We are surrounded by natural beauty in Portland. All you have to do to see it, drive about 20 minutes from the city and things suddenly start to change. Strip malls give way to open pastures and sprawling vistas. Busy streets open into farmland, occupied only by cows, goats, and chickens. If you want to get away from it all and experience some of our area’s natural beauty, here are five easy ways to do just that. You don’t even have to leave the comforts of your car. Just get in and drive down these scenic roads to escape the ordinary and enjoy some spectacular views.
1. Columbia River Highway
In 2016, the Columbia River Highway turned 100, and there is no better way to honor the anniversary of the first major paved road in the Pacific Northwest than to take a trip to Troutdale and explore this historic highway.
Originally connecting Troutdale to the Dalles, the road was used extensively until the 1950s when I-84 was built, leaving the historic road nearly abandoned from its former glory. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act of 1986 helped with the rehabilitation of the road, and today, all but 5 miles of the original highway is open, however, some areas are just for pedestrians and bicyclists. Take the journey from Troutdale to just past Horsetail Falls to enjoy a myriad of waterfalls and scenic vistas on this lovely drive not far from home.
2. Oregon State Route 224
Head to Estacada on this state road to get away from it all. In the 35-mile journey, you will be taken through rolling farmland and if desired, you can continue into the Mt. Hood National Forest.
When you arrive in Estacada, there is plenty to outdoors. Swimming, boating, rafting and fishing are big here. Stop into the Fearless Brewing Company for lunch before heading back to town.
3. Wilsonville Road
Wine country is beautiful anytime of the year and always worthy of a visit. Take the drive to McMinnville in scenic fashion by avoiding the bulk of the traffic on Route 99 and instead traveling on Wilsonville Road from Wilsonville to Newberg and then onto 99W for the last bit.
This scenic journey past vineyard after sprawling vineyard will get you ready to enjoy some great wine and stay awhile. Plan on a little over an hour each way.
4. Hood River Fruit Loop
Take the full loop by driving on Highway 35 to Dee Highway 281 to Country Club Road. This scenic tour circling the fruit farms of Hood River can net you a lot of fruit, as well as some spectacular views.
Head out from spring to fall to take part in the plentiful harvest and enjoy this amazing route without any snow.
5. Washington State Road 4 / Highway 101
If the coast is calling you, make sure you take a route that is enjoyable such as this scenic journey. Hop on Washington State Road 4 to Naselle, WA and then head south on Highway 101 to Cannon Beach. This is by far the most scenic route to the coast from Portland, and worth the small amount of extra time it takes.
Stop in Astoria before reaching Cannon Beach for lunch and enjoy the coastal vibe before continuing down 101 to your destination.