The only national park in Oregon is Crater Lake. National Monuments and National Historical Parks are just two of the national park units in Oregon, though. Additionally, the state is home to a number of well-known National Recreation Areas run by the U.S. Forest Service. And all of these vast public lands delve deeply into the topography of Oregon.
The deepest river gorge in North America and the subterranean Marble Halls are both national park units in Oregon. Numerous miles of coastal sand dunes and a collection of 50 million-year-old fossils are two additional dynamic attractions. There are numerous ancient calderas, also known as the remains of an erupted volcano, that are just waiting to be explored.
With our list of the top national parks in Oregon, you can see for yourself why the Beaver State is one of the best for outdoor exploration.
1- Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve
Less than 10 miles from the California border, in the southern Oregon Siskiyou Mountains, is where you’ll find this National Monument and Preserve. Despite being a relatively small national park unit, it guards two incredible habitats. These surroundings include an old-growth forest above ground and Oregon’s Marble Halls, a complex cave network below ground.
At Oregon Caves, the only way to explore the underground is on a guided tour. Tours of the monument are available from late March to early September on a seasonal basis. There are three different tours, with the Discovery Tour being the most well-liked. There are also candlelight and off-trail cave tours available.
The Discovery Tour, which lasts 90 minutes, explores the entire cave network, passing by features like soda straws and flowstones. Along the tour, the cave ceiling descends as low as 45 inches, and there are more than 500 steps. The cave halls present a moderate challenge and are not appropriate for all hikers.
The Illinois Valley Visitor Center, which is the first stop for anyone visiting the park, is situated on Highway 199 at the exit for the monument. Tickets for cave tours on the day of the tour are offered here, along with the most recent data on the state of the park.
There aren’t many amenities along the 45-minute drive from the visitor center to the monument.
2- Newberry Volcanic National Monument
Newberry National Volcanic Monument is a volcanic area in central Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest that is home to stunning lakes and lava flows. It is a pleasure to travel there because of the abundance of breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities available, and it is named after the vast caldera that sits at its center.
The two arresting alpine lakes of Paulina Lake and East Lake are located in the Newberry Caldera, which was the result of a violent volcanic eruption. The lakes, which stand out charmingly against the lush forests and ominous obsidian fields that surround them, are best seen from the peak of the 2,434-meter-high Paulina Peak that towers above them.
Within the boundaries of the monument, visitors can enjoy some fantastic hiking and horseback riding in addition to exploring the monument’s breathtaking lava-scarred landscapes, which include buttes, tubes, and cinder cones.
3- Columbia River Gorge national scenic area
Although Washington and Oregon are frequently grouped together as part of the Pacific Northwest, they are actually divided by this massive gorge. The Columbia River carved out the gorge over millions of years as it made its way to the Pacific Ocean, but a devastating flood at the end of the last ice age scoured it to its present depth of 1,200 meters.
The second-highest waterfall in North America, Multnomah Falls, is located just 30 miles east of Portland in the 80-mile-long Columbia River Gorge, which has 77 falls on the Oregon side. There are many places to camp along the gorge and in the Mount Hood National Forest to the south. The gorge is lined with hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, some of which take daring detours into the abyss. You’ll find a paradise for kayaking, rafting, fishing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding if you can make it down to the mighty Columbia river.
The 13-mile Eagle Creek trail is not for the faint of heart as it occasionally skirts the edge of sheer cliffs, but the rewards are well worth the dangers: at Punchbowl Falls, water spills 30 meters down into a blue-green grotto, and at Tunnel Falls, the trail passes through a tunnel behind a magnificent sheet of falling water.
4- Silver Falls State Park
The serene and secluded Silver Falls, often referred to as the “crown jewel” of Oregon’s state park system, is located outside Salem, close to both Eugene and Portland. It has many idyllic hiking trails to explore, a wealth of waterfalls, and excellent opportunities for horseback riding and camping.
Once you see its magnificent falls, it is clear why Silver Falls is Oregon’s biggest and most visited state park. Although South Falls, which is 54 meters high, receives the most visitors, North Falls, and Winter Falls are equally impressive and are all located along the wonderful Trail of Ten Falls Loop in the park.
They certainly make for a memorable sight hidden among the lush forest, and their crystal-clear waters make for some beautiful pictures.
5- Crater Lake National Park
This magnificent national park, the only one in the state, is named for the captivating Crater Lake that sits at its center. It is a very well-liked destination due to its abundance of recreational opportunities and incredibly photogenic surroundings, which are both located in southern Oregon.
The brilliantly blue waters of Crater Lake are surrounded on all sides by the crumbling cliffs of a long-collapsed caldera, which is a breathtaking sight. Visitors can take advantage of fantastic photo opportunities from the rugged rim of the deepest lake in the US. In addition, boat tours, fishing, and scuba diving can all be enjoyed on its reflective waters.
Although the lovely lake is unquestionably the most notable sight, there are over 140 kilometers of scenic paths nearby for visitors to hike or cycle along. Crater Lake National Park should not be missed when in Oregon because it offers such amazing scenery and a variety of outdoor activities to try.