The 7 Wonders of Oregon are distinguished as the most beautiful places in a state that is already heralded for its pristine natural beauty. That list includes:
- Mt. Hood
- Smith Rock State Park
- The Wallowa Mountains
As a professional landscape photographer and native Oregonian who has explored most of the state, I wholeheartedly endorse this distinction. However, there are several other natural marvels that certainly merit some discussion for a spot on the 7 Wonders of Oregon list.
In this guide, you will discover detailed descriptions, visitor information, and photography inspiration for each of the official wonders as well as the 7 other must-see destinations worthy of consideration for that list.
Before you begin, we recommend also loading our Ultimate Guide to the 130+ Best Things to Do in Oregon. Here you will find incredible destinations broken down by region as well where to eat, drink, stay, and discover some amazing non-natural places in the “the Beaver State.”
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About the 7 Wonders of Oregon
In 2014, Travel Oregon launched the 7 Wonders of Oregon campaign; a play off of the famous “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.” The list they created included scenic wonders statewide.
The chosen iconic sites are certainly some of the best in Oregon. However, with so much beauty in the state, there are plenty of other places arguably deserving a spot!
1. Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park takes the number 1 spot on the 7 Wonders of Oregon list and it does so with no debate. It is the crown jewel of Oregon and holds the distinction of being the only National Park in the state. You will find this miracle of nature located in a remote region of Southern Oregon within the Umpqua National Forest.
Following a massive eruption, the once-mighty Mt Mazama Volcano completely blew its top. This began the transformation to what, in modern times, is considered the most beautiful place in Oregon.
The name comes from the fact that the lake has formed in the crater of the ancient volcano. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in North America, and is also said to have the bluest water.
Visitors require a parks pass or ticket at entry. If you are planning a visit, it is best to first check the official Crater Lake NPS website to learn about road closures, events, and alerts. Both the Rim Road and North Entrance are closed in the winter, funneling all traffic to the South Entrance.
Additionally, accommodation near Crater Lake is very limited. The only lodging within the park is Crater Lake Lodge, however, it is only open seasonally. The closest year-round accommodation is Crater Lake Resort. You can find other accommodation options near Crater Lake here.
If you are planning an Oregon road trip that includes Crater Lake National Park, we recommend loading up our Southern Oregon Waterfall Circuit Itinerary which includes more than 10 falls to visit on your way to the park!
2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
The Columbia River Gorge (CRG) is the most visited of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, with the caveat that the “Oregon Coast” is a 360-mile stretch of land and not a singular destination.
The CRG receives more than double the yearly visitors of 2nd-place Crater Lake. This is mostly due to its close proximity to the metropolitan city of Portland, but also because it is inarguably one of the prettiest places in the state of Oregon.
Along the 80-mile stretch that encompasses the CRG, visitors will discover a denser concentration of waterfalls than anywhere in North America. Many of them are visible right from the road, including the iconic and majestic Multnomah Falls.
While the Columbia River Gorge gets the official Wonder of Oregon tag, Multnomah Falls is by far the most popular and beautiful feature. It is the tallest waterfall in Oregon and also widely accepted as the best waterfall in Oregon.
Interestingly, visitors of “the Gorge” will have occasional views of another one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon in Mt. Hood. Driving east from Portland, the regal Mt. Hood will often loom on the horizon.
Other popular destinations within the CRG are the Oneonta Gorge, Vista House at Crown Point, Horsetail Falls, and Rowena Crest. All of these can be seen on a day trip from Portland.
3. Painted Hills of Oregon: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
The Painted Hills of Oregon are a colorful display of rolling, striated hills. They are located in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in a remote part of Central Oregon.
Of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, the Painted Hills are perhaps the most unique. There are very few places outside of the American Southwest where you find such vibrant colors in the landscape. Each stripe is a clue for geologists as to how the region looked in another era.
Within the park, visitors will find a handful of trails and varying scenery. Sunrise and sunset are both spectacular times to visit, but stargazers should stay until after dark. This remote part of Oregon has some of the darkest skies in the US.
