best state parks in oregon

Best State Parks in Oregon: Top 21 Locations Revealed

It’s hard to rank the best state parks in Oregon since there are so many of them, but in this post I’m going to do my best and show you my top 21 since I’ve explored a large portion of this beautiful state already (and the fact that I have high standards for what I consider beautiful nature, so the list you’re getting here is top notch in my opinion).

Now there’s a few things I want to share about this list of the best state parks in Oregon and they are:

We are only covering state parks, not national parks, not national recreation areas. The good news is that there are over 300 of them across the state which means no matter which section of Oregon you’re exploring, there’s a good chance that one or more beautiful state parks are nearby! And finally, yes there are recommendations for which parks you should see on the Oregon coast on this list.

Here are the 21 best state parks in Oregon:

best state parks in oregon

  1. Samuel H. Boardman State Park
  2. Smith Rock State park
  3. Cottonwood Canyon State Park
  4. Silver Falls State Park
  5. Cape Sebastian State Park and scenic corridor
  6. Sister’s Rock State Park
  7. Sunset Bay State Park
  8. Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
  9. Cape Lookout State Park
  10. Ecola State Park
  11. Fort Stevens State Park
  12. Guy W. Talbot State Park
  13. Ainsworth State Park
  14. White River Falls State Park
  15. The Cove Palisades State Park
  16. Wallowa Lake State Park
  17. Lake Owyhee State Park
  18. Valley of the Rogue State Park
  19. Mayer State Park
  20. Wygant State Park
  21. Starvation Creek State Park

This is certainly a huge list to consider, and while most of the state parks on this list are found on the Oregon Coast, again you’ll find a lot of the mentions here are available way inland, all the way to the east of this beautiful state too. So with that said, let me cover each state park and share what you need to know before you go:

Samuel H Boardman State Park:

samuel h boardman scenic corridor best state park in oregon new 03

Samuel H Boardman State Park is more so called Samuel H Boardman Scenic State Corridor, but I am absolutely including it in this list because it is (so far) my favorite place to check out in this state.

It’s located on the southern, coastal end of the Oregon Coast near Brookings and is about 30 miles of extremely scenic coastal spots, some of which are the best on the entire Oregon Coast in my opinion. Here you will find one gem after another, and all off the 101 making it much easier to access tons of places, even in one day. Places like:

And much more. There’s also a lot of Oregon sea caves here too to explore. But in my opinion, the best compilation of scenic stops, spots and day hikes on the Oregon Coast can be found here. When I think of the most beautiful stops on the Oregon Coast, Samuel H Boardman State Park is what comes to mind first.

Smith Rock State Park:

best state parks in oregon - smith rock state park ravine

I explored this amazing state park earlier this year and I was stunned in many good ways at just how amazing it is.

  • Firstly, Smith Rock State Park is located in the middle of Oregon and there are many beautiful national forest areas around it.
  • Secondly. it’s secluded in such an area where the environment is very desert like (well mostly).
  • Third, it’s somewhat small, but compact enough to do a lot of hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and so much more.

In fact, it’s quite shocking just how much amazing stuff you can do here. Fourth, it’s just a stunning park to admire in general. A lot of the views away from it as well as when you hike around or over it are just breathtaking and that includes during the sunset hours (when I came here, it was early in the morning and it was still very stunning in my opinion).

Cottonwood Canyon State Park:

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Cottonwood Canyon State Park is not far from Smith Rock State Park and is also stunning, but in very different ways than Smith Rock. Obviously the picture of what it looks like already shows why.

The surrounding area is basically a series of mountains/hills that are also desert like and the different color mixes of green grass, with beautiful blue water that crosses the John Day River, all of which are surrounded by these hills make for stunning views. For activities, there’s a lot to do here, from picnicking to hiking to boating, to just sight seeing.

This is also one of the most scenic state parks in Oregon in my opinion that you will find in Oregon and if you are visiting Smith Rock State Park, take the time to go here as well since they are both so close to one another (as are some others on this list as well!). I know I say there’s a lot of scenic state parks in Oregon but that’s just the truth!

Fun fact: There are similar looking state parks in Texas that look like the area you see here.

Silver Falls State Park:

silver falls state park in oregon 01

I also visited this state park for the first time earlier this year (and was amazed by what I saw there). From my understanding, what Silver Falls State Park is most well known for is one of the most famous hiking trails in the entire state which is called Trail of Ten falls which is what I did when I went there (in it’s entirety which is about 9-10 miles long).

