For the 50+ Traveler

Known for its dramatic shoreline, Oregon is home to some of the most beautiful state parks in the nation. While many of them line the 363 miles of the state’s rugged coastline, others highlight wild rivers and gorges, dense forests, and sheer cliffs, all parts of the natural wonders of the state. You’ll find them in every corner of the state, from the Cascade Mountains to the Columbia River Gorge, and in the high desert, but predominantly on the incomparable Oregon coast.

Given the overwhelming number of state parks here, one in a more exquisite setting than the next, it is hard to choose only a few to highlight. Based on my personal favorites from my travels through the state and recommendations from Travel Oregon, here are nine Oregon state parks worth a visit for their unparalleled beauty.

1. Silver Falls State Park, Near Salem

Often called the crown jewel of the Oregon State Park System, Silver Falls State Park in the Willamette Valley, at the foothills of the Cascades, is Oregon’s largest park. Most famous for its waterfalls, the park features no less than 10 of them accessed via the Trail of Ten Falls.

A 7.2-mile, moderately difficult loop, the trail weaves through a dense forest, following the falls along a rocky canyon and a winding creek, giving hikers incredible views and perspectives. If this seems like it might be too long or difficult, you can take shorter connecting trails through the park and still enjoy some of the same gorgeous views.

Besides the Trail of Ten Falls, you have 35 miles of trails to explore the lush forest.

The park offers facilities for both day-use and overnight guests, including tent and RV sites, cabins, and comfortable rooms at the Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center.

Pro Tips: Open year-round, you’ll find the park is most beautiful during spring when the falls have the most water and wildflowers bloom, and fall when the forest showcases its gorgeous colors. Though you can take your furry family member to this park, your dog is not allowed on the Trail of Ten Falls and needs to be on a leash on all other trails.

2. Oswald West State Park, Near Seaside

Extending about four miles along the gorgeous Pacific Coast shoreline, Oswald West State Park is probably the most beautiful park on the Oregon coast. A lush temperate rainforest, secluded beaches and ocean views, the churning waters of Devil’s Cauldron, Neahkahnie Mountain, and Cape Falcon offer an unforgettable experience.

Crisscrossed by trails, including a 13-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail, the park is a favorite of hikers of all levels, while its beaches are popular for surfing, picnicking, and beachcombing.

Short Sand Beach, its most popular, nicknamed “Shorty” by locals, lies in a cove surrounded by forests and ridges and is accessible by a short, half-mile walk from the parking lot.

The park offers day-use opportunities only, no camping or overnight facilities.

Pro Tip: One of the most popular on the coast, the park gets extremely busy on weekends, especially at Short Sand Beach. To avoid the crowds, visit mid-week, or go early or late in the day.

Editor’s Note: For more area inspiration, consider the best things to do in Seaside, Oregon: where to stay, eat, and play.

3. Ecola State Park, Near Cannon Beach

Known for its proximity to the historic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse out in the sea, Ecola State Park offers some of the most famous views of the Oregon coast, featuring coastal ridges and mountains, and the much-photographed sea stacks on Cannon Beach.

Miles of trails offer opportunities to walk through lush Sitka spruce forests, bluffs, and secluded coves. The park’s trail system includes an eight-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail, and the 2.5-mile-long historical interpretive Clatsop Loop Trail that follows the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The park’s most popular beach, the secluded sandy Indian Beach, offers opportunities for surfing and exploring tide pools.

The park is for daytime-use only, with no overnight parking available. Two primitive shelters offer camping opportunities for those hiking the Oregon Coast Trail.

Planning a trip to the area? Here’s how to spend the perfect weekend in Cannon Beach, Oregon, plus how and where to safely observe the King Tides around coastal Oregon.

The Iredale shipwreck at Fort Steven State Park.

4. Fort Stevens State Park, Near Astoria

Natural beauty combined with accessible trails, camping options, and local history make Fort Stevens State Park one of the best in Oregon.

The site of a historic fort, the park is centered around the military history of the coast, featuring a military museum and a visitor center with military displays. However, the strategic location at the mouth of the Columbia River is an awe-inspiring spot in its wild beauty. Early European explorers had trouble finding or entering the mouth of the river, adding many of their ships to the “graveyard of the Pacific,” as the area is known among seafarers. The Iredale Shipwreck still stands witness to the era, offering a wild background to photo opportunities.

Today, large jetties help ships navigate the area while offering paved trails and gorgeous views. The park also offers hiking and biking trails through a wide range of habitats including spruce, hemlock, and pine forests, wetlands, and dunes, in addition to the sandy beach. You even have opportunities to go out on a canoe on the small Coffenbury Lake. The park offers both day-use and camping facilities.

