5 Oregon road trips perfect for a 2022 summer staycation

Rugged ocean coast. Towering mountains. Sweeping desert. The deepest lake in the United States and the world’s tallest species of tree.

There really is nothing that Oregon doesn’t have when it comes to natural beauty and outdoor recreation. 

With rising airfare and gasoline prices, many of us may choose to vacation closer to home.

Where to start? The Beaver State is vast, and with so many different landscapes to explore, it can seem overwhelming. We’ve got you covered with five ideas for road trips that take you to each of those diverse places, including a mix of well-loved gems and overlooked destinations.

Here are five road trip ideas in Oregon that cover each of the state’s unique landscapes — ocean, mountains, forest, volcanoes and desert.

Crater Lake National Park

A view of Crater Lake as seen from The Watchman viewpoint.

Once a 14,000-foot volcano, an eruption that shook the Northwest over 7,000 years ago created the deepest and one of the clearest lakes in the United States in Oregon’s southern Cascade Range.

Today, visiting the collapsed volcano and Oregon’s only national park does require some solid planning due to its remote location and busy crowds seen in recent years.

First off is lodging and a base camp. There is a large campground and lodge at the park itself, but one option I’ve always enjoyed is staying outside the park at Union Creek, a rustic collection of cabins set amid emerald forest about a half-hour’s drive from the park, or nearby campgrounds such as Farewell Bend, Natural Bridge and River Bridge campgrounds.

At the park itself, this year marks the return of boat tours on Crater Lake itself, after a two-year hiatus, which is always worthwhile, especially if you choose the option of getting dropped off at Wizard Island for the afternoon. Make sure to buy boat tour tickets in advance.

A park ranger gives a boat tour at Crater Lake State Park.

Beyond that, hikes are the best way to explore the edges of the volcano. Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only way to reach the lake’s shoreline, where you are allowed to swim (it’s extremely cold). Hiking to the park’s highest point, Mount Scott, is the way to see the entire sweep of the lake from overhead.

Make sure to check the website, call or plan ahead, as this year’s late-season snow and road repairs will limit options on the East Rim Drive well into July. The park’s normal visitor’s center is also undergoing renovations and closed in 2022.

If you road-trip to Crater Lake from Salem, make sure to stop for waterfalls on your way across Highway 58 at Willamette Pass (Salt Creek Falls) or through Highway 138 and the North Umpqua Canyon (visit Tokatee Falls, Watson Falls and Fall Creek Falls).

Info: Website: https://www.nps.gov/; Phone: 541-594-3000

Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness

Eastern Oregon's Wallowa Lake is a scenic outdoor recreation destination.

While Oregon’s volcanoes such as Mount Hood and the Three Sisters are the state’s best-known mountains, the best alpine adventures are actually found in the state’s northeast corner.

The Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness, about 90 minutes from La Grande and Interstate 84, offer a wonderful combination of touristy towns.

If you’re traveling with a family and want the more family-friendly adventure, find a vacation rental or stay at Wallowa Lake State Park. Surrounded by 9,000-foot mountains, Wallowa Lake is a chilly but fun recreation spot where you can fish, boat, hike and visit landmarks that speak to the area’s deep indigenous history.