The Best Photography Locations in Oregon

Oregon, United States / Friday, July 14th, 2023

The state of Oregon is so diverse in its climate. From the wild and rugged coastline to the lush, moss-covered rainforests and the most interesting rock formations in the desert. There is pretty much an endless supply of incredible Oregon photography locations to choose from.

The terrain changes so dramatically there is a new surprise around every corner. Driving through Oregon was like playing pass the parcel, finding a new goody with every layer I unwrapped. This state is so incredibly photogenic even amateur photographers have the opportunity to get some jaw-dropping photographs.

With warm conditions and late sunsets in summer to iced over waterfalls in winter, it's important to choose the right time of year to get the type of photograph you want. In some parts of the state be prepared for rain and lots of it! If you get bad weather, use the foggy coastlines and dramatic skies to your advantage.

There are so many treasures in Oregon loved by landscape and nature photographers from around the world. Though you may not have time to visit all of them, I hope you can see a few locations on this list and get those Instagram worthy photos! This list is made up of well-known scenes and some local secrets which I was lucky enough to scope out.

There will be something for everyone here, and plenty of waterfalls... I hope you like waterfalls!

Make sure you pack your tripod to capture those smooth long exposure water shots and the filtered sunlight caught in the mist between the many towering pine trees. Ah, I'm so excited for you!

Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool)

The once free-flowing Tamolitch Falls is now just a trickle since the McKenzie River changed its course a few miles upstream. Now the river in this section only flows dramatically several times a year, the rest of the year it comes from underneath the earth into the pool.

Still, this doesn't reduce the magnificence of the blue pool in the slightest! The cobalt blue water will have you wondering if someones tipped a bucket of food dye into it. The water is so clear and looks shallow, yet it's over 30 feet deep in sections. The pool gives the illusion that it's perfectly still, yet as you walk up the trail to reach it you'll hear the gushing rapids from the volume of water leaking over the edge. It's just a surreal place.

The Blue Pool is perfect for jumping into on a summers day, but just keep in mind the heat doesn't warm up the water at all so you'll want to make sure the sun is out to defrost!

It takes a moderately easy 2-mile trail to reach the pool. Though the hike isn't exceptionally scenic, it is very peaceful as you walk alongside the river.

Boardman Tree Farm

In Autumn the Boardman Tree Farm is a must visit! Just 2.5 hours east of Portland on I-84, this Instagram worthy location may not be around much longer. The property has been sold to farmers and the Pacific Albus trees are in the process of being cut down over the next couple of years.

Though you're no longer allowed to step on to the property, you can still take photos from the roadside. It can be hard to get the timing right for the fall foliage, so keep an eye on the Oregon Fall Foliage reports to make the most accurate estimate you can!

Sahalie Falls

As I approached the Sahalie Falls lookout, I literally said "Holyyyyy sh*ttttt". I don't think the nearby family appreciated that statement too much, but I thought it was justified!

This waterfall will take your breath away, especially if you catch it when the sun is out and a rainbow is proudly stretched across the whole scene.

Sahalie Falls is located in the Cascade Mountains and is apart of the McKenzie River. It's actually the same water as the above Tamolitch Falls. The water freefalls 100 feet over a natural lava dam and is easy to access from the parking lot. There are a few little paths you can take to get closer to the falls but keep in mind the rocks can be covered in ice on a cold morning.

This location also kills two birds with one stone, which leads me to the next place...

**Edit - After visiting, I was told there used to be signs saying not to go past the fence but they had been taken down by someone and I was unaware and followed an unofficial path down to this spot. Stay to the path in order to protect this environment.

Koosah Falls

Koosah Falls is a short walk down from Sahalie Falls, and it's a walk worth doing. You'll pass some of the most magnificent sights along the way. Clear, turquoise water rushes between the vibrant green riverbanks, flowing under moss covered fallen logs with rainbows reflecting off the mist. How can you say no to that?

