Do’s and Don’ts of an Oregon Road Trip

All photos available for print and licensing >

I feel in love with Oregon. I loved every minute we were there. I felt so at peace and calm during our whole road trip across the state, I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s considering visiting the Pacific Northwest.

The real reason we went was to celebrate my birthday and to visit a place we had never been to. Portland was a city that both Andrew and I had heard was a fun place to be but never been. But we also knew it was the place to be if you like good food and weird things. Both did not disappoint!

Since this was our first time visiting Oregon, we didn’t really know what to expect. We’ve been back for less than a month, I already know of somethings that I would do differently. With that said, we will be back again. Both Andrew and I left with the feeling of wanting to see and do more. But I think that’s the sign of an amazing trip. Prior to the trip, I did tons of research on the Oregon coast on Pinterest and asked some friends who I knew had visited before. Through my research, I quickly realized that Oregon is a very dog-friendly state. Minus Crater Lake that doesn’t allow dogs in most areas of the park, Frankie was allowed everywhere else we wanted to go. So we booked 3 plane tickets off we went!

Here is a recap of everything we did and the things I would do differently next time:

Day 1: Fly into Portland

We arrived early in the afternoon, grabbed our rental car and went straight to pick up the essentials: Blue Star Donuts. I know I don’t normally give food recommendations but if you like fancy donuts, then Blue Star is where you want to be. I’ll have another donut recommendation later on our trip that ended up being our favorite.

From Blue Star, we went to Cannon Beach where we spent our first night of the trip. All of us were tired from all the traveling so we just spent the night settling in and luckily we had a hotel right on the beach. We took a sunset walk to check out the haystack and then went straight to bed.

The best-unexpected surprise of the entire trip: ALL THE BUNNIES!

Day 2: Cannon Beach to Pacific City

So our first real photo adventure was sunrise at Ecola State Park. It’s a fabulous viewpoint of Cannon Beach. As a photographer, my favorite was seeing miles and miles of beach, water, and rocks. This would be the place to be if you only had a limited time in Cannon Beach and you wanted to get that one great shot.

ecola state park, early morning, cannon beach, oregon, haystack rock, tree, branches, seaside, ecola state park photos, ecola state park crescent trail, oregon, travel, visit

Early morning at Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, Oregon

After Ecola State Park, we decided that we wanted to hike down to the beach. One of the best parts about Oregon is that there are over 300 miles of untouched coastline. Meaning, you won’t see any beach houses or anything like that in Oregon. But that also means that getting down to the beach requires a steep hike. I would say that it’s worth it.

Considering the fact that we were there with Frankie and his little Shih Tzu legs would get tired quickly, we ordered this backpack for him before we left. It was perfect because he could still enjoy the hikes with us while we went at our own pace. There was no waiting around for him to sniff every tree we walked past.

crescent beach trail, hikes, oregon, cannon beach, forrest, trees, k9 sport sack, shih tzu, beach trail, hiking

An image of the Crescent Beach Trail in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

The hike we decided on was the Crescent Beach Trail. Two miles down and back but it didn’t get steep until the last half of the hike. If you’re not interested in the super steep part of the hike or getting down to the beach, I would recommend to at least do the beginning of the hike. You will still get great views through the trees.

After the hike, we made a quick stop for lunch and then to the Tillamook Creamery in a town called Tillamook. I would describe it as a winery for dairy. Honestly, some of the most unique flavors of ice cream and a huge selection of cheese. It’s a dairy lover’s dream. It also marked the halfway point to our next hotel in Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City. Another great view of a different haystack rock but the whole vibe was different. It’s a lot quieter than Cannon Beach. We also happened to arrive on a day where it was extremely foggy. We didn’t get to capture that many images so we used it as a day to decompress and relax a bit.

Day 3: Pacific City to Brookings

The next morning was a different story. The sun was out in full force and Cape Kiwanda was glowing! I was able to capture a few images of the beach that are probably some of my favorite memories to have captured. I wish we could have stayed here longer but I knew we had a long day ahead of us.

I really enjoy the fact that Oregon is so scenic and there are hikes or viewpoints almost everywhere you turned. I planned several mini hikes that made for great breaks in long drives. On my must-see list was Drift Creek Falls Trail just outside of Lincoln City. I thought it was so cool because there is a suspension bridge over a waterfall!

I would also recommend trying to find lunch somewhere around Lincoln City as well. It’s one of the bigger cities along the coast and will give you more options. If you’re a seafood person, definitely get seafood. I still dream of the crab cocktail we got from a local seafood stand.

The next portion of the trip is one that I would change just because the drive was so long. A huge regret now that I think about it. It took 6 hours to get from Pacific City to Brookings and I was getting antsy and then super tired in the car. If I had to do it over again, I would still want to visit Brookings however I probably would have planned an overnight stay in Bandon before heading all the way down the coast. That would have cut the travel time by almost 2 hours and still get to spend the night in a scenic destination. Bandon was on my must-see list, but while we were in the area, my mind was on just getting to our Airbnb and then crashing so we only stopped for a moment to see it. I just wish we had more time.

