Written by Brad Lane
Updated Oct 14, 2022
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Oregon's small towns paint a beautiful picture of the state. Postcard landscapes across Oregon range from snow-covered mountains to a rugged coastline filled with sea stacks. This vacation-worthy scenery adds an excellent backdrop to the best small towns across the state.
While each small town shares scenic appeal, every small town in the state offers a unique Oregon experience. A few of the many things to do in Oregon small towns include hiking, boating, and enjoying locally sourced meals. Other reasons for repeat visits include annual music festivals, summer farmers' markets, and ebbing tide pools.
A few nicknames earned by Oregon's small towns include the "Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon" and the "Little Switzerland of America." Discover the origins of these nicknames and more with our list of the best small towns in Oregon.
The seaside town of Astoria borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River in northwest Oregon. This small town is well known by 1980s cinephiles, as it is the setting for the 1985 classic American movie, The Goonies.
The Astoria Riverwalk is a great first place to visit. The community flavor comes out on this historic pedestrian corridor along the Columbia River, along with the smell of fresh seafood also emanating from this part of the city. The Columbia River Maritime Museum and Astoria Riverfront Trolly are just a few of the many attractions lining the waterway.
Next to the Riverfront, Astoria's historic downtown also rings with character. These antique streets in Astoria have several visitor magnets, like restaurants and boutiques. Other downtown Astoria attractions include the Captain George Flavel House Museum and the Oregon Film Museum.
Astoria also provides places to enjoy its expansive proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Fort Stevens State Park is one such great place to access the beach, just on the other side of Young's Bay. This historic state park is home to many visitor attractions, including the site of the Peter Iredale shipwreck.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Astoria
2. Hood River
Hood River is a charming small town in the Columbia River Gorge. Beautiful natural attractions surround this hot spot of adventure in northern Oregon.
The Columbia River Gorge, itself, is a stunning waterfall-lined National Scenic Corridor. Home to many of Oregon's best waterfalls, the Columbia River Gorge also features campgrounds, hiking trails, and a Vista House. The Columbia River Gorge also produces high winds, making Hood River a windsurfing capital of the country.
To the south of Hood River, Mount Hood and Mt. Hood National Forest gives the small town a mountainous backdrop. Between Mount Hood and the Columbia River, the Hood River Valley offers visitors an agricultural bounty of produce and scenery.
Add the local coffee shops and cozy places to stay to the region's scenery, and Hood River is an excellent small-town escape.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hood River
Jacksonville is a scenic small town on the outskirts of Medford in Southern Oregon. It's also a designated National Historic Landmark. It was nearby gold deposits that brought early prosperity to Jacksonville in the 1850s. Today, it's live music and a wide variety of shopping and dining that brings thousands of tourists to town.
Britt Music Festival is one of the crowning cultural attractions in Jacksonville. This three-weekend event takes place every summer, starting in late July. Many of the performances happen in a beautiful outdoor amphitheater surrounded by towering pines. Britt Music Festival draws a wide range of music lovers from across the world with musical acts ranging from reggae to classical.
Perusing the town's many antique shops is a popular thing to do in Jacksonville. Enjoying the agricultural splendor of the surrounding Rogue Valley also ranks high as a visitor favorite. And the town has a historical aesthetic, making strolling along the sidewalks and public parks a memorable part of the day.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jacksonville
4. Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is a lovely small town on the Oregon Coast, 90 minutes from Portland. This popular spot next to the Pacific Ocean is home to fewer than 2,000 residents but receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
A lot comes together in Cannon Beach to make it a popular tourist destination. Several resorts near the surf cater to families and romantic trips, and the town's many eateries do the same. But it's the postcard surroundings that tend to draw the biggest crowds.
Alongside an expansive beach, the seaside landscape of Cannon Beach is also home to the inspiring Haystack Rock. This impressive monolith lies just offshore and provides a natural wonder to admire while soaking in the sun. On the spring tide, Haystack Rock reveals stunning tide pools to explore.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Cannon Beach, though winter brings great coastal storms to watch.
Less than 10 miles to the north, another ocean-facing town known as Seaside offers similar tourist appeal.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach
5. Baker City
Baker City is the principal seat of Baker County, better known as the "Base Camp for Eastern Oregon." Alongside easy access to adventure in the region, this small city also boasts several cultural traditions.
