Itineraries,  Road Trip Tips

How to Plan a 7-Day Oregon Road Trip
(Coastal, Southern & Central)

My blog posts likely contain affiliate links, including for the Amazon Associates program.
If you click, book, or buy from one of these links, I may earn a commission. Read more in my Privacy Policy.

The Western US is full of incredible road trips, from the Pacific Coast Highway to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula to California’s national parks… the hardest thing about planning a trip is probably choosing which state(s) or route to focus on. Oregon is a great option if you’re looking to escape the crowds; no matter which part of the state you focus on, you’ll feel at times like you have the whole road to yourself.

As I’ve called Washington and California home over the years, Oregon is the one West Coast state I always want to spend more time in. In late 2023, just before Baby V joined our family, I finally completed a long-planned Oregon road trip down the coast, across the southern part of the state, and up through the central part east of the Cascades.

Oregon Road Trip Hero

If you’ve chosen Oregon as your next road trip destination, this post will help. Below you’ll find a guide for planning a 7-day Oregon road trip much like the one I did. While it doesn’t cover the whole state, it does sample some of the best parts of the state, in my opinion anyway. Ready to hit the road? Let’s do it!

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of many Native American groups who called and call the coast home. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

Oregon Road Trip Map & Route

Oregon Road Trip Map
Click to interact with the map; use code BTR5QTP to get $5 off Roadtrippers Pro!

Before jumping into the specifics of each day’s start/endpoints, drive times, and where else to stop along this Oregon road trip, I thought it would be helpful to show a map.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that this is obviously a Coastal and Central Oregon road trip route. Oregon – like many Western states – is huge, and it would be hard (nigh impossible) to see the entire state in just a week… even if you spent all your time driving and didn’t get out to enjoy any of it!

So if you’re looking for an Eastern Oregon road trip, this isn’t it. If you just want to focus on Central Oregon, there are better guides out there. If you only want to explore the Oregon coast, I’ve got a road trip guide just for that… However, if you’re looking for a loop that starts and ends in Portland and samples many of Oregon’s best-known experiences and sights, this is a great option.

There are, of course, other wonders to experience in Oregon (Travel Oregon actually recommends a 14-day trip to see the main ones, including some on this route!), too. You can use this guide as inspiration, or a guide for the first (of several) trips. It’s entirely up to you – but let’s dive in so you can decide if this route is the right one for your Oregon travel plans.

Day 1: Portland to Newport

As mentioned, my suggested Oregon road trip itinerary starts and ends in Portland, the state’s largest city. Portland makes the most sense for out-of-state visitors because it has a large airport and good car rental options for planning a road trip like this. Portland also has loads of interesting things to do, great restaurants, and plenty of hotels to choose from, making it a destination in its own right if you have the time.

Once you decide to hit the road, I recommend striking out toward the coast first; ideally, you’d head up to Cannon Beach before turning your wheels southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway (US-101). Cannon Beach is home to the iconic Haystack Rock which is a great place to stretch your legs midway through the day. It’s a 90-minute drive from Portland to Cannon Beach and another 2.5-hour drive from Cannon Beach to Newport for the night.

If you want to make additional stops while enjoying the coastal drive, check out my step-by-step guide to planning an Oregon Coast road trip; in that post, I suggest several other nice places to stop between the two (Lincoln City is lovely, and Tillamook Creamery is an essential Oregon food experience!).

Accommodation Suggestions: There are lots of delightful places to stay in Newport, but I spent my one night aboard the Newport Belle. This is an adults-only accommodation, but if that fits your travel group, you’re in for a real treat aboard this restored and converted sternwheeler in the harbor. Rooms start from $189 per night; book on Hotels.com. Browse other hotels in Newport and vacation rentals, too.

Meal Suggestions: For dinner, there are lots of choices in the Historic Bayfront; I went with dinner at Clearwater Restaurant as they have great views of the harbor and sea lions love to loaf up on the docks outside their windows. (As such, the patio might be tempting but can often be quite stinky, so I recommend sitting inside even if the weather is great!)

Road Trip Directions: From Portland, head west on US-26 to Cannon Beach, then follow US-101 south to Newport. Estimated travel time is four hours without stops.