When you reach Koosah Falls, you'll be able to view this double waterfall from numerous viewpoints. For a more unique perspective hike a little off the beaten path... you'll be able to spot the best opportunities when you get there. You'll notice the water in the river turns from turquoise before the falls to a stunning cobalt blue afterward.

It's the most magical place in Oregon I've witnessed and will bring peace to your core. You could sit for hours enjoying the mystic beauty of this place, being entertained by the butterflies fluttering in the sun or watching squirrels cross the river by hopping from log to log. Pure magic.

**Edit - After visiting, I was told there used to be signs saying not to go past the fence but they had been taken down by someone and I was unaware and followed an unofficial path down to this spot. Stay to the path in order to protect this environment.

Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake is an easy spot to stop between Portland and Bend and will give you up-close views of the highest peak in Oregon, Mt Hood. The lake reflects a perfect picture of the mountain on a calm day. If Mt Hood is hiding in the clouds, take the opportunity to wander along the Trillium Lake Loop Trail around the lake and enjoy the reflections of the pine trees in the water.

This leisurely stroll is easy enough for families to tackle and is made up of gravel trails and boardwalks. The 2-mile walk is a loop beginning at the east side of the dam at the campground.

Painted Hills

One of the most unexpected scenes in Oregon, the Painted Hills are located 75 miles east of Bend. The landscape, similar to the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, is made up of hills and valleys which have formed over millions of years. You can literally see the layers of the earth's geological journey which is just fascinating in itself.

There are a few trails you can take to get some remarkable photos, and most of them aren't very long at all. The most popular Painted Hills trails are the Overlook Trail and the Painted Cove Trail.

The Painted Hills are best photographed in the late afternoon, at golden hour or sunset. If you have the chance to visit multiple times you may notice the colors are slightly different from your last trip, this is because the claystone changes with light and how much moisture is in the rock.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is one of the most photographed locations in the Columbia River Gorge and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the most photographed location in Oregon! Just a 30-minute drive from Portland, the very short paved walk from the parking lot will lead you straight to the falls. Remember the parking lot exit is on the left, I missed the turn-off and it's a very long U-turn to get back!

A lot of the trails around the Columbia River Gorge are unfortunately closed due to the semi-recent bushfires. Multnomah Falls is one of the only waterfalls you'll actually be able to get access to in the area.

The waterfall is made up of two individual drops, the upper being over 500 feet high and the lower approximately 70 feet. Unfortunately, my lens wasn't quite wide enough to capture it all in one photo!

My dad visited here in the '70s and was very persistent for me to go, now I see why. It was simply stunning, even in the rain, and is one of those sights that's more impressive in person than in the photographs.

Multnomah Falls can get very busy with fellow tourists so plan to arrive at a time when the buses aren't flooding the place!

Sparks Lake

Sparks Lake is most famous for those extra special sunrise and moonglow photographs. The lake is so perfectly still it creates a mirror-like reflection resulting in some unbeatable landscape photography.

Around 40 minutes west of Bend on the Cascades Lakes Highway, you'll find this diverse location just past Mount Bachelor ski resort on the left.

If you've been wanting to try your hand at night photography, sunrise, sunset, or even possibly an aurora... this is the place to do it.
Avoid this one in the winter unless you have a snowmobile to access it!

Tumalo Falls

A little closer to Bend you'll find Tumalo Falls along the Deschutes River. It cascades dramatically over a cliff and freezes in late Fall and Winter. You can't see much from the main lookout so take the trail from the bridge downhill from the parking lot.

This trail is not for the faint-hearted, especially in the cooler months when the rocks are covered in ice and everything is slippery. You don't want to accidentally fall in that water!

If you continue up the main path past Tumalo Falls you'll arrive at the less impressive but still worthwhile upper falls.

Don't get confused with the nearby Tumalo State Park as these are completely different locations.

Cannon Beach

Ahh, the famous Cannon Beach, the most iconic location on Oregon's Coast. You can view the rock formations and the beach from the high viewpoint at Ecola State Park. For a more detailed photograph head down to the actual beach itself.