It’s basically one long trail that shows off 10+ amazing waterfalls in this park (10 main ones and other side ones in between) and is very beginner friendly for hiking in general. The most notable things about this park are the beautiful waterfalls that can be seen all on one trail. Camping is also available here.

The park is accessible from 2 points, south and north. I went into it from the north (less parking, but also less accessed by people). The south end is better for anyone looking to camp around there.

Cape Sebastian State Park and scenic corridor:

cape sebastian state park scenic corridor best state park in oregon coast 04

I am ashamed to admit that I missed this spot and it’s literally the next door neighbor (north) of Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. Like that area, it also has a ton of amazing, close to each other spots to explore and there are a lot of beautiful overlooks, hikes and beach access areas available here.

I’m going to do a much more deep dive into Cape Sebastian the next time I visit the Oregon Coast because based on everything I have seen so far, this place might just be as amazing as Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor too.

The main benefit of visiting this spot is that it’s also off the 101 and there are numerous stops to see the best areas there right off the road, so even if you are short on time, you can still do a lot of sight seeing here by just following the main road.

Although I’m not trying to make excuses, I think the reason I missed this area was because I was on cloud 9 after seeing Samuel H Boardman that I just neglected to think that there were so many other places (like this), let alone nearby so I just ignored the signs! I won’t make that mistake again.

Update: I have now visited this place and also hiked the Cape Sebastian Trail.

Sister’s Rock State Park:

sisters rock state park one of the best state parks in oregon

Continue heading north on the Oregon Coast after finishing your trip to Cape Sebastian and you’ll come across Sister’s Rock State Park shortly after (yes most of the best spots and state parks on the Oregon Coast are very close by in this case).

The main attractions in this park are the following things:

  1. Amazing views of the Oregon Coast.
  2. Giant sea cliffs which are the sister’s rock area.
  3. Sea caves areas to explore, including the famous one called Frankport Sea Cave (accessible during low tide but be careful).
  4. And much more!

Sister’s Rock State Park in terms of it’s location is a bit more out into the Pacific Ocean vs the other state parks on the coast so you can get further out into the water (while hiking on the cliffs that is).

Sunset Bay State Park:

sunset bay best state park oregon coast 09

While any state park on the Oregon Coast is beautiful to explore, especially around sunset since they are all located west of the state, Sunset Bay State Park is particularly famous for such sights. This picture you see is where most of the sunset pictures are taken (or on one of the cliffs).

Aside from being an awesome sunset area to explore, the bay and actual area itself is stunning. There are also campgrounds and other amenities available around the area and the park itself is a little bit off the 101, but not by much (maybe a 10-15 minute drive off the main 101 road). There are also very beautiful and polished hiking trails near the coast and inland to explore, so it’s a great family area in general. In general, Sunset Bay State Park is one of the cleanest state parks in all of Oregon State.

Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park:

The main reason I am recommending place as one of the best state parks in Oregon is because it’s right by the famous sand dunes regions of the state. The picture of it here doesn’t show much but believe me, the Oregon Sand Dunes are right next to it!

This state park is a bit more inland than the others I’ve mentioned so far, but there’s also campgrounds available and nice hiking trails. If you want to get to the coast, it’s literally close by and the sand dunes you can cross to get there are also amazing because you find rental spots all around it to rent ATV’s and more to explore them.

There are a lot of potentially amazing adventure activities available in Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park. I’ve crossed this area many times and at one point wanted to try renting an ATV, but unfortunately was too tight on time to do it, so it’s going to have to be a plan in a future visit to this park.

Cape Lookout State Park:

cape lookout state park oregon coast 02

This is another “off the road” beautiful coastal state park to explore in Oregon and for similar reasons as the previous 2 state parks on this list:

  1. It has large campgrounds, beautiful scenery especially of the coast and a lot of hiking trails to explore.
  2. There’s even a beautiful wood (and polished) bridge in one of these hikes (great for most people).
  3. Another great gem to explore here is a beach waterfall which for some reason I can’t find the name of, but it’s there and something to explore if you decide to check out the beach here.

The main picture you see here is from the main lookout this park is famous for and obviously, there’s a lot more to see as you explore deeper into the park itself, which doesn’t include the beautiful coastal beaches and trails that are also available here too! Now onto another beautiful Oregon coast State Park gem:

Ecola State Park:

ecola state park oregon coast 03

This incredible state park is right next door to Cannon Beach which is one of the most iconic spots you’ll hear about and see on the Oregon Coast (there’s tons of IG pictures and videos of it). However, what makes Ecola State Park so special (in context to Cannon Beach) is the amazing scenery you get that shows you not only Cannon Beach from afar, but also an amazing panoramic view of the area which makes for great advertising to see the Oregon Coast.