Day 2: Newport to Cave Junction

Today is a long day, especially if you make the most of the stops available to you along the way – but it’s a big stretch of the Oregon coast and there’s a lot to admire even if you just keep your wheels turning.

Start out by taking the time to explore Newport a bit more before heading south; the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a great option for families or curious travelers of all ages as it focuses specifically on the marine ecosystems of this part of the Pacific Coast.

A short drive south of Newport, Sea Lion Caves is an essential stop, even in the “off-season” when there are no sea lions in the cave (as when I visited – it’s still impressive!). It’s North America’s largest sea cave and offers a stunning view of Heceta Head Lighthouse, the most photographed lighthouse in the U.S.

I personally find the stretch from Florence to Brookings to be less stimulating as the PCH turns inland for a while and meanders among massive dunes and coastal mountains, but there are some stops you might consider. Once you reach Brookings, you’ll cross briefly into California before turning eastward and heading up into the Redwoods on your way to Cave Junction, Oregon. That’s your destination for the night, unless you choose to make an additional optional stop, detailed below. (I’ve added a few of these to this itinerary just for extra ideas!)

Accommodation Suggestions: I stayed the night before my visit at Out N About Treesort; it was a 50-minute drive to Cave Junction or Oregon Caves the next morning (more on that in a minute). This funky and fascinating property has several treehouses you can book including cozy studio-style treehouses and joint treehouses connected by elevated walkways. They also offer daytime activities like ziplining, horseback riding, and river rafting if you decide to stay in the area for longer than just one day to visit Oregon Caves.

Restaurant Suggestions: If you need dinner before calling it a night, be sure to head to Cave Junction first before your accommodation (wherever you choose to stay). There are a few hole-in-the-wall spots; I ate at Gimmies Grill which had a fantastic chicken sandwich; my backup option was Wild River Brewing & Pizza Co which also looked delicious if you’re craving carbs.

Road Trip Directions: Follow the Pacific Coast Highway (US-101) south to the junction with US-199, then turn eastward to Cave Junction. Estimated travel time is six hours.

Optional: Crescent City (California)

As you make your way from Newport to Cave Junction, you will actually cross into California. It’s just a few miles down the road from the junction of US-101 (the Pacific Coast Highway) and US-199, so you could choose to extend your Oregon road trip with an overnight – or at least a leg-stretching stop – in Crescent City, the northernmost city on the California coast.

I absolutely love Crescent City, and have suggestions for how you can spend time there if you do want to do more than just fill up the gas tank and continue on your way. Particular highlights include visiting Battery Point Lighthouse (at low tide only), exploring Redwoods National Park (especially Jed Smith Redwoods, which you’ll pass through anyway on your way to Cave Junction, but well worth extra time to stop and enjoy), and enjoying food and drink at SeaQuake Brewing Company (I’m partial to their kombucha in particular).

If you don’t have the time though, I recommend considering a trip to Crescent City at some point in the future though – it’s one of my favorite stops along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Accommodation Suggestions: On one trip, Mr. V and I stayed at this gorgeous 3-bedroom oceanfront property on Pebble Beach Drive. It was huge and fully stocked, perfect for a family or for a couple who just want space to escape. From $295/night; book on VRBO. Browse other vacation rentals and hotels in Crescent City.

Meal Suggestions: As mentioned, my must-stop on every trip is SeaQuake Brewing; I love their kombucha and their food menu is fantastic. Other places we’ve eaten on past trips include the Chart Room (great water views) and Port O’ Pints for some local color.

Road Trip Directions: Visiting Crescent City is a short spur south on US-101; it adds about 30 minutes of driving time to the rest of this itinerary.

Day 3: Cave Junction to Union Creek

Cave Junction, as its name suggests, is near caves – Oregon Caves National Monument, to be specific. As today’s driving time is relatively short, I highly recommend spending the morning at Oregon Caves before hitting the road again. (Caves are one of my favorite national park experiences, and these ones are especially impressive even if it’s “just” a national monument.)

I’ve got a guide for how to make the most of one day at Oregon Caves which you can use to plan a shorter stop. My main advice is to start early; the sooner you arrive at the caves, the better chance you have of getting on a tour straight away, which is the primary logistical consideration for visiting.

