There may be more than 250 Oregon state parks, covering 109,000 acres, but there are a few that are head and shoulders above the rest. These are the best state parks in Oregon, each and every one of them an awesome destination for outdoor activities, wildlife watching and camping.
You’ll notice that many of the following state parks are on the Oregon Coast. That’s because basically the entire coast is lined with parks. There are dozens of them. Add to that the fact that the coast of Oregon is among the most beautiful in the country and you know why many of the best Oregon state parks are along the Pacific Ocean.
It’s not all about the coast, though. There are also a couple of world-class parks more inland. Near Bend and Salem, to be specific. Note also that all these parks—except for the number one in this list—are easily reached on a day trip from Portland.
7. Cape Lookout State Park
An hour and a half west of Portland lies Cape Lookout State Park. The park lies on a sand spit between the Pacific Ocean and Netarts Bay, its location offering spectacular ocean views and easy beach access.
Popular activities include hiking and camping—there’s a large campground just steps from the sandy beach. This is also a particularly good vantage point to see migrating whales in December and early spring.
6. Ecola State Park
Home to nine miles of glorious coastline, cliffs, deserted beaches and sea stacks, Ecola State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Oregon. It lies just north of the Cannon Beach town center, a favorite day trip destination from Portland.
This is where you’ll find one of the most iconic natural scenes in Oregon: the view from Ecola Point. There’s no campground in this state park, but you’ll find plenty of accommodation options in Cannon Beach.
5. Oswald West State Park
This is another of those amazing Oregon Coast state parks. Oswald West State Park stretches for four miles along the lush coast. Home to dense temperate rainforest, coastal mountains and beaches, this is one of the most spectacular state parks in Oregon.
Neahkahnie Mountain, for example, makes for a great hike, its summit boasting commanding views of the coast. Other highlights are Short Sand Beach and one of the best-preserved patches of coastal rain forest in the state.
4. Smith Rock State Park
The only reason Smith Rock State Park is not ranked better on this list is the lack of a proper campground. Currently, the only place where you can set up camp is “the bivy,” a basic tent area with shared facilities. In all other aspects, this is a sensational park, though.
Featuring towering rock spires and sheer cliffs, Smith Rock is a rock climbing mecca, home to no fewer than 2,000 world-class climbing routes. This is without question one of the world’s best places for sport climbing—some say that type of climbing was even invented here! Besides climbing, there’s also fantastic hiking and horseback riding.
3. Fort Stevens State Park
Of all state parks on the Oregon Coast, Fort Stevens State Park is the best. This varied park has everything from historic sites to natural scenery and wildlife. Take some sunset photos at the iconic Peter Iredale shipwreck, watch for bald eagles at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River or visit historic military batteries in a former fort that was in use for 84 years from the Civil War to World War II.
A huge campground and miles of hiking and biking trails make this a great place to spend a weekend. It’s less than two hours from Portland.
2. Silver Falls State Park
Called the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system, Silver Falls State Park is an extraordinary place. In the right conditions—a misty spring morning or fall afternoon—it’s downright magical.
The star of the show here is the Trail of Ten Falls. As its name indicates, you’ll pass by, sometimes even behind, 10 beautiful waterfalls on this 7.2-mile loop. Additionally, with its 9,200 acres, this is the largest Oregon state park.
1. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
By now, you’ll probably have realized the sheer beauty of the Oregon Coast. Yet, wait until you’ve laid eyes on the 12-mile-long coastline in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor!
Located between Gold Beach and Brooking in the far southwestern corner of the state, this winding stretch of Highway 101 offers one spectacular view after the other. There are picnic areas, scenic viewpoints, hiking trails and phenomenal photo ops. Main highlights include the Natural Bridge, Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint and Arch Rock. In my opinion, this is easily the best state park in Oregon just because of its epic beauty.