Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria, city landmark. Editorial credit: BZ Travel /

8 Most Idyllic Small Towns in Oregon

Oregon is one of the most underrated states in the country and has the potential to be in the same popularity status as Florida and California when it comes to tourism. Laid on the West Coast and overlapped by the Pacific Ocean, this state sparkles in natural beauty, especially across its small towns and villages. But that's not even all. While some of these towns feature incredible coastal scenery, others are overlooked by imposing mountains and surrounded by lush forests hosting interesting fauna and flora. Some even feature unique rock formations, covered bridges, and lighthouses that just look and feel so magical. Whichever season you’re traveling, these towns in the Beaver State have something to uplift your soul.

Cottage Grove

Arched sign across East Main Street in Cottage Grove Historic District Oregon. Editorial credit: Ian Dewar Photography /
Arched sign across East Main Street in Cottage Grove Historic District Oregon. Editorial credit: Ian Dewar Photography /

Cottage Grove is a town in Lane County that is famous for being the covered bridge capital of Oregon. It earned the title for having six covered bridges, the highest in the state, with bridges on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can embark on tours to these bridges to witness the charming scenery of Cottage Grove from higher ground. For bikers, pedal through the 36-mile Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway to see the town’s bridges and a beautiful lake. Afterward, head to Cottage Grove Lake to enjoy picnics or get busy boating around and fishing. Dorena Lake is a nearby alternate option that’s more scenic and features a marina and park campground. Elsewhere, hikers and bikers can traverse the 14-mile Row River National Recreation Trail that begins from the downtown historic district and runs along the shores of Row River and Dorena Lake.

Klamath Falls

Autumn trees along the shores of Klamath Lake in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Autumn trees along the shores of Klamath Lake in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Think of a quintessential lake and mountain town that outdoor lovers can call their playground, and Klamath Falls comes to mind. This gorgeous town sits on the southern shore of Upper Klamath Lake and hosts Lake Ewauna. Both water bodies make the town charming and busy with water sports such as kayaking, boating, fishing, and canoeing. Tourists can also kayak on the 9.5-mile Klamath Falls Canoe Trail from Klamath Lake or explore other neighboring lakes such as Crescent, Odell, and Lake of the Woods for more adventures. Meanwhile, the town also features the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, Oregon's longest park, where a railroad-turned-trail sets the stage for bikers to explore diverse scenery from urban settings to woodlands. Less adventurous visitors can head to Moore Park to enjoy picnics, green scenery, and soothing air. For a dash of history, the Klamath County Museum and Favell Museum are prime locations to peep into the past through artifacts and exhibitions.


Heceta head lighthouse in the summer.
Heceta head lighthouse in the summer.

Florence is a gem town in Oregon, famed for its picturesque landscape at the tip of the Siuslaw River, where it joins the Pacific Ocean. A good starting destination for exploring this town’s natural beauty is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. This massive expanse of temperate coastal sand dunes on the Oregon Coast is reputed to be one of the largest in North America. Activities in the area include hiking, canoeing, fishing, camping, and horseback riding. Located 12 miles north of Florence, Heceta Head Lighthouse is another incredibly scenic attraction worth visiting. This landmark is situated on a headland offering charming views of the Pacific Ocean and featuring an interpretive center and gift shop. While in this town, do not miss out on the Sea Lion Caves, America's largest natural sea cave, over 12 stories high on the coast of the Pacific. Visitors can explore the cave's interiors to wonder at its geology and spot roaring sea lions, among other interesting marine species.


Winter view of Wallowa Mountians and traditional red barn on cattle ranch near Joseph Oregon, USA.
Winter view of Wallowa Mountains and traditional red barn on a cattle ranch near Joseph, Oregon, USA.

