Eugene is located in the heart of Oregon and is surrounded by beautiful scenery, making it the perfect place to explore the great outdoors as well as take in the charming little towns that surround the area.
Whether you’re a visitor or a local, there’s no shortage of great day trips from Eugene, Oregon. From hiking and biking trails to charming small towns and majestic waterfalls, there’s something for every type of adventurer.
So pack a bag (and maybe even a picnic) and get ready to explore everything this stunning region of the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Here are just a few of our favorite day trips from Eugene.
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Where Is Eugene, Oregon?
Eugene is located in central Oregon and is the second largest city in the state, with a population of over 170,000 people. It’s about a 2-hour drive south of Portland and a 1.5-hour drive east from the Central Oregon Coast.
Eugene is located at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, a region known for its fertile soil (perfect for growing wine grapes) and stunning scenery.
While you’re probably most familiar with Eugene because of the University of Oregon and its importance in the track and field world, Eugene is also known for its natural beauty, its outdoor recreation opportunities, and its vibrant arts scene.
Within the town, Eugene is known for its abundance of parks / green spaces, breweries, as well as its vibrant arts and music scene.
But if you venture out a bit further, then you’ve just opened yourself up to a world of natural wonders, charming towns, and lots more. The areas surrounding Eugene are popular destinations for outdoor enthusiasts, as it offers lots of sightseeing, hiking, biking, and rafting opportunities.
18 Awesome Day Trips From Eugene, OR
1. Crescent Lake
Distance from Eugene: 1 hour 35 minute drive
If you’re looking for a day trip from Eugene, Oregon, Crescent Lake is a great option. Situated in the Deschutes National Forest, Crescent Lake is a beautiful alpine lake that sits in the middle of a three-link chain of major Cascade lakes.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, including hiking, swimming, paddling, boating, fishing, and picnicking. In the winter, the lake is popular for ice skating and cross-country skiing.
If you’re looking for more of an overnight stay, there are several area campgrounds such as Crescent Lake Campground that make staying at Crescent Lake an easy option.
With its crystal-clear waters and stunning mountain views, Crescent Lake is a perfect day trip destination for anyone looking to get away from it all.
2. Silver Falls State Park
Distance from Eugene: 1 hour 20 minute drive
Famous for its abundance of picturesque waterfalls, Silver Falls State Park is the largest and one of the most popular state parks in Oregon. In my opinion, this is one of the best day trips from Eugene because of how little driving you’ll have to do to get there.
Located 78 miles north of Eugene in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Silver Falls SP features some truly iconic hikes and sights. It is best known for the 177-foot South Falls, located at the South Falls Day Use Area.
If you have more time to linger here, you should really make time to hike the Trail of Ten Falls, a moderate 7.8-mile hike that features no less than ten waterfalls. Yes, ten whole waterfalls!
This trail allows visitors to walk directly behind four different waterfalls, providing you with an awesome perspective and an even more awesome photo op! The hike will take approximately 3 hours to complete and is suitable for families and beginner hikers as there are side trails you could take to shortcut it back to your car.
You can also stop by the historic South Falls Lodge where you can pick up sandwiches, snacks, coffee and ice cream before/after your hike. There is also a nature store there for souvenir shopping.
3. Salt Creek Falls
Distance from Eugene: 1 hour 15 minute drive
Salt Creek Falls is a breathtaking 286 feet tall waterfall near Eugene, Oregon. In fact, it’s the state’s second tallest waterfall! This is one of Oregon’s most powerful falls, with an average yearly flow of 50,000 gallons per minute surging over the rocks.
It is located in the Deschutes National Forest about a 1 hour 15 minute drive southeast of Eugene, making it a quick half-day trip from town.
The falls are pretty easy to get to and there is a large parking area that visitors can roll up right into. The primary observation platform at the top of the waterfall is only 50 yards from the parking lot. There are also several picnic tables and a few hiking trails here.
There’s also a steep trail that takes you from the platform to the waterfall’s base so you can really get up close and personal with this gorgeous waterfall.
The park facilities close in winter but it’s great for snowshoeing, and the falls are definitely a sight to see when encrusted by ice.
There are also some other waterfalls in the area (such as Diamond Creek Falls), so if you are looking for additional waterfalls, consider hiking the easy 3.7-mile Diamond Creek Falls Loop Hike to see Diamond Creek Falls as well.
