12 Oregon Road Trips to Take Before Graduation

Words by Kara Fagan and Keven Salazar | Photo by Trevor Meyer

With graduation right around the corner, many students are going to be wrapping up their time here at the University of Oregon. Four years have gone in a blink of an eye for many and it is no surprise that students want to make the rest of these next weeks and weekends count. Since many graduates may be moving to other states and areas, it is a great idea to explore as much of Oregon as you can before your time here comes to an end. Here are some of the top 13 places that everyone should try to check out!

1) Sunriver’s Lava Butte

If you’re visiting Sunriver, Lava Butte isn’t a sight to miss! This location has many small trails that allow you to explore the lava falls, a piece of history frozen in time. You can hike or drive to the top, where a viewpoint allows you to see the spread of lava fields. It’s truly one of Oregon’s most beautiful places to visit.

2) Smith Rock

Smith Rock is home to great hiking trails that immerse you in nature. This spot invites hikers and rock climbers alike! This huge rock is an amazing view to catch and is a geologist’s paradise. Just don’t forget to pack plenty of snacks and water!

3) Rogue River Rafting

One of the most exhilarating experiences that everyone needs to try before graduation is rafting in the beautiful Rogue River. Located in Southern Oregon, this river is surrounded by incredible wildlife and scenery. There are rafting paths for different levels of experience, starting with a course for beginners. Many start the rafting adventure at Grave Creek and then end up at Foster Bar, which is about 35 miles down the beautiful river.

4) Painted Hills

Coined as one of the seven wonders of Oregon, this place is a must-see on your next trip when heading east from Eugene. Painted Hills provides a sight to layers of rock types forming a hill, each telling a story of the time it once witnessed. A gorgeous sight, with lots of trails nearby to hike, bike, and backpack. It is important to note that even though this hill is off limits because of it geographic importance, it’s still surrounded with nature to explore. Bring your binoculars, some snacks and spend a day exploring the surrounding trails!

5) Loon Lake

Loon Lake is a recreational park that provides opportunities for hiking, canoeing, fishing and swimming, as well as a campground site to set up camp. This place provides options for many activities and is the perfect place to spend a summer weekend exploring once it opens on May 16th. For more information like dates, events and camping fees, visit Recreation.gov.

6) Thor’s Well

Located in Yachats, Thor’s Well is about two hours from Eugene. It is a massive sinkhole that descends about 20 feet deep. It is an absolutely gorgeous view, but can also be extremely dangerous if one gets too close. So take a trip to this popular area this spring, but make sure to be careful!

7) Crater Lake

Crater lake is a massive lake created an estimated 7,700 years ago during an eruption, which caused its peak to collapse. Rain and melted snow keep the crater filled with water, creating a beautiful blue lake that’s the deepest in Oregon. If you’re visiting this National Park, make sure to bring warm layers and a windbreaker jacket. Always check the weather forecast before going. For more information on open dates and recreational activities at the lake, visit nps.gov.

8) Willamette National Forest

Willamette National Forest is a great national forest that offers opportunities for many recreational activities such as fishing, caving, hiking and much more! It has a variety of landscapes to explore and many waterfalls to admire. This park is home to eight different wilderness areas, so it has plenty to do and much to explore. A daily pass can be purchased online or in person for $5. For more information visit fs.usda.gov/willamette.

9)   Wineries

Popular wineries opening this spring, which are perfect spots to spend a day touring and relaxing, include Sweet Cheeks Winery in Willamette Valley, Noble Estate Vineyard in Eugene and Silvan Ridge Winery in Eugene. These are great outdoor spaces to enjoy some cheese and wine, taste different varieties of wine and relax with family and friends.

10)   Sunriver Resort

Sunriver is a vacation area that hosts a resort and residential community. Bike paths, vacation homes and condos, a golf course, rafting and canoeing and many restaurants to choose from are just some of the amenities. However, if you don’t want to break the bank, you can always simply enjoy a day trip to Sunriver. Hiking the Lava Butte, camping at Benham Falls or touring the Lava River Cave are all great ways to explore the area.

11)   Waterfall Hikes

Some of the best hikes in Oregon that include passing by a waterfall are Trail of Ten Falls, Multnomah Falls Trail, Latourell Falls Loop Trail, Ramona Falls Trail and Wahkeena Falls Loop Trail. These are just some trails that include moderate to difficult hikes that lead to a gorgeous view of a waterfall.

12)   Gorgeous Hikes

There are many more hiking trails around Eugene that are perfect for a day trip. They may not include waterfalls, but they’ve got gorgeous scenery of their own. These hikes include Hendricks Park, Skinner Butte, Spencer Butte and Alton Baker Park. These hiking trails will bring you to spectacular views of Eugene and Springfield.


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