Plein Air Painting Sites - Oregon

To search out plein air painting sites, this traveling artist drove 1760 miles through the beautiful State of Oregon. I checked out and plein air painted at sites recommended on this page. Read on for up-to-date information gathered while on this trip for Oregon plein air painting sites. Oregon is one of the most beautiful and varied of the 50 States.

Oregon Coast

Yachats – a small town midway up the coast of Oregon.

Great open views of the coastline from a wonderful ocean side trail which goes for many miles – part of the scenic Oregon Coastal Trail system and a wonderful plein air painting area

To get to Yachats from Medford, take Freeway 5 north of Medford and turn off on Route 99, leading to Route 39 to Reedsport on the coast. Continue North up the coast to Yachats.

On the way you will pass the Hecata Head Lighthouse which is unique. Those of you who love to paint lighthouses may want to stop at a viewpoint just South of the Lighthouse to paint it.

I stayed at The Fireside Motel right on the ocean (pet friendly, affordable and clean) – walk 50 feet to the Coastal trail where great ocean painting spots abound. Even if you aren't staying at this place the coastal trail is accessible to the public for all to enjoy. The town of Yachats has many small cafes, diners and affordable eating spots. Not pretentious – just right.

Columbia River Gorge

Take Route 205 round Portland to access the scenic Columbia River Gorge area going East of Portland on Highway 84.

During my trip I found the Gorge area difficult for painting due to the fierce winds that come up the river seemingly at all times. After spending all day exploring possibilities I found 2 places that are easily accessed right off the road. These two spots are protected from the wind and offer good plein air painting possibilities.

The first one is at Multnomah Falls which is about halfway between Portland and Hood River to the East.

Take the exit off the freeway 84. A spectacular waterfall drops down within full view of the parking area. Bathrooms available. The downside is that this is a busy spot – but the waterfall view is worth it.

The only painting friendly spot I was able to find on the Columbia River Gorge is located about 5 miles West of Hood River at the Mitchell Point Overlook exit off Route 84. Take this exit – the Mitchell Point Overlook is where I painted my Columbia River Gorge painting sheltered from the wind and with an amazing view of the layers of gorge cliffs, the river, and Mt. Hood in the background as a bonus.

Bathrooms available. Early Morning or later afternoon light is best at this spot.

North Eastern/Central Oregon

The Painted Hills are 9 miles North West of the town of Mitchell (just off Highway 26) in North Eastern Oregon – the Painted Hills are in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Wonderful folded and creased fossilized hills in yellow, gold, red and black – all offset with the sagebrush dusty green. Best seen in the later afternoon light. Spectacular.

Picnic area with bathrooms available.

PETER S. OGDEN Scenic Viewpoint just North of Redmond off Route 97. Walk along the Gorge of the Crooked River and look down at cliffs of dark basalt lava rock at the Crooked River at the bottom. Great plein air painting site with the gorge, sage brush and one of the Sisters volcano peaks beyond.

Bathrooms and picnic area.

SISTERS - 20 miles East of Bend on Route 20.

The Three Sisters volcanic peaks - in early Summer all are covered with snow. The painting at the head of this page is of The Sisters peaks. To paint them, there is a scenic pull-out off Route 20 on the way from Bend to the resort town of Sisters. This pull-off allows a full and unobstructed view of The Sisters.

Stop in the town of Sisters for great dining, shopping and world famous Quilting show in July. If you love quilting or quilts, this is the place for you.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Due to the time it takes to get to Crater Lake N.P. plus all the plein air painting sites available, we recommend making this a destination in itself rather than just a one day trip. Camping sites are usually available by mid June - check first though due to snow fall which varies. For those not camping, then staying at Crater Lake Lodge is a comfortable option.

One of the best spots for plein air painting is right across from the Crater Lake Lodge. This painting was done there in early June. The higher altitude and brilliant light make painting either early in the day or later in the afternoon a bit easier on the eyes. The air feels like breathable crystal it is so clear - the colors so brilliant.

If you want to take a boat ride out to Wizard Island you need to visit after July 4 and before Labor Day when the boat rides stop for the year.

Crater Lake can be accessed by at least 3 different roads, one coming from the East off Route 97, one coming from Medford to the West, and another from Klamath, from the South. The crater has a road that circles it - many different scenic viewpoints and painting sites offer varying views of the Lake, Wizard Island

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