The very small town of Mitchell is the nearest place to the Painted Hills with services, but they are extremely limited. There is only one gas station and grocery store and both are very basic. Be sure to bring cash as credit cards are not even accepted at most places.
If you are considering a road trip to Central Oregon, you will absolutely want to read our Ultimate Guide to the Painted Hills of Oregon prior to visiting. It offers all need-to-know information for accommodation, camping, and services, as well as general guidance on what to see and when.
4. The Oregon Coast
It is undeniable that the Oregon coast is one of the most incredible and photogenic coastlines you will find anywhere in the world. Distinguishing the entire 360-mile stretch as a “Wonder of Oregon” feels like a bit of a copout, but the argument is that there are too many one-of-a-kind natural marvels to list them all individually.
Of course, what makes the Oregon coast special is not its paradise-like beaches, but the dramatic and untamed geology it features. It is the sea stacks, arches, and natural bridges that make it remarkable. It is the way the forest just seems to run into the Pacific Ocean that makes it a delight for outdoor-loving tourists.
If you are planning an Oregon Coast road trip along Highway 101 or daring enough to attempt the Pacific Crest Trail, we have a dedicated guide revealing the best things to see on the Oregon coast you will find helpful.
The most popular destination on the Oregon coast is Cannon Beach. However, you will discover a couple more impressive coastal destinations in the section featuring the suggested new Wonders of Oregon.
5. Mount Hood
Mount Hood is an 11,250ft (3429m) perennially snowcapped mountain that watches over the city of Portland. From many places on the west side of the city, you can see Mt Hood towering above the horizon dwarfing even the tallest buildings in downtown Portland.
While the views are incredible even from a distance, Mt Hood National Forest is even better. Less than two hours away from the concrete and cranes lies over a million acres of pristine, unspoiled PNW beauty. Trees, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and all the things that make the Pacific Northwest special remain untouched while the majestic mountain looms above it all.
In addition to its natural beauty, Mt Hood is also one of the few mountains in the country where winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, are possible year-round!
Many of the best places to view Mt Hood are featured in our 130 Best Things to Do in Oregon Guide. In particular, sites of note are Pittock Mansion for views that include the city of Portland, Jonsrud in Hood River for views without it, and Lost Lake for getting up close and personal.
6. Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is a nature-built playground for rock climbers, hikers, photographers, and general nature-lovers. This geological marvel seems to shoot straight out of the ground as the Crooked Rivers swirls past it like a moat.
You will find Smith Rock SP in Central Oregon in the small town of Terrebonne just outside of Bend. A small fee is required to park, but there is no additional entry fee. As of February 2022, the price to park at Smith Rock is $5.
A few hikes of varying difficulty are available, but the River Trail and Misery Ridge Trail are the most popular.
The Misery Ridge Trail is the best hike in Smith Rock State Park. This aptly-named trail takes you straight up and over Smith Rock for breathtaking panoramic views over the valley.
Many visitors opt instead to follow the River Trail which remains flat, but does not provide the elevated vistas.
The Wallowa Mountains are a striking range of summits within the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Eastern Oregon. Of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, the Wallowa Mountains are perhaps the least famous, which is just the way mountaineers and photographers want it.
This region is best known for its glacial lakes and solitude. Ranchers occupy most of the land nearby and even the most popular trails see relatively few yearly visitors.
Wallowa Lake State Park is the most popular and heavily trafficked destination in the area. The idyllic Wallowa Lake provides unbeatable views of the Wallowa Mountains as well as the perfect foreground for landscape photographers.
7 More Natural Wonders in Oregon
It would be difficult to remove anything from the official 7 Wonders of Oregon list, but there are at least seven more miracles of nature sprinkled throughout the state worthy of serious consideration.
Below is one local’s suggestions for an expanded list of Oregon’s wonders.
1. Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor
Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is 11 miles of the most picturesque coastline you will encounter anywhere in the world. The incredible seascapes within this stretch rival even the most impressive regions of more renowned countries like New Zealand or Scotland.
