From sprawling Pacific beaches with their infamous haystack rocks, verdant forests, picturesque mountains, and high desert, Oregon offers a diverse array of terrain. Love having a water source nearby on your hikes? You won't have to worry about a shortage there either with 100,000+ miles of rivers, over 200 waterfalls, and some of the deepest lakes in the country. The Beaver State is full of natural beauty, no matter what your favorite type of landscape is.
Looking for some of the best backpacking trails in Oregon? From challenging, multi-day trips to short overnight ones, check out the hikes below to start planning your next backcountry adventure!
Featured photo: Crater Lake National Park (photo by ucumari)
Oregon Coast Trail - Section 1
If you're looking for one of the best cross-sections of what Oregon has to offer, you can't go wrong on Section 1 of the Oregon Coast Trail. From sandy beaches to dense evergreen forests, this path takes you to a lot of natural and man-made features in the area too. These include the infamous Cannon Beach and its towering haystack rocks, the Peter Iredale shipwreck remains, Hug Point Falls, and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.
This section of the OCT is 42 miles long, making for a fun 3-4 trip. It's not terribly taxing, though the beach walks can be tiring. Another thing to plan well for is your overnight stays. There aren't many places right on the trail. But, there are quite a few recreation areas with campgrounds nearby.
For all of the details you need to plan your trip, head over to our full write-up.
Lightning Trail - PCT Loop
Located in the popular Crater Lake National Park, this loop is a good option if you're short on time. At nearly 23 miles in length, the trail starts on the shore near Wizard Island. This offers you excellent views of the well-known island from the start. You can't beat the beautiful deep blue waters of Crater Lake either as you traverse its shoreline.
This section of the PCT takes you past several peaks along the way. These include Hillman Peak and The Watchman. You'll also get some nice shade from the towering evergreens along the way and a good workout with 2,600ft of elevation gain. If you enjoy taking your four-legged friend on hikes, it's worth noting that this trail is not dog-friendly.
Three Sisters Loop
Looking to backpack one of the most iconic trails in Oregon? Then set your sights on the Three Sisters Loop. This 43-mile trail lets you see three of the five high points in the state. You'll also find towering old-growth forests, waterfalls, glaciers, interesting rock formations, lots of alpine lakes and streams, and beautiful wildflower meadows.
Rated as moderate to challenging, most of the ascents on the loop are surprisingly gradual. It's best not to plan your trip until at least July. The snow likes to linger, as you can imagine. If you have some extra time, there are plenty of side trails to explore. For more details to start planning your trip, check out our full blog post.
Hurricane Creek Trail
For a short two-day excursion, head to the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Located in the northwest corner of the state, the Hurricane Creek Trail is 20 miles out and back. A couple of highlights include vistas of Sacajawea and Matterhorn Peak. For up-close scenery, you'll come across a small, rocky waterfall and stunning wildflowers in season. You'll also find some original cabins from early settlers along the trail.
Prepare to get wet on several creek crossings. It's also worth noting this is a popular trail with day hikers. But, the sprawling views of the surrounding mountains and open fields are worth it.
Rogue River Trail
Oregon is a beautiful state, which can make it hard to find secluded trails. That's one of the best things about the Rogue River Trail. Even though it's a designated National Rec Trail, it's less well-known and used than similar areas in the Pacific Northwest.
Located in the southern part of the state, this 40-mile point-to-point route has a lot to offer. Old-growth forests, waterfalls, and wildflower meadows are just some of the sights you'll see. The Rogue River is a popular rafting destination. You'll likely see some paddlers on the water or at the many campsites along the way. Speaking of which, there are a lot of established campsites on this trail. This makes it a good option if you're ready to do a longer trail, but don't want to put much thought or planning into where to bed down for the night.
Head over to our full post on the Rogue River Trail for more details.
Source: Bureau of Land Management
Sky Lakes Loop
Looking for a bit more solitude or an overnight trip? Head to the Sky Lakes Loop in the southeast corner of Oregon. This trail is a moderate 14.5 miles with 1,600ft of elevation gain. You'll find tons of lakes along the way, including Deer Lake, Heavenly Twin Lakes, and views of Trapper Lakes from the PCT portion of the trail. The tranquil views of the craggy peaks, pines, and sky in the reflecting waters can't be beat. Feel free to take a dip in one of the larger lakes during the hot months of summer.
Lots of campsites await you along the way. This loop is one of the less-traveled routes in the area, so you're sure to enjoy some peace and quiet. Make sure you have a good map with you as some of the junctions can be confusing.
For another challenging, iconic backpacking trail in the Beaver State, head out on the 41.5-mile Timberline Trail. The centerpiece of this loop is the majestic view of Mount Hood. But, you'll also get to see Mount St.Helens and Mount Rainier. If that's not enough natural beauty to take in, the trail also features numerous waterfalls. Ramona Falls is a favorite of many hikers.
If you're looking for a scenic challenge, this is a good option with its steep ascents and tricky river crossings. You'll definitely be working for those views! Be sure to check out our full write-up for all of the details.
Painted Canyon Loop
If you're looking for something different scenery-wise, head out to the Honeycombs Wilderness Study Area. Located in the far western part of the state, the Painted Canyon Loop is a mere 9 miles. While that might not seem that exciting, you can take your time to explore the area. Plus, it's a great option if you'll be arriving late after work on a Friday. Highlights include honeycombed battlements, towering red rock walls, several dry waterfalls, and rock columns.
This area is extremely remote, so you'll definitely find seclusion. But, don't let the short distance fool you. It's rated as difficult because navigation can be tricky in this desert terrain. This is especially true with intersecting animal paths. There's also the danger of flash flooding from rainstorms to consider too. Summer temps can soar dangerously high, so plan accordingly. This trail is best for advanced hikers with excellent wayfinding skills. That said, it's worth the adventure!
Oregon has a variety of terrain that will please any backpacker. Have you done any of the trails on our list? Which one is your favorite? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments section below!
If you're looking for more hike ideas, read our “Best West Coast Mountain Backpacking Trips” round-up post. Also, the following Hike of the Week articles cover other great trails in the region.
For even more amazing backpacking trips, visit The Trailhead, our interactive hike map. It contains a curated list of dozens of hikes, each with a detailed write-up.
Finally, check out our comprehensive list of backpacking articles that cover just about everything there is to know about backpacking. If you're just starting out, our Backpacking 101 section covers all the basics. If you already have a few trips under your belt, you can find more advanced topics covered in our Expert Articles.