Oregon’s Spectacular Natural Wonders

Skip the tourist traps and head out to these hidden gems

Oregon is known for some spectacular sights throughout the state. However, tourists pack most of these sites, which takes away from the natural experience. If you want to reconnect with nature, you need to visit some “out of the way” places. Here are a few hidden gems that you need to explore in the Beaver State.

Salt Creek Falls / James Wellington / Flickr

Salt Creek Falls

Oregon has plenty of gorgeous waterfalls, but Salt Creek Falls is one of the hidden gems in the state. This spot is tucked away in the Willamette National Forest, and it is easily accessible to everyone. The waterfall cascades down 293 feet over mossy rocks and into the canyon. If you want to get a closer look, you just have to take a short walk to the observation deck. This deck is even accessible for those in a wheelchair, so no one has to miss out on this spectacular sight. It is not just the waterfall that will take your breath away, but the surrounding scenery as well. For those wanting to do some hiking, head down the trail to the bottom of the canyon. This canyon allows you to see the falls thunder into the deep blue basin. Make sure to spend the entire day at the park. You can get some great views as you travel down the Diamond Creek Falls Trail. The 2.5-mile trail starts at the observation site and loops around the Lower and Upper Diamond Creek Falls area.

Warrior Rock Lighthouse / sauvieisland.org

Warrior Rock Lighthouse

You can check out the smallest lighthouse in the state of Oregon. This tiny lighthouse is tucked away on Sauvie Island, and you can reach it from a 6-mile hike. The Warrior Rock Lighthouse was built in 1889 and then rebuilt in the 1930s. It is only 25 feet tall and continues to shine a light to this day. If you are looking to head over there, catch a boat from the town of Saint Helens. Many other explorers choose to take the hike that leads to the lighthouse. You can start on the Warrior Point Trailhead. The trail is only 3 miles each way as it winds you past the cottonwoods and river along the Sauvie Island. While the path is open throughout the year, the springtime does bring heavy rains and makes the main road a bit muddy. Day passes are available that allow you to spend the entire day checking out this historic site.

Trail to Upper Canyon Creek Meadow / Bonnie Moreland /

Canyon Creek Meadows

For those wanting to see some of the gorgeous Oregon scenery, check out the Canyon Creek Meadows. This alpine meadow is located in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. During the summertime, you can see some of the best colorful wildflowers in the state. You will have to start your journey at Jack Lake, and from there, it is a 2-mile hike to the meadows. As you travel, you will walk past some beautiful landscapes and flowers. If you are looking for the peak time to see the native flowers, plan a visit around late July. Don’t travel too far off the path since the alpine ecosystem is extremely fragile in this area. One notable spot is known as Three Fingered Jack, and it is visible from the walking path. If you up for a bit of a hike, you can take the steep trail behind this structure. The walk is worth it, as you get a great view of the glacial lake and the neighboring mountain goats.

Indian Beach in Oregon / Jeff Hollett / Flickr

Indian Beach

Cannon Beach gets all the attention in the state, but one of the hidden gems is near Indian Beach. This secluded spot on the Oregon Coast offers some of the most spectacular views. Located in Ecola State Park, this cove is surrounded by rocky cliffs and lush green forests. For those wanting to enjoy some outdoor activities, you can pack a picnic, wade through the tide pools, or catch a wave. For hikers, there are plenty of trails that wind through the park. During the low tide, you can view the smooth beaches and get a closer look at the cobblestones and driftwood lining the sand. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is another gem near the beach. This lighthouse is nonfunctional, but it makes for a lovely view as the waves crash against the jagged rocks.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Sheep Rock Unit / superphoebe / Flickr

Sheep Rock Unit

Waterfalls and mountains are synonymous with Oregon, but it is also the home to high desert areas as well. In John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, you will find the Sheep Rock Unit. When you spend a day here, you will think that you are on another planet. These geological formations date back millions of years and are the result of layered clay and ash. Over the years, the layers have been exposed, creating a colorful landscape that might be more home on Mars. This is another spot with plenty of hiking trails. If you are looking to challenge yourself, the Blue Basin Overlook Trail is an excellent way to view the beautiful landscape, including glimpses of the John Day River Valley and Blue Basin. Since this spot dates back a million years, you can expect plenty of fossils to be located in the park. The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center displays many of the fossils that were found in the area, along with interactive displays of the creatures that once roamed the land.

Skylight Caves Black Butte Ranch, Oregon / Facebook

Skylight Cave

This natural wonder features one of the most impressive skylights in a cavern. It is only a short hike to the cave, but you will be required to meander down a ladder for the full view. Visitors can travel on the hardened lava tubes to the opened areas of the cave. There are three skylights, and for the best view, you will want to visit during the morning. If you are planning on a visit, you might want to bring a flashlight as the cave is very dark. This spot is also only opened in the summer months.

From alpine valleys to hidden caves, Oregon has many secret places for you to explore. Make sure to check out these hidden gems of the Beaver State. 

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