And of course, aside from that you also have tons of amazing hikes, beautiful overlooks and the ability to get close to the water with each access trails. This might also be one of the best spots on the entire Oregon Coast to check out during the sunset because of all the things you can see from the actual park.

Since it is close to Cannon Beach and a place called Tillamook Lighthouse which is also a great spot to see (see more lighthouses on the Oregon Coast), I’d highly recommend going there as well and maybe even staying in one of the hotels nearby. Cannon Beach is also quite stunning no matter when you explore it.

Fort Stevens State Park:

fort stevens state park on the oregon coast 04

There’s a lot of reasons you may want to visit Fort Stevens State Park as well as why it’s unique compared to the many other options on this list. In this case, I have 5 specific reasons I recommend visiting this state park in Oregon:

  1. It is the northern most state park before the Washington Coast begins.
  2. There is a famous shipwreck on the beach you can explore.
  3. It’s right by Astoria city.
  4. You can get great views from all directions. West is the Pacific Ocean with amazing sunset views and east is the city of Astoria and giant Astoria Megler Bridge which is very panoramic!
  5. And finally, the place is an old fort in general so you can explore a lot of historic spots here if you are into that.

Guy W. Talbot State Park:

guy w talbot state park oregon 05

This state park is the closest to Portland and technically from which the famous Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon begins. I visited portions of this park a number of times and it’s amazing for hiking and enjoying great views.

Another thing is the waterfalls here are incredible and in this case, you can explore a famous one called Latourell Falls which is one of the best waterfalls in Oregon in my opinion (with a simple walk, not even a hike to get there).

And that’s honestly just the start of what’s available in this park and outside it (meaning the greater Columbia River Gorge and the tons of amazing and even bigger waterfalls there). I suggest going east after seeing it because this will uncover even more beautiful regions of Columbia River Gorge for you to explore and in fact, some of the remaining state parks on this list actually are east of this one so there’s much more to see.

Ainsworth State Park:

ainsworth state park columbia river gorge oregon 09

When I suggested going east to explore more of Columbia River Gorge, I was saying it for good reason because you WILL cross amazing spots on the way and the next state park on that path is Ainsworth State Park.

This one is a bit more “wild” than Guy W. Talbot State Park in that there are still plenty of trails and scenic spots to enjoy, but to explore it further requires you to cross more complex and tougher trails. Yet I highly recommend going here because there aside from hikes (which I’ll go back to in a moment), you will also have beautiful waterfalls to explore, one of which is Horsetail Falls. There are also picnic tables, campgrounds and even RV campgrounds in the area.

But going back to the hikes, this is where you’ll find a lot of trails to check out (but be careful for falling rocks here) and the most famous one is Oneonta Gorge, something I’ve been trying to hike for many years but it closes and opens randomly due to rock fall and other issues.

White River Falls State Park:

white river falls state park oregon new 02

This park is east of Mt. Hood and is pretty small, but packed into it are a lot of things you can see and do. The most famous thing to explore here is White River Falls itself which is a 2 layer waterfall you can hike to from the top and from the bottom (multiple trail access levels are there).

The next reason is that there are historical areas here with old ruins, houses and dam turbines you can check out. Outside of that, the scenery around this park is sort of like a middle between the desert like terrain of eastern Oregon and to the west more green as it approaches Mt. Hood. I do recommend checking out White River Falls State Park if you are crossing (or planning to cross) the area! It also isn’t that far from places like Smith Rock State Park and the amazing Cape Lookout State Park I mentioned earlier (good to tie in these state park visits).

The Cove Palisades State Park:

the cove palisades state park in oregon

This park is amazing in many ways. When I first saw this area, it reminded me of a mix of Gooseberry Necks State Park in Utah (near Monument Valley) and if you took pictures here, most people probably wouldn’t guess you’re in Oregon (I still can’t believe it myself).

Anyway, this park is extremely scenic, has waterfalls off the road, beautiful bridges and there are a lot of water activities to explore (that’s obvious). Another awesome thing I recommend checking out here are the hiking trails, not just in the park but near it, specifically one called Oregon Hoodoos trail (very scenic) and it’s about 20 minutes north west of the park that leads to incredible views in general.

I still can’t get over how when I first heard about this state park that I couldn’t believe it’s located in Oregon. If you do go here, know that it’s better to do that between the months of March and November before the snows affect the roads leading to it.