After taking the guided cave tour and maybe hitting a hiking trail or two, you’ll make your way back to the main highway and head further east. Your final destination is the town of Union Creek, which is in the Cascade foothills not far from Crater Lake National Park.

It took me most of the afternoon to make the drive, stopping for gas in Grants Pass and to admire some natural wonders like the Avenue of the Boulders, Natural Bridge, and Rogue River Gorge; these three natural parts of the Rogue River (which flows from headwaters near Crater Lake) are beautiful and easy stops to stretch your legs.

Accommodation Suggestions: I stayed the night at Union Creek Resort; it’s a great option, but – unsurprisingly – is popular enough to book up throughout the summer, and especially on summer weekends. If you can, book one of the cabins, as rooms in the main lodge have shared restrooms and are more rustic despite recent upgrades.

Restaurant Suggestions: Beckie’s Cafe is the place to eat – literally. This small restaurant is across the street from Union Creek Resort and also fills up quickly. If you’re a solo traveler or couple, ask about eating at the counter to try and skip the waitlist. The menu has the classics, and harkens back to earlier days of national park road-tripping; I think it’s the only time I’ve ever gone full Americana and ordered a fried chicken dinner and berry pie.

Road Trip Directions: From Cave Junction, follow US-199 east. You’ll hop onto I-5 for a short drive, then continue east on OR-234 and OR-62 to Union Creek. Estimated travel time is two hours.

Day 4: Union Creek to Crater Lake

Today is another short day of driving, with the goal of giving you plenty of time to visit one of Oregon’s top natural wonders: Crater Lake National Park!

There are two entrances to the park, one north and one south. Depending on your visit, one or both may be closed and/or very busy, so be sure to check the Crater Lake NPS site before your visit to understand what you might experience.

From Union Creek, it’s typically easier and faster to enter via the north entrance, though this misses the iconic sign pull-out and Visitor Center, so you may want to spend the extra time to head south and wait in line to enter the park.

One Day in Crater Lake - Panorama

In either case, your goal today (and tomorrow morning, time permitting) is to enjoy the park. I have a guide for spending one day in Crater Lake that you can do all today or split into today and tomorrow; focus your time on making a circuit of the 33-mile Rim Road, taking a boat tour on the lake (based on the schedule during your visit), and exploring Rim Village later in the day. You might also try a few hikes depending on your fitness; Pinnacles adds extra drive time but is really unique and an easy trail.

Accommodation Suggestions: Your best bet is Crater Lake Lodge (where I stayed for my one night in the park); this historic lodge is right on the crater rim and while the rooms aren’t super impressive, they are sufficient for an overnight before/after your day of adventure in the park. This lodge sells out pretty much all summer season, so be sure to make your reservations well in advance. I cover other places to stay in/near Crater Lake in my guide to visiting that park.

Restaurant Suggestions: There are limited options in Rim Village; your best bet is to just eat at the Lodge. I had the vegetarian Thai curry and it was freaking awesome – my server said it’s the best thing on the menu and the one all the staff prefers.

Road Trip Directions: To the north entrance, follow OR-62 to OR-230 to OR-138; to the south entrance, stay on OR-62 to Munson Valley Road. Both are well-marked to help you reach the park entrances. Estimated travel time is 45-60 minutes plus time exploring the park.

Day 5: Crater Lake to Klamath Falls

As mentioned, today is your second chance to explore Crater Lake National Park. Maybe that means catching the sunrise on a hike before leaving the park; maybe you needed to book your boat tour today because of timing and availability. Whatever the case, get your fill before exiting the park via the south entrance to aim for Klamath Falls. Klamath Falls is the county seat of Klamath County, and there are some interesting attractions in and near town.

Favell Museum, nestled in the heart of Klamath Falls, is home to a collection of Western Art and Native American artifacts that help put your outdoor adventures in perspective: people have called this area home for thousands of years, and left evidence of life on this part of the continent. The collection houses artifacts dating back 12,000 years; you don’t need more than a few hours to explore the whole museum.

A short drive north of town, the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is a neat little natural playground; in the area, you’ll find a number of ways to get outdoors and explore this part of Oregon. One fun option is kayaking, and if you can book an evening/night kayaking session with ROE Outfitters, even better! You’ll set out on the water as the sun goes down and can enjoy a calm paddle with an LED-lit clear kayak – you’ll see the fascinating world below the water, and see the stars pop out.

