.

Visit the Umpqua Lighthouse Area, where you will see some of the weirdest wind-carved sand formations called yardangs. 

3. Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park offers different mountain biking trails, ranging from beginner to advanced.

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Smith Rock State Park
Size650 Acres
Animal to SeeMule Deer
Attraction to SeeMonkey Face

Whether you’re thinking about visiting the canyons for an exciting hike or enjoying a gentle horseback ride along the river, Smith Rock State Park is perfect for any unique adventure.

Smith Rock also offers different mountain biking trails, ranging from beginner to advanced. The Summit Trail, Homestead Trail, and Canyon Trail are some of the most popular hiking trails to explore within the park.

Keep your eyes out for beavers, river otters, mule deer, black-billed magpies, and bald eagles while on the trails.

4. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is home to majestic wildlife, breweries, vineyards, and orchards.

iStock.com/Chaitra Kukanur

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Size149,400 Acres
Animal to SeeBlack Bear
Attraction to SeeColumbia River

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is an incredible river canyon in Oregon. It’s home to majestic wildlife, breweries, vineyards, and orchards. It takes about three days to fully explore the place because of the numerous stopovers with culinary scenes and breathtaking scenery, including that of Multnomah Falls.

Enjoy an epic day out on the water through canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and catamaran sailing. You can request a lesson to hone your skills in any boating activities.

Explore some of the most popular wildlife trails to catch sight of black bears, garter snakes, bobcats, California ground squirrels, and deer.

5. Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park is one of the most easily accessible and beautiful scenic stretches in Oregon.

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Ecola State Park
Size1,023 Acres
Animal to SeeBald Eagle
Attraction to SeeEcola Point & Indian Beach

Situated three miles north of Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park is one of Oregon’s most easily accessible and beautiful scenic stretches. It’s best known for picnics, sightseeing, and hiking, but it also has excellent ocean views and rocky shores.

Major attractions include Ecola Point, Indian Beach, and the historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Indian Beach is a popular location for boating activities, and it offers bird-watching opportunities.

Watch out for bald eagles flying above you. Catch a glimpse of elk and deer wandering through forest shadows or grazing in the open meadows.

6. Silver Falls State Park

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park is a well-known park in Oregon for its magnificent waterfalls.

Anderl/Shutterstock.com

Silver Falls State Park
Size9,064 Acres
Animal to SeeDeer
Attraction to SeeSouth Falls Day Use Area

Famous for its magnificent waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park is a well-known park in Oregon. Over one million visitors tour the park annually to explore several outdoor activities such as horse riding, hiking, mountain biking, and photography.

Silver Falls has so many animals, including cougars, black bears, beavers, chipmunks, and squirrels. Bears and cougars inhabit the remote areas of Silver Falls. Visit the park early in the morning and late in the evening to spot these animals.

Spend your night at the park’s main campground, with cabins and RV spots. You only need to make a reservation earlier because it’s usually full.

7. Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers incredible views of the lava lands of central Oregon.

iStock.com/kellyvandellen

Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Size54,822 Acres
Animal to SeeAmerican Avocet
Attraction to SeeHigh Desert Museum

People call this place “the crown jewel” of Oregon. You will understand why it’s called that way once you’re inside the monument. Newberry National Volcanic Monument offers incredible views of the lava lands of central Oregon.

The main attractions of the monument include the Lava River Cave, the fantastic geological formations, the Lava Cast Forest, the High Desert Museum, Lava Butte, and other boundless recreational sites.

Diverse species of animals live in the monument, but it’s a bit difficult to trace them. You may only spot golden-mantled ground squirrels and numerous species of birds, such as the American avocet.

8. Hells Canyon National Recreation Centre

Hells Canyon National Recreation Centre
Hells Canyon National Recreation Centre is home to various mammals, including mountain goats, rocky mountain elks, deer, and chukar.

Jeffrey T. Kreulen/Shutterstock.com

Hells Canyon National Recreation Centre
Size652,488 Acres
Animal to SeeRocky Mountain Elk
Attraction to SeeBurgdorf Hot Springs

Bordering the states of Idaho and Oregon, Hells Canyon National Recreation Centre is the standout scenic treasure that firmly puts the two states on the national and international stage.

Hike or take a scenic drive to explore the scenic vistas at Hells Canyon. At the recreation center, other activities that you can engage in include picnicking, fishing, boating, biking, and wildlife viewing.

Hells Canyon is home to various mammals, including mountain goats, rocky mountain elks, bighorn sheep, deer, and chukar. Large predators like black bears, wolves, and cougars live in the remote areas of Hells Canyon.

9. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is an exciting place to view animals.

Oregon Caves from Cave Junction, USA / flickr – License

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Size4,554 Acres
Animal to SeeMountain Beaver
Attraction to SeeMarble Cave

Discover marble halls by taking a 90-minute marble cave tour at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve. About 15,000 feet of passages inside the cave give you a good look at the helictites, stalagmites, stalactites, and flowstones that make up the cave.

Oregon Caves is an exciting place to view animals. Walk or drive throughout the area to see chipmunks, mountain beavers, black-tailed deer, mountain lions, black bears, and Pacific giant salamanders.

10. Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is a perfect place to discover the rich heritage of some of the most famous explorers in America.

iStock.com/thyegn

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park 
Size3,303 Acres
Animal to SeeGarter Snake
Attraction to SeeNorth Head Lighthouse

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is a hiking and sightseeing destination with a historical past that commemorates the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It’s a perfect place to discover the rich heritage of some of the most famous explorers in America.

Spare some time over the weekend to have an adventure in history. In addition, you will get some incredible views of the Pacific Coast and the Columbia River. Beware of garter snakes while traversing this historic park. Grizzly bears also live in the park and can be sighted in the Helena National Forest.

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