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The Top 18 Notable + Historic Landmarks in Oregon + Washington

  |  Central Oregon, Neighborhood Insight, Portland, Southwest Washington

The Pacific Northwest is filled with a number of notable landmarks, both natural and man-made, that tell the stories of our region’s rich history. Some date back to the 1990s and others to millions of years ago, but all are well worth a visit.

See how many famous landmarks and awe-inspiring sights in Oregon and Washington you have already checked off your bucket list. And maybe you’ll discover a few to add to your road trip itinerary this summer!

 

IN WASHINGTON:

Mount St. Helens | Castle Rock, WA

Mount St. Helens

Visitors travel from all over the country to see Mount St. Helens, an active stratovolcano most known for its destructive eruption on May 18, 1980. While there may be a large number of visitors on site, it is worth traveling to the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center to get the full story of this fascinating volcano. The Johnston Ridge Observatory offers some of the clearest views of the volcano, with several viewpoints along the way.

 

Washington State Capitol Building | Olympia, WA

With an estimated 2017 population of 51,609, Olympia is a fairly laid-back capital city. Visit the heart of the city’s government at the Washington State Capitol, an ornate building towering 287 feet above the area’s tree-lined streets. The capitol has free, walking tours offered daily, or you can simply explore the area and observe the many memorials, gardens and special features. 50-minute tours are offered hourly Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

The Space Needle | Seattle, WA

The Space Needle

You can’t miss this one, no matter where you are in the city of Seattle. Constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair, the futuristic Space Needle is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. The structure stands at 605 feet tall, featuring a 520-foot saucer-shaped top house offering 360-degree views of the city’s skyline, Mount Rainier, the Puget Sound and the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges. This historic landmark is currently undergoing an extensive remodel that will significantly enhance the visitor experience.

 

Fort Vancouver | Vancouver, WA

Situated along the northern bank of the Columbia River in present-day Vancouver, Fort Vancouver was a 19th-century fur trading post that acted as the headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Columbia Department. The fort was named after Captain George Vancouver, a British officer of the Royal Navy. Today, the fort holds so much history, from its fur trading origins to its powerful military legacy, plus the magic of flight and the origins of the American Pacific Northwest. Visit Fort Vancouver to discover stories of transition, settlement, conflict and community.

 

Snoqualmie Falls | Snoqualmie, WA

Snoqualmie Falls

More than 1.5 million visitors take in the awe-inspiring sight of Snoqualmie Falls each year. This famous 270-foot waterfall is accompanied by a 2-acre park, a gift shop, an observation deck, and the Salish Lodge, an eatery that overlooks the falls. If you’re visiting at night, don’t worry — you can still see these breathtaking falls, as they become illuminated when the sun goes down!

 

Fremont Troll | Seattle, WA

This last one dates back just a few decades, but is certainly worth a visit while in Seattle. The Fremont Troll is a public piece of art situated under the Aurora Bridge in the Fremont neighborhood. This enormous troll structure was sculpted by four local artists in 1990 in an effort to revitalize the area under the bridge. The troll is clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle in its larger-than-life fingers. You’ll often see visitors taking photos in front of this bizarre art piece, especially on Halloween, when residents throw a Trolloween party.

 

Mount Rainier | Paradise, WA

Mt. Rainier

Standing at 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is the tallest peak in the Pacific Northwest and the Cascade Range as a whole. Plus, this active volcano is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S. Okay, we get it — it’s a big deal. But how do you spend your time during a visit? Mountain Rainier National Park has a number of hiking trails, places to ski and snowboard, cozy lodges to stay at, and other activities, like a train ride, a wildlife park, a gondola and more.

 

Deception Pass Bridge | Oak Harbor, WA

Prior to the construction of the Deception Pass Bridge in 1935, this gap between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island could only be crossed by boat. This gorgeous green steel bridge is considered a significant regional landmark, and the gateway to fully access Deception Pass State Park. Considered the most-visited state park in the state, Deception Pass State Park is situated on both islands, encompassing a total of 3,854 acres of land. You’ll discover mysterious caves, rugged cliffs, and jaw-dropping scenery and sunsets at this popular park.

 

IN OREGON:

Multnomah Falls | Bridal Veil, OR

Multnomah Falls

Expect to be surrounded by other curious visitors at Multnomah Falls, as it is the most-visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest! Considered the largest waterfall in the state, Multnomah Falls measures 620 feet in height, spanning two tiers. Visitors may easily access the falls in the Benson State Recreation Area, which includes a bridge spanning across the lower tier. Or you may choose to explore the falls further by traveling along the Multnomah Falls Hike to Multnomah Creek. This 5.5-mile journey will take you to the top of the falls along Multnomah Creek and eventually to Weisendanger and Ecola Falls.

