Hiking and Backpacking in Oregon: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in Oregon: A scenic view near a coast trail

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Oregon offers outdoor enthusiasts immense variety, from the rugged Pacific coast to high volcanic peaks, including popular destinations like the Three Sisters Wilderness.

And this is where we come in – this post is all about hiking and backpacking in Oregon from an ultralight perspective. We’ll provide you with some useful tips to get ready for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

We will showcase the TOP 5 trails in Oregon, categorized into two groups: day hikes under 30 miles and multi-day adventures with chances to replenish your supplies every few days.

Key Tips for Hiking and Backpacking in Oregon

  • What to expect: Be prepared for diverse and scenic terrain including rugged coastal trails, mountainous forest trails with switchbacks, and trails through high desert areas, with stunning vistas around every corner. You’ll need to be ready for challenging river crossings on some trails, solitude in remote areas, and potentially demanding climbs at high elevations. Trails can range from accessible to suitable only for advanced backpackers.
  • Essential gear: You will want to pack versatile gear like waterproof shoes, warm layers plus a water/windproof jacket for variable weather. A water filter, bear canister, well-stocked first aid kit and reliable map, compass, and GPS are essential. Depending on the season and location, protection from the sun, snow or insects may also be needed.
  • Wildlife: Oregon’s wilderness harbors potentially hazardous wildlife like bears, cougars, rattlesnakes, and ticks. We suggest you research animal sightings in the area beforehand you go.
  • Wild camping is generally allowed in Oregon’s national forests and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land as long as you follow certain guidelines like camping at least 100-200 feet from water, avoiding areas with no previous signs of camping, exercising caution with fires, packing out all trash, and burying waste. You need a free recreation permit for overnight camping in Northwest Forest Pass areas.
  • Best time to go is from July to September, featuring warm weather and minimal rain. July and August are sunny with mild temperatures, while September is cooler with fall colors and slightly more rain. Be prepared for occasional storms during this period.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

Here is our selection of the top day hikes in Oregon, where ultralight gear will truly enhance your experience:

  1. Trail of Ten Falls (7.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Tunnel Falls via Eagle Creek Trail (12.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Misery Ridge and Summit Trail Loop (6.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. McNeil Point Trail (8.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. South Sister Trail (11.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Discover these beautiful hiking paths in Oregon, where you can find places to restock on supplies at least every two days:

  1. Timberline Trail Around Mount Hood (39.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Rogue River Trail (37.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. East Fork to Glacier Lake to West Fork Loop (33.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Three Sisters Loop via Green Lakes Trail (47.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. PCT: Timberline Lodge to Cascade Locks (51.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

Oregon’s weather is like a mood ring – it changes a lot based on where and when you are. If you’re up for some hiking or backpacking in Oregon, here’s the quick rundown:

  • Spring (March-May): Mild temperatures with occasional rain. Expect varying conditions, temperatures ranging from 40°F to 70°F (4°C to 21°C).
  • Summer (June-August): Warm and dry, popular for backpacking. Daytime temperatures range from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C).
  • Fall (September-November): Cooler with crisp mornings. Enjoy mild afternoons and beautiful fall foliage. Temperatures typically range from 40°F to 70°F (4°C to 21°C).
  • Winter (December-February): Mild in the west, potential snow in the east and higher elevations. Be prepared for colder temperatures. Ranges vary, with some areas experiencing temperatures between 30°F to 50°F (minus 1°C to 10°C) in winter.

Before you make your gear selection and head to the trailhead, take a look at the annual weather averages for Oregon (Salem):

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F485257626875838377655347
Low °F363740424751555551454136
Rain/Snow (D*)1514151296225101716
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Oregon?

When it comes to campfires in Oregon, the rules vary depending on the location. Generally, stick to established fire pits or grates in specific campgrounds or state/national forests – ground and beach fires are not allowed. Be sure to stay informed about any temporary bans during high fire danger periods by checking with local ranger stations or the Oregon Department of Forestry. If you’re heading into wilderness areas, be aware that fires are strictly prohibited.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Oregon?

When you’re out backpacking in Oregon, it’s crucial to be bear-aware. Store all your food, garbage, and anything that smells interesting to bears in a bear-resistant container, and make sure it’s at least 100 feet away from your camp or stashed in a bear canister. Keep the surprise factor low by making some noise in blind spots – talk or clap in noisy areas from at least 50 yards away. And if you run into big mammals like deer, elk, moose, or mountain lions, play it cool. Don’t try to make friends, feed them, or attempt any questionable petting sessions. Just back away slowly while keeping your eyes on them if they get too close.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Oregon?

Venture into Oregon’s majestic wilderness for an adventurous backpacking trip immersed in nature, but be sure to plan and prepare. Acquire a detailed trail map before following winding paths through towering forests, and inform others of your intended route. Pack brightly colored clothing, first-aid supplies, flashlights, whistles and bear-proof food canisters to stay safe. Watch your footing near rivers and streams, as the terrain can be rocky and slippery. Make noise to avoid surprising bears or other wildlife. Stay hydrated and focused to fully embrace Oregon’s natural splendor while keeping safety a priority. With adequate precautions taken, you can revel in the beauty of Oregon’s backcountry. Stay vigilant, be ready for the unexpected, and remember prudent planning prevents poor performance on a backpacking adventure in Oregon’s awe-inspiring natural settings.

Are there water sources available along the backpacking trails in Oregon?

Backpackers exploring Oregon’s diverse trail network will find diverse water sources, though some planning is required. While flowing creeks and rivers are often readily available near trails and campsites, their levels can fluctuate seasonally. Hikers should bring a filter or treatment to safely handle all water. In drier Eastern regions, careful route planning is needed as water may only be available every 10-15 miles. The state has over 200 tall waterfalls draining the Cascade Mountains which make for scenic exploration stops. To fully experience Oregon’s beautiful outdoors, backpackers must pack adequate water for long treks or rely on intermittent natural sources and plan their route accordingly.

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