Destination / October 29, 2019

5 Easy Ways to Explore the Great Oregon Outdoors

by Danielle LeBreck

Laceleaf Japanese Maple in fall Photo by David M. Cobb

Laceleaf Japanese Maple in fall Photo by David M. Cobb

The secret’s out—Oregon is possibly one of America’s best outdoor playgrounds. In fact, it’s one of the most geographically diverse locations in the United States, home to high deserts, dense forests, many bodies of water, stretching coastline and even volcanoes.

This varied, wonder-inducing landscape and its surprising accessibility is starting to attract more intrepid travelers.

And for attendees visiting increasingly popular cities like Portland, Bend and Eugene for meetings, there are plenty of ways for groups to experience the state’s fairytale-like landscapes.

From biking in Portland to sand dune buggy tours and hikes around a national park, these are the best ways for groups to bond while outdoors in the Beaver State.

1. Unique Bike Tours in Portland

Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, is consistently in the top five most bike-friendly cities in the nation, so it’s no surprise that many of its best outdoor activities for groups involve two wheels.

Springwater Corridor_Travel Portland
Springwater Corridor, Courtesy Travel Portland

The offerings continue to get more creative. Marcus Hibdon, director of communications and public relations at Travel Portland, named cycling tours like Pedal Bike Tours, which offers unique tours of town like biking to all the best donut shops in Portland, and the “Beyond Portlandia” with Everybody’s Bike Tours, where groups avoid downtown and bike to local gems like urban farms (with goats!) as popular options.

The Meditative Garden Bike Tour from Cordilleran Tours is perhaps the most unique for Portland groups that really want to immerse themselves in the city’s natural offerings, however.

[Related: 3 Portland Food Trends]

The five-hour tour includes admission to the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden, fun facts about the city’s approach to urban gardens, and “an immersion into meditative practices in a variety of different meditative approaches.” Its approach to mindfulness, exercise and sight-seeing is just the right mix of the endearing oddity of Portland.

2. Dune Buggy Tours of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Groups can explore Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area—the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America and one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world—easily via dune buggy tours. The mighty dunes stretch across 30 miles of coastline, creating sand mountains up to 500 feet high.

Florence dune buggy Courtesy Eugene Cascades and Coast
Florence dune buggy, Courtesy: Eugene Cascades and Coast

For groups meeting in the nearby Eugene-Springfield metro area, the breathtaking dunes are just over an hour away, and shuttles, buses and vans can be arranged to the coast for any size of group, according to Philis McLennan, the marketing manager for Eugene, Cascades & Coasts CVB.

“The scenic drive to the coast winds through forestland, passes farms and wineries, cuts through the Coast Range and runs along the Siuslaw River, making the journey an adventure all its own,” she said.

Dune buggy tours are available through Sand Dunes Frontier and Sandland Adventures, which both offer discounts to groups of 20 people or more.

3. Guided Tour of Crater National Park

Just over two hours from Bend, planners can arrange a visit to the only national park in Oregon, and one of the oldest national parks in America, at Crater National Park. Pick-up and drop-off from Bend and guided tours of the park are available for corporate groups via Wanderlust Tours.

Crater Lake
Crater Lake, Shutterstock

Wanderlust Tours is a nice option for corporate groups because its tours can be customized to the group’s location and specific schedule. It also provides meals and hiking guides, making the excursion easy to plan.

The full-day guided tour of Crater National Park is a popular option. Visitors to the park are treated to views of sparkling Crater Lake—the deepest lake in the U.S., formed by a collapsed volcano some 7,700 years ago—surrounded by the Cascade Mountains.

Other customized tours are available through Wanderlust Tours as well including activities like canoe tours of Cascade Lakes or Deschutes River, hikes of Smith Rock and Black Butte, and more.

4. Alpine Skiing and More on Mt. Bachelor

Large groups meeting in central Oregon often utilize Deschutes County Expo Center for its 200,000 square feet of flexible conference space and additional outdoor space that can host anything from conferences and tradeshows to RV rallies. The Cascade Mountain Range serves as a picturesque backdrop to the popular event area in Redmond, and even better, is easy for groups to access.

The entrance to Mt. Bachelor is a quick 30-minute drive from the expo center. Groups can arrange for a trip to the mountain, the sixth-largest ski resort in America, for a day on the slopes. For individuals who don’t alpine ski, Nordic cross-country ski tours and snowshoe tours are also available.

During the warmer summer months, mountain biking and hiking Mt. Bachelor, or simple scenic lift rides, are also popular. Discounts for all activities are available to groups.

[Read also: Groups Can Experience Oregon-Made Products at the Source]

5. Urban Trails in Salem

In the lush center of Willamette Valley, you don’t have to go far to experience old forests, waterfalls and expansive trail systems in leafy Salem.

“Within two blocks’ walking distance of downtown Salem is a three-park connected system that features more than 25 miles of trails perfect for walking, jogging or hiking,” said Kara Kuh, assistant director of marketing and public relations at Travel Salem. “The Salem region is also home to Silver Falls State Park, nationally famous for its ‘Trail of 10 Falls,’ a looped trail that takes hikers to 10 different waterfalls within the park system.”

Salem Silver Falls State Park South Falls Hike_Credit Caleb Wallace
Salem Silver Falls State Park South Falls hike, Credit: Caleb Wallace

The entire looped trail is about eight miles, but Kuh said there are different cut-off points and smaller trails within the larger one that gives attendees who only have an hour or two to spare a chance to get outside and see a few waterfalls without veering too far from town. The state park is about a 30-minute drive from Salem.

Kuh added that there are easily a dozen more notable hiking spots within a 20-mile radius of the city.

“Even some of our wineries offer hiking trails and walks around the property as part of the wine tasting experience,” she said. “Also, while we offer some hikes for expert-level hikers for sure, many of them are family-friendly and doable by those who want to experience the beautiful outdoors while they are here but are not expert-level hikers.”

For those in town for meetings and conventions, the accessibility of Salem’s outdoor wonders certainly makes it an attractive event destination—all you need is a little bit of time and a comfortable pair of shoes to get a taste of the destination’s stunning surroundings.

Unforgettable Outdoor Adventure

Many Oregonians will tell you the best way to experience the state is to spend time outdoors. From Portland to the Cascades, there are many accessible ways for meeting attendees to do this without taking away too much time from the work at hand. Whether you take attendees up to the dunes or for a simple walk, natural wonders are easily within meetings groups’ reach.

Read next: Pacific Northwest Sports Venues Rack Up Points With Meeting Planners


Deschutes County Expo Center | 541.548.2711

Eugene, Cascades & Coast CVB | 541.484.5307

Travel Portland | 503.4271372

Travel Salem | 503.581.4325

Visit Bend | 541.382.8048

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