You will encounter Samuel Boardman on the southernmost section of Highway 101 near the California border. The seaside city of Brookings is the gateway.
The entire 11-mile span of road is dotted with natural features begging to be photographed. Of those, Whaleshead Rock, Natural Bridges, and Arch Rock are the most well-known. However, there are countless unsigned trails that lead to secret beaches and hidden gems for those who wish to truly discover it.
Be sure to bookmark our photography guide to the Southern Oregon coast, including where to find Secret Beach and other local-only treasures. Also, be sure to stay after dark to experience the sparkling night skies and Milky Way above.
2. Silver Falls State Park
Many Oregonians feel that Silver Falls is the best state park we have. Of course, Smith Rock State Park currently holds a spot on the Seven Wonders of Oregon list so clearly there is some debate.
The bottom line is that any visitor who finds themselves near Portland or Salem should absolutely schedule a day trip out to the park to explore the Trail of Ten Falls. As you may have guessed, the name comes from a walking route through the woods that leads to ten distinct waterfalls.
Summer is the worst time to visit Silver Falls as the waterfalls are typically less voluminous than other times of year, some even drying up completely. On top of that, this is when you will find the largest crowds to share the trail and views with.
Conversely, fall is a magical time to visit. The leaves turn a magnificent golden as autumn rains reinvigorate the waterfalls and the crowds thin out once more.
We have explored this area thoroughly and have written a complete guide to The Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park as well as mini-guides to every single waterfall in the park! Use the link above to learn everything you need to know about trail distances, fees, when to go, where to stay, and all other essentials for planning a visit.
3. Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua
You may have seen photos of Thor’s Well and thought the entire Pacific Ocean had sprung a leak! This incredible sight is one of the most amazing things you will see anywhere in the world and is located right here on the Central Oregon coast!
Thor’s Well is located in Cape Perpetua just 5 minutes drive from the city of Yachats. It is one of many amazing natural features created by a shelf of lava rock that spans this section of the coastline.
While the well appears to be a bottomless pit, it is actually just the result of an underwater sea cave having a section of its ceiling fall through. If the ocean went dry, the distance from the hole known as Thor’s Well to the bottom of the cave would only be about 20 feet.
Be aware that while we highly recommend a visit to Thor’s Well, and think it absolutely deserving of a spot on the New 7 Wonders of Oregon list, experiencing this marvel takes a little more preparation than most, particularly if you wish to photograph it!
In order to capture a shot of this marvel, it requires you to stand on the brink of the shoreline at high tide. You will definitely get wet, and there is some risk of injury for the unprepared. There is even greater risk of damage to electronics from the saltwater!
If you want to experience this wonder for yourself, bookmark our comprehensive photographers and first-time visitors guide to Thor’s Well. In this guide, you will learn how to time your visit for the precise conditions required to get a great photo as well as how to keep your gear safe and all other pertinent information for visiting.
4. Tamolitch Blue Pool
The Tamolitch Blue Pool feels like a thing of Oregon folklore. It was this piece of paradise hidden deep in the Mckenzie wilderness that only the locals knew of. The waters, they say, were impossibly blue and crystal clear, beckoning in weary hikers.
This once-hidden gem was brought to the public eye when a video went viral about a decade ago. Ever since it has become one of the most popular items on every Oregon visitor bucket list.
Despite its popularity, or perhaps because of it, finding a place for this incredible natural miracle on the prestigious list of Oregon’s Wonders seems only fitting.
You will discover the Tamolitch Blue Pool on the McKenzie Hwy northwest of Bend. The hike in is about 2 miles, after which you will be more than ready to dive into the blue water.
Expect plenty of people to be around, especially in the summer months, and get there early while parking is available.
5. Cascade Lakes Loop
Central Oregon is a wonderland of mountains, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and pristine wilderness. It is the home of Smith Rock State Park which you have read plenty about already, but is home to many more wonders. Of those, the Cascade Lakes are perhaps the most beautiful.
