15 Best Things to Do in St. Helens, OR

St. Helens, OR
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Welcome to St. Helens, the county seat of Columbia County, Oregon!

In 1845, New England Captain Henry Montgomery Knighton founded the area as “Plymouth.”

Five years later, they changed it to St. Helens, taking inspiration from the panorama of Mount St. Helens in Washington.

St. Helens sits where four rivers meet, providing a spectacular outdoor escape.

Likewise, it’s only 30 miles from Portland, the state’s largest city.

Take advantage of the many parks and hiking trails along the St. Helens riverside.

Unwind in one of the district’s quaint boutiques, breweries, and restaurants.

Did you know that St. Helens served as a location for several films, including the popular Twilight series?

There are many fascinating things this charming city has up its sleeve!

Here are the best things to do in St. Helens, OR:

See Historic Buildings at St. Helens Old Town

The roof of County Courthouse at St. Helens Old Town
kenneth korb / Shutterstock.com

A great deal of local history awaits you at St. Helens Old Town.

Find a collection of antique shops, thrift stores, fine restaurants, historic buildings, and more.

Likewise, you can find the St. Helens Old Town near the St. Helens Marina.

The Register of National Historic Places has listed this district in its record.

Exterior of County Courthouse at St. Helens Old Town
Cacophony, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They also filmed some scenes of the massively popular vampire saga, Twilight, in Old Town.

See the historic buildings of St. Helens Old Town, such as the 1904 County Courthouse, which is also the home of the Columbia County Museum.

Check out the 1937 St. Helens City Hall, initially built in 1908 as the former Columbia County Bank.

Exterior of St. Helens City Hall at St. Helens Old Town
Cacophony, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Unwind at Grey Cliffs Park

Grey Cliffs Park sits on a former basalt quarry site, just north of St. Helens Marina.

River Street comes to an abrupt end at this park, with two cliff areas for viewing.

The park’s lower cliff is a flat lawn that makes an excellent spot to unwind and have a picnic.

You can also watch small boats and large ships on the water, with a pathway that leads to the riverfront access.

A flight of stairs leading to the park’s upper cliff takes you to a scenic point where you can see the whole riverfront.

Grey Cliffs Park is also a well-liked spot for fishing, with salmon, steelhead trout, and sturgeons commonly caught in the river.

Other amenities of the park include benches, picnic tables, a bike rack, and restrooms.

Grab a Bite at the Klondike Tavern

Dine at the Klondike Tavern, St. Helens’ famous restaurant in the former St. Helens Hotel along the Riverfront District.

Built in 1910, the hotel accommodated mill workers.

Today, the building has collected tales of friendly ghosts roaming the upper floors.

The 8,600-square-foot hotel and the restaurant were dormant until 2021.

The Klondike Tavern serves hearty and upscale American cuisine in a rustic setting, including burgers, seafood, and steak.

You can also enjoy pub favorites such as classic cocktails beers, and wines.

The Klondike Tavern plans to reopen the hotel upstairs as part of its landmark preservation and restoration project.

Join the Twilight Tour

This tour is for the Twilight fanatics out there!

While Forks is a real place in Washington and the primary setting of the Twilight book series, the movie series never shot any scene there.

For practical reasons, they shot the movie primarily in and around Portland, Oregon, with a tiny portion in Washington and California.

The Swan House is one of the few locations and scenes filmed in St. Helens.

Edward rescued Bella from a group of men in the parking lot of the Thunderbird & Whale Bookstore.

Bella also purchased a book on Quileute legends there.

You can also visit the Bloated Toad restaurant, where Edward told Bella he could read minds except hers.

However, some of these places are private residences and businesses, so you can only snap photos from the outside.

Drop by the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and pick a map of the Twilight locations to learn more about the Twilight tour.

Walk a Trail at McCormick Park

McCormick Park is one of the most popular parks in St. Helens because of its extensive sports and recreational amenities.

The park's western section is generally flat.

Milton Creek crosses this area, which also has numerous evergreens, seasonal trees, and shrubs.

Among the park’s features are two lighted softball fields, two small baseball fields, a BMX track, and an 18-hole disc golf course.

You can also go to the skateboard park, two large gazebos, an off-leash pet area, and a nature trail.

