Wheeler County, in north-central Oregon, is the state’s least populated county and boasts an abundance of varied, rugged terrain awaiting to delight visitors. The John Day River, a designated National Wild and Scenic River, cuts its way across the state, linking tiny communities like Service Creek and Spray and offers a scenic way to see the county by raft. The small town of Mitchell, a pioneer town brimming with rustic charm, is a great base for exploring one of the county’s most scenic areas, the awe-inspiring Painted Hills. Named one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, the Painted Hills’ undulating, multi-hued terrain has seen the county called a ‘geological wonderland.’
Occupying a particularly scenic stretch of Oregon’s coastline, Coos County makes an excellent base for exploring the state’s rugged southern shores. Its biggest city, Coos Bay, is home to a historic downtown district hosting farmers’ markets and one of Oregon’s oldest art institutions, the Coos Art Museum. Visitors are surrounded by natural beauty – the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and Shore Acres State Park, with its botanical gardens, are just two must-see spots. Downstate in picturesque Bandon – dubbed Oregon’s cranberry capital –, breathtaking beaches, a lively local arts scene, and a beautiful shore side golf course attract visitors from far and wide.
Not many areas can boast the varied landscapes that Deschutes County in central Oregon can. Visitors will find desert terrain, luscious forests, and snow-capped peaks. The county seat, Bend, is a beautiful community, home to a lively, diverse art scene and some of the best craft breweries in Oregon, where visitors can learn about the town’s unique location at the High Desert Museum, while the western reaches of the county are a mecca for watersports, hiking, and skiing. Stunning Smith Rock State Park in Deschutes’s northeastern corner, another of Oregon’s Seven Wonders, is a breathtaking spot popular for rock-climbing, horseback riding, and wildlife-spotting.
Up in Oregon’s northwestern most corner is Clatsop County – where beautiful coastline and a rugged interior home to wild, mountainous forests combine to make one of the state’s most popular vacation destinations. In the north of the county, the Columbia River estuary sets a scenic backdrop for the beautiful city of Astoria, while Clatsop’s southern coast is dotted with scenic seaside communities like Cannon Beach – an arty community home to the famous Haystack Rock and recently named one of The Culture Trip’s most beautiful West Coast towns. Inland, adventurers can hike Saddle Mountain, where on a clear day they’ll be treated to breathtaking, panoramic views over the coast and Columbia River.
Brimming with natural beauty, Douglas County boasts one of the highest concentrations of waterfalls in all of Oregon, with a total of 75, including the beautiful Toketee Falls – one of the state’s most famous waterfalls – and the magnificent Watson Falls – at 272 feet high, among southern Oregon’s tallest cascades. Beyond waterfalls, the Umpqua Valley’s fertile soils have made the county a prime wine-producing region, with over 20 wineries offering a distraction for visiting oenophiles, while in the westward reaches of the county, picturesque towns like Gardiner and Winchester Bay give way to Oregon’s wild coastal dunes.
While Clackamas County’s westernmost edges are part of Portland’s southern suburbs – including the affluent Lake Oswego and Milwaukie, with its popular farmers market –, heading further into the county, the urban scenery opens up into idyllic countryside where wineries and farmsteads reside. Further east, Clackamas County becomes an adventurer’s playground, as the rugged terrain of Mount Hood National Forest takes over the landscape. Home to thousands of miles of trails perfect for hiking, the forest’s crowning glory is, of course, Mount Hood; an iconic part of the Oregonian landscape, the majestic, snow-capped peak is one of the state’s Seven Wonders.