Wallowa Lake State Park:

wallowa lake best state park in oregon 01

This state park takes my breath away and I have a strong feeling it will have the same effect on you folks. It’s on my list of places to see and the obvious reasons why is because:

The mountainous areas here are just breathtaking in general. I honestly thought this was somewhere in Washington when I first saw it and in some regards, this reminds me of the type of scenery I’d see in Europe (French or Swiss Alps!).

The lake itself (Wallowa Lake) is amazing to explore and bears a lot of resemblance to Lake Crescent in Washington that has one of the most beautiful scenic drives in North America I’ve ever done. In this case, Wallowa Lake also has a beautiful scenic drive which if it’s beautiful enough will be added to that list as well! And of course, campgrounds, picnic areas and places to stay at are all available here. There’s a good reason why this park gets 5 star reviews with no blemish of anything of less rating from reviewers!

Lake Owyhee State Park:

lake owyhee state park in oregon 02

Lake Owyhee State Park is actually very close to Boise (Idaho) and that’s probably where I’d land on a plane if I were planing to go here. Anyway, it’s an easily accessible state park with beautiful views and a giant water region to explore. There’s a giant dam here too (Owyhee Lake Dam) and beautiful little islands around the lake to explore. This is also another one of those beautiful desert like parks in Oregon that just totally astound me for the views.

Another major thing to explore nearby:

I highly recommend adding Leslie Gulch and Owyhee Canyonlands to your exploration if you go to this park. It’s located south of this park (technically connected to it) and it’s an incredible canyon with scenic views and amazing hiking trails.

Valley of Rogue State Park:

valley of rogue state park in oregon 05

Valley of Rogue State Park is very different than any other place on this list and I would say it’s the most serene and family friendly state park in Oregon to explore if you’re a planning a trip. The mountains around this area aren’t as astounding as some of the other places around Oregon, but there’s plenty of hiking trails, plenty of camp sites, the park is right off Interstate 5 (I love this scenic drive). There’s also a historical old village in the area which is why I suggest it for families or people crossing the area to check it out!

Overall the park is pretty small but perfect for a short stop if you’re doing a road trip through this area of Oregon. Interestingly enough it is also the most popular park people visit in this state (source). For me personally, this might be a drive through park if I’m in the area, but because it’s not far from the Oregon Coast, specifically Samuel H Boardman, I might skip it to see the coast (again).

Mayer State Park:

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This park is located east of Columbia River Gorge and it’s a beautiful place to explore as it offers a lot of scenery and potential adventures (well obvious adventures). For starters, this is the area of Oregon where the beautiful green regions of Columbia River Gorge you see further west of this park start to get more “barren” and desert like, yet there’s still a lot of that same green still there, making for beautiful mixed views.

The second is that the scenic drive through this area is also very beautiful and well worth making stops for (which there are available on the road there). Of course the hiking trails available here are also plentiful and give you great views of the Columbia River.

I’d use Alltrails to find them if you’re exploring this spot as it’ll help you find different level trails for whatever fits your tastes. Now onto more Columbia River Gorge State Parks:

Wygant State Park:

wygant state park in oregon 08

This state park is in between the end of Columbia River Gorge and Mayer State Park that I just covered above. It’s very beautiful for the same reasons the other parks within the Columbia River Gorge area (great hikes, great scenery, picnics, views and much more).

While there are great hiking trails to explore here, if you do like that sort of stuff, I’d recommend going further west of this park to get it as there is at least one amazing area called Hole in The Wall Falls not too far from it and as it just so happens, the next state park on this list is where you can officially access it.

Interesting thing: Hole in The Wall Falls isn’t the only waterfall that is called that. There happens to be another Hole in The Wall waterfall located north in Vancouver Island. It’s certainly not as big as the one here in Oregon, but it’s still a stunning place and if you do plan on coming to this area, add it to your list because its well worth the hike.

Starvation Creek State Park:

starvation creek state park in oregon 02

The last state park in Oregon I’m including (for now) is basically the “tip” of Columbia River Gorge and if you’re coming from the east, this is the first major stop I’d recommend making to help you start exploring some of the best spots Columbia River Gorge has to offer.

Yes Hole in The Wall Falls is one of them, but aside from that you also have the incredible Starvation Creek Falls, Lindsey Creek Falls and one further west of that called Camp Benson Falls. All of them are gigantic and well worth exploring. Some are close to to Starvation Creek State Park, while others involve hiking a bit more inland (and up into Columbia River Gorge) to access.

Most common questions and answers about Oregon State Parks:

best state parks in oregon map listings 01

How many Oregon State Parks are there?

There are over 300 spread across the state (361 total).

What is Oregon’s largest state park?

It’s Silver Falls State Park where you have the famous Trail of Ten Falls.

