There may not be many national parks in Oregon but there are tons of fun national monuments and trails waiting to be explored. Oregon national monuments take outdoor enthusiasts off the beaten path to explore hidden valleys and traverse high mountain peaks only locals know about.
As a west coast local myself, I’ve been to more than half of the U.S. national parks, including most national parks and monuments in Oregon. In this article, we’ll dive into what makes each of these Oregon destinations so special. Let’s get right down to it.
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11 Best National Parks & Monuments in Oregon
Crater Lake National Park
Oregon’s only national park is home to the deepest lake in America.
You’ll likely start at Crater Lake National Park on your national parks in Oregon quest. As Oregon’s solitary national park, Crater Lake is easily the most visited nationally-protected area in Oregon.
Frozen in time for thousands of years, the deep blue Crater Lake is the park’s main draw. Venture into the volcanic caldera with a short boat ride to Wizard Island or opt for a panoramic hiking trail around the perimeter of the lake for the best photo opportunities.
Most roads are closed and hikes are nearly impossible in the winter due to heavy snow. Visit Crater Lake National Park in the summer for the best possible experience and be sure to bring the national park packing list essentials.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Crater Lake Lodge is the official national park accommodation. Book a room in advance for a chance to snag a hotel room right on the water.
Oregon Caves National Monument
Explore a geological treasure in southern Oregon as you wind your way through subterranean passages by candlelight.
Make sure you pack a headlamp before you venture deep into the belly of the Siskiyou Mountains at Oregon Caves National Monument.
The Southern Oregon monument is a perfect stop along a California road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway. Photograph (hopefully) sleeping bats, water dripping from stalactites, and other spooky cave formations in the Oregon Caves.
The Oregon Caves National Monument is unlike any other experience in the Pacific Northwest. Take a candle-lit cave tour during the day before settling down at your national monument campsite by evening for a fulfilling full day of national monument fun.
Oregon National Historic Trail
Trace the historic route of the American frontier pushing west along various sites in Oregon.
Learn more about Western migration on the Oregon National Historic Trail. More than 2,000 miles of trails weave through six U.S. states, tracing the migratory patterns of historic pioneers pushing west.
Put yourself in early American settler’s felted wool shoes and visit a museum, historic site, or church along the trail from the Missouri River to Oregon.
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City is the best place to go for visitors interested in the country’s historic migratory past. Learn from the “Oregon’s First People” documentary on display or take a native garden planning workshop to learn about the native environment’s impact on settler’s diets.
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
Discover the winter resting place of the famous Lewis & Clark expedition, now marked with reconstructed cabins and artifacts.
The Lewis & Clark National Historical Park stretches from northern Oregon into southern Washington on the banks of the Columbia River Gorge. Almost as popular as the national parks in Oregon, this historical park offers guests the opportunity to follow in the famous explorer’s footsteps at 12 sites along the Pacific Coast.
Stop by Clatsop Indian Village to view a replica of a Native American longhouse the explorers built to shelter from the Oregon Coast winter. I recommend exploring some of the same trails as the Lewis & Clark expedition like the Kwis Kwis Trail and the Clay Pit Pond Trail.
Don’t forget to stop by the historical park museum for a chance to view one of two historical films on display about famous past voyagers.
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Learn more about the culture and history of the Nez Perce people at important Indigenous sites in northeastern Oregon.
The grand Nez Perce National Historical Park spans more than four U.S. states and encompasses 38 historical sites of the original Nez Perce peoples.
Educate yourself on the important history and culture of the nimíipuu people, or Nez Perce, in northeastern Oregon. The Nez Perce National Historical Park sites in Oregon include Chief Joseph’s Gravesite, Lostine Campsite, and Joseph Canyon Viewpoint.
📚 Related Reading: Oregon Packing List
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
An artist’s palette of stratigraphic hues makes this central Oregon monument stand out against the rest.
Oregon’s reputation as a green state gets kicked to the curb at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Also known as the “badlands of the Pacific Northwest,” the John Day Fossil Beds display strikingly contrasting desert hues in an otherwise forested state.
The colorful rock formations at this national monument are one of the most popular sights to see along national parks in Oregon road trip. View a preserved ecological record of plant, animal, and climate evolution at this extraordinary national monument.
Don’t forget to stop by the Thomas Condon Visitor Center to learn more about the crystalized world of fossils.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
An old trading post and frontier-era fort inhabit both Washington and Oregon territory.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is shared across two borders right on the Columbia River. Discover one of the first permanent settlements on the west coast of pioneers who set out from the Rocky Mountains.
The historic site encompasses 191 wilderness acres and three historic sites. These include a Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading post, the Vancouver Barracks, and Pearson Field. Fun family activities at the fort include a blacksmith or cooking demonstration and a chance to see archaeological work in the Fort Vancouver Village.
Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
Find evidence of Ice Age flooding in sediment at various sites around the Pacific Northwest.
Follow the route of the historic Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail as it burst across the western landscape 18-15,000 years ago.
The geologic story of an ice dam bursting and spreading more than 500 cubic miles can be found in rock and sediment today if you know where to look. Reminders of repeated Ice Age flooding have defined the landscape, from giant basaltic coulees to high water lines and dry falls in Oregon.
Visit Hat Rock State Park, Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, Multnomah Falls, one of the best things to do in Portland, and Willamette Falls among other places to follow the ancient Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail.
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Thousands of acres comprise this volcanic monument, complete with alpine lakes, mountain peak trails, and more!
Since there aren’t too many national parks in Oregon, national monuments are a great substitute. Visit Oregon’s unique central lava lands at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
With over 54,000 acres of hiking trails, lakes, lava flows, and other geologic features, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument has something for the whole family. I recommend hiking up Paulina Peak, the highest point in the monument with 360-degree views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains and the Newberry crater.