Joseph is a magical town at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains, often referred to as - the Little Switzerland of Oregon. The town is home to the beautiful Wallowa Lake, offering great fishing, boating, and hiking adventures. Visitors can also enjoy epic views of the lake and its entire scenery on the Wallowa Lake Tramway, which rises more than 8,000 feet above sea level. Additionally, Joseph is renowned as a den for artists, and visitors are invited to engage in the Joseph Art Walk to see larger-than-life bronze sculptures lined on the main street. For nature lovers, hike on marked trails amid wildflowers at the nearby Zumwalt Prairie Preserve and spot wildlife such as eagles and hawks.


Astoria, Oregon, the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast.
Astoria, Oregon, the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast.

Astoria, Oregon's oldest city, doubles as one of the most scenic destinations in the state. The town is located on the southern shore of the Columbia River, where it radiates riverside beauty. To witness this scenery, visitors can promenade on the six-mile Astoria Riverwalk, which runs along the town’s waterfront and features restaurants, shops, museums, and canneries. Alternatively, take the Riverfront Trolley ride (available between late March and September) to enjoy scenic river views and explore the downtown waterfront area. Next, visit the 125-foot-tall Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill and climb over 160 steps to the top to see unobstructed views of Astoria and the Columbia River.

The town is also home to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where several exhibits offer insight into the maritime history of the Columbia River region.

Hood River

Beautiful Hood River city.
Beautiful Hood River city.

Hood River is a charming port town in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge with many things to see and do. The Columbia River is the town's highlight attraction, renowned for some of the best windsurfing adventures in the world. Windsurfing lessons are even offered, and one can also kayak, boat, and canoe in the waters. Hikers can find several scenic trails nearby, notably Mitchell Point, 10 minutes from the town, with a breathtaking overlook that offers charming views of the Columbia River. For more adventures, ride on the 35-mile Fruit Loop to enjoy sweeping views of Mount Hood, wineries, and fields of flowers, and encounter 28 on-the-farm fruit stands. Away from the outdoors, visitors can head to the History Museum of Hood River County to learn more about the area via artifacts and exhibits.

Cannon Beach

View of Cannon Beach and Indian beach in Ecola State park Oregon.
View of Cannon Beach and Indian beach in Ecola State Park Oregon.

Cannon Beach is one of the biggest tourist destinations in America that can be visited anytime. The town is famed for its nearly four-mile sandy beach, featuring the stunning 235-foot sea stack known as Haystack Rock. The monolithic rock is accessible on low tide and features many tide pools while serving as a popular spot for nature photography, sunset views, birdwatching, picnics, and surfing. For history buffs, the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum explores the history of this charming coastal town through artifacts and exhibits. Ecola State Park is another magical destination a few minutes from the town, featuring miles of sandy beaches, tide pools, and more sea stacks. And if that is not enough, Oswald Beach State Park is just 10 minutes away, offering scenic private beaches, wildlife, imposing cliffs, and a swimming beach.


Usa, Oregon, Yachats. Thor's Well, Waves Crashing into Thor's Well.
Usa, Oregon, Yachats. Thor's Well, Waves Crashing into Thor's Well.

Yachats is a scenic town on the Oregon Coastal range flanked by the Pacific coast. Once here, visitors can enjoy the coastal scenery by visiting the nearby Thors Well, a sinkhole that swallows the endless flow of seawater around it. For even more scenery, hike through coastal Amanda's Trail that leads to Cape Perpetua, the highest point on Oregon's Coast, where visitors will be spoiled with inspiring views of the coastline, rocks, green mountains, and waves crashing unto them. For laid-back visitors, chill at the Smelt Sand State Recreational Area (featuring tide pools, a rocky beach, and fishing spots) or stroll on the boardwalk over wetlands at the Yachats Community Park to admire a spruce forest and spot birds.

The Beaver State is a place of incredible natural scenery and adventures. To unravel nature's beauty, however, one must look beyond the cities and further into its small quaint towns. These towns are custodians of scenic charms as they feature unspoiled coastlines, towering mountains, pristine lakes, and gorgeous rivers. They are also rich in history, culture, food, and hospitality, so whether you desire to satisfy your adventurous desires or relax in nature and get inspired, these towns have something for you.

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