The Ultimate Week Long Oregon Road Trip

Aka – the trip that started it all

In 2012 I took my first ever solo trip and adventured across the globe to Australia. I was just 19 and following in the footsteps of my mom who had done the same trip at the same age. I have family in Tasmania, who I stayed with for two weeks, after which I joined a tour group which took me up the coast from Sydney to Cairns.

Though this trip was an incredible adventure and did spark a desire to want to see more of the world, I wouldn’t say it was THE trip that started me on my journey to want to adventure more. I owe that to a simple week long road trip through the state of Oregon.

Fast forward to the spring of 2015. Instagram was still merely a platform to share photos and both my friend and I followed accounts featuring the most breathtaking destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Being from Vancouver, we had our fair share of amazing places to explore in our own backyard, but something was so enticing about the coastal beauty of Oregon. Additionally, us both being 21, we wanted to see what it was like to adventure state side.

A few weeks before the trip, we got together and planned our journey from Vancouver to Oregon. Most of the destinations we picked out simply because we saw them on Instagram (how millennial of us). Our mode of transportation was my two door Pontiac Sunfire which had no A/C and no CD Drive or AUX. All of our camping gear was stuff our parents had owned since the 80s which included a stove that almost exploded every time you used it and an air mattress with a hole.

Despite having the most minimal equipment and barely enough money to get us by for the week, we had the most incredible adventure. One I still reminisce about and would do again and again. Below is our 7 day itinerary including places we camped and stops we made.

*Note we did this trip in 2015 and I have added necessary up to date information in this itinerary.

Total KM: 2453km

Day 1 – Vancouver to Tillicum Beach

Day one was a pretty big drive day and additionally included us having to cross the border. So, while we didn’t have time to make a ton of stops, we did want to make the most of Highway 101 and of course stop off in Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is a quintessential stop if driving the 101 through Oregon. If you have the time, you definitely could make your first stop in this beautiful coastal town as there is tons to see and do here. We were on a tight schedule so we had a quick lunch and carried on to our campground at Tillicum Beach.

Tillicum Beach Campground is probably one of the most amazing campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at simply because of it’s proximity to the beach. We were lucky enough to score a campground that backed onto the beach and fell asleep listening to the waves. For good reason, this campground books up quickly through the spring and summer and As of January 22, 2024, reservations can be made for all dates from now until December 31 2024.

Tillicum Beach Campground

Day 2 – Tillicum Beach to Crater Lake

We took our time enjoying Tillicum Beach before packing up and heading on our way to Crater Lake. We knew we wanted to spend as much time as possible at Crater Lake so we did not plan any stops along the route and we were glad we did. We spent the afternoon soaking in the incredible views and taking as many photos as possible.

We were lucky to have good weather mid-June, as there can often still be snow on the ground that time of year. With no snow, we were able to stay right at Crater Lake at Mazama Campground, though there are lots of options outside of the park itself. The benefit to staying at Crater Lake was we got to enjoy it throughout the day and before heading out the next morning. Camping at Mazama is first-come first-served until June 30, but you can book for summer 2024 already.

Crater Lake National Park – Taken on Canon AE1

Day 3 – Crater Lake to Willamette National Forest

We got another look at Crater Lake before making our way back down the mountain and towards the Willamette National Forest area. We had hot springs on our mind so our only stop this day was Terwilliger Hot Springs (also known as Cougar Hot Springs). This was both mine, and my friends, first natural hot spring experience and we were impressed. Not only was the deep-woods setting of these springs incredibly serene, but with four different pools available, we were able to often have them all to ourselves.

We stayed nearby at Cougar Crossing Campground. It was a pretty bare-bones campground (I actually even remember having to pump the water we used out of a well) but it’s proximity to the hot springs made it our pit stop choice for day 3. There are many other nearby campground alternatives as well such as Slide Creek, Sunnyside or French Pete.

Terwilliger Hot Springs

Day 4 – Willamette National Forest to Trillium Lake

We took some time to stop by Smith Rock State Park on our way from Willamette to Trillium Lake. It was a bit out of the way, but it was one of those ‘well we’re here we might as well go’ kind of things. I don’t think we spent quite enough time there to enjoy the full beauty of this park, but we got a quick hike in and it did make for a really nice lunch spot. If I were to go back, I’d definitely try to take on one of the many day hikes in the area.

We were SO excited to get to Trillium Lake. This spot was actually the reason we decided to do this Oregon trip. Luckily, it was everything we had dreamed of and more. Our first night campsite backed onto the lake and we were able to watch the sun fade while basking in the glory of Mt. Hood. I actually liked this campground so much, I stayed here again 3 years later. As of January 22, 2024 all dates up until season close (Sept 24 2024) are open for reservation.

Trillium Lake, Oregon – Taken on Canon AE1

Day 5 – Trillium Lake/Mt. Hood

We decided to stay at Trillium Lake for two nights to get to enjoy some of the day hikes in the area. I’d done the Ramona Falls Trail once before and decided to take my friend on the trail. If you’re in the area and have the capability to do this trail, I definitely recommend it.

We did have to pick up our tent and move it to a new site day 2 as our first one wasn’t available, but it made for a funny sight carrying it through the campground. We spent the evening soaking up more of the beauty of Trillium Lake and the towering Mt. Hood.

Ramona Falls – Taken on Canon AE1

Day 6 – Trillium Lake to Portland

  • Total KM: 145km
  • Stops: Multnomah Falls

We couldn’t complete our road trip in Oregon without a stop to Portland so we traded our camp gear for a night in a hotel. On route from Trillium Lake to the city, we stopped at Multnomah Falls. Even in 2015 it was quite touristy and crowded, though the falls themselves are stunning. If waterfalls are your thing and you’re ok with a few people getting in your photos, definitely make a pit stop here. If you’re looking for a more secluded waterfall adventure, there are quite a few to choose from along the Columbia River Gorge.

I won’t share where we stayed in Portland simply because I would not recommend staying there. At 21, the cheap hotel we found was a score and we thought a great spot. However, after both taking our partners back to the same location years later, we were sorely disappointed.

Multnomah Falls

Day 7 – Portland

There really isn’t a shortage of things to do in Portland. Being 21 we were focused on beers and bars, but there is definitely more to see and do than just that. Here are just a few of the places I’d recommend stopping by while you’re in the city:

  • Voodoo Doughnuts – honestly worth the line these doughnuts are SO good
  • Powell’s Books
  • Go Vintage / Secondhand Shopping
  • Portland Japanese Garden
  • Go Brewery Hopping
  • Indulge at the Alder Food Truck Pod
  • Get Coffee from one of their many quirky coffee shops
  • Walk along Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Portland also has an insanely diverse and delicious restaurant scene, so I definitely recommend dining out in a variety of their local establishments.

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Voodoo Doughnuts

I hope this serves not only as a trip itinerary inspiration, but also as a reminder that you really don’t need much to go out and experience the world. We had 7 days, a Pontiac Sunfire and some old camp gear, and with that, we made memories that will last us a lifetime.

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Week Long Oregon Road Trip”

  1. Carly I love this so much!! So special that you have this all documented now to look back on, and also have photo memories of it too ❤️❤️

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