Pro Tip: Parking at this site requires a recreation pass. There is also a pay station onsite. You can check here for more information about recreation passes and where they can be purchased. If you have an Interagency Annual Pass/America The Beautiful National Park Pass, parking is free!
4. Cottage Grove
Distance from Eugene: 25 minute drive
Cottage Grove is a charming small town located in Oregon, just a short drive from Eugene. The town is home to a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as a number of fun outdoor attractions.
The city is home to a number of historical landmarks, including the Cottage Grove Depot and the Owen Rose Garden. The surrounding area is also perfect for day trips, with several wineries and hiking trails nearby.
Want to get some biking in on your day trip? You can take a tour of six of the covered bridges near Cottage Grove on the Covered Bridge Scenic Bikeway which boasts 6 miles of paved trail for cyclists.
In addition, Cottage Grove is home to a number of annual events, including the Bohemia Mining Days and the Covered Bridge Festival. Throughout the year, you can also attend the South Valley Farmers Market and check out the town’s famous murals during Cottage Grove Art Walk, taking place on the last Friday of each month.
5. Umpqua Hot Springs
Distance from Eugene: 2.5 hour drive
Umpqua Hot Springs is a series of gorgeous natural hot springs, about 2.5 hours from Eugene.
Umpqua Hot Springs is comprised of a handful of small terraced pools that are surrounded by forests and overlook the North Umpqua River.
The top pool can be considered the communal pool as it is larger than the lower pools (that can only fit 3-4 people at most). The pools range in temperature from 100 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you need to relax your muscles, this is the spot!
While it is somewhat remote and does require a quick hike to get to (a 0.8-mile hike to reach the hot springs), you’ll likely be sharing the area with others looking to soak in the springs.
There are also a few small campsites located nearby, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing weekend getaway.
So whether you’re looking to relax and soak in some beautiful scenery for the day or looking for a longer weekend trip, Umpqua Hot Springs is definitely worth a visit.
6. The Central Oregon Coast
Distance from Eugene: 1 hour 15 minute drive
Central Oregon Coast is a day-trip destination for many Eugene residents. It consists of fun coastal towns like Florence, Yachats, and Heceta Beach. This region is home to highlights such as the Sea Lion Caves, Heceta Head Lighthouse, and dune buggy rides on the beach!
Florence is the largest town in the area and is a good place to start your exploration. You can find the picturesque Siuslaw River bridge, which offers stunning views of the river and surrounding countryside. You can also find an adorable little historic downtown to explore and grab coffee or lunch!
Yachats is a smaller town with a more laid-back vibe. It’s known for its tide pools, hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, and great seafood (do not miss Luna Seafoods).
The Heceta Beach area is also not to be missed, as its claim to fame is being home to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, which is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Oregon. From there, hop onto the lush Hobbit Trail for a scenic coastal hike over to Hobbit Beach!
Cape Perpetua is also a popular spot for whale watching, as the area is known for its high concentration of Gray whales. In addition, the Cape offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby coastline.
No matter which towns or attractions you choose to visit, you’re sure to have a fun-filled day exploring the Central Oregon Coast.
Distance from Eugene: 2.5 hour drive
If you’re planning on taking drive through Central Oregon, you absolutely have to spend some time in Bend. If you didn’t know, Bend, Oregon is an absolute outdoor haven all year round. It’s one of my favorite cities in all of the United States!
Summers are ideal for floating down the Deschutes River, hiking, biking, rock climbing, and water sports, while winters are perfect for skiing or snowboarding on Mt. Bachelor.
It’s the ultimate land of outdoor adventure, and you can’t forget about the craft beer tasting! From outdoor activities to drinking, dining and shopping, Bend has it all.
Seriously, the sheer amount of fun you can have here is unreal. There’s a lot to do within the city limits and even more to do outside of them.
Check out our full list of 25+ things to do in Bend here!
Where To Stay In Bend: LOGE Bend or Riverhouse on the Deschutes
8. Smith Rock State Park
Distance from Eugene: 2.5 hour drive
If you enjoy scenic views of towering canyons or rock climbing, Smith Rock State Park is the place for you.
Rock climbers from all over the country flock to Smith Rock State Park to experience the thousands of climbing routes in the park. Here you’ll find dynamic routes that are ideal for various types of climbing and bouldering.
