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Oregon is for hikers; there’s no denying that.
Even if you live in the city, there are countless trails waiting to be explored. Need some proof? Just look outside: With more than 5,000 acres and 80 miles of soft-surface trails, Portland’s Forest Park—the largest urban forest in the US—is calling to you.
Let’s just say Portland’s got it made, and there’s no shortage of ways to take it all in. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Get your nature fix and work up a sweat without ever having to leave town. Starting at Lower Macleay Park Trailhead, climb 800 feet up to Pittock Mansion — the 22-room Victorian-era icon and long-ago residence of former Oregonian publisher, Henry Pittock. Tour the interior for a $10 admission, or just peek through the windows as you explore the flower-laden grounds and sweeping Portland views. After hiking back down to the trailhead, head for the bar; join your friends for happy hour at one the hot spots on NW 23rd Ave.
The highest point in Portland, Council Crest, boasts impressive views of the city and the Cascade Range including Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Rainier. To get there, follow the Marquam Trail, which winds its way along urban parks and green spaces with an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet. Lay out a blanket on the grassy lawn at the summit and enjoy a picnic while soaking up the sunshine and glowing scenery.
Angel’s Rest is a true cliché: the best view comes after the hardest climb. We know, we know — but it’s true! The steady incline of this trail requires a degree of mental and physical stamina, but the epic views at the top will erase any and all exhaustion from your mind as you are reminded of how small you are in this world. Pretty darn small, as you’ll see. Pack a lunch to refuel while admiring the stunning 270-degrees of canyon below.
Spend the entire day at Powell Butte Nature Park and you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty, trails, and mountain views galore. If it was up to us, we’d point you to the Powell Butte Perimeter Loop Hike, a moderate 3.3-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation gain. This family and dog-friendly hike is open year-round and includes stunning views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams. Like a storybook, this hike takes you through peaceful, shaded woods with plenty of nature to enjoy in addition to some picnic-worthy spots.
Hey, how about hiking up an extinct volcano? Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday to us. Enter Mt. Tabor, the scenic park just 15 minutes from the city. The easy, dog-friendly Loop Trail is only two miles round-trip with a sick view of Mt. Hood from the top. If the fact that you’re stomping across a volcano wasn’t enough, the path weaves through forested trails, gorgeous reservoirs, and open meadows. Take note: this one can get very crowded.
This place has it all. Seriously. A zoo, museum, arboretum, rose garden, Japanese garden and know what else? A whopping 15 miles of trails. Get your day started on the 3.9-mile Washington Park Loop, a scenic hike that starts out at the Sacajawea Statue Trailhead and finishes at the Hoyt Arboretum Trailhead. Don’t be surprised if you break a sweat — this popular loop gains 585 feet of elevation with the highest point being 850 feet. Plan to spend the entire day here because, with bounds of gardens, scenery, and attractions along this trail, you’re going to want to make some pit-stops.
Forest Park is a precious gem of Portland that you’re probably not taking advantage of as much as you should. In particular, the Maple Trail is amazing. It’s a quiet trail, perfect for a hike on a whim after a cooped-up day at the office. For an easy four-mile jaunt, begin at the Lower Saltzman Road Trailhead and turn back once you hit Leif Erikson Drive. For a longer, more challenging loop, continue along the Wildwood Trail for 7.7 miles, circling back to the trailhead.
Why see one waterfall on a hike when you can see eight? Yes, hiking the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop grants you access to eight different waterfalls — an Instagrammer’s dream. Not without some efforts, though — this moderate-to-challenging 4.9-mile hike gains 1600 feet of elevation. The best time to trek is during the spring when the falls are at their most epic and flowing fast. But be careful during winter, as snow and ice can cause some slippery surfaces. You can make for either at Multnomah or Wahkeena Falls to begin your journey. Fitt tip: Start at Multnomah to get through the crowds first. (And to end your hike at the Multnomah Falls Lodge with their famous homemade fudge and a well-deserved latte.)
For one of the easiest but most scenic hikes in town, head to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Winding around the east bank of the Willamette, Oaks Bottom includes over 150 acres of wetlands and forest. Not to mention, the easy and flat loop is only a few minutes from the city and extremely family-friendly. You’re sure to get a glimpse of the many different animals and birds that call his wildlife refuge home. Keep an eye out for hawks, quail, woodpeckers, and widgeons. (No, we did not make that name up.)
Sauvie Island is one of the best places to feel like you’re getting away from the city without having to go far. Although it’s known for berry foraging, pumpkin picking, and summer festivals, Sauvie Island also offers plenty of scenic hikes. Try the easy 2.8-mile Oak Island Loop, which is open to hikers seasonally from April to September. This hike takes you through lush, green trails and gives you the opportunity to see local wildlife and gobble some fresh-picked blackberries. For something a little longer, try the seven-mile Warrior Point Hike, which takes you to the Warrior Point Lighthouse. You just might get a sighting of sea lions and bald eagles. Can’t see that downtown.
This hike may be a little over an hour from PDX, but it’s totally worth it. Try out this difficult 6.9-mile trek as it gains 2800 feet of elevation — it’ll reward you with some of the most stunning views, maybe ever. Circle a day in May or June for this hike when the wildflowers are in full bloom, and on a clear day, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of Mount Hood, Columbia River, Wind Mountain, and, of course, the top of Dog Mountain. Be prepared: this popular hike gets pretty crowded.
Just 45 minutes from Portland takes you to the beautiful Cascade Locks. Here, explore the Dry Creek Falls Hike, which you can start from either the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead or the Pacific Crest Trail Winter Trailhead. This 4.4-mile hike is relatively easy and gains a total elevation of 710 feet. Along the way, you’ll trek by scenic forests, large lava boulders, wildflowers, and trees until you reach Dry Creek Falls. Once you stop openly weeping from the beauty of the waterfall and surrounding lush greenery, finish your hike and promise to come back next week. Plus, it’s considered one of the least crowded waterfall hikes near Portland. We dig that.
You must earn your view on this hike. This four-mile ascent will leave your quads burning, but it’s totally worth it. Once at the top, take in views of the South Santiam Canyon and, on a clear day, the Three Sisters. Lucky for you, this hike isn’t very well known, so you won’t have to fight crowds on the trail — maybe just some bugs.
This destination is kind of a hike (pun intended) from Portland, but totally worth the drive. A bit of a hidden gem, this Oregon waterfall is easily one of our favorites. The 92-foot, free-falling waterfall sits inside an impressive, basalt amphitheater. There’s a short, downward rope climb to the falls, but the view is worth the effort (and suitable for any level hiker). A rocky “beach” near the base of the fall makes for a perfect spot to kick back and eat lunch. If you’re feeling brave, you can even take a dip in the frigid water.
Nestled near Salem, this day hike is especially popular during the fall when the surrounding trees turn shades of orange. But this trail, known for its path that winds behind the fall itself, remains a hot spot during the summer and winter. Major perk? You can make this waterfall one of ten falls you visit in one day. Just follow the eight-mile Trail of Ten Falls Loop through Silver Falls State Park. Talk about one heck of a day hike.
Don’t plan on using your legs the day after this hike. With more than 2,500 feet in elevation gain in the first several miles, it’s safe to say this is among the tougher day hikes in the gorge. But the view at the top — and the winding, shaded trail trimmed by Douglas firs — make this grueling ascent worth the burn. Fitt tip: Make sure you come prepared with a map. There are multiple trails that branch off the main path, so it can get confusing.