Downtown city of Silverton, Oregon. Image credit Laurens Hoddenbagh via Shutterstock

9 Lovely Small Towns To Visit In Oregon This Summer

Nothing says summer like a road trip, and if you are on the hunt for some small towns to visit in the Beaver State, then you’ve come to the right place. Known for its relatively mild weather, thanks to the unique geography of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s summers vary from mild to hot, depending on which region of the state you’re in. No matter where you roam, you are sure to find some charmingly beautiful small towns to explore.

From wine country to waterfalls, from natural and geological wonders to towns full of bronze sculptures and outdoor murals, Oregon’s small towns turn out and show off. All of these towns feature incredible natural landscapes to explore, as well as fun and fascinating downtown areas to wine, dine, and shop. So, if you are planning on spending at least some of your summer vacation here in the Pacific Northwest, make sure you check out these nine lovely small Oregon towns.


Aerial view of the charming town of Tillamook, Oregon
Aerial view of the charming town of Tillamook, Oregon.

Some may say the Tillamook County Creamery put this small town on the map, and while Tillamook embraces its cheesy history, it’s got far more to offer than curds and whey. Sitting at the bottom of Tillamook Bay, this charming small town is home to not just one but five gorgeous rivers, including the Three Rivers convergence of the Wilson, Tillamook, and Trask Rivers. Water lovers near and far come to spend lazy summer afternoons canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Other attractions include the Tillamook County Quilt Trail, a self-guided tour of the area and its history that takes you through both town and countryside and the Hoquarton Interpretive Trail, a nature and education path that begins just above the downtown area. If you like a day trip that’s more laid back, the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad runs along Tillamook Bay, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the amazing scenery and soak up some of the famously mild summer sun.

A trip to Tillamook wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Tillamook County Creamery, of course, but you can also sip and sup your way through the rest of town at artisanal eateries such as the Pelican Brewing Company Taproom, Tora Sushi, La Mexicana, and the growing food truck hotspot called Flavors on First. From camping and hiking to outstanding cultural heritage trails and museums, Tillamook does indeed have a little something for everyone.


Aerial view of Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville, Oregon
Aerial view of Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville, Oregon.

Growing in popularity as both an exciting place to live and visit, McMinnville has made a point to hold onto its small-town charm as it expands. Within easy driving distance of both Portland and Salem, thriving city life is never far away. Just as importantly, the beauty of Oregon’s landscape and natural wonders is also always close at hand.

Erratic Rock State Natural Site features the largest glacial erratic in the area, a rock that was picked up and carried by a glacier millions of years ago and deposited somewhere entirely new, making it unique to its new surroundings.

Downtown McMinnville gives visitors plenty to explore as well. McMinnville supports both small businesses and artists and artisans in a big way, and you’ll find boutiques, farm-to-table eateries, cool cafes, art galleries, and theaters aplenty. Plan your trip around annual events like the UFO Festival or the International Pinot Noir Celebration, or just book a random weekend in July. Whenever you visit McMinnville, you’ll find an endless array of pleasures await you.


A red barn and Wallowa Mountains near Enterprise, Oregon.
A red barn with the Wallowa Mountains in the background near Enterprise, Oregon.

Nestled against the feet of the Wallowa Mountains, Enterprise is an outdoors enthusiast’s paradise. The entirety of Wallowa County, in fact, is famous for its stunning landscapes and jaw-dropping views. To get those views, take the Wallowa Lake Tramway up to the very top of Mount Howard on a tram line steeper than any other line you’ll find not just in the United States but on the entire continent.

For even more extreme geography, you’ll find Hells Canyon just east of town, one of the deepest gorges in the world. Between Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Wallowa Whitman National Forest, there’s plenty of hiking, camping, horseback riding, and more outdoor adventures for summer visitors to find.

The town of Enterprise is a haven for local artists, especially those that work with bronze. There are multiple bronze foundries in the area, and dozens of artists call this lovely small town home all year round. You can visit their work in galleries like TW Bronze and even take a class or two at more interactive studios like Moonshine Glass Art and Sonrise Art Studio.

Historic downtown Enterprise features lots of shopping, antiquing, and fine dining opportunities. Spend your days soaking up the local scenery, enjoying the great outdoors, or taking the Wallowa Valley Barn Tour, then refuel on local artisanal cuisine and brews at the Terminal Gravity Brewery.


The gorgeous sea coast in Yachats, Oregon
The gorgeous sea coast in Yachats, Oregon.

Located almost exactly in the middle of Oregon’s breathtaking coastal region, Yachats is a cute little village with a whole lot to offer. Since it backs up to the Oregon Coastal Range, you’ve got your choice of ocean or mountain views and activities. Want to spend the day lounging on the beach and playing in the waves? Yachats has that. Rather strike out into the forest to partake of a well-connected trail system, on foot or on a bike? It’s got that too.

Nearby Cape Perpetua Scenic Area marks the highest point on the coast, and offers incredible views of the landscape. Heceta Head Lighthouse is also a bed and breakfast, for anyone who wants both an up close and personal experience of the coast as well as an historic place to stay the night.

ONA Restaurant and Lounge, Green Salmon Coffee Company, and Drift Inn Historic Cafe and Pub all offer a kind respite and delicious eats to the hungry traveler. There’s the Overleaf Lodge and Spa if you need a restful and rejuvenating retreat or plan a more adventurous vacation around Thor’s Well and the Sea Lion Caves, one of the largest sea caves in the country. An enchanting mix of adventure and relaxation, Yachats is a perfectly lovely village.