The historic Geiser Grand Hotel is the centerpiece fixture of downtown Baker City. First opened in 1889, this four-star hotel has a long history of welcoming guests with luxurious accommodations. More history stems from the downtown Geiser Grand Hotel at places like the Baker Heritage Museum or the Eastern Oregon Museum.
It's the outdoors that attracts the most visitors to Baker City. The Snake River carves its way through Hells Canyon to the east, creating one of the country's deepest river canyons. This epic river gorge is a top spot for adventures like white-water rafting and backpacking.
The Oregon Trail also made its way near Baker City. Visitors explore historic wagon ruts at the nearby Farewell Bend State Park. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City provides a great day trip to learn more about this massive human migration.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Baker City
Sisters is on the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon, bordered by the state's high-desert region. This geographic location aids in adventures no matter the season, with sunny weather throughout the year. The nearby mountains are also an absolute hot spot for active-minded tourists.
Deschutes National Forest is at the backdoor of Sisters. This vast expanse of public land encompasses an idyllic mountain environment. The eye-catching Three Sisters volcanic peaks are the centerpiece of the forest. Several adventure opportunities, including the country-spanning Pacific Crest Trail, make their way through this postcard wildland.
The high desert is also fun to explore from Sisters, especially at Smith Rock State Park. This year-round hot spot for rock climbing has nearly 2,000 bolted routes that cater to beginners and old pros alike. Smith Rock is also a popular place for hiking, covering over 650 acres.
Sisters' in-town attractions also draw visitors. The town reflects its history with early 19th-century facades and storefronts. Modern amusements within these antiquated buildings include restaurants, boutique shops, and a vibrant selection of art galleries.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sisters
Yachats (pronounced "YAH-hots") offers an excellent weekend getaway on the central Oregon coast. An intense scenic beauty surrounds this charming small town alongside a friendly community that welcomes visitors. This combination leads to bountiful ways to spend the day in Yachats.
Tucked between the rugged coast and the sprawling Siuslaw National Forest, Yachats is best explored via hiking trail or bike path. Amanda's Trail, part of the much longer Oregon Coast Trail, is a visitor favorite that meanders through the forested landscape. Several amazing views of the rugged coastline treat hikers on Amanda's Trail.
Amanda's Trail, and Yachats itself, is a gateway to the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. This breathtaking natural space is the highest point on the Oregon coast accessible by car. An uphill hiking trail also leads to the stunning vista. This view above the coastline ranks high as one of the top attractions on the Oregon Coast.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Yachats
Joseph highlights the majestic splendor of the Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon. These impressive peaks backdrop the entire small town, aiding in its nickname as the "Little Switzerland of America."
While sometimes overlooked compared to westward mountain ranges, the Wallowa Mountains are stunning. Joseph offers the perfect base camp for exploring this rugged mountain scenery. Everyday adventures from Joseph include accessing the shores of Wallowa Lake and hiking into the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
Joseph also makes the perfect base camp, with plenty of visitor resources like hotels, restaurants, and gear shops. Fun things to do between adventures include visiting the Wallowa County Museum and perusing the Wallowa County Farmers' Market.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Joseph
Silverton is fifteen miles east of Salem, Oregon's state capital. The town is affectionately known as Oregon's Garden City. While many perennial attractions lend to this moniker, it's The Oregon Garden that exemplifies Silverton's growing appeal.
The Oregon Garden comprises over 80 acres of beautiful botanic landscape. This year-round public space has several specialty plots, including a Children's Garden and a Pet-Friendly Garden.
Amid the bountiful acreage, the garden hosts several events throughout the year. Art in the Garden occurs throughout the summer, with local works on display alongside the blooming attractions.
The scenic appeal of Silverton extends well past The Oregon Garden. Another notable natural feature nearby is the streaming water at Silver Falls State Park, home to the nationally recognized "Trail of Ten Falls." The centerpiece of this expansive state park is the 177-foot South Falls.
Silver Creek, which passes through Silver Falls State Park, also serves as the backbone of Silverton's community. Local shops and restaurants line the area downtown near Silver Creek. Extending from the creek, several cozy places also entice tourists to stay the night.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Silverton
Florence is a small city with under 10,000 residents on the central Oregon coast and the Siuslaw River,. A small-town vibe emanates from Florence, especially in the city's historic Old Town district. This charming section of town is next to the Siuslaw River Bridge and has shopping, places to stay, and some of the best seafood chowders on the coast.