If climbing isn’t your thing, Smith Rock SP is still worth visiting. It’s great for trail running, hiking, wildlife spotting, and mountain biking as well. The most rewarding (and most challenging) hike here is the 3.7-mile Misery Ridge Loop.
If you’re looking for a place to camp, the park also has a walk-in area for tent camping on a first-come, first-served basis.
Smith Rock State Park is quite the popular attraction, and with that comes potential challenges with parking, especially during the peak season and on weekends. If you want to beat the crowds, visit on a weekday or try to get there before 8am on weekends. The parking/day-use fee costs $5.
Pro Tip: Smith Rock is located not too far from Redmond, Bend, Tumalo Falls, and Sunriver. You may want to consider turning your day trip into an overnight trip in order to explore the area more.
9. Crater Lake National Park
Distance from Eugene: 2 hour 45 minute drive
How can you resist a national park when you’re looking for day trips to take? I certainly can’t! Crater Lake National Park was established in 1902 and is the only national park in Oregon.
The biggest reason to come here is to feast your eyes on the lake, clocking in at 1,949 feet (594 m) deep at its deepest point. Crater Lake easily takes the cake for being the deepest lake in the United States and the second-deepest in North America. During your entire time here, you’ll be wondering how is it so blue!
Upon arrival, head towards the visitor’s center, which also serves as the start of a few good hikes.
We recommend checking out the Discovery Point Trail, which is an easy 4.0-mile walk with stunning lake views the entire time. This makes for a great intro hike before exploring the rest of the park.
If you love chasing sunrises, try getting to Crater Lake National Park before sunrise. This sounds like a really early start, but having the opportunity to watch the sun ascend above the horizon and hit Crater Lake is hands-down completely worth it. Catching the sunrise at the top of Watchman Peak is even more epic!
After a picnic lunch at one of the many amazing viewpoints, head down the Cleetwood Cove Trail (1.8 miles roundtrip) to access the lake for a cold, refreshing swim and some unforgettable cliff jumping! The trail is downhill the whole way down, which means you’ll get a good workout coming back up.
For more varied scenery that doesn’t involve simply staring into the lake, check out the Pinnacles Overlook Trail and Plaikni Falls.
Where To Stay Near Crater Lake: Crater Lake Resort
10. The Northern Oregon Coast
Distance from Eugene: 3 hour drive
Fancy a longer day trip or even a weekend trip out west to the Oregon Coast? This coastal adventure features three towns in Northwest Oregon filled to the brim with things to do: Astoria, Seaside, and Cannon Beach.
Be sure to try a few breweries in Astoria, explore the family-friendly town of Seaside and have yourself a picnic at Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. If you love hiking, you absolutely can’t miss the opportunity to explore Ecola State Park and Fort Stevens State Park.
While this trip is technically possible to complete in one day, I recommend spending a night or two there to fully take in the sights, sounds, and amazing food the Oregon Coast has to offer. There’s so much nature to explore on the coast, you’ll really be doing yourself a favor by staying longer and giving this area the time and attention it deserves!
Looking to lengthen the trip or explore additional towns? Add Tillamook, OR to your itinerary (yes, the cheese was named after this town), or head further south along the coast to Newport, Devils Punchbowl State Park, and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
11. Mount Hood
Distance from Eugene: 3 hour drive
Mount Hood is a must-visit destination in Oregon for a variety of reasons. Among the many reasons, it’s best known as home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the Pacific Northwest.
Mount Hood is home to a number of ski resorts, making it a great place to visit in winter if you want to hit the slopes. The slopes are well-groomed and offer something for everyone, from beginners to expert shredders.
If you’re looking to take a day trip here in the summer, not a problem, there is still a lot you can do!
You can pack a picnic and enjoy Trillium Lake, hike the epic Timberline Trail, drive the Mt Hood Scenic Loop, or get your adrenaline pumping at the Mt Hood Adventure Park (featuring over 20 attractions such as zip lining, bungee jumping, miniature golf, and the ever-popular Alpine Slide).
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a longer vacation destination, Mount Hood should definitely be on your list.
12. Willamette Valley
Distance from Eugene: 3 hour drive
The Willamette Valley is one of the most picturesque regions in Oregon. With its rolling hills, verdant vineyards and quaint small towns, it’s no wonder that the Willamette Valley is such a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.
Wine lovers will find plenty of wine tasting opportunities to enjoy in the Willamette Valley, as it is home to some of Oregon’s most acclaimed wineries.