Silver Creek in Silverton, Oregon.
Silver Creek in Silverton, Oregon.

A Willamette Valley gem, Silverton has become a major travel destination for Oregonians and visitors from outside the state alike. Home to the largest park in the state, Silver Falls State Park, as well as the eighty acre Oregon Garden, Silverton provides a warm and welcoming environment to anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of the town and its surroundings.

The Silverton Mural Society has turned much of the downtown into a showcase for bright and colorful murals depicting scenes from local history, completed by a variety of artists over the past thirty years. This unique and artsy environment invites you to slow down and explore all that downtown Silverton has to offer. Full of unique and historic architecture, a day spent shopping and dining in Silverton can sometimes feel like stepping into some bygone era.


Boardwalk to beach in Gerhard, Oregon
Boardwalk to beach in Gerhard, Oregon.

This quiet little seaside town is all about welcoming visitors with its vibe of ease and tranquility. Plenty of small-town charm draws you into Gearhart, a village so quaint it doesn’t even have any traffic lights. What it does have is plenty of laidback pleasure and relaxation for travelers of all ages. Start your visit by booking one of the dozen seaside cottages available to rent at The Drifthaven, so you can vacation just steps from the beach. Spend your days reading under an umbrella, splashing in the waves, or renting a canoe or kayak to explore the area by sea.

When you’re ready to explore beyond your own little beach retreat, you’ll find Gearhart Golf Links and the Del Rey Beach Recreation Site, both of which offer plenty of opportunity to play and unwind at an easy, uncrowded pace. The village itself has plenty of restaurants, shopping centres, art galleries, and historic buildings. From bike routes to art galleries to golfing and sailing, if “slow travel” is the name of your game, make Gearhart a must-see on your list for this summer.


Downtown Ashland, Oregon
Downtown Ashland, Oregon.

This cozy mountain town sits north of the California border at the southernmost end of Rogue Valley. The area is famed for its ideal grape-growing conditions and was named one of the top five wine-growing regions in the world. Ashland itself is no slouch in the winemaking department. With seven local vineyards, wine enthusiasts near and far come for their tastings and taproom dining experiences.

Priding itself on having a big city feel tucked inside its small-town charm, Ashland’s culture is big on wine, fine dining, and the arts, especially the performing arts. Known for its annual Shakespeare festival, there are also tons of live performances and theater shows all over town all year long at venues such as the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Angus Bowmer Theatre, and Rogue Theater Company. Lithia Park, in the heart of downton, sends you down beautifully maintained nature trails, and the large artistic community creates a liveliness and vibrancy you have to see to believe.

Cottage Grove

East Main Street in Cottage Grove Historic District Oregon
East Main Street in Cottage Grove Historic District, Oregon. Image credit: IanDewarPhotography -

On the outskirts of Eugene, a metropolitan area, is Cottage Grove, a small town surrounded by lush verdancy and remarkable landscapes, with a thriving arts scene. Proud of its diverse community and happy to celebrate its heritage and culture, regular events throughout the year include the Cottage Grove Art Walk, a mining heritage festival, and regular concerts in the park. The Opal Center for Arts and Education also offers classes and demonstrations, as well as a packed schedule of performances all year long.

Known for its murals and covered bridges, the town of Cottage Grove is a delight to explore on foot or by bicycle. Outside of town, and throughout the beautiful Willamette Valley, amazing natural landscapes abound. This area is chock full of waterfalls and trails to hike along them, including Parker Falls, Trestle Creek Falls, Brice Creek Falls, and many more. Whether you want to get out and explore all nature has to offer along those waterfall trails or you want to spend the day shopping at funky small-owned boutiques, Cottage Grove can’t be beaten.


Aerial view of Mosier, Oregon.
Aerial view of Mosier, Oregon.

Tucked neatly between the Columbia River and Mount Hood, the tiny town of Mosier sits along the Historic Columbia River Highway, a nearly seventy-five mile long stretch of road that leads you through town and up to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint, among many, many other amazing destinations. This popular pullover yields simply awe-inspiring views of the Columbia River Gorge.

From this spot it’s a short trip to nearby Meyer State Park and the Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve, both of which only enhance the natural splendor that already greeted you from Rowena Crest. This area is known for its luscious blooms of wildflowers, some unique to the area, making it a popular travel destination during the spring and very early summer. Guided and self-guided wildflower hikes are incredibly popular around Mosier.

Rooted in the Oregon Trail, Mosier boasts a rich history that it celebrates proudly. Known for both its delectable cherries and delicious local wines, small town Mosier is a lovely respite after all the amazing outdoor activities the area around it has to offer. There are those wildflower tours, of course, as well as hiking, biking, windsurfing on Hood River, waterfall excursions, and so much more. Tiny it may be, but Mosier packs a punch.

Summer is the time for travel, exploring, and, of course, plenty of fun in the sun. And while there are plenty of cities and larger towns just waiting for you to check them out, the charm and appeal of Oregon’s smaller towns is hard to resist. And with vineyards and award-winning restaurants, awesome natural landscapes, and towns bursting with artistic creativity, who would want to stay away?

Solo travelers planning a trip heavy on relaxation can find spas and retreats, while the more adventurous can get in on all the sailing, windsurfing, hiking, and camping adventures the state has to offer. Families will find plenty of state parks, chill and charming downtown areas, museums, and easy day trips. No matter what kind of trip you’re looking for, check out these lovely little Oregon towns this summer. They just might have exactly what you’ve been looking for.

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