If you received your primary education in the United States then you have almost certainly heard about the famous/infamous Oregon Trail. The story of those who traveled it was fraught with hardship and tragedy.
But today’s Oregonian hiking, climbing, and outdoors aficionados have the benefit of automobiles, readily available food, water, and supplies, as well as the many wells maintained camping spots and trails thanks to private owners and the National Parks. Oregon, in particular, is blessed to be the home of many spectacular, beautiful, and well cared for mountain trails that are openly available to the public.
Here, we will cover ten of Oregon’s finest mountains and trails. If you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors this summer in Oregon, then you’re sure to find something that will suit your fancy here.
10. Mount Hood Lake Trail
Located just 50 miles to the east of Portland, Mount Hood reaches a dizzying 11,239 feet or 3426 meters into the lofty Oregon sky. It can frequently be seen with a shroud of cloud cover to add to its mystery.
The popular Timberline Lodge and parking area are less than three miles from the peak, making this a short hike up to the summit. However, this is not a hike for the faint-hearted. In most seasons of the year, temperatures up at the snow-line can and will frequently dip down below freezing, and sometimes below zero.
That means that hiking in and around Mount Hood is not recommended for the casual hiker. If you do choose to travel here, and do not have the courage or the gear to make the hike up the mountain safely, there is still the Trillium Lake Loop Trail. There, you’ll get a terrific view of the mountain from across lake Trillium, and you could certainly do far worse than that!
No matter which path you choose, there are amenities such as restaurants, rest areas, and comfortable weather during most times of the year, except national holidays and periods when the Federal government is closed.
9. Grizzly Peak and Loop
True to its confidence shattering name, this mountain, and its nearby trail is known to have been home to grizzly bears. While these notoriously fearsome animals do still exist here in very small numbers, the chance of encountering one is small.
The animals were said to have been locally extinct in the early 19th century. But recent conservation efforts have brought them back in minuscule numbers. That means all of the normal bear precautions do apply here. Visitors are advised not to carry food and to consider carrying bear mace even though the chance of a bear sighting is very low.
Grizzly Peak stands at 5920 feet or 1804 meters high, making it a moderately accessible climb compared to many other Oregonian mountains. The distance to the summit is a forgiving 1.5 miles, or 3 total miles round trip. It is located within the National Conservation Lands dept’s ongoing conservation project and is located near the Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument. The mountain climb is rated for moderate to beginner-level climbers, making it attractive to just about anyone who loves to enjoy mountain terrain.
For those who wish to have an easier, but no less scenic hike, the Grizzly Peak Loop Trail is another option. It is a 5.1-mile-long trail covering verdant hills and forest. Hikers will enjoy a view of the mountain either way, but only those who brave the peak will enjoy the full splendor of the panoramic view of these endless evergreen woodlands.
8. Pilot Rock Trail
Located in the Soda Mountains just 15 short miles south of Ashland, The Pilot Rock Trail and Peak offer multiple hiking opportunities rated at a medium difficulty level. The peak itself stands at just 5908 feet or 1801 meters. It is a basaltic spire protruding from a volcanic core. Its black covering has been eroded away over the course of centuries, much like that of Wyoming’s Devils Tower.
This is a popular park among rock climbers, mountain climbers, and hiking enthusiasts, but it is not too difficult for most casual hikers. The hike totals 1.4 miles in length and just under 3 miles round trip. The park is located in is controlled by the National Park authorities who expect visitors to keep their dogs on leashes. That is an important consideration if you intend to scramble over any terrain that requires the use of both hands.
All visitors will enjoy the picturesque views of the unique geological features of this area.
7. Multnomah Falls Out-And-Back
Not a mountain per se, the Multnomah Falls “Out And Back” hiking trail still brings hikers up a 620 foot or 188-meter climb. It is located just 30 miles to the east of Portland and is a part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. T
he total hike is measured at 2.7 miles, but you can schedule yourself for at least a three-mile hike as you’re definitely going to want to spend time admiring and photographing – if not playing in the waters of – the massive falls.
The climb is rated as intermediate in difficulty. This is due to the fact that the climb is fairly steep over its relatively short distance. There are a number of micro-climates in this area and visitors can expect to see a great deal of geographic and natural diversity from river erosion, dense forest, rocky promenades, arid hills, and more. The variety of animals living here is also among the most diverse in the state.
The location is not ideal for those who wish to get away from crowds of people as it is known to draw more than 2 million visitors each year. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that all the national park areas of Oregon are some of the most highly patronized on Earth.
6. Mt. Scott Trail
Located in the famous Crater Lake National Park, Mount Scott is one of the most friendly and accessible mountain hiking trail locations in the country. It is 70 miles north of Klamath Falls. Standing at 8929 feet or 2722 meters high, The peak of Mount Scott is the highest point in the Crater Lake area. The trail there and back is measured at 4.5 miles, or 2.5 miles one way. It is rated as intermediate in difficulty, as most of the trails in Oregon.
That’s good news because the beautiful, verdant terrain around the trail and the panoramic views you’ll get for almost the entire hike are not to be missed. Crater lake attracts more than 700,000 visitors each year – and for good reason. So don’t expect to have the trail all to yourself. The biggest drawback is the fact that dogs are not allowed.
