Best state parks in Oregon

Although Oregon is home to just one national park, the Beaver State’s wide range of outdoor environments make it a premier location for state parks of all shapes and sizes – 254 of them, to be exact.

With the rainy Oregon Coast on one side of the state and the dry high desert on the other, Oregon offers an assortment of top-tier destinations, each with their own unique set of exhilarating activities.

Whether you’re looking for the chance to swim, fish, hike, boat, ATV, trail run, dune board (that’s a thing!), wakeboard or just relax and take in a pristine view, there’s an Oregon state park that will fit the bill. Here’s our selection of excellent state parks worth a stop – or a whole trip of their own.

Wallowa Lake State Park

Best state park for year-round outdoor fun

Nicknamed “Little Switzerland,” Wallowa Lake offers panoramic mountainscapes with campsites featuring valley views and access to hiking, swimming, boating and fishing. As a year-round campground, this park sees high-visitor volume in all seasons, but that doesn’t dampen its appeal.

In the summer, the lake offers visitors the chance to boat, paddle, fish or swim, basking in the warm temperatures and stunning alpine views. In the winter, guests can still enjoy the mountain paradise, but with fewer crowds and unspoiled access to many of the pristine alpine lakes that dot the region.

Whether you’re a snowshoe enthusiast with an eye toward shoulder season or a sun worshiper who prefers to get their tan on underneath 10,000ft peaks, Wallowa Lake State Park has a little something to offer everyone.

local advice: Book early – sites fill up fast. And don’t skip the nearby town of Joseph, a mountain village filled with artists.

Cape Lookout State Park offers stunning ocean views of the Oregon coast © Wildnerdpix / Shutterstock

Cape Lookout State Park

Best state park for camping

A lush coastal forest protects this campground from the harsh winds that batter the cliffs in Netarts, making it a fantastic place to visit in both high and low seasons. Cape Lookout also offers year-round camping, a rarity for a seasonal state like Oregon.

If you’re looking to use this park as a base camp, Cape Lookout offers quick and easy access to beach views, including Cape Meares Lighthouse to the north, which offers whale watching, picnic areas and the largest Sitka spruce in Oregon.

To the south, there’s Whalen Island and its Sandlake Estuary, a haven for wildlife viewers, beach walkers, kayakers and canoeists.

local advice: Visit in the late summer months, when temperatures are at their warmest and the sun makes a frequent appearance.


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A female rock climber ascends a cliff at Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock features 800ft redstone cliffs with countless routes for climbers © thinair28 / Getty Images

Smith Rock State Park

Best state park for rock climbing

Long known as a Pacific Northwest climbing destination, Smith Rock features 800ft redstone cliffs with countless routes and enough scenic beauty to spend a weekend – or four – putting your skills to the test.

Despite its regional popularity, the park offers enough nooks and crannies for everyone to find a problem to solve. For folks not inclined to scaling the heights, there are also premium mountain biking trails and quintessential Central Oregon wildlife viewing, including golden eagles, mule deer, river otters and, of course, native beavers – the state mascot.

No camping is allowed in the park, but there’s enough in the vicinity (Skull Hollow, for one, or the Smith Rock Bivouac Area) to spend a few nights in rock paradise.

local advice: To get the best of both sides of the local scene, stay the night in Bend and make the daily commute to Smith Rock.

Fort Stevens State Park

Best state park for history buffs

A state park made for history buffs, Fort Stevens boasts a historic military outpost, a military museum and the remaining rusty frame of a shipwreck from 1906. This little-known gem also features a gorgeous beach that just so happens to mark the northernmost point on the Oregon Coast Trail.

Visitors to the park can enjoy a wide range of scenic views, rich historical sites and the added benefit of Coffenbury Lake, which has picnic areas, a 2-mile hiking trail around the lake and seasonal swimming and boating access. The park also includes a huge campground, featuring 174 full-hookup sites and a whopping 302 electrical sites with water included.

local advice: The military fort is a must-visit, and the chance to see a century-old shipwreck is extremely rare. Add coastal views, a massive campground and a lake for swimming…what’s not to love about this park?

Two women looking at South falls and trees in autumn season showing fall colors, in Silver Falls State Park near Silverton, Oregon
Silver Falls is a true hiker’s paradise, and its proximity to Portland makes it a popular spot © Bob Pool / Shutterstock

Silver Falls State Park

Best state park for hiking

A state park that’s said to rival some of the smaller national parks in the country, Silver Falls is a true hiker’s paradise. Its proximity to Portland (just over an hour’s drive) makes it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, but the beauty of the park in all four seasons makes it worth the trip, regardless of the crowds.

The Trail of Ten Falls hike offers access to 10 separate waterfalls over the course of a doable 8-mile loop. For visitors looking to get away from the crowds, this renowned park also features more than 35 miles of backcountry trails for hiking, mountain biking or trail running.

Those lucky enough to snag a campsite (open year-round) can enjoy this hike in the morning before the day-trippers arrive and still have enough time to explore the rest of the park or the nearby town of Salem.

local advice: If visiting in the summer, try to make it to the park on a weekday. Or show up early and crush the Trail of Ten Falls, then head to Salem for an Oregon-brewed beverage at Gilgamesh Brewing.

Cove Palisades State Park

Best state park for water activities

Home to the legendary Lake Billy Chinook, Cove Palisades State Park is tucked away in the middle of Central Oregon, hidden among its more popular cousins ​​(read: Smith Rock and Tumalo).

Intermediate, Cove Palisades offers guests a premium lakefront campground (Deschutes Campground), an RV-accessible and scenic upper campground (Crooked River), and all the boating, fishing, paddling and wakeboarding an Oregonian could hope for.

Despite being a highly popular summertime destination, Lake Billy Chinook’s long body and many spindly arms allow houseboats, speedboaters and bass hunters to share the water with relative ease. Additionally, onsite boat and Jet Ski rentals make planning your vacay easier than ever.

local advice: For walkability to the marina and lakefront beach, try to nab a site at Deschutes Campground. If you end up at Crooked River, don’t ignore the ice cream shop/convenience market just a minute up the road – it’s worth the wait after a hot afternoon of on the water.

Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park

Best state park for sandboarding

Set within a 47-mile cluster of massive sand dunes, this state park features hiking access to the Oregon Coast, two different lakes for daily recreation and a vast network of dune trails open to ATVs year-round.

Cleawox Lake, the park’s smaller body of water, is open to motorized boating, swimming and fishing for native cutthroat trout. As it’s flanked by dunes on two sides, this lake is a supremely popular place during the summer months, and you’ll witness many visitors testing their sandboarding skills before cooling off with a dive into the lake’s temperate waters.

local advice: If the central campground at Honeyman’s is full, there’s a plethora of lesser-known campgrounds located just south of the park. Also, for fitness fanatics eager to test their dune-running endurance, Daybreak Racing hosts the Siuslaw Dunes course, featuring 25k and 50k routes beginning in none other than Honeyman State Park.

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