Put your geologic skills to the test at Newberry Monument and look for the numerous cinder cones, vents, obsidian, and basalt flows in the area. This is the only national park/ monument in the state with an active volcano and is one of the coolest places to camp in Oregon.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Visit the same coastal and inland sites as the 1840 expedition of Lewis and Clark.
Follow the traces of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition along the national historic trail. This 4,900-mile trail impressively spans 16 U.S. states from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the Pacific Ocean.
Hike along a portion of the trail for your chance to relive history. Places to visit in Oregon along the trail include Cannon Beach, Salt Works, Fort Clatsop in the Lewis & Clark National Historic Park, Sandy River Delta, and along the historic Columbia River Highway.
Water trails are an exciting, adrenaline-retching way to follow the path of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea. Kayaking on the Columbia River is my favorite way to experience the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.
👉 Pro Tip: I’ve done countless hiking in Oregon in my sturdy Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid Gore-tex Hiking Boots. Tackle any wet, muddy, or rocky Oregon terrain in these trustworthy boots.
California National Historic Trail
Learn more about America’s biggest emigration at various Gold Rush museums and monuments along this historical trail.
Eureka! You’ve found your way to the end of our national parks in Oregon list. The California National Historic Trail traces “Gold Fever” from the California Gold Rush and documents the story of over 250,000 emigrants.
Learn more about the greatest migration in U.S. history along this 5,000-mile historic trail. The California National Historic Trail received heavy traffic in the 1840s and 1850s from emigrants hoping to strike gold in 10 U.S. states, including Oregon.
Visit the Douglas County Museum of Historical and Natural History in Roseburg, Oregon to learn more about the aureate event that defined American culture today.
Best Hikes in Oregon’s National Parks
For more hiking inspiration, see my guide to the best Oregon hikes.
Discovery Point Trail
One of Crater Lake’s most popular trails, suited for the whole family.
One of the most popular hiking trails in Crater Lake National Park, the Discovery Point Trail is a must. At only 2.1 miles, this easy trail is suitable for national park visitors of all fitness levels and generally only takes about an hour to complete.
This trail is best tackled in the summer when the trail has thawed off all snow and ice. Winter adventurers typically enjoy cross-country skiing along this trail with a good 4-wheel-drive vehicle.
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on the trail so you’ll have to leave them at home or wait in your motorhome with plenty of water and cracked windows.
Bigelow Lakes – Mt. Elijah Loop Trail
The perfect above-ground hike to alpine lakes at the Oregon Caves National Monument.
The hike to Bigelow Lakes from Mt. Elijah Loop Trail is one of my favorites in the Oregon Caves National Monument. At 9.7 miles round-trip, this hike is no walk in the park but is scant on tourist crowds and rich with sweeping views.
The best time to hike this trail is in the summer when the fresh pine scent is in full swing, snow has completely melted on the trail, and the wildlife is actively grazing.
The Bigelow Lakes hike typically takes all day. Rest for a while once you reach the 6,390-foot summit and bask in the fruits of your labor.
👉 Pro Tip: You’ll want to have the top hiking essentials with you for this all-day excursion, including a water filtration system. I never go on a long hike without my LifeStraw filter. With this handy device, I can filter water on the go directly from the water source to my bottle.
Painted Hills Overlook
A quick hike to a colorful viewpoint of the John Day Fossil Beds.
At only 0.5 miles round-trip, the Painted Hills Overlook trail is one of the quickest ways to get an aerial view of the John Day Fossil Beds. Follow an old road to the overlook and remember not to “hurt the dirt.”
The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is strict on preserving and maintaining the geologic and paleontological resources found in the soil. Help preserve the fossils for future generations by staying on the trail at all times.
Paulina Lakeshore Loop
Hike around the perimeter of Paulina Lake or trek to the Newberry Monument hot springs along this alpine trail.
The Paulina Lakeshore Loop is one of the best hikes in Newberry National Volcanic Monument for visitors who prefer an easier trek. This trail follows the perimeter of Paulina Lake with panoramic views of the alpine waters and caldera for its entirety.
The whole trail is 7.5 miles but is mostly flat with only a few short uphill sections. Pack a lunch and have a picnic along the lakeshore to break up the long hike or bring your bathing suit and go for a swim.
The best part about this hike is the natural hot springs along the trail. Five springs range from 90-115 degrees right on the Paulina Lakeshore. The springs fill to capacity on the weekends, however, so be sure to hike in as early as possible!
Netul River Trail
A scenic river trail in the Lewis & Clark National Historical Trail Monument.
Hike along the river on the Netul River Trail, one of the top hikes near Portland. This 1.25 one-way trail leads from the Historic Canoe Landing to the South Netul Landing in the Lewis & Clark National Historical Trail Monument.
There are pit toilets along the way and a water bottle refill station at the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center. Additionally, you are likely to encounter only a few other hikers on this quiet trail, giving you the solitary experience in nature you hoped for.
FAQs About National Parks in Oregon
How many national parks are in Oregon?
Crater Lake National Park is the only national park in Oregon. However, although there aren’t many national parks in Oregon, there are countless national monuments in the Pacific Northwestern state.
What is the prettiest national forest in Oregon?
Deschutes National Forest takes the cake for the prettiest national forest in Oregon. Here is where the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is located, fully loaded with hot springs, volcanic calderas, and miles upon miles of hiking trails.
What is the closest national park to Portland?
Thanks for reading our guide on the top national parks in Oregon! Before you head out to explore the state’s parks, monuments, and trails, be sure to check out our best things to do in Oregon guide to find other nearby attractions!
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