Oregon Road Trip: Portland to the Rogue Loop
An Oregon road trip is what vacation dreams are made of. This adventurous 10-day itinerary from Portland takes you to the outdoor hub of Bend and then Crater Lake National Park before heading to the Rogue River where you’ll ditch the car for a few days for a Wild & Scenic whitewater rafting adventure. Finally, you’ll head to the beach and travel an iconic stretch of Oregon’s scenic Pacific Coast back toward Portland. Here’s the route and how to make the most of your time on the road…
Explore the Best of Oregon with this Epic 10-day Road Trip Itinerary
As tourism restrictions fluctuate in many states and counties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, be sure to review local health department updates and guidelines before traveling and keep in mind the potential impacts you may have on the communities you travel through.
Day 1: Smith Rock State Park + Bend Ale Trail
From Portland, take US-26 E to US-97 S toward Bend, a.k.a. “the mountain town that has it all.” Before you get into town, stop off at Smith Rock State Park for a scenic stroll along the Crooked River which winds its way through the park’s canyon. If you’re feeling ambitious, combine the River Trail with the Misery Ridge Trail to make a 6.2-mile loop through the park, or take on one of the several thousand rock climbing routes, which Smith Rock is known for.
Afterward, start your journey on the Bend Ale Trail, the largest beer trail in the West. With 22 breweries on the route, you won’t be able to try them all, so go for the chance to enjoy some good beer and killer food at the same time. 10 Barrel Brewing, Crux Fermentation Project and Worthy Brewing Company are just a few of the breweries in Bend pairing delicious pub fare with their brews.
Day 2: Tumalo Falls Hike + Paddle Bend
Grab breakfast in Bend’s charming downtown district before hitting the 6.8-mile Tumalo Falls Loop. The earlier the better for this trail, which is popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. While the upper viewpoint of this 97-foot fall is impressive, don’t turn around here or you’ll miss out on the many other picturesque waterfalls that cascade down upper Tumalo Creek.
In the afternoon, take advantage of Bend’s paddling scene and head to Standup Paddle Bend to rent a board and explore the Deschutes River which flows right through the heart of town. There’s even a river shuttle that will transport paddlers and floaters between Riverbend Park and Drake Park.
For dinner, you can check off another brew pub on your Bend Ale Trail passport, or head downtown to dine at one of the city’s other exciting restaurants.
Day 3: Crater Lake National Park
From Bend, follow 97-S to OR-138 W toward Crater Lake National Park, where you’ll find the deepest lake in the U.S. Take in the jaw-dropping views of the emerald crater as you spend the day exploring the sights and hikes along the park’s Rim Drive. If you actually want to dip your feet or swim in the lake, you’ll have to make the 1.1-mile, 700-foot descent along the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which provides the only shore access to Crater Lake.
Plan your visit well in advance so you can enjoy dinner and an overnight stay at the park’s Historic Crater Lake Lodge, which overlooks the lake.
Day 4: Watchman’s Peak + Wild & Scenic Rogue River
Grab one last sweeping view of Crater Lake on the 1.6-mile hike to Watchman Peak. Afterward, hop back in the car and head east to the Galice Resort along the Wild & Scenic Rogue River. Here, you can unwind along the banks of the river, cast a line or catch some live tunes and burgers on their expansive riverside deck. Spend the night at this rustic lodge and you’ll be in prime position for a Rogue River rafting trip in the morning.
Day 5 – 7: Rogue River Rafting
For the next three days (or opt for a 4- to 5-day trip if you have more time), you’ll be on river time, soaking in idyllic forest scenery, sunshine and splashy, fun whitewater. A first-timer friendly Rogue River rafting trip has it all: beautiful river camps, adventurous side hikes, inflatable kayaking, waterfalls, warm water for swimming, and abundant wildlife. After several days in this pristine wilderness, you’ll be recharged and ready to hit the road again.
Arrange to have your car shuttled from the Galice Resort to the Foster Bar take-out so after the rafting trip you can explore Oregon’s scenic coastline along US-101 N. As you make your way north, head to Bandon’s bustling Old Town District, which features a waterfront boardwalk and a number of restaurants featuring fresh seafood. If you can, snag an outdoor spot at Tony’s Crab Shack and try Bandon’s Famous Crab sandwich before settling down for the evening at a nearby inn.
Day 8 – 10: Bandon + Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Grab breakfast at Bandon Coffee Cafe and then head to the beach at South Jetty County Park for the Bandon Oregon Coast Walk. If you do the entire route, it’s a 4.4-mile out and back adventure that takes you along the beach past the area’s famous Face Rock, as well as many other picturesque rock formations, sea caves, tidal pools and more.
From there, you can continue north to explore the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which spans 40 miles between Coos Bay and Florence and offers up ample opportunities for beach strolls, dune hikes, and even sandboarding if you’re feeling adventurous.
From Florence, it’s approximately a 3-hour drive back to Portland if you head inland. But with another 100-plus miles of coastal highway, state parks, scenic viewpoints, wildlife preserves and quaint oceanside towns to explore, consider extending the trip a day or two and continuing north on US-101. If you do, here are just a few ideas for what to do along the way:
- Hike the moody trails of the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area near Yachats for iconic rugged coastal Oregon views
- Explore the tidepools at Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area
- Go whale watching in Depoe Bay where a pod of grey whales reside offshore from March through December
- Tour the Tillamook Creamery and share a basket of their gooey battered cheese curds or grab a scoop from their ice cream counter
For more road trip inspiration, check out our library of itineraries from some of the West’s biggest travel hubs.
Photos: Smith Rock State Park – Dale Nibbe/Unsplash; Stand up paddleboarding in downtown Bend – Craig Zakurski/Visit Bend; Crux Fermentation Project – Nate Wyeth/Visit Bend; Crater Lake National Park – Sébastien Goldberg/Unsplash; Rogue river rafting trip – Kenneth Hamlett; Hiking the Oregon Sand Dunes – Melanie Griffin/EugeneCascadesCoast.org