McCormick Park’s 2.3-mile nature trail is an easy loop trail along lovely wildflowers, suitable for all skill levels.

People usually go to the trail for running, walking, bird watching, and outdoor excursions.

McCormick Park allows pets but you must keep them on a leash.

See the Latest Blockbuster at the Columbia Theatre

Exterior of Columbia Theatre
Cacophony, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historic 1928 Columbia Theatre is a great place to watch a movie to cap the day off.

This restored theater with a balcony in the front shows the latest movies.

Although you can find antique elements and historical photos throughout the theater, this 400-seat theater uses upscale 3-D technology and high-resolution digital projection.

At first, the theater screened films and staged plays; it also had a restaurant and a salon.

Today, Columbia Theatre offers regular movie snacks such as candy and popcorn, along with alcoholic beverages like beer and wine.

The theater also serves dinner on nights with live entertainment, such as musical performances, open-mic events, and comedy shows.

Rent a Bike from Barlow Bikes & Boards

Barlow Bikes & Boards is a bike tour company serving the Coast, the Greater Portland, Mt. Hood, and the Gorge regions.

Barlow Bikes & Boards does one to multi-day tours, as well as packaged tours that include hiking, fishing, kayaking, and more.

Founded in 2001, Barlow Bikes & Boards has played a significant part in Columbia County.

For example, they built a USA BMX track and hosted the first ever sanctioned race at St. Helens in 2002.

This family-owned business offers bikes and boards you’ll need to hit the road.

They’ll also help you do bicycle maintenance, installation, and repair services.

You can also rent bikes, ride on a BMX track, and explore a shop with a wide assortment of bicycle and board parts.

Trick out your brand-new bike or find your next upgrade.

They even do custom orders.

Barlow Bikes & Boards only provides the best selection of bikes with high-quality service in the area.

Volunteer at Nob Hill Nature Park

Nob Hill Nature Park is a woodland habitat sitting on a basalt cliff overlooking the confluence of the Columbia River and the Multnomah Channel.

It is a fantastic location for bird viewing and flower research, using native oak trees, lilies, shrubs, and wildflowers.

The Friends of Nob Hill Nature Park, a community group also works together with the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council.

They organize volunteer work twice a year in April and November.

During these activities, volunteers remove invasive species like blackberries, English ivy, and holly.

They also add native plants.

The group aims to restore Nob Hill Nature Park to its more natural condition, akin to what Lewis and Clark would have seen during their 1805 expedition.

Nob Hill Nature Park includes a 1/3 mile nature walk loop with three entry points.

You can go to the entry point by the sewage treatment plant, while the other entry points are on 3rd Street and 4th Street.

Explore Wildlife at the Columbia Botanical Gardens

Columbia Botanical Gardens, also called Columbia Nature Trail, is a short meandering nature trail that passes through a forested region and wetlands.

The gardens stand on a former rock quarry, with marshy areas, higher elevated sections, and huge rocks covered in moss.

You can find various flora all over the park, including evergreens, seasonal trees, marsh plants, and wild shrubs.

Gravel covers the trail through natural terrains with only one entryway.

Columbia Botanical Gardens is a pleasant stop during springtime.

During the summer, it teems with extraordinary wildlife, including the orange-crowned warbler, and the Rufous hummingbird.

You can also see woodland amphibians and woodpeckers.

Celebrate an Event at Columbia View Park

The grounds of Columbia View Park
Cacophony, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Columbia View Park is mostly level with a stone-terraced hillside covered in grass.

On special events, the terraced hillside serves as an amphitheater.

Aside from the terrace and views of the Columbia River, the central pavilion also stands out.

You can rent the place for any events, including receptions, weddings, and community activities.

Columbia View park also features benches, picnic tables, a splash pad, handicap-accessible restrooms, and coin-operated showers.

You can also visit a statue commissioned in 2005 by the Historical Society of Columbia County.

Then, you can go to the life jacket loaner station near the public dock entrance, and more.

If you’re looking for a place to host your next event, consider the beautiful Columbia View Park.

Eat, Drink, Repeat at Dockside Steak and Pasta

Dockside Steak and Pasta has provided locals and guests of St. Helens with a beautiful dining experience for over 20 years.