Accommodation Suggestions: Klamath Falls is big enough to have lots of options. During my visit, I was hosted at Running Y Ranch and Resort, halfway to the wildlife refuge. It’s a nice, budget-friendly option though less convenient if you’re planning to explore town at all. Browse other Klamath Falls hotels here.

Restaurant Suggestions: At Running Y, the Ruddy Duck is a good option, but again, less convenient if you’re staying in town. While I didn’t eat there, Girasol Family Mexican Restaurant & Cantina was on my list; there are lots of Mexican and Thai options, and Thai Orchid Cafe also comes highly recommended.

Road Trip Directions: Follow OR-62 south to meet US-97. Southbound will take you straight to Klamath Falls. Estimated travel time is 60-90 minutes depending on where you start out in Crater Lake National Park.

Optional: Lava Beds National Monument

Okay, forgive me: another California detour. If you have extra time while based in the Klamath Falls area, the 50-minute (each way) drive to Lava Beds National Monument is worthwhile – especially if you (too) love caves after your visit to Oregon Caves. Unlike those water erosion caves, Lava Beds is all volcanic lava tube caves – and it’s one of the most unrestricted national park units I’ve ever visited!

I have a guide for visiting Lava Beds in one day, though you don’t even need that long; I did the trip there and back plus a few caves in a half day. This national monument is so far from main roads and other cities that you’re unlikely to find your way here again, so take advantage of the opportunity!

(If you do add on Lava Beds, I recommend spending a short morning in Crater Lake, driving to Klamath Falls for lunch, then head south to Lava Beds in the afternoon before returning to town for dinner and an evening event if you have the energy.)

Road Trip Directions: If you want to add on a trip to Lava Beds, follow OR-140 east to OR-39 south. Continue to US-161, which forms the Oregon-California border. This is a short jog until you turn south on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (Road 10/Hill Road) which takes you to the monument.

Day 6: Klamath Falls to Bend

You’re now at the southernmost part of your Oregon road trip, so it’s time to turn your wheels north and begin making your way back to Portland. While this might seem late on a 7-day road trip itinerary, you can pack a lot into these last two days and the roads cover a lot of ground without as much driving time.

From Klamath Falls, your final destination is Bend in Central Oregon. There are lots of stops worth making along the way, including:

  • Fort Rock State Park – An easy stop to stretch your legs and hike as long as you like, this ancient tuff ring was once an island, and is home to the oldest human sandal artifacts ever recovered (about 9,350-10,500 old!)
  • Newberry National Volcanic Monument – Someday I’ll write a guide for how to visit, but this massive set of volcanic relics is great for hiking and photography. There are craters, lakes, lava floes, waterfalls, lava tubes, and plenty of hiking trails to access it all.
  • Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory – Great for families, this facility offers animal education and nature experiences, plus solar observation by day (and stargazing at night if you find yourself there at that time when the facility is open!).
  • High Desert Museum – Just south of Bend, this museum combines indoor and outdoor exhibits to teach you about the ecosystem in central and eastern Oregon and the humans and animals who call it home.

As the drive is a pretty straight shot and quick today, feel free to stop and explore as things catch your eye – as I said, there’s definitely a lot you can pack into these last few days! You can easily spend the entire day traveling from Klamath Falls to Bend with these stops, so you might only have time for dinner before turning in.

Accommodation Suggestions: I stayed at the Campfire Hotel during my night in Bend; it’s not downtown but it’s an incredible spot – a very trendy conversion of an old-school motel that’s a destination in its own right with a pool, hot tub, and cool fire pit area. I could easily have stayed just here on the property for a few nights. Book on Booking.com.

Restaurant Suggestions: Bend has lots of great restaurants, but I chose Worthy Brewing because they also have an on-site astronomical observatory. Great beer, great food, great stargazing, yes, please!

Road Trip Directions: Follow US-97 north out of Klamath Falls; it leads straight to Bend! Estimated travel time is 2.5 hours.

Optional: Summer Lake/Oregon Outback

Part of my trip to Oregon was focused on its dark skies – y’all know I love stargazing, right?!