Why? Your guess is as good as ours since human traffic does much more harm to just about any trail than a dog ever could. But it’s unfortunate nonetheless. However, it is worth noting that with such a high level of tourism, it wouldn’t take many dogs to have local clean-up trail crews overwhelmed with the task of removing it.
5. Mount Hood & Ramona Falls Loop
Yet another hike that is more waterfall than a mountain trail. (It’s pretty hard to avoid waterfalls in Oregon’s National Parks, even if you wanted to.) Nonetheless, this climb offers hikers a mountain-like experience with the added benefit of the sights and sounds of falling water over rock. It’s located 51 miles east of Portland and is a 7.3-mile hike there and back.
If you’re dead set on hitting the mountain instead, you certainly have the option available to you. Mount Hood stands 11,239 feet or 3426 meters in height. It is one mile distant from the falls, but your hike could incorporate both areas if you’re feeling particularly ambitious. The difficulty is rated at intermediate, but the overall difficulty will depend mostly on the time of year in which you visit. We recommend the spring or summer months, as temperatures near the top can reach sub-freezing many times throughout the year.
If you do go in the summer months, bring several layers of clothing, because your summer clothes alone will not serve you well when you pass the midway point of this mountain.
4. Ten Falls Trail
If you are a fan of waterfalls and are glad we have included a couple of great Oregon falls in our list, then you’ll be especially pleased by the Trail of Ten Falls. Here, as the name suggests, you’ll have the chance to traverse numerous waterfalls over a course that will take you over 177 feet or 53.9 meters in elevation.
This is an excellent spot to visit during the summertime due to the fact that the mist in the air and the plentiful shade is almost certain to keep you cool even in the hottest times of the year. At Ten Falls, you can expect to enjoy enchanted watery coves, hidden ponds, and maddeningly romantic groves all around. If this isn’t the setting for some magical romantic fantasy novel, it should be.
Ten Falls is 26 miles east of Salem, covers roughly 7.8 miles of trail, and is rated at intermediate in terms of difficulty. The high difficulty rating is due largely to the fact that the trail is longer than most mountain trails. However, well-rested and experienced hikers should find it to be a leisurely jaunt through the wilderness.
Unfortunately, there are- once again- no dogs allowed here. It would seem that dogs are very popular with Oregon residents, which means that letting everyone bring their dogs would soon cause the trails to be overwhelmed with canine leavings- which would be unpleasant.
3. Hart’s Cove Trail
Established as a public nature reserve, Hart’s Cove trail covers 13.9 miles of coastline trail along the magnificent Oregonian coastline. The peak elevation for this trail is below 200 feet or 60.9 meters. But don’t let that fool you, because this is not a casual hike.
The length of the loop by itself has some influence over the high difficulty level. However, it should be noted that the ruggedness of much of the trail makes it markedly tougher to navigate than most of the trails we have covered. It should also be said that there are many points along this trail where high ledges pose a significant fall hazard. Careless hikers are not advised to come here.
The trail, despite its long length and occasional perilous drops, is very well maintained. Once again, no dogs are allowed, which means if you’re a dog owner, you’ll have to hire a dog sitter.
2. Munra Point Trail
The Munra Point and “out and back” trail are located just 37 miles to the east of Portland. The hiking trail totals 6.3 miles in total length and is considered one of the most mentally and physically challenging hikes available in the state of Oregon.
Despite the fact that Munra Point stands only 1814 feet of 553 meters tall, the frequent switchbacks, rocky terrain, heavy overgrowth, and other challenges make it so that very little leisurely walking will be available to those who brave the trail. The official difficulty level is rated at “hard.” This is because the trail is rugged, as suggested. But it is also because while there are many beautiful panoramic views to enjoy- the cost of being overly distracted by them may be a deadly fall.
It is advised that only advanced hikers and climbers take on the Munra Point challenge.
As far as dogs are concerned, you are allowed to bring your dogs, but they must be leashed. That may seem generous after the last few dog-lover’s-disappointments. However, it’s worth noting that once you get out there and see the rugged and ever-changing nature of the trail- it doesn’t make much sense to have a leashed dog tethered to your arm, hand, or hip. The fact is that Munra Point is not a great place for the family pet.
1. South Sister Trail
An excellent place for mountaineering, hiking, climbing, scrambling, or skiing – South Sister has it all. The peak stands at 10,358 feet or 3157 meters high. The climbing is rated as difficult. However, if you wish to just walk along trails or hike to see the marvelous panoramic views that await you, then that’s certainly an option.
The South Sister and climber trail are located in the Three Sisters Wilderness which is just 28 miles west of the town of Bend, Oregon. The Three Sisters Wilderness is also within the Deschutes National Forest and the Willamette National Forest.
Here, you’ll enjoy a beautiful glacial landscape with pleasant hiking trails, challenging rock faces, and – of course – endless evergreen woods. After climbing the South Sister, you may be interested in challenging the North and Middle Sisters as well. These three mountains are roughly equal in difficulty and natural beauty. In fact, they are practically identical to each other in all but the most minute details. However, only the South Sister has an attached campground and separate hiking trail, making it a great spot for an entire family, regardless of their abilities.
South Sister and Trail rules require dogs to be kept on a leash. While this is restrictive, you’ll find there are many more opportunities to walk comfortably with your dog here than at more rugged and difficult Oregonian mountain trails.