The most famous formation, Haystack rock, sits proudly 200ft tall and is the backdrop to many photoshoots.

Try shooting at night and capturing the stars behind Haystack Rock, or create a bonfire on the beach (for the photo and to keep you warm!)

Thor's Well

Thor’s Well is another location high on every Oregon photographers list as it's a long exposure photographers dream! Though it's popular, the well is actually a little tricky to find. You will discover it soon after passing Cape Perpetua northbound on highway 101. If you're having issues, just go with the GPS!

Please be careful of the tides and the power of the water. It is easy to get distracted and seriously injured, or worse. Some days the waves will just be far too strong for you to approach Thor's Well. Though disappointing, it's not worth the risk to attempt to get The Shot.

Samuel H. Boardman State Park

Near the border of California, you'll discover the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor... a mouthful I know!

The area is made up of natural rock bridges and formations covered in pines to create a dramatic landscape. You can walk down to the bridge but make sure you wear the right kind of footwear and stay on the path.

Umpqua Hot Springs

For only $5 a vehicle (or using the Northwest Forest Pass) you can soak in these phenomenal natural hot springs. The three hot pools can be accessed year round and will require a steep quarter-mile hike to access. If you arrive in the snowy season be prepared to hike 2 miles in as the road isn't plowed in winter.

Get ready to see a lot of flesh at these springs, let's just say there's a whole lot of natural beauty to be expected.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Most people think the Avenue of the Giants is the place to see the giant redwoods. The truth is, while it's a spectacular sight, the giant trees are quite spread out. However, at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park the 10,000 acres are jam-packed with huge ancient trees. You'll find 7% of the world's old-growth redwoods here.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is most known for its striking blue water and the two islands in the middle: Wizard Island and Phantom Ship. You'll also find an old growth forest in the park full of popular hiking trails.

Beautiful after a dusting of snow, it was once labeled as one of the natural wonders of the world. It was created approximately 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama crumpled into a crater, much like whenever I attempt to bake a cake!

What's really interesting about the lake is that there are no water streams running in or out of the lake and was filled purely by rainfall and snowfall. It took over 250 years to fill the 1,943-foot deep crater... pretty impressive hey!

Toketee Falls

Toketee Falls is one of those places which will make you feel as though you've stepped into a scene from Indiana Jones. An easy spot to reach, the 0.8-mile trail will take you to the view of the water tumbling over basalt cliffs into a turquoise pool.

The falls were formed by lava and consist of an upper 28-foot waterfall and the main 133-foot Toketee Falls. You'll find the water flows fairly consistently year round due to artificial water control of the river from the nearby powerhouse.

Take photographs of a few different angles at this wonderland, from the high up viewpoints to water level, you're bound the get some magnificent photos.

Opal Creek

Opal Creek is a little more of a trek to get to. The 6.4-mile hike will take you along a gravel road through a forest of old-growth 500-year-old cedar trees. Once crossing the high bridge, you'll arrive at the opal pool.

This little gem (pun intended) can get pretty hectic in the warmer months, so come early in the morning for those unspoiled views.

Smith Rock State Park

Just a short drive north of Bend is the small but splendid Smith Rock State Park. It's one of those places that is at its most spectacular at sunrise and sunset when the warm light bounces off the already vibrant rocks creating even more magnificent colors. They also reflect in the river below to give the effect of rainbow colored water, and you may even be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle.

Smith Rock State Park is full of great hikes and a very popular spot for climbers. You could spend a whole day exploring a different section of the park and appreciating the landscape changing in the everchanging light. From the top of the Misery Ridge Trail, you get a great view of Mt Hood, the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson, Broken Top, and Mount Bachelor.

2 Replies to “The Best Photography Locations in Oregon”

  1. Would’ve been great to visit in the 80s. I don’t remember the water being so clear you could see fish but I didn’t get very close to the water either.

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