The Cascade Lakes Loop is a scenic drive near Sunriver that passes by dozens of beautiful lakes, each seemingly more beautiful than the last. Some of them can be seen from the parking lots while others require extended hikes or even overnight camping.
Among the best are Todd Lake, Devil’s Lake, and my personal favorite (seen above), Sparks Lake.
It is also an incredible region for kayaking, paddleboarding, and general water recreation. Consider a kayaking tour if you don’t have your own equipment.
6. Alvord Desert
The Pacific Northwest is known for having lush green vegetation, thick forests, and no shortage of precipitation. When people think PNW, they imagine fresh air, grey skies, and wilderness. Meanwhile, in the bottom-right corner of the state, the Alvord Desert and salt flats tell a different story.
A sparse and arid landscape, the Alvord Desert is the antithesis of everything you imagine Oregon to be, which is precisely why it deserves to make the Seven Wonders list!
7. Umpqua Hot Springs
There are many beautiful hot springs in Oregon, but none more accessible and stunning than Umpqua Hot Springs (also known as Toketee Hot Springs).
This geothermal wonder is located deep in Umpqua National Forest. A short hike takes visitors from the trailhead to a series of cascading pools on the side of a steep slope overlooking the river below. Each pool gets cooler as you descend, but the views are amazing from anywhere.
Being able to soak in a naturally heated tub in the middle of the forest while enjoying the crisp PNW air had to earn a nod for a spot on the New Seven Wonders of Oregon list.
Honorable Mention: Oregon Caves National Monument
The Oregon Caves in Southern Oregon are one of the more impressive cave systems you can explore anywhere in the country. While it cannot hold a candle to the likes of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, it is an incredible underground world to explore for anyone who has never been spelunking.
The 7 Wonders of Oregon Map
The map below shows the exact location of each of the 7 Wonders. In addition, you will see pins for the additional seven natural wonders that we have submitted for consideration. Click here or on the image below to open the map in Google Maps.
Blue Pins = Official 7 Wonders of Oregon Locations
Red Pins = Additional Natural Wonders to Visit
7 Wonders of Oregon FAQs
What are the seven natural wonders of Oregon?
- Crater Lake National Park
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
- Oregon Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
- The Oregon Coast
- Mt. Hood
- Smith Rock State Park
- The Wallowa Mountains
Is Crater Lake one of the seven wonders?
Crater Lake National Park is one of the seven wonders of Oregon, but not the seven wonders of the world.
Who named the Seven Wonders of Oregon?
In 2014, Travel Oregon named the 7 Wonders of Oregon in a campaign, playing off the famous “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”, including scenic wonders throughout the state.
What is Oregon known for?
The state of Oregon is best known for its pristine natural beauty, including the “Seven Wonders of Oregon” which are distinguished as being particularly beautiful. These include:
- Crater Lake National Park
- Columbia River Gorge
- Oregon Painted Hills
- The Oregon Coast
- Mt. Hood
- Smith Rock State Park
- The Wallowa Mountains
Oregon is also known for its vineyards and, specifically, the world-class pinot noir they produce.
Other Oregon & PNW Guides
As must be clear by now, there are too many things to do in Oregon for one guide to list them all with much detail. Below are some of the other travel guides for Oregon and the nearby regions of Northern California and Washington.
If you are planning on visiting any of these other locations, you will discover far more in-depth descriptions and information for planning in these guides.
- Ultimate Oregon Guide: 130+ Things to Do in Oregon
- The Complete Painted Hills of Oregon Guide
- Top 10 Places to Visit on the Oregon Coast
- Complete Guide to Hiking Misery Ridge Trail in Smith Rock State Park.
- 21 Best Waterfalls in Oregon
- Top 15 Places to Visit in Oregon
- Silver Falls State Park & Trail of Ten Falls Complete Guide
- Waterfalls of Southern Oregon Complete Guide
- Southern Oregon Photography Locations
- The Complete Thor’s Well Guide
Washington & PNW Guides
Northern California Guides
- The Ultimate NorCal Road Trip Itinerary Guide
- What to see in Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Complete Guide to Burney Falls in NorCal