Other things to do in Florence include sandboarding, museum perusing, and watching whales along the coast. Visitors to Florence also have the chance to view the unique cobra lily that proliferates in the marshlands on the north side of town at Darlingtonia State Natural Site. These carnivorous plants trap insects like flies and eat them alive.
Another big appeal of Florence is its access to the ocean. Places like Heceta Head Lighthouse are within the city limits. The unique Sea Lions Cave is another popular coastal attraction nearby.
Florence also borders Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where sand-crawling vehicles explore the shifting landscapes.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Florence
11. Cottage Grove
Cottage Grove is in Lane County near Eugene and is a postcard town known for its outdoor activity. The town is perhaps better known as the Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon.
The best way to discover the origin of this nickname is on the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway. The bikeway starts in downtown and meanders 36 miles through the city's agricultural and Cascade Mountain scenery.
Along the route, the bikeway tours one of the largest collections of covered bridges west of the Mississippi River. With mild climbs and outstanding scenery, the bikeway is fun for all levels of riders.
Umpqua and Willamette National Forests are to the east of Cottage Grove. This vast public land has several adventure opportunities like waterfalls, hot springs, and backpacking trails. Cottage Grove and the nearby forests are also well known for their colorful foliage come autumn.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cottage Grove
12. Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls, in southern Oregon, has a small-town charm despite having over 20,000 residents. It's the history that rings from the streets of Klamath Falls that adds to its small-town feel. The massive natural surroundings of Klamath Falls also makes the city feel smaller by comparison.
Klamath Falls is a gateway community to Crater Lake National Park and Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California. These significant landscapes are both within an hour's drive of the city. However, travelers don't have to drive that far for a great day trip from Klamath Falls. Places like Moore Park, on the south end of Upper Klamath Lake, also offer some of the top things to do in Klamath Falls.
For breaks between outdoor adventures, Klamath Falls features several unique ways to explore the region's history. Both the Klamath County Museum and The Favell Museum offer exciting insight into the city's past.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Klamath Falls
13. Gold Beach
Gold Beach is a friendly city on the southern Oregon coast, 34 miles north of the California border. The Rogue River meets the ocean in this small town, offering additional freshwater landscapes to explore. And while this community of approximately 2,000 residents doesn't attract the same crowds as other coastal communities, for many, that's more of a reason to visit.
The shoreline surrounding Gold Beach is nothing but postcard-perfect, including the eye-catching Mary D. Hume Shipwreck of the city's north shore.
The massive Kissing Rock formation is another standout feature farther south on the city's coast. And the inspiring Cape Sebastian Scenic Corridor begins with a short drive south of the city limits.
It's not just a natural appeal that makes Gold Beach worthy of weekend trips or longer stopovers. Gold Beach also offers plenty of local attractions and friendly faces. This collection of places to visit includes seafood-inspired restaurants, ceiling-to-floor bookstores, and nearby Prehistoric Gardens.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Gold Beach
14. The Dalles
The Dalles is another small town on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. It's approximately 20 miles east of Hood River and has almost twice the population, with just over 15,000 residents. This larger population lends to more amenities, like chain restaurants and hotels, but the city hasn't lost its small-town appeal.
This fertile region of the Columbia River Gorge has a long cultural history spanning from Indigenous peoples to Lewis and Clark and its modern-day appeal. The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum are one of the best places to dive into this legacy in The Dalles, with several immersive and interactive exhibits.
Outdoor activities also reign supreme in The Dalles. Everyday adventures include waterfall chasing, mountain biking, and marveling at dams. Head for the Riverfront Trail next to the water for an easy and scenic outdoor adventure.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in The Dalles
15. Rockaway Beach
Rockaway Beach has a longstanding history on the Oregon coast as a tourist destination. This community predates the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 101), and vacationing families in the 1920s often arrived by train. Today, it's a bit sleepier than its beach-resort heyday, but the charm remains the same.
The city's seven miles of shoreline is a major draw to this town of under 1,500 residents. Like Manhattan Beach State Recreation Site, several parking areas access this long stretch of sand. And with so much space to explore and spread out, there isn't a day when Rockaway Beach feels crowded.
Other vacation-worthy things to do in Rockaway Beach include crabbing at places like Kelly's Brighton Marina, strolling this historic downtown district, or hopping aboard the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. The town is also home to a unique native forest, home to one of the oldest Western red cedars on the coast.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Rockaway Beach
- Portland. Population: 2,174,000. ...
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- Coos Bay.
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- Klamath Falls.
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Laurel Mountain (Oregon)
|Topo map||USGS Laurel Mountain|
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