The Perfect 3-stop Itinerary for an Adventurous Spring Break in Oregon

March 21 2022 – Matt Hoskins

The Perfect 3-stop Itinerary for an Adventurous Spring Break in Oregon
The Perfect 3-stop Itinerary for an Adventurous Spring Break in Oregon

This month, we decided to put together a list of our favorite spring break spots in our home state of Oregon. If you’re looking for warm and dry, Oregon in the spring may not be the ticket. But if variety, adventure, and beauty are what you’re after, this itinerary is just what you need.

As the sun starts to shine and the trails melt out, the options for outdoor adventures explode. There’s still snow in the mountains for those who love spring skiing — but at lower elevations, hiking, biking, and even paddle sports are possible.
One of the best things about Oregon is its diversity of landscapes. Within a day’s drive, you can explore windswept beaches, ski down snowy mountains, and hike though the sunny high desert. 

Our recommendation for the perfect spring trip? A multi-day road trip that features stunning scenery and the best of the season’s outdoor adventures. 

This itinerary covers Central Oregon’s high desert, the dramatic Columbia River Gorge, and the unforgettable shoreline of the North Coast. You can expect opportunities for alpine and Nordic skiing, hiking, cycling, and even strolls along the beach. 

While you can cover the full 285 mile (Bend to Cannon Beach) route in a day, this trip is best savored over several days. Pick a starting point — we recommend Bend or Portland — and gear up for the best of Oregon in spring. 

Stop #1: The High Desert and Bend

Bend, a city of about 100,000, is not only Mazama’s hometown, but Oregon’s outdoor hub. In this scenic Central Oregon town, the high desert meets the Cascade Mountains. With both city amenities and a plethora of trails, mountains, and water, Bend is the best of both worlds. Central Oregon skiing is often at its best this time of year, so plan to spend at least part of your time here playing in the snow.

Things to do in Bend:

  • Ski at Mt. Bachelor. Twenty miles west of Bend, this snowcapped volcano is a haven for winter sports. Choose between alpine or Nordic skiing — or do both. Whatever your skill level and whatever the conditions — spring powder or corn — Mt. Bachelor has runs for all types of skiers.
  • Head into the backcountry. Make the 5 mile round-trip trek to Todd Lake on skis or snowshoes.  You'll enjoy peaceful gliding through open meadows and old growth forest.  Make sure you check conditions and know your route before you go.
  • Check Out Sunriver Resort. If you’re traveling as a family, Sunriver has something for everyone. You can enjoy the gorgeous resort without leaving — golf, swimming, and yoga are just a taste of what’s available — or head out on your own nearby adventures.
  • Tour the High Desert Museum. This museum showcases a fascinating blend of the natural and cultural history of Oregon’s high desert. See native wildlife, explore an authentic homestead, and learn about the Plateau Indian Nations who call this place home.
  • Rent or purchase gear.  Sunnyside Sports rents bikes and Nordic gear.  Need a new reservoir to fit your adventure needs? Visit us at Mazama Designs. Stop in and shop for the perfect reservoir, accessory, or pack to make staying hydrated a whole lot easier.
  • Eat and drink. After an active day in the mountains, you’ll have worked up an appetite. We recommend The Brown Owl for a burger (topped with Tillamook cheddar and pickled onion) accompanied by one of their always excellent rotating tap selections.

Stop #2: The Gorge and Hood River

Next stop, the Columbia River Gorge, where the mighty river carves through the Cascade Range on its way to the Pacific. 

The drive to the Gorge is half the fun, so start in the morning to ensure plenty of time for stops. The almost 150-mile route takes you north on Highway 97 before you’ll hop on Highway 26 at the town of Madras. Just before you reach Mt. Hood, you’ll wind down Highway 35 into the city of Hood River
Check out some of these fantastic stops along the way as you go from desert plateau to mountain peaks to river valleys:

  • Hike at Smith Rock. About 30 miles north of Bend and a few miles off Hwy. 97,  this spectacular river canyon draws adventurers for its world-class rock climbing. For a less extreme activity, you can enjoy a hike. Check out this guide for help picking a trail.

