In terms of summer fun, if San Francisco has Lake Tahoe and Seattle has numerous lakes and the Sound, then Portland can lay claim to the virtually countless rivers in the area. Over the past few summers, we've scoured up and down the region's rivers in search of the most relaxing locations for summer recreation, places where you can swim, hike, camp and just hang out with friends. One of our favorites, a place we go back to time-and-again, is the Wilson River.
Located in Northwest Oregon between Portland and Tillamook, the Wilson River flows toward the Pacific Ocean after draining the peaks of the Coastal Range, including one of our favorite hiking spots, Kings Mountain. From its tributaries it merges into one river along OR Hwy 6, cutting through basalt outcropping and slowing down to create deep pools, one after another, perfect for swimming and cliff jumping. Finally, the Wilson River widens and slows as it enters the state's dairy capital, eventually releasing its fresh waters into Tillamook Bay.
All along the river there is a lot to see and do. In addition to the incredible swimming holes and cliff jumping spots, there are numerous campgrounds and hundreds of miles of hiking trails (including the 20-mile Wilson River Trail). You can also visit a historic homestead site or explore the hidden Bridge Creek Falls. And don't forget to stop by the impressively designed and curated Tillamook Forestry Center. The Wilson River Recreation Area has something for everyone, which is what makes it one of the best places to play in Oregon during the summer.