High on Crater Lake's western rim, the Watchman's lookout tower commands an eagle's-eye view across the amazingly blue lake to Wizard Island. The steep little climb up the Watchman is one of the most popular paths in the national park. It's also short enough that you might want to extend the hike by taking an adjacent 2-mile path around Hillman Peak to a viewpoint above the Devils Backbone. Pets are banned on all park trails.
Once a sanctuary for Takelma Indians, today these cliff-edged mesas near Medford are a haven for hikers and endangered wildflowers. Views from the cliffs extend across the Rogue River to the Siskiyous and the Cascades. Visit in spring to catch the best flower displays and to avoid summer's merciless heat.
Starting from the historic Crater Lake Lodge, this path climbs along the rim of a gigantic collapsed volcano, now filled with a stunningly blue, 6-mile-wide lake.
This riverside loop through Willamette Mission State Park not only visits the nation's largest black cottonwood tree and the site of a historic 1834 settlement, but it also includes a free ferry ride across the Willamette River and back.
Here's where gigantic old-growth trees tower along a wilderness river
Start at 100-foot-tall Sahalie Falls, a raging cataract that pounds the river into rainbowed mist. Then the route descends past 70-foot Koosah Falls and returns along the river's far shore on the McKenzie River Trail.
An easy loop visits Canyon Creek's lower meadow, full of wildflowers. For even better views, energetic hikers can continue to an upper meadow and a viewpoint beneath Three Fingered Jack's summit pinnacles.
Plunked in the midst of the Central Oregon plateau, Black Butte looks like a misplaced mountain. A steep but view-packed trail climbs 1.9 miles to the panoramic summit, gaining 1,600 feet of elevation. The last portion of this route is difficult enough that it is not generally recommended for hikers with children.
Smith Rock juts from the Central Oregon lava plains like an orange-sailed ship in the desert. Oregon's most popular rock-climbing area, this state park challenges mountaineers with 3 miles of rhyolite cliffs and Monkey Face, a 350-foot-tall natural sculpture.
The Metolius, most magical of all Oregon rivers, emerges fully grown at 50,000 gallons a minute from the arid base of Black Butte. Sample the river's wizardry with this easy hike along a section of the oasis-like riverbank. The trail passes sudden springs, reveals colorful bird life and leads to a wonderfully visitable fish hatchery.
Oregon's second tallest mountain rises like a wall from the lake-dotted wildflower meadows of Jefferson Park. The view of Mount Jefferson is so impressive and the meadows are so delightful to explore that the area is crowded in summer - so why not wait to go until September?
A walk on the famous Wildwood Trail through Washington Park is a reminder of what's so wonderful about Portland.