4 Day Trip Worthy Spots from Portland

From waterfalls to volcanoes, make unforgettable family memories with these incredible day trips. 

Adventure doesn’t have to include long flights and overstuffed suitcases. Some of the best family memories can be made close to home, and Portland is well positioned to provide access to some amazing day trip locations. Here are four of our favorite one-day adventures.

Day Trip 1: Mt. Hood

Courtesy of Mt. Hood Adventure Park

The highest peak in Oregon is an impressive sight even from a distance. But thankfully, you don’t have to summit the mountain to enjoy all it has to offer. Approximately 1 ½ hours from Portland, your day trip to the Mt. Hood area will have your kids begging to go back to “the mountain.”     

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First stop, the popular Skibowl. Sure, it’s a great place for your kiddo to learn to ski or snowboard in the winter, but when the weather warms up the fun doesn’t stop. At Skibowl’s Mt. Hood Adventure Park, families will enjoy over 20 fun-filled activities. The alpine slide is one of the most popular attractions, with a half-mile, adrenaline-pumping track your kids will want to ride over and over. There’s also an aerial park, a raceway, disc golf, batting cages and so much more.   

If there’s any time left after all that fun, head up to Timberline Lodge, where you can grab a quick bite to eat at one of their many restaurants then head out on the easy trails accessible from the lodge. For more hiking options, check out the Sandy River Trail, with an approximately 3-mile one way hike partially along the gorgeous Sandy River.   Any energy left after a busy day? Stop by Little Zigzag Falls on the way home. It’s less than a mile-round trip hike and features stunning waterfall views. And in the summer, it’s the ideal place for kids to dip their toes in the water. 

Where to Eat at Mt. Hood

Skyway Bar and Grill This kid-friendly restaurant in Zigzag serves up delicious barbecue, as well as tasty mac ’n’ cheese, chicken strips and grilled cheese. Open noon-9 pm on weekends and 3-9 pm on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. 71545 E US-26, Zigzag.

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Huckleberry Inn With large portions of comfort food and a relaxed atmosphere, families will feel at home here. Their breakfast menu has classics like giant pancakes as well as other basic kid-friendly options, like cinnamon toast and cold cereal. Don’t leave without trying a slice of their huckleberry pie. Open daily 6 am-9:30 pm. 88611 Government Camp Loop.

Day Trip 2: Seaside

Courtesy of Seaside Aquarium

Located 1 ½ hours from Portland, there’s so much to do in Seaside that you may be tempted to stay longer! From the beach to the arcade, everyone will find something to love in this classic beach town. While kids will spend hours digging in the sand and running from waves, they’ll also be stoked to find swing sets on the beach. 

And when you’re done with all that sandy swinging, check out the Seaside Aquarium. While the aquarium is small, it packs a punch. The highlight is feeding the adorable seals — and know that you may get splashed in the process. Tickets are $11 for adults, $5.50 for kids 6-13, and free for 5 and under.

Courtesy of Bethany Marcel

Next explore the Seaside Carousel Mall, which features more than just your average carousel horse. That’s right, kids can choose to ride a cat, giraffe, pig — or even an ostrich. Pro tip: Adults stand next to their kiddos for free; admission is $4 per rider. When your ostrich ride is done, don’t forget to stop by the Seaside Laser Tag & Arcade, where classic arcade games and endless rounds  of laser tag are sure to tire everyone out after a long day of fun. The mall is also host to many stores, including the Under the Big Top Toy Shop. For even more fun arcade games, you can also explore Funland Arcade, which features other fun attractions, like bumper cars.

And if your kids prefer more daring adventures, you might opt for the High Life Adventure Park, where thrill-seekers will enjoy navigating the aerial course. With 30 platforms at 20- to 40-feet off the ground, the whole family will enjoy challenging themselves to see what they can do. Participants in the main course must be at least 7 years old, but younger kids 4 to 8 years old may enjoy the junior course, which remains low to the ground. Reservations recommended. Call 503-717-544 or email info@highlifeadventurepark.com. 

Where to Eat in Seaside

Ruby’s Roadside Grill This fun spot is the perfect place to grab a burger, hot dog or milkshake. They offer simple and affordable dishes on the kids’ menu, such as Kraft mac ’n’ cheese for $3.95. They have plenty of outdoor seating, cornhole games set up outside, as well as a welcoming fire pit for chillier days. Hours vary. 2323 S Roosevelt Dr., Seaside.