Day 4: Brookings

Our first full day without a long-distance drive. It was so great to spend it in Samuel H Board State Scenic Corridor. It’s straight out of your Instagram dreams. All the rock formations and landscapes are stunning. As we drove by Meyers Creek Beach the previous day, I knew it was the first place I wanted to visit in this area. It’s technically not in the Scenic Corridor but just outside of it. We spent the morning exploring the beach on a cloudless day.

Meyers Creek Beach, Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor, southwest oregon, coastline, sand beach, reflection, rocks, viewpoint, curry county,

Meyers Creek Beach, Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

We wanted to squeeze in one more hike before lunch to get our appetites correct. So the hike to Secret Beach was perfect. Here’s a tip though, when you park in the parking area, you want to go towards the right. The left looks a little more carved out, but the right side will take you where you need to go. You’re almost immediately going to go downhill but it’s super quick to get to the beach. Getting back up isn’t as bad as you would think it is.

And for the second donut recommendation, I highly recommend Bakery By the Sea. It’s only open Friday-Sunday and I would go as early as you can. The line will be worth it. OMG. We went this day and the next because it was that good.

The afternoon was spent exploring Samuel H Board State Scenic Corridor. No real plans but just popping into all the pullovers that we saw on the road. My favorites were: Natural Bridges to North Island Viewpoint (China Beach) Trail and Arch Rock Point & Spruce Island Viewpoints Trail. We also took some time out to scout for night images. Luckily we were here on a cloudless/new moon night. My inner photography geek could not contain these ideal shooting conditions.

samuel h boardman state scenic corridor, state park, southwestern oregon, oregon parks, night photography, milky way, stars, meyers creek beach viewpoint, gold beach,

Day 5: Brookings to Bend

If we didn’t have Frankie with us, I 100% would have planned a trip to Crater Lake because he is not allowed in certain areas of the park. At first, I was thinking we could book a pet-friendly hotel or Airbnb, leave Frankie there while we visited Crater Lake on our own but for some reason, there weren’t even any places to stay in that area that allowed dogs. So next time we visit, I’ll have to make up for this missed opportunity.

We decided to just make the trek all the way to Bend. I figured it was the next best thing and brought us a little bit closer to our final destination, Portland. On the way, we stopped by the popular Toketee Falls in Umpqua National Forest. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon which meant the parking lot was already full of cars. It’s a short and easy hike to the waterfalls. However, if you want to get those images that you see on Instagram of the person sitting in front of the falls, or even swim in the water, you have climb down a super steep cliff. I watched some other people do it, I even saw them use a rope provided to get down, but it seemed a little too sketchy for me and my dog in a backpack. 

This image was captured along the way.

One word of choosing where to stay in Bend. Out of all the places we stayed, Bend seemed to be the most spread out. I would try to pick a location that’s either closer to the city area or near Cascade Lakes if that’s what you’re interested in photographing. I made a mistake of just blindly booking an Airbnb without locating it on a map and everywhere we wanted to go in the Bend area was about a 45-minute drive. I know we could have cut the driving time down had I chosen a better-located place to stay.

Regardless, we spent a beautiful evening walking around the City of Bend and made it to Sparks Lake to photograph the sunset on another cloudless evening.

Day 6: Bend to Portland

Andrew enjoys nature and liked going on all these hikes that I planned but he’s more of a city boy. To accommodate his interests, we spent our last two nights of our trip in Portland. We packed up our bags in Bend, grabbed some brunch, and headed towards the City of Roses.  Along the way, we stopped at Lake Trillium. A great place for a scenic view of Mt Hood. Had I known, I wish we could have stayed a little bit longer in this area. Mt Hood National Forest seemed like such a cute little ski town. We were there in the summertime, but you can definitely see all the cute snow bunny influences.

Day 7: Portland

On our last full day in Oregon, we woke up early with the plan to capture the sunrise from Pittock Mansion. It’s a great lookout point in the West Hills that will give you a beautiful view of Portland. Unfortunately, it was another foggy day and we couldn’t see much of the city. So I concentrated my efforts on photographing the other people that were there. For an early Monday morning, I was surprised that we were one of about 10 others that were there.

pittock mansion, west hills, portland, oregon, pacific northwest, pittock, historic house museum, viewpoint, cityview, skyline, mt hood

A foggy morning at the Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon

From there we went straight to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. We accidentally stumbled onto the Vista House which is definitely worth the stop before actually entering the Gorge. The view from this vista is incredible. Afterward, we obviously had to stop at Multnomah Falls but some other waterfalls and trails along the way were closed due to wildfires or other reasons. So if you’re planning a trip, I would try to do research a couple of days leading up to the visit to make sure the place you want to visit is still open and try to remain as flexible as you can.

We made our way back to the City of Portland where we spent the rest of the time eating our way through the city.

Day 8: Fly Back Home

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. It was sad to leave Oregon. The three of us had a blast and we know we’ll be back soon. So if you think I’ve left anything out or have any recommendations for these places we visited or anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest, please let me know!

Happy Snapping!


PS. If you’re interested, here are some behind the scenes footage of our trip 🙂