Can you sleep in Oregon State Parks?

In most yes, but it has to be in a designated campground or RV site.

How long can you camp at Oregon State Parks?

Up to 14 days but you have to reserve well in advanced especially if it’s a popular state park.

Update: I’ve added a map of the best state parks in Oregon with the numbers corresponding to the same order I listed above so if you’re looking at any specific ones and where they are in the state, use this map.

Have any of your own questions about Oregon State Parks in general or specific spots on this list? Ask below! I’d also love to hear your suggestions of which places on this list you like (or recommending visiting and adding to the list if it’s not here already).

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  1. Thank you so much for this post over some of the state parks in Oregon. As someone who loves to travel and explore new places, I find blogs like this extremely helpful. I couldn’t help but notice your mention of Sunset Bay State Park. I have to say that park looks beautiful. That would be the type of place I’d want to go hiking in and enjoy. I think these are some amazing suggestions and thank you for bringing them, up! I hope to visit Oregon one day.

    1. Any coastal Oregon state park will get you amazing sunset views Jessie so I wouldn’t just limit your trip to Sunset Bay State Park. I happen to think when it comes to the coast, anything off the Samuel H. Boardman State Park area is a 5 out of 5 for that (and hiking too).

  2. What a fantastic article! I’ve been to Oregon twice and astounded at the natural beauty of the state! My goal is to take my son next year! I will definitely use your comprehensive list to choose which parks to visit. Awesome detail and pictures! And though it is long, it just goes to show how much there is to do and you’ve done a great and thorough detail of highlighting this very well! 

  3. Thanks for this great article about all the parks in Oregon. I had no idea there were over 300 state parks in Oregon. I should not be surprised considering it is such a beautiful state.  

    The Silver Falls State Park looks absolutely stunning. Ten waterfalls and a beginners hike sounds like the perfect day for me! Is it possible top do a hike there that is not 9 miles long though? 

    Fort Stevens State Park also looks like a neat little getaway. I think old shipwrecks are also neat. Are you allowed to get all the way up close to the ship or is it roped off?

    Thanks for the info!

    1. With Silver Falls State Park, the hike isn’t that difficult. It’s only 4.5 miles one way but because it has 2 entrances, you can have someone leave you at one point, park in the other and then meet up so you just do 1 part of the trip instead of an in and out hike.

      For Fort Stevens and the shipwreck, I believe you can get close to it. 

  4. Hello Vitaliy,

    This is an amazing list! I love your site and your blogs. I am a nature lover and I seek natural spots to visit. I really love this blog about state parks. It gives me ideas about what to visit next. And as you say, it is hard to say which is the best, but I would definitely go for Fort Stevens State Park first because my small son loves exploration and he would be delighted to see the shipwreck. 

    The only available time for us to visit is July and the first half of August. I hope it isn’t too crowded at that time. 

    1. The Oregon Coast tends to see it’s peak of travel around that period, but not many people know about this park. In any case I would recommend going because of all the things to see nearby anyway.

  5. Great article! I am an extreme outdoor enthusiast just like you! I really like to visit as many parks as possible so this article really helps for the next time that I am in the area! I never knew that Oregon had so many many state parks that is completely wild. Keep up the great work!

    Kind regards,


  6. This list is amazing! I also agree that having a map would be amazing for someone looking to plan their next adventure. I’m wondering, is there a time of year you think it’s best to visit?

    1. Hi Andy, I actually added a map to this list (bottom of the article) for reference. That being said, anything on the Oregon Coast is great to visit anytime during the year, but if you want to avoid the large crowds, I would suggest going earlier in the year (February-April). Same thing for the parks near Columbia River Gorge. I’ve visited these areas during that time and aside from snowfall rarely happening, it tends to also feel very pleasant in those areas during that period.

      Any state park way inland and/or in east Oregon, I would suggest visiting after May because it tends to be very snowy in those areas prior to that.

  7. Wow, what a spectacular lineup of stunning places! I have not been to most of the parks on the list, but even driving through the state of Oregon, it’s easy to see the natural beauty of the forests, rivers, and majestic waterfalls. The variety in the landscapes of your 21 favorites is pretty impressive. I’d love to see these plotted on a map so I could plan on visiting any that I might be near!

    1. Hi Aly I love that idea and after you suggested it made the map and added it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again!

  8. It’s been several years since I explored Oregon. I live in Canada and I’m super excited for my family’s next roadtrip down through the beautiful state. The coast is full of incredible locations to visit, and inland sure has some gems too. This is a super valuable article, Vitaliy – thanks for sharing your findings here.  

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