Simply put: Oregon is one of a kind. This state accentuates the element of water possibly better than any other region in the nation. It's the streams, the fog, the ocean, the waterfalls, the rain and the rivers. To highlight this aquatic diversity, here are 10 of the top Oregon state parks—out of the 224—that will give you a taste of the diverse splendor.
Cottonwood Canyon State ParkWasco 1 of 11
The newest addition and largest park within the state, Cottonwood Canyon, offers artistic erosion from the John Day River, as well as vast grasslands. If you are seeking solitude this is the park for you: it's expansive, it's still in the process of development and cell service is rare. Cottonwood Canyon is located about 50 miles east of The Dalles. Highlights of this area include: hiking—the Pinnacles and Lost Corral Trails are great choices, camping, horseback riding, fishing—salmon, carp, bass—and hunting.
Cove Palisades State ParkTerrebonne 2 of 11
Located off of US-97, about 40 miles north of Bend, Cove Palisades is a perfect area for all types of water recreation, especially considering this park is sheltered by towering basalt walls and surrounds Lake Billy Chinook. A great family destination, you can rent jet skis, stay in a houseboat, or walk the scenic trails decorated with historic petroglyphs. This park will give you a taste of Oregon's high desert region.
Ecola State ParkCannon Beach 3 of 11
Ecola, a Chinook word for Whale, is a great place to get acquainted with Oregon's mystical coast. Pockmarked with sea stacks jutting out of the Pacific, this area is susceptible to heavy fog, segmenting the view of endless shoreline to the imminent rolling waves—it's all part of the magic. This park has iconic views, tide pools, surfing, and a network of trails taking you through forest, beach and even to an abandoned lighthouse. You can find this park just 25 miles south of Astoria. Also, be sure to visit Cannon Beach if you are looking for a quaint and quintessential beach town experience.
Milo McIver State ParkEstacada 4 of 11
Twenty five miles southwest of Portland, this Oregon state park is great for a day trip when you want to get out of the city. Milo McIver, like the other mentioned parks, has great hiking trails, access to water recreation (Clackamas River), and horseback riding. What makes this park really unique, however, is its 27-hole disc golf course, its proximity to the Clackamas Fish Hatchery, and its annual Civil War re-enactment, which happens in September.
Silver Falls State ParkNorth Fork Silver Creek 5 of 11
The name of its famous path says it all: the Trail of Ten Falls. This is a series of short hikes that take you from one waterfall to the next. Five of the falls are over 100 feet, with the highest at 178 feet. Located 25 miles east of Salem, this forested park rests on the brink of the Cascade Range; life is lush here with myriad trees, copious flowers and diverse mammals. Humans are also abundant here—it's best to visit during the week if you want to avoid crowds.
Beverly Beach State ParkNewport 6 of 11
Just 7 miles north of Newport, the campground expands nicely among old-growth trees and the beach is accessed by an underground walkway. From here you can see kites in the sky, surfers on the water, and Otter Rock and Yaquina Head Lighthouse on the horizon. If you're lucky, you'll also be visited by the gulls, puffins, harbor seals and gray whales. If you end up needing a break from the beach, try visiting the nearby Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Fort Stevens State ParkHammond 7 of 11
A treat for the military buffs, this state park resides where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, 15 miles west of Astoria. And though resting on a peninsula, Fort Stevens also contains three lakes that are good for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Potentially the most enticing, however, is the military defense installation that was in service for 84 years; you can learn much about this harbor defense system at the military museum and information center. During the low tide you can also see the eroding skeleton of the Peter Iredale shipwreck.
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State ParkFlorence 8 of 11
Just outside of Florence, this coastal Oregon state park gives off-road enthusiasts the opportunity to play on the rolling two miles of dunes. There are also two lakes within this designated area, both offering use for all water sports; Woahink is better for swimming, however, and Cleawox is better for fishing. Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is no stranger to family reunions either, as it's one of the largest overnight camps in the state and the seasonal wild berries are delicious to eat.
Bullards Beach State ParkBandon 9 of 11
Another coastal park, Bullards Beach is just two miles from the small town of Bandon and is considered one of the more peaceful parks in Southern Oregon. Great for equestrians and crabbers, this park is another top choice for family travel and has access to the Coquille River Lighthouse. What makes this park unique among others though, is its proximity to the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and, therefore, its proximity to great bird watching. If you visit this park do not forget to bring your binoculars.
Wallowa Lake State ParkJoseph 10 of 11
One of the more remote parks, Wallowa Lake is 75 miles east of La Grande and 5 hours from Portland. Wallowa Lake is situated in the mountains bearing the same name, full of forested slopes and grassy canyons. Being so far from the coast, this park gives the different experience of 9,000 foot snow-capped peaks and the thrill of mountain adventuring. Wildlife is abundant here. The lake itself is very clear and prime for outdoor recreation. Another treat is riding a tramway to the top of Mount Howard.