In fact, this region of Oregon is recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir–producing areas in the world! No lie, many wine experts believe that the Willamette Valley produces wines that rival those from France’s Burgundy region.
The valley is home to hundreds of wineries, each with its own unique style and flavor. Some of the more popular ones include Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery, where you can sample some of Oregon’s finest Pinot Gris wines. And if you don’t like wine, you can still enjoy the gorgeous estates and tasting rooms while your friends drink!
Visitors can also go hiking in the Cascade Mountains, cycling along the coast, or exploring the charming towns and villages that dot the valley.
Distance from Eugene: 1 hour 45 minute drive
Portland is a vibrant, bustling city in Oregon and is one of the greenest cities in the world. Portland prides itself on embracing culture, creativity, progressiveness, and weirdness, which makes this city so fun to explore. There are tons of quirky neighborhoods to explore, each with its own unique atmosphere and personality.
Take a walk through a few of them and you’ll find yourself in a world of microbreweries, apothecaries, independently owned bookstores, vintage shops, vegan restaurants, artisanal coffee shops, and dazzling murals.
The food truck scene is popping, as are the coffee and craft beer scenes. What more could you ask for? Could your belly be in a happier place?
Looking for more on Portland? Here are some helpful posts:
- 35+ Affordable, Unique, and Off The Beaten Path Things To Do in Portland
- The 8 Best Neighborhoods To Visit In Portland, Oregon
14. Columbia River Gorge
Distance from Eugene: 2 hour 15 minute drive
If you’re looking to prioritize nature on your day trip from Eugene, the Columbia River Gorge should be at the top of your list!
The Columbia River Gorge is so beautiful and packed with jaw-dropping waterfalls, overlooks, and hikes that they named it a National Scenic Area. And, the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway is actually considered one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Along this 70-mile highway, you will have the chance to see several historic buildings, monuments, fish hatcheries, the Oneonta Gorge, and numerous waterfalls including Latourell Falls, Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Shepperd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahclella Falls, and Fairy Falls.
Because this area is jam-packed with fun stuff to do, we dedicated an entire post to outline everything! Check out our Columbia River Gorge day trip guide here to learn more about what to see and do.
Note: Given recent fires over the years, it’s best to check their website to check for trail closures.
15. The McKenzie River Corridor
Distance from Eugene: 1 to 1.5 hour drive
The McKenzie River Corridor is a day-use recreation area located just outside of Eugene, Oregon. The area includes a picturesque stretch of the McKenzie River, as well as several nature trails, day-use picnic areas, and lots of amazing waterfalls bursting with water.
There’s a lot you can see and do here, but here are a few of my top suggestions.
Koosah Waterfall is located just a bit over an hour’s drive outside of Eugene, Oregon. This fall is located along the McKenzie River in the Cascade Mountains and can be an easy destination if you are hiking the famous McKenzie River National Recreation Trail.
Thanks to the lava that poured down the McKenzie River Valley 3000 or so years ago, we today have these steep dropoffs where both Koosah Falls and Sahalie Falls tumble over.
With two drop-dead gorgeous waterfalls within easy hiking distance of each other (with the second being Sahalie Falls), it’s no wonder that the Koosah Falls and Sahalie Falls are at the top of the list.
Koosah Waterfall is one of the taller waterfalls in the area, standing at around 70 feet (21 m) tall. The water flows down from a large cliff into a deep pool below. There are also several other smaller waterfalls nearby that are worth exploring, such as Sahalie Falls below!
Each waterfall has its own parking lot, making it easy for visitors to see them within a short walk, but if you’re open to hiking, the loop hike is certainly more rewarding.
Sahalie Falls is a beautiful waterfall that flows over a natural dam about 100 feet into a large pool of water. The water is always very cold, even in the summertime!
Just like for Koosah Falls, you can see this waterfall without much effort at all. If you’re starting at the Sahalie Falls parking area, walk just 100 yards down to the viewpoint of the falls. The viewpoint is railed and gives you a great view of the waterfall.
However, if you’re up for a short 2.6-mile hike, we recommend hiking the loop trail that connects Koosah and Sahalie Falls. From the viewpoint, head left, following the ‘Waterfall Trail’.
So, if you’re looking for a 2-for-1 type of day, consider both Koosah and Sahalie Falls near Eugene, Oregon!