Located in Lake County, the Oregon Outback is working toward dark sky park certification, and it’s a great spot for seeing the night sky. There are also some fascinating daytime activities too!

One of the main geologic features in the Oregon Outback is Summer Lake, a large, shallow, alkali lake that varies in size based on seasonality and rainfall. On the southern “shores” of the lake basin, you’ll find Summer Lakes Hot Springs resort. The original bathhouse dates to the 1920s, and today you’ll find outdoor stone pools for soaking, plus a series of eclectic cabins and houses for overnight guests.

If you have a vehicle with decent clearance, you might also visit one of the coolest archaeological sites in the U.S. – but one that you probably haven’t heard of, and which is pretty much wide open to the public to explore: Paisley Caves.

Originally thought to be a site with some of the oldest evidence of humans in North America, the site is now dated to about 14,000 years ago (the oldest sites, like those in White Sands and the Yukon, are currently dated to 23,000-24,000 years ago). Still, it’s impressive to visit and you can see evidence from archaeological digs in the form of markers and relic bags that have been returned to the site.

Accommodation Suggestions: If you decide to add on a trip to the Oregon Outback or Summer Lake, I’d make it an overnight. You can stay at Summer Lakes Hot Springs resort but be sure to book in advance plus bring all your meals/amenities with you, as there’s nothing else around!

Road Trip Directions: It’s a definite detour to reach Summer Lake from the main route, adding on about two hours via Silver Lake Road and OR-31.

Day 7: Bend to Portland

On this final day of your Oregon road trip, you’ve got a fair amount of ground to cover – but it all depends on your personal travel plans and schedule. Spending an additional night in Portland before departing home (if you can) gives you the most possible time to experience Bend and stops along the way.

If you’re short on time, be sure to at least spend the morning in Downtown Bend; the area is totally walkable and there’s a really nice trail along the Deschutes River if the weather is good. Bend is also home to the last Blockbuster Video store, which is an attraction in its own right. I spent my morning in Bend grabbing breakfast and strolling around looking at the historic buildings and street art before hitting the road. (I then went to Smith Rock State Park before spending an additional night at Prineville Reservoir State Park, more on that below!)

With more time (but not enough for an additional overnight), you could visit Smith Rock and skip Prineville Reservoir before heading north to Portland. This final day is all a matter of timing!

As hinted, the drive to Portland is nice; once you get further north, you’ll cut across the Cascades and can stop to admire the views of Mount Hood if you have time for that too.

Road Trip Directions: If you want to make either of the optional stops recommended below, take US-97 and US-26 northbound; it’ll skirt past Mount Hood on your way to Portland. Estimated travel time is about 3.5 hours.

Optional: Smith Rock & Prineville Reservoir State Parks

Like, well, all of the Beaver State, Central Oregon has plenty of natural playgrounds – I had the chance to sample two that don’t quite fit into a 7-day itinerary but are excellent add-ons if you have more time for your own Oregon road trip.

First up, Smith Rock State Park is a 40-minute drive north of Bend, and it’s a great destination for the day; the state park isn’t an overnight destination necessarily, but it is stunningly beautiful and fantastic for hiking – there are trails for every ability level, and it reminded me a ton of Pinnacles National Park in California, which is one of my faves!

Further from town (about 60 minutes), Prineville Reservoir State Park was another destination on my itinerary because it’s a dark sky park – and the stargazing is fantastic. I went for a guided night hike with Wanderlust Tours which provided even more context and a great conversation under the stars. There are cabins and campsites at the park where you can rest after all that driving and stargazing too. (This is where you should stay if you decide to add on an overnight for these state parks!)

Restaurant Suggestions: There are no amenities at Prineville Reservoir, but a few good dinner options in Prineville (20 minutes away). I chose Dillon’s Grill because they had chili-mac on the menu!

Road Trip Directions: Smith Rock is located just off US-97, whereas it’s a 45-minute detour (each way) from the main route to Prineville Reservoir.

And that wraps it up – as you can see, you can pack a lot into a 7-day Oregon road trip, but it’s a lot of driving and you might just need a vacation from this vacation. Have any other questions about planning your own road trip through coastal, southern, and central Oregon? Let me know in the comments below!

Help others discover this post too!

I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *