National Parks in Oregon

National Parks in Oregon. Lone tree stands in front of large lake with edge of crater all around at Crater Lake National Park.

While there aren't many national parks in Oregon (just one!), there are many great state parks and national historic areas to see.

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors / Summer 2019

Introduction

Waves crash gently against the beach with tall grass in the foreground at Ecola State Park.

Oregon abounds with beautiful outdoor areas, so many that you may wonder how you'll find the time to see everything. Vast pine forest areas and rocky beaches tell just part of the story about what this majestic state has to offer. Ancient volcanic sites help create beautiful areas to explore. As a western state that attracted settlers early in American history, many of the popular outdoor spaces are also major historical sites. There is something for everyone to enjoy in this state, including chances to get involved in exciting new activities.

Some of the top places that visitors enjoy include locations within the National Park system, as well as state park areas. Regardless of whether they are in the form of parks, historic sites, or trails, visitors can enjoy knowing that these locations are under proper care and protection to help preserve their special character. These sites demonstrate why the natural areas have such a large following among locals and visitors alike.

Man stands looking into distance with large body of water below and sky above at Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake is in southern Oregon, with its boundaries falling within the Cascades range that is known for its majestic peaks and attracts countless visitors to the state each year. The surrounding mountains create one of the most stunning backdrops seen anywhere on the Pacific Coast, and these beautiful peaks are just one part of what makes this park special. Multiple trails around the park provide you with plenty of opportunities to see this impressive landscape from various perspectives that will all give you a whole new appreciation for these types of spaces.

The unique lake sits within the caldera of Mount Mazama, which collapsed after a violent eruption and contributed to the mountain landscape. This unique caldera location provides some distinctive features, including the famed Wizard Island that is one of the most famous landmarks in the park. The island is a cinder cone that formed as a result of the volcano's collapse and is stands out for both its unique shape and its location in the lake.

One of the more distinguishing features of Crater Lake is that it's the world's ninth-deepest lake. The water in the lake stands out for its deep blue color, the likes of which are seldom seen anywhere else. There is even a safe spot open for swimming at the end of the Cleetwood Trail that traverses around the lake, which helps provide a refreshing break in warm summer days.

Red and white rock formation projects out of earth with green grass below and overhead at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

This national monument consists of three areas known as Clarno, Sheep Rock, and Painted Hills that all have a unique character. Each of these distinct locations showcases the region's unique evolutionary history. With over 40 million years of evolutionary history evident in this park's formations, visitors will have an ideal chance to learn more about how wild and plant life evolved in this area.

The Thomas Condon Paleontology and Visitor Center boasts a working lab, as well as exhibits related to the area's landscapes, plants, and wildlife that allow all ages to learn something new. As a working lab, the Paleontology Center has the potential to be a place where researchers make fantastic new discoveries. Regardless of what goes on at the time of your visit, you will enjoy being so close to so many learning opportunities.

Each of the park's three areas has hiking trails, as well as scenic drives that allow for visitors to take full advantage of the park's scenery. The trails offer something for virtually every ability level. With all these opportunities, visitors will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature at its very fullest.

Ice falls over cliff's edge with sign to park trail at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.

This natural area is a 40-minute drive from Cave Junction, making it one of the more accessible national sites. One of the things that stands out the most about this preserve is its marble rock, adorned with formations created due to acidic water. In addition to being able to see these formations in person, visitors will enjoy the photo opportunities these caves offer.

Guided cave tours provide one of the best ways to encounter this natural wonder up close and personal with the chance to ask questions. When you're out in the open here, you'll find camping sites that are perfect if you want to extend your visit more than a day, as well as trail areas where you can hike. Your thirst for adventure is very easy to satisfy here with this unique combination of caves and forested areas.

Imposing white house stands with trees on either side at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Fort Vancouver has a fascinating history as a former frontier outpost, largely used by local fur traders prior to more extensive settlement. In addition to paying homage to frontier history, the historic site is host to the Pearson Air Museum, which offers glimpses into local history. One of the things this location is rich in is exhibits that showcase the area's history both as a trading post and a military outpost, providing unique perspectives on the area's past and its role in the present day.

Reenactors canoe along stream in Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

This park also shares boundaries with the Nez Perce National Historical Park, one of the Pacific Northwest's largest historical areas that highlights local Native cultures. The Lewis and Clark site includes Fort Clatsop, the location of the expedition's winter encampment, which helps tell the story of their journey through exciting exhibits that help bring history alive. The Columbia River location is south of the town of Astoria, which is always worth a visit when you're in the area.

Stone marker stands out of tall grass near California National Historic Trail.

Despite its name, the California National Historic Trail spans ten states that include Oregon and covers thousands of miles of terrain, with different types of landscapes that range from pine forests to rugged mountains. One of the highlights of the trail is vistors being able to retrace the steps that early settlers took and see some of the owns that they likely visited during their long journey. The Douglas County Museum of History and Natural History is one site you'll find along this trail, which helps offer fascinating glimpses into all aspects of the region's unique history.

Gentle waters reflect setting sun at Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.

Natural history enthusiasts will not want to miss an opportunity to tour the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, which is one of the top choices for visitors who are interested in natural attractions. The Belvue Erratic and Multnomah Falls are two examples of distinct natural wonders found along this trail, perfect for photo opportunities and chances to simply relax and enjoy the scenery. If your plans for exploring Oregon's outdoor areas include seeing sites for as many outdoor wonders as possible, this trail should be an addition to your list.

Tall rock formations stand out of the sand near Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail that goes through Oregon takes visitors to the Sandy River Delta and other wilderness areas that are perfect locations for all kinds of outdoor activities. The Oregon Historical Society and History Center is also along this trail and always worth your time, with exhibits and programs offered on a regular basis. Stopping by the Historical Society is an excellent way to learn more about the unique contributions that settlers and Native inhabitants alike have made, and how these contributions continue to shape the area today.

Reddish rock canyon falls down onto railroad tracks near Oregon National Historic Trail.

The Oregon National Historic Trail helps you easily follow the last part of the journey that pioneers undertook in search of farmland, often finding adventure in the process. This path follows the Columbia River and includes mountain and forest landscapes that are perfect to explore by means of hiking trails, giving travelers a whole new appreciation for the struggles these settlers faced.

Sand dunes flow gently into the distance at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

You'll marvel at the impressive dunes found in this coastal area that are perfect for exploration and photo opportunities alike. There are plenty of chances for fun activities here, ranging from hiking to off-road vehicle-riding, so there is something for everyone.

Wildflowers bloom with river and green hills in background at Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in Mt. Hood National Forest offers one of the best views in Oregon, with the perfect opportunity to see a popular destination for many settlers. A mixture of cliffs, overlooks, and waterfalls add to this area's stunning scenery, making it one of the United States' most beautiful regions by far and perfect for anyone who enjoys exploring.

Gentle bluish, white waves crash against seashore at Cannon Beach in Ecola State Park.

Ecola State Park has an ideal location for a beach day on Tillamook Head, one of the most popular coastal destinations in the state. Among its many advantages is offering a perfect place for picnics and watching colorful sunsets, as well as opportunities to enjoy boating and other water sports.

Final Thoughts on National Parks in Oregon

Man stands on rocks overlooking Crater Lake.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

— John Muir

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Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors / Summer 2019

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