Go Whitewater Rafting
The McKenzie, with its crystal clear water flanked by lush green forests, is the ideal place to try whitewater rafting for yourself. There are lots of tour companies and rafting outfitters along the river (Highway 126), such as High Country Expeditions and Oregon Whitewater Adventures.
Most of them offer day trip adventures for both whitewater rafting newbies and thrill-seeking experts!
16. Proxy Falls
1 hour 18 minute drive from Eugene; 30 minute drive from Sahalie Falls
Proxy Falls is a very unique waterfall located not too far away from Eugene, Oregon. The falls are accessible via a short hike from the Proxy Falls Trailhead.
Proxy Falls’ size is spectacular–especially when you’re standing right underneath it! It’s truly no wonder why it’s one of the most popular waterfalls in the Cascade Range. You won’t be able to get enough of its multiple tiers and unique rock formations.
Keep in mind that there are two falls (Upper Proxy Falls and Lower Proxy Falls), so make sure to stop at both.
The best time to visit Proxy Falls is in the spring or early summer, when the snowmelt from the Cascades fills the waterfall with gushing water. However, even during the dry summer months, the falls often have a good flow of water.
Distance from Eugene: 1 hour 10 minute drive
Salem, the capital city of Oregon, is located in the center of the Willamette Valley, just about an hour away from Eugene. Salem is known for its scenic beauty, as you’ll immediately notice once you step out of your car. You’ll be surrounded by gardens, flower fields, vineyards, and green pastures!
The city is also home to many historic buildings and sites, as well as a variety of shops and restaurants. Some notable things to check out include:
- Visiting the Oregon State Capitol Building, a great place to learn about the history of Oregon. The building is open to the public for tours.
- Exploring the Willamette Heritage Center, a museum that features exhibits on the history of the Willamette Valley region. The museum is located in downtown Salem.
- Trying some award-winning cheeses at Willamette Valley Cheese Company
- Sampling wines from various wineries in the region
- Enjoying a riverboat Sunday brunch on the Willamette Queen.
Where To Stay In Salem: Home2 Suites By Hilton Salem or Residence Inn Salem
18. Explore Downtown Eugene
If you’re looking for a day of adventure but don’t actually want to invest too much time driving, why not explore all that Downtown Eugene has to offer?
Eugene has a ton of shopping, food, art, and cultural activities right in downtown. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Eugene, Oregon:
- Visit the Saturday Market for all things shopping and eating.
- Explore the Fifth Street Public Market and all its cafes and locally owned stores.
- For nature lovers, there’s the Owen Rose Garden, which features more than 5,000 varieties of roses, as well as a waterfall and a pond to relax by.
- Hikers will enjoy taking a hike at Spencer Butte or a walk along the Ridgeline Trail System.
- The Cascades Raptor Center is also a must-see for bird enthusiasts, as it houses more than 80 birds of prey.
- Museum lovers can visit the Museum of Natural and Cultural History and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
- For sports fans, there’s always a game going on at Autzen Stadium.
- For those who want to be transported to more peaceful times, there’s the summertime Oregon Country Fair, which celebrates all things renaissance, hippie, peace, and love.
- For nightlife, Eugene’s downtown offers plenty of brewpubs, bars, and clubs to keep things interesting.
- And of course, no visit to Eugene would be complete without a tour of the University of Oregon campus – home of the Ducks!
Where To Stay in Eugene: The Graduate Eugene
ARE YOU ROAD TRIP READY? YOUR QUICK CHECKLIST:
License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.
Jumper Cables / Car Jump Starter | A must-have for any road trip! If you’re looking to invest in something exponentially more powerful/convenient than simple jumper cables, get the NOCO Boost HD Car Battery Jump Starter Box. This tool was sent from heaven and serves as a car jump starter, portable power bank, LED flashlight, and 12-volt portable power–all in one!
iOttie car mount | This is my partner in crime on any road trip. It’s got an amazing grip and popping your phone in and out of the mount could not be easier. If you’re renting a rental car and you’re not sure if it has a navigation screen, bring a phone mount with you. The iOttie attaches by suction, so it’s easy to transport from car to car.
Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This convenient little kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more.
Looking for more Oregon travel adventures? You may also like:
The Perfect Day Trip From Portland to The Oregon Coast
12 Exciting Things To Do In The Columbia River Gorge For A Perfect Day Trip