Starting at one of the state’s most enjoyable small towns, the arts-and-craftsy Pacific Ocean resort community of Cannon Beach, this route traverses the heart of Oregon. From the salty cow pastures along the Pacific Ocean, over the evergreen mantle of the Coast Range to culturally vibrant Portland and the lush Willamette Valley, the route starts where history says we should end up—amid the bountiful land at the west end of the Oregon Trail.
From Portland, the state’s largest city, you’ll climb into the Cascade Mountains, through the amazing Columbia Gorge alongside its signature peak, Mt. Hood. East of the Cascades, the route drops down into the suddenly dry and desertlike landscape of the otherworldly Columbia Plateau, across which the highway rolls and rocks for 300 mi (485 km) through old mining camps, fossil beds, and wide-open rolling ranch lands before crossing the Snake River into Idaho.
Most of the way across the USA, this Oregon Trail route follows US-20, but here in Oregon we’ve veered onto US-26, to follow the route of the original Oregon Trail and to visit the beauty spots of Columbia Gorge, Portland, and Cannon Beach.