Oregon

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Oregon?

by Arthur McMahon
Updated October 27, 2021

best time to visit oregon
Late summer is the best time for sunny days at Oregon's beaches. // Photo: Getty Images

When is the best time to visit Oregon? There’s an easy answer: the first chance you get.

The real question is: why are you visiting? Oregon is a large state with many diverse landscapes, experiences, and communities. To know when is the best time to visit, you first have to know what you want to see and what activities you’re hoping to do.

Below, you’ll find a rundown of the best reasons to visit Oregon during each season. Are you planning to get the full-on Portlandia experience? Are you interested in visiting the beautiful coastline, touring Oregon’s many waterfalls, or hiking Mount Hood? These questions will all help determine what month to visit.

Whatever your reason for visiting, read on to find the best time to plan your trip.

Related Read: The 10 Best Scenic Drives in Oregon

Best Time of the Year to Visit Oregon

There is no ‘off-season’ in Oregon. The temperate climate creates a variety of activities year-round. While each person will have their own individual reasons for visiting, there are certainly factors that may make you choose to visit during one time of the year over another.

Winter: The Best Time for Waves and Snow Sports

mount hood oregon winter
Snowshoeing on the slopes of Mount Hood. // Photo: Getty Images

While the Pacific Northwest is notorious for its long, wet winters, there are two big reasons to visit Oregon during these dark months: for snow and surf.

That’s right – winter is the perfect time to visit both the highest and lowest elevations of Oregon.

For snowbound fun, head to one of the many ski resorts and sno-parks throughout the state. The most well-known of all is the pinnacles in Oregon is Mount Hood. The mountain has a wealth of slopes and nordic trails, and there are quite a few amazing places to stay, too.

While winter is certainly prime time for hitting the slopes, Mount Hood actually has the longest ski season in North America. Lift are spinning on the upper part of the mountain on the Palmer Snowfield year-round (though your best bet for pow days is still February or March.)

Other notable ski resorts include Mount Bachelor as well as the Hoodoo Ski Area, both of which are close to the outdoorsy town of Bend. Some of the best resorts are on the eastern side of the Cascades, and Bend is home to many ski-friendly airbnbs. Since Bend is about three hours from Portland, you’ll probably want to stay there if you’re hoping to get in a full day of skiing or riding.

And though most people may not consider the coast a great place to visit during the winter, it’s actually the best time of year for both surfers and storm watchers. The throngs of summertime tourists aren’t crowding the local beaches, and while surfers will certainly want a wetsuit, the wind and storms rolling in off the coast create the perfect waves.

Find big waves at Shore Acres State Park — or maybe outside your very own beachfront rental? Multiple surfing events are help in Oregon in the winter; the most notable of which is the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic in Lincoln City.

Spring: The Best Time for Portland and Waterfall Tours

punchbowl falls oregon
Punchbowl Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. // Photo: Getty Images

The quintessential mind’s-eye image of Oregon (and all of the Pacific Northwest) is one with vast expanses of greenery, wildflowers, wildlife, and waterfalls, all of which are at their best in the spring. This is the time of year most people will want to visit the Beaver State to see first-hand the Oregon they’ve pictured in their dreams.

Portland is at its best in the spring. As the winter rainstorms subside, life in the city is renewed. While Portlanders aren’t driven away by the rain, they still rejoice when blue sky peaks out. Springtime events and gatherings such as the Portland Saturday Market and Portland Rose Festival show off the Rose City’s true colors. And the city has plenty of eclectic neighborhoods that are walkable and lively in the spring.

The snow-capped mountains that make up the backdrop of Portland’s skyline remain capped in white throughout the spring, and the melting snow makes the spring the best time for a waterfall tour around the Columbia River Gorge. There are dozens of waterfalls along the gorge and many more across the entire state.

The vast Oregon High Desert is a wonder this time of year, too. In spring, the otherwise-arid landscape is temporarily transformed into a sea of color as wildflowers and wildlife abound. You might see wandering antelope, elk, and mule deer, as well as huge flocks of migrating birds returning to the desert landscape’s temporary wetlands.

Oregon’s camping season also begins in spring when all of the seasonally closed campgrounds reopen for the summer.

Summer: The Best Time for Beaches, Beer, and Backpacking

sunset bandon beach
Sunset at Bandon Beach. // Photo: Haizhan Zheng, Getty Images

As with most strips of coastline, the long hours of sunshine make summer the best time for a trip to the beach. Oregon’s small coastal towns thrive during the summer with fresh seafood markets and long, sandy public beaches that draw crowds from around the PNW.

Here’s a tip for you astute vacationers: plan your trip to the Oregon coast during the beginning or ending weeks of summer if possible. The crowds are smaller and the weather is better. Most July and August afternoons see a thick layer of marine fog blown in by the mid-summer winds. It blankets much of the coastline in a chilly mist, but that predictable weather pattern isn’t a concern during the “shoulder” seasons.

The fair weather also makes its way up and into the mountains, making the Coast and Cascade ranges dry, warm, and perfect for hikers and backpackers. Even the highest-elevation trails and peaks become accessible to the average hiker during this time of year.

Summer, too, is harvest season for most of Oregon’s signature crops. In traveling through the state’s valleys and rural communities, you’ll come across seasonal pick-your-own blueberry farms, well-stocked farm stands, and outdoor dining areas and beer gardens.

Likewise, the breweries and restaurants in most town will be celebrating the harvest season with well-loved delectable items; hazelnut milkshakes, microbrews made from freshly squeezed hops, and blueberry/blackberry/marionberry/cranberry baked goods are just a few of the many items you’ll want to try. You’re likely to find a festival celebrating the local harvest in many of the towns you drive through.

Additional Read: 13 Best Hikes Near Salem, Oregon

Autumn: The Best Time for Fishing, Leaf-Peeping, and Competitive Sports

autumn portland
Fall in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park. // Photo: Nick Wiltgen

Oregon has an abundance of autumn activities, including, of course, pumpkin picking and corn mazes. You can take a drive through the mountains to see the changing colors of the leaves, indulge yourself in artisanal autumn-inspired coffees and beers, or find some solitude on the beaches after the heavy tourism season has ended.

To break away from the usual fall recreation, though, many Oregonians and autumn visitors try their hand at hunting and fishing during this time of year. Autumn is when most birds begin their migrations south for the winter, and it’s also when game-bird hunting opens up for the season. Over 34 million acres of public land becomes available to hunters, from the tropical rainforests of the coast to the volcanic Cascade peaks to the eastern deserts.

Fishing, too, is popular, with the fall salmon run attracting tackle-jockeys from all over the region. The transition from summer fishing to fishing for steelhead in rivers brings creates a challenge for seasoned anglers, though other common fish like rainbow trout, crappie, and bass are still biting at this time of year.

Though Oregon is short on professional sports teams, there isn’t a lack of fanfare. Collegiate football is immensely popular in the fall, particularly the rivalry between the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers. If you’re visiting Portland during this time of year, you may want to join in on the excitement of a Portland Timbers soccer match at Providence Park or catch a Portland Trailblazers basketball game at the Rose Quarter.

As fall darkens and the rains make their way back into the region, most people search indoors for experiences. Fortunately, Oregon is known for its microbrewery scene, and its cider and wine industries are on the rise as well. Most wineries are near the coast, but you’ll find a brewery in nearly any town you visit.

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