  • Catch a view of Mt. Hood. Oregon’s highest peak, Mt. Hood is an imposing presence in this region of Oregon. You’ll be able to see this massive volcano as you wrap around it on Highway 35, but to get up close and personal, stop at the historic Timberline Lodge on the flank of the mountain.
  • Admire the beauty of the Hood River Valley. Stunning scenery is around every corner as you drop down from the high Cascades to orchards and farmland below. Plus, if you’re visiting in April, the orchard-covered landscape of the valley blooms with color. 

When you arrive in the charming town of Hood River, there’s a wide range of recreational adventures to choose from.  
Things to do at the Gorge and Hood River: 

  • Ski at Mt. Hood. If you haven’t tired of it yet, you can do some spring skiing on Mt Hood. Resorts in the area stay open well through May — so you enjoy the slopes in a T-shirt and sunglasses.
  • Bike on local trails. Both mountain biking and road biking opportunities abound in the Gorge. Check out mountain biking trails throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, or you cycle along the historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.
  • Watch for windsurfers. Since the 1970s, the Gorge has been a hotspot for wind and water enthusiasts. The walls of the Gorge create a natural wind tunnel — perfect for windsurfing and kiteboarding. While the best conditions come around later in the summer, you might be able to catch some locals flying through the water. 
    • Gear up!  Shortt Supply can outfit you for your Gorge adventures.  If you’re heading for the water, Big Winds has all the board gear you’ll need.
    • Enjoy a waterfall hike in the Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is known for its scenic waterfalls that cascade toward the river. There are plenty of hikes through the mossy, dense forest that access these falls — plus, April brings fields of wildflowers to the Gorge’s upper ridges. 
      • Eat and Drink. Don’t miss a stop at Ground Espresso. Grab your favorite coffee — is it cold brew season yet? — and a homemade chocolate chip cookie to refuel after an action-packed morning.

      Stop #3: The North Coast and Cannon Beach

      You can’t take a road trip through Oregon without heading to the coast. The beauty of the ocean, coastal forests, and towering sea stacks make for a postcard-perfect destination. 
      Follow the Columbia River through the heart of the Gorge to Portland. Gaze at the dramatic landscape of mountains and waterfalls as you make your way to and through this iconic natural feature. Once you reach Portland, take Highway 26 to Cannon Beach — a seaside, walkable village with both beachtown amenities and unbelievable natural beauty. 

      You could easily fill your time wandering around town or up and down the coast — but don’t miss these must-do activities while you’re staying in Cannon Beach. 

      Things to do at the North Coast and Cannon Beach: 

      • Explore a state park. State parks dot the coast north and south of Cannon Beach. 
      • Check out Oswald West State Park for a quintessential Oregon coast hike — with highlights like coastal rainforests, sheltered beaches, and sandstone cliffs.  Take the ½ mile beach hike to surf-friendly Short Sands beach.  For spectacular vistas, Neahkahnie Mountain Loop  is well worth the climb.
      Neahkahnie Mountain view
        • Try North Coast surfing: Cannon Beach has relatively calm waters that make it an ideal surfing destination for beginners. Whether you simply want to watch from the beach or take a lesson yourself, surfing is a fun part of the outdoor scene along this stretch of the coast.  Cleanline Surf in Cannon Beach has everything you need to surf the Oregon coast. 
        • Mountain bike in Tillamook State Forest. After you’ve gotten your fill of the beach, head inland to ride the singletrack that winds through the lush wooded setting of Tillamook State Forest
        • Stroll or jog along the shore. While you can find endless adventure in this corner of the state, there’s something magical about a simple walk or jog along the beach — especially at sunset with the iconic Haystack Rock emerging from the shallows. 


        Hit the Road This Spring Break 

        Oregon’s dramatic landscapes — from the high desert to the coast — can’t be beat for springtime adventures. Be sure and hydrate along the way!