We are wrapping up the Summer of 2022. Some of the Portland metro area kids return to school this week, and some will return next week, but no matter when you start school, Fall is quickly approaching. In the PNW, this is a wonderful time of year to get in some last-minute day trips to take advantage of the excellent weather.
Here are five places that are less than two hours away from Portland for the ultimate day trip experience.
2 hours away
The Oregon coast is beautiful, and there are lots of towns you can visit for a day trip. For this list, we are focusing on Astoria. Astoria is Oregon’s oldest city. There are some excellent restaurants and little shops to get the perfect souvenir. It has so many things to do and places to explore. You probably knew Astoria is home to the Goonie’s house, but did you know they have the Oregon Film Museum there? It is a neat place to see all the movies that have been filmed in our beautiful state.
In addition, Astoria has Fort Stevens. Fort Stevens is one of the nation’s largest public campgrounds. According to the Oregon state park website, Fort Stevens marks the site of a military installation once used to guard the mouth of the Columbia River. The fort saw service for 84 years, from the Civil War to World War II. You can check out the remnants of the military presence that was there. Fort Stevens is a huge park with lots to do, including the opportunity to examine a historic shipwreck.
Want more ideas about what to do in Astoria? Go to Travel Oregon to find out more.
1 hour away
Head to McMinnville for your chance to have a beautiful small-town experience. The downtown looks like you are walking into a storybook. There are the cutest shops and some seriously good restaurants. Check out Visit McMinnville to explore the shops and restaurants available. McMinnville is also in the heart of wine country. There are lots of places for wine tours and wine tasting.
McMinnville also has some great outdoor spaces like the Rotary Nature Preserve at Tice Woods and the AMAZING play structures at Discovery Meadows Community Park. Last but certainly not least, McMinnville is home to Wings & Waves Waterpark. Wings & Waves Waterpark is a large indoor waterpark with an actual 747 plane on top of the building. McMinnville is a perfect place to go for the day (or more).
Mt. St. Helens & The Ape Caves
1 hour and 20 minutes away
Mount St. Helens is famous for its eruption in May of 1980. It is the home of the largest United States volcanic eruption. And now, it is a beautiful place to explore the restorative power of nature. There is an interpretive center whose goal is to educate visitors on the historical significance of the landscape before and during the eruption. They also focus on the resulting impact of the eruption on nearby ecosystems. Some of the trails around Mount St. Helens are not for children, but there is plenty to explore at the mountain and near the mountain.
On the way to Mount St. Helens are the Ape Caves. The Ape Caves are a chance to delve into a large cave. According to the Forest Service website, this is the third longest lava tube (2.5 miles long) in North America, and the cave’s temperature is 42 F degrees year round. The Forest Service suggests you bring two sources of light per person (a cell phone light is not bright enough), sturdy shoes, and warm clothing (even in warm weather). Timed reservations are required to visit Ape Cave during the open season: May 18 Cave through October 31. Choose a two-hour time slot for your desired day on recreation.gov.
Oregon Fruit Loop (Hood River)
1 hour away
Yes, this is located in/near Hood River, which has a lot of great things on its own merit, but given the upcoming Fall harvest, we are going to focus exclusively on the Fruit Loop. Check out the Hood River Fruit Loop website for details about the different farms, orchards, and u-picks and to get a map. This is a 35-mile biking/driving route that takes you to 29 farm stands where you can taste, sample, and buy all sorts of treats.
Along the Fruit Loop is the Apple Valley Store. The Apple Valley store is finishing a month-long celebration to celebrate summer fruit. According to their website, they have the following available daily: Huckleberry milkshakes, fresh picked apples, berries, first apple pies of the year, scones and cookies, jams, jellies, syrups, sauces, and more. And their weekend specials are apple crisps and berry cobblers, caramel apple dumplings, and other special treats. YUM!!! And in September, Draper Girls Country Farm is lifting up “All Things Fall.” They say to bring your family and friends to enjoy a fall day u-picking fruit, shopping at their Country Market, and feeding the farm animals. You can also visit their flower-filled gardens and choose from hundreds of pumpkins around the farm. That sounds wonderful, and these are just a couple of the options available for the Fruit Loop! Make a plan to explore all of the farm stands.
There are sooooo many rivers to explore in Oregon. For this post, we are focusing on the Wilson River. The Wilson River is about 33 miles long and flows from the Northern Oregon Coast Range to Tillamook Bay. The Wilson River is a great place to hike, swim, and even snorkel!
The Footbridge Day Use Area is a really popular location with a swimming hole and cliff jumping. However, if you are looking for a more laid-back site, there are plenty of places to pull over and explore off of Oregon Route 6. Oregon Discovery’s made a video about the Wilson River’s best swimming holes. Watch it here.
And for next year, please check out the Tillamook Forest Center. It is closed in 2022. But keep it on your calendar for its reopening in March of 2023. It is a really special place for all ages. And while the center is closed, there is access available to the Wilson River Trail and bridge from the Jones Creek Day-use Area.
We hope these suggestions will help you plan your own excursion. Oregon Kid’s has covered similar topics with Michelle Sullivan’s Awesome Summer Family Day Trips Around Oregon and Rob Stone’s Best Places To Go Day Hiking With Kids Around Oregon. Be sure to check them out to get even more exploring ideas brewing. You won’t be disappointed! Let us know your favorite places for day trips in Oregon!
Johanna is married with two kids, three dogs, one cat, nine chickens, and a few fish. She has been in the Pacific Northwest since the dream was alive in the 90s but has Southern roots and hails from Arkansas. The family spends a lot of time at some sort of sporting event for the kids. Johanna likes to fast craft, garden, host parties, and bake. Johanna and her crew go hard traveling, DIY-ing, and are always up for a new adventure or challenge.