This St. Helens institution has served American comfort food and cocktails in a cozy, vintage vibe with a patio and a long bar.

From diners to restaurant staff, Dockside Steak and Pasta treat everyone as family.

Its fantastic food in a comfortable and friendly setting makes it a favorite among many.

Choose among their fun menu, from “Things to Start” to “Things Between Bread,” and leave with stomachs full and cravings satisfied.

What are you waiting for?

Eat, drink, and repeat at Dockside Steak and Pasta!

Camp at Sand Island Campground

You can find Sand Island Campground on an island across the Riverfront District of St. Helens.

It’s only 25 minutes from Longview, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.

A boat shuttle from the Marina will take campers to the 31.7-acre campsite.

Enjoy the beaches, docks, grounds, kayaks, nature trails, picnic tables, water activities, and more.

View breathtaking scenery of the river and the magnificent Mt. St. Helens in Washington and Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Watch the massive ships on the river on the eastern part of the island, and enjoy the sandy beaches.

You might also want to play games like corn hole and horseshoes.

This offshore camping ground should provide an enjoyable experience for families and friends.

The Sand Island Campground should become a popular camping destination.

Shop Vintage Items at 2Cs Vendor Mall

2Cs Vendor Mall is home to more than 70 vendors, each with unique and exciting items.

You can find 2Cs inside an old Pythian building, built in 1927.

For many years, numerous small businesses have gone to 2Cs to share their passion for collecting and love for marketing.

Expect new products every day as each vendor stops by frequently to replenish their supplies and make eye-catching displays.

From home decors and utensils, garden and yard tools, apparel, and DVDs, to furniture and more.

Whether you’re looking for vintage, antique, gently used, or brand new items, you’ll find it all at 2Cs Vendor Mall.

Visit the Warrior Rock Lighthouse

Visit Oregon’s smallest lighthouse, the Warrior Rock Lighthouse, located on Sauvie Island.

The Warrior Rock Lighthouse, built in 1889, was originally a 16-foot-tall two-story wood-frame structure with a sandstone base.

In 1930, they replaced the tower with a 28-foot tall concrete tower, still atop the sandstone base.

Getting to the lighthouse only takes a 0.2-mile boat ride from the St. Helens Marina.

The Warrior Rock Lighthouse aids in directing traffic on the Columbia River.

Likewise, it’s one of only two operating lighthouses in Oregon not facing the Pacific Ocean.

You can also explore the surrounding areas leading to the lighthouse.

The Warrior Rock Lighthouse Point Trailhead is a popular trail that outdoor enthusiasts enjoy.

The seven-mile loop trail begins at Warrior Point Trailhead on Reeder Road.

You’ll need a refuge day pass to access the trail, which concludes at Warrior Point, Sauvie Island’s northernmost part.

Celebrate the Spirit of Halloweentown

Pumpkin street decor for Halloweentown
Nicci Schu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Celebrate Halloween and get spooked all month long in the city of St. Helens!

In 1998, Disney filed the Disney Channel Halloween favorite Halloweentown in St. Helens.

Since then, the city government has turned the Riverfront District into the Spirit of Halloweentown to host annual celebrations of all things “spooktacular.”

This month-long festivity has drawn thousands of people, especially those who enjoy Halloween.

Besides its popularity as the filming location for Halloweentown and Twilight, it seems very fitting for St. Helens to hold this spooky event.

After all, this city’s history brims with haunted tales.

See the giant pumpkin on display at the courthouse plaza, where it remains lit throughout the month.

Feel free to stroll, take photos, and enter a haunted house.

Go on a self-guided tour, play games, eat delicious food, enjoy a tram ride, and many more.

Numerous reputable news organizations have covered The Spirit of Halloweentown, including ABC News, BuzzFeed, Country Living, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, MTV, and Vogue.

Final Thoughts

Local tales, Hollywood romance, and Halloween festivities add a new level of charm to this quaint city's cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

St. Helens invites you to experience both the conveniences of country living.

Check out the many entertaining and fascinating things the city has to offer.

Escape the big city and marvel at the beautiful history, scenery, and activities of the gorgeous St. Helens.

Book your trip today!

You might find more things to do in St. Helens, OR after you arrive.