 

Astoria Column | Astoria, OR

The majestic Astoria Column is the final installment of a 12-part series of historical markers located between St. Paul, Minnesota and Astoria, Oregon. These markers were a pet project of Ralph Budd, the president of the Great Northern Railroad in the early 1900s. The column extends 600 feet above sea level, offering unrivaled views of Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, the Columbia River and even the Pacific Ocean. At night, the column is illuminated to showcase the hand-painted spiral frieze that would stretch more than 500 feet if unwound.

 

Haystack Rock | Cannon Beach, OR

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock is perhaps one of the most easily recognizable landmarks in the state of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest as a whole. This 235-foot basalt rock is accessible at low tide, when you can explore tidepools and various colorful marine animals. Haystack Rock is home to a number of bird varieties, including Tufted Puffins from early spring to mid-summer. The quaint coastal town of Cannon Beach is a common vacation spot for Pacific Northwest residents. Check out some of our favorite places to eat before or after your visit to Haystack Rock!

 

Smith Rock State Park | Terrebonne, OR

Situated just outside of Bend, Smith Rock State Park is an absolutely spectacular sight to see — and one of our favorite hiking destinations in the area. There is so much to explore within this 641-acre state park, whether you like to hike, mountain climb, camp, bike, run, or simply admire nature and wildlife. The park is open from dawn to dusk year-round and the day use fee is $5 per vehicle.

 

Crater Lake | Crater Lake, OR

Crater Lake

Considered one of the most renowned destinations in the Pacific Northwest, it is only right that you have experienced Crater Lake National Park first-hand. With a depth of 1,943 feet, the jaw-dropping Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. The intense blue color reflects the lake’s purity and depth. Consider camping at one of the two developed campgrounds surrounding the lake to extend your trip to this iconic national park!

 

Oregon State Capitol Building | Salem, OR

The Oregon State Capitol Building has to be one of the more unique capitol buildings in the U.S. And did you know that the current building is the third to house the state’s government in Salem? Two former buildings were completely destroyed by fire in 1855 and again in 1935. The current structure was constructed between 1936 and 1938 and expanded in 1977. Admission to the Capitol is always free — simply step inside to join a historical tour of the building or tower, or grab a brochure and embark on your own self-guided walk.

 

The Grotto | Portland, OR

The Grotto Portland

Photo Courtesy of Larry Kirby via The Grotto

Surrounded by fir trees, colorful rhododendrons and other native plants, The Grotto is a 62-acre Catholic sanctuary in Portland welcoming more than 350,000 guests of all faiths each year. Visitors may see the marble replica of Michelangelo’s famous Pietà carved into the base of a 110-foot cliff, or ride the elevator (for a small fee) to the top of the bluff for a breathtaking, panoramic view of the area. The low prices of admission at The Grotto make it one of our favorite things to do in the Portland area for less than $10!

 

Oregon Caves | Cave Junction, OR

This fascinating cave system in southwestern Oregon was discovered by nearby resident Elijah Davidson in 1874, but the natural phenomenon dates back a few million years. The 4,554-acre national park offers guided tours of the caves from mid-April through early November. Choose the Discovery Cave Tour, the Candlelight Cave Tour, the Kids and Family Tour, or the Off-Trail Caving Tour. These twisting passages in the Siskiyou Mountain total approximately 15,000 feet, formed in limestone that metamorphosed into marble. While you’re in the park, make sure to visit the 13-foot-wide Big Tree, the widest Douglas Fir in the state of Oregon.

 

Mt. Bachelor | Bend, OR

Mt. Bachelor

With all these historic tours and sightseeing, let’s add a bit of action to the list. Situated in the Cascade Range in Central Oregon, Mt. Bachelor is an oasis for sports enthusiasts — and is quite beautiful to look at. Can you believe Bend residents get to look at this beaute on a daily basis?

During the colder months, visitors flock to Mt. Bachelor for skiing, snowboarding, tubing and other wintertime activities. And during the summer, it turns into an oasis for mountain bikers. The Mt. Bachelor’s Bike Park features a variety of popular ski runs transformed into daredevil dirt routes for bikers to explore. The bike park offers lift services to an additional 13 miles of downhill-oriented trails.

 

Pittock Mansion | Portland, OR

Built in 1914, the Pittock Mansion museum tells the story of Portland’s transformation from pioneertown to a more modern and industrialized city. Saved from demolition by dedicated citizens in 1964, the mansion and the surrounding estate were then purchased by the city and opened to the public as a historic house museum. Discover the history and legacy of the Pittock family, one of the city’s most influential families as you explore this historic house museum with either a self-guided or guided tour!

 

What would you add?

Let us know what notable and historic landmarks you would add to this list! Comment below with your suggestions.

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About the Author

Courtney Itami

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