Beach at Cannon Beach, Oregon

8 Best Small Towns in Oregon for Outdoor Enthusiasts

The state of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest of the United States offers one of the most unique biospheres in the country, making it the ideal destination for any outdoor enthusiast. There are picturesque harbor towns on the Pacific Ocean like Depoe Bay and Cannon Beach, dramatic mountain ranges to be conquered by ambitious hikers like Mount Hood above Mount Hood Village, or the historic volcano of Crater Lake. There are options for any natural explorer in this list of the eight best small towns in Oregon for outdoor enthusiasts.


Waves crashing into Thor's Well, a natural wonder located in Yachats, Oregon, USA.

Waves crashing into Thor's Well, a natural wonder located in Yachats, Oregon, USA.

Yachats is an impressively majestic Pacific seaside getaway for even the most experienced outdoor explorers. The capital attraction is the Yachats Ocean Road State Natural Site, offering some of the best shallow sea exploration on its portion of Oregon's rocky coastline. Those travelers looking for more aerial views above the crashing waves trek up Amanda's Trail towards the Cape Perpetua Overlook, where there are panoramic views of Cape Cove Beach and Devil's Churn. Continuing along the Oregon Coast Highway brings travelers to the equally famous Thor's Well sinkhole, also recognized as the "Drainpipe of the Pacific."

Cannon Beach

The Luxury Stephanie Inn hotel on Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA.
The Luxury Stephanie Inn Hotel on Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA. Editorial credit: Victoria Ditkovsky /

The sands in Cannon Beach are unique because of their expansive size. This coastal getaway features massive stretches of walkable sand beaches at low tide, perfect for the loving seaside explorer. Most visits to Cannon Beach lead to stops at the Haystack Rock, a 235-foot tall sea stack and the third-largest intertidal rock structure in the world. Explorers wishing to escape the noise of summer crowds should stop at the lesser-recognized Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site or the Hug Point State Recreation Site. Cannon Beach is also a hiker's dream: the panoramic ocean view from the Indian Beach Trail in the nearby Ecola State Park is a phenomenal experience.


Riverwalk in Siuslaw River in Florence, Oregon.
Riverwalk in Siuslaw River in Florence, Oregon.

Florence is a small town connection between the water of the Pacific Ocean, the Siuslaw River, and the Siuslaw National Forest. The town's seaside attractions are best explored on either the North Jetty Beach or the South Jetty Beach, each providing miles of secluded white sand and rocky stretches. But the headline seaside attraction here, marked by the neighboring Heceta Head Lighthouse, is the Sea Lion Cave: America's largest sea cave occupied by wild sea lions in this privately-owned natural wildlife observation site. Escaping from salty seascapes is easy in this remote town because of the adjacent Siuslaw National Forest, which houses hikes through both tall and lush forests, like the Kentucky Falls Trail, and the unique Oregon Dunes.

Mount Hood Village

Sunrise view of Mount Hood, Oregon forest, and a village nestled in the picturesque landscape.

Sunrise view of Mount Hood, Oregon forest, and a village in the picturesque landscape.

Mount Hood is the ubiquitous symbol of Oregon's most dramatic natural landscapes as the state's highest mountain, measuring 11,249 feet. Mount Hood Village is the best town for all outdoor exploration of this monstrous and majestic mountain. Advanced hikers with proper permits can trek past the Little Zigzag Falls or Ramona Falls towards the peak while stopping at the multiple check-points along the way like the Caira Basin Shelter, the McNeil Point Shelter, and the Cooper Spur Trail Shelter. Those more inclined to winter sports can instead spend their time skiing from the popular Mount Hood Meadows resort.

Union Creek

 An ice cream shop housed in a historic gas station within the Union Creek Historic District, located in the Rogue River - Siskiyou National Forest near Prospect, Oregon, United States.
An ice cream shop in a historic gas station within Union Creek, Oregon, US. By Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Union Creek is the small gateway town to Crater Lake: America's deepest lake, measuring 1,924 feet, and popularly regarded as one of the cleanest and most pure lakes in the world. Most visitors will hike around Crater Lake National Park to the scenic views of Merriam Point and remark on the antiquity of the collapsed volcano recognized as Mount Mazama. More traditional hikes include the trailhead to Vidae Falls or the trek to the majestic Pinnacles Overlook. The most ambitious outdoor explorers will summit Mount Scott, the highest peak in the national park. Union Creek, however, also has its well-renowned natural attractions. The most popular is the Rouge River Gorge Falls, best appreciated from the Rogue River Gorge Viewpoint, just next door to the Union Creek Campground.


View of downtown Mitchell, Oregon, from Rosenbaum Street looking northwest.

View of downtown Mitchell, Oregon, from Rosenbaum Street looking northwest. By Finetooth, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Mitchell offers the most unique opportunities for outdoor exploration on this list. The primary reason is the colorful and majestic geological formations known as the Painted Hills and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument distributed across Mitchell's surrounding area. The monument is divided between the Clarno, Painted Hills, and Sheep Rock Units. The most accessible trail near Mitchell is the Painted Cove Trail, home to an incredibly diverse color palette of painted rocks. It's also worthwhile to hike from the Caroll Rim Trail Viewpoint to the Painted Hills Overlook. For more greenery, the woodlands of the Ochoco National Forest are also close by.


 Silverton, Oregon sidewalk showing graffiti on the wall.
Silverton, Oregon, sidewalk showing graffiti on the wall. By Another Believer, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Silverton offers top-quality inner-city greenery. The best of its outdoor spaces is The Oregon Garden, a complete 80-acre collection of paved walkways, tall and colorful trees and plants, water features, vibrant flowers, and more that accompany the dazzling and historic architecture of the Gordon House by Frank Lloyd Wright. The town also has access to incredible freshwater activities like swimming and kayaking on the Silverton Reservoir and its adjoining rivers. The most lush of all its natural attractions, however, is the nearby Silver Falls State Park. The full beauty of this park — and its ten waterfalls — is best explored by the 7.2-mile loop, the Trail of Ten Falls, which includes a walk behind a waterfall curtain on the South Falls.

Depoe Bay

Depoe Bay, renowned as the world's smallest harbor, located in Oregon, USA.
Depoe Bay is renowned as the world's smallest harbor in Oregon. Editorial credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Depoe Bay is the home of many essential Pacific Ocean lookouts and trails in Oregon. The small town is commonly recognized for top-tier whale watching, most often from tours hosted by Dockside Charters or even from binocular stations at the ORPD Whale Watching Center. But aside from activities on the Pacific, the bountiful coastline is a stunning experience in itself. Depoe Bay Scenic Park is most favored for the beautiful crashing waves on its tall rocky coastline, and equally intriguing is the Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint or the Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint. There's also much to explore in the forested terrain: the South Depoe Bay Creek Nature Trail and the Oregon Coast Trail pass through fantastic stretches of dense forest.

Discover Oregon's Outdoor Wonders

Oregon is a pinnacle of outdoor exploration in the United States. Whether visitors are seeking the beautiful and dramatic waterfalls of Silverton, the incredibly colorful mountains of the Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds near Mitchell, or the lush density of the Siuslaw National Forest surrounding Florence, these small towns in Oregon will go beyond any outdoor travelers expectations. The only challenge of traveling through Oregon is choosing which town to visit first.

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