Grizzly Tuna For a quick to-go lunch, Grizzly Tuna is the perfect choice. With a simple menu featuring large ($11.00) or small ($9.00) tuna fish and chips, it’s a great option for day trips. We love the casual walk-up window and think the fish and chips are some of the best in town — even our picky daughter agrees! Open daily 11 am-7 pm. 850 N Roosevelt Dr., Seaside.

Lastly, no trip to Seaside is complete without searching for taffy at one of the many candy shops. Or check out Sea Star Gelato for some of the best dessert in town. Pro tip: Lines can get long on the weekend, so arrive early! 

Day Trip 3: Silver Falls

Courtesy of Meg Asby

Featuring the popular Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls is a little over an hour drive from Portland — depending on traffic and the number of urgent potty breaks. The Trail of Ten Falls is a 7.1-mile loop, but you don’t have to go far down the path to find stunning waterfalls among the mossy green forest. For a shorter hike, explore the 2.6-mile Maple Ridge Loop. The iconic South Falls is a quick hike in and kids will be beyond thrilled to walk behind this giant cascading waterfall. Pro tip: Wear sturdy shoes! 

Don’t forget to check out the South Falls Day Use Area, where there’s not only a fun playground but also horseshoe pits, places to barbecue or picnic, and a swimming area perfect for summertime splashing. And if you’re looking to buy some fun mementos made by local artists, check out the South Falls Nature Store, located in the quaint log cabin near South Falls. 

Day use permits for Silver Falls are $5 and may be purchased at trailheads. Pro tip: You can also purchase an annual or biannual pass.

Where to Eat in Silver Falls

South Falls Lodge and Cafe Conveniently located in the lodge at Silver Falls, this is the perfect place to rest and refuel after a fun day of hiking. We especially love their reasonably priced kids menu, with options like grilled cheese ($4.95), no-fuss PB&J ($4.95) and more. They also have a top-tier snack list, including trail mix, beef jerky, protein bars and more. Open 10 am-4 pm daily. 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity. 

PanezaNellie Breadstick Shoppe Located 15 minutes from Silver Falls, this family-friendly spot serves tasty pizza and deliciously cheesy (and giant!) breadsticks. Don’t miss their case of baked goods, where you can often find sticky rolls, brownies and more. Open 9 am-2 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. 111 NE Starr St., Sublimity.

Day Trip 4: Mount St. Helens

Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

Approximately two hours from Portland, Mount St. Helens will delight young volcano enthusiasts interested in learning about the history of the area. Head to the Mount St. Helens Forest Learning Center and learn all about the historic 1980 eruption. First, check out the “Eruption Chamber,” where you can experience the eruption through multimedia storytelling, including news footage from the event. Then explore the virtual helicopter tour and other interactive exhibits that teach about forest management, ecology and more. There’s also a great view of Mount St. Helens from the center, as well as a kid-friendly 1-mile hike. Free admission. 17000 Spirit Lake Hwy., Toutle, Wash. And don’t miss the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center for more educational exhibits plus great movies to learn all about the eruption. Free for 6 and under; $2.50 for ages 7 to 17; and $5 for ages 18 and up.

For more hiking, the Trail of Two Forests is a quick ¼-mile accessible trail on a boardwalk, featuring a forest where lava once flowed, leaving imprints of trees known as “lava casts.” Make sure you take the time to stop to read the signs along the route — they’ll teach you all about the impact the lava had on the forest.  Next, explore the Ape Cave (pictured above). Located near the Trail of Two Forests, the Ape Cave is the third longest lava tube in North America. This dark, cold journey will be an unforgettable one. For the family-friendly route, explore the ¾-mile lower cave (the upper one is more challenging and includes scrambling up a rock wall). The cave is dark and the forest service recommends bringing two sources of light per person as well as wearing layers, even in the summer. Ape Cave is closed until May 18. Reservations are required.

Where to Eat at Mount St. Helens

Parker’s Steakhouse and Brewery Enjoy everything from steak and seafood to casual burgers and pasta in a relaxed environment perfect for the whole family. Adults will also appreciate their variety of microbrews. Open 1-8 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. 1300 Mt St. Helens Way NE, Castle Rock.

Lone Fir Cafe About 30 minutes from Mount St. Helens at the Lone Fir Resort, this cozy spot features burgers, chicken tenders and more. Don’t miss out on their chocolate chip cookies served straight from the oven. Open 11 am-9 pm, Friday through Sunday. 16806 Lewis River Rd., Cougar, Wash.

For more family-friendly adventures, click here!

Bethany Marcel
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