Editor’s Note: Here’s another writer’s take on why you should make time for Astoria, Oregon, which is an easy trip from both Seattle and Portland and might be the perfect place for an overnight stay if you want more than a day in Fort Stevens State Park and surrounds.

5. Smith Rock State Park, Near Bend

Oregon is not all about ocean shores, rainforests, and waterfalls; Smith Rock State Park showcases its desert environment. Towering above the Crooked River, Smith Rock is one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, a mecca for rock climbers, offering thousands of world-class routes for all levels.

However, the park offers plenty of opportunities for non-climbers, too Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback-riding trails wind around the rugged rock formations along the slow-flowing Crooked River, offering wildlife-viewing opportunities. Golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, beavers, and river otters are just a few of the birds and animals you might encounter on a trail here.

Pro Tip: A popular attraction, Smith Rock State Park can get crowded and parking may be a challenge, especially during peak season and weekends. For a better experience, try to visit on a weekday. For inspiration on other area activities (and accommodations), consider the best things to do in Bend, Oregon: where to eat, stay, and play.

6. Cape Blanco State Park

Sitting on the westernmost tip of the state, Cape Blanco State Park features a historic lighthouse, tall and elegant, perched on the tip of the cape. Built in 1870, the lighthouse is the oldest standing on the Oregon coast and offers interested visitors tours -- when it’s open.

Though the park’s principal attraction is the lighthouse and the gorgeous views of the Pacific, it also features a beach, eight miles of hiking trails, and a historic farmhouse, the Victorian-style Hughes House.

Campsites and cabins offer overnight facilities for those who want to spend more time exploring the area. This is one of the few state parks that caters to horse campers, featuring a large corral, riding area, and miles of riding trails.

Pro Tip: It gets very windy on the cape around the lighthouse; bring a light windbreaker and a hair-tie if you have long hair.

Sea lions at Cape Arago State Park in Oregon.

7. Cape Arago State Park, Near Coos Bay

One of the most beautiful parks on the southern Oregon coast, Cape Arago State Park welcomes visitors at the end of the Cape Arago Highway. Shaded trails crisscross the wooded park, many of them offering gorgeous views of the Pacific, with opportunities to spot migrating whales among other marine mammals.

The north cove trail offers magnificent views of Shell Island, a National Wildlife Refuge filled with colonies of seals and sea lions. You can spend hours watching and listening to the noisy colonies. This trail is closed between March and the end of June to protect the seal pups. The South Cove Trail offers access to a sandy beach and tidepools. When exploring tidepools, enjoy them with your eyes, but be careful not to touch any of their tiny inhabitants (or you might kill them).

A popular daytime-use park on the southern Oregon coast, you’ll find picnic tables, restrooms, and a gazebo shelter here.

8. Beverly Beach State Park

One of the most popular on the coast, Beverly Beach State Park, is also one of the most beautiful parks in the state. Though always busy, it never feels crowded since the five miles of sandy beach mean enough room for everyone.

Running on the coast between Yaquina Head and Devils Punchbowl, the beach offers incredible views all around, and it is one of the best whale-watching areas on the coast.

Besides the beach, you have access to a river and forest, the combination of the three making it a perfect getaway. Its most famous landmark, the Spencer Creek Bridge, arches over the path to the beach.

Though perfect for daytime use, this park features the largest campground on the Oregon coast. Hidden in a forest along Spencer Creek, only steps away from the beach, it is also in one of the prettiest settings.

Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon.

9. Cape Lookout State Park, Near Tillamook

My personal favorite, Cape Lookout State Park on the northern Oregon coast seems a place out of a fairy tale. Set against the north side of the cape and stretching onto the Netarts Spit during low tide, the beach offers about six miles of sand to explore, plus views of Cape Meares and the Three Arch Rocks in the distance.

Perched above the beach on a short sandstone cliff, the shaded day-use area is crossed by trails leading to the beach and to the cape. The 2.3-mile-long North Trail connects it with the Cape Trail, the reason I love this park. Also accessed from its own parking lot right off Route 101, the 4.6-mile round-trip trail leads to the tip of the cape and back through a dense rainforest with gorgeous views of the ocean and the coast below.

Easy access from Portland, the park is a convenient destination for day-trippers from the city, but also offers a large campground for overnight visitors.

Note: Please check the park websites for up-to-date advisories before visiting. Many of the trails in different parks are closed at the time of writing due to either fallen trees (the Cape Trail in Cape Lookout Park, for example), wildfire damage (trails in Silver Falls), landslides, or storm damage. Some amenities, like the Silver Falls Lodge and some campgrounds, are closed due to COVID until later in the year.

For more on enjoying Oregon, consider: