Us Portlanders are simple creatures. We only need about 90 days of sunlight a year, don’t mind a little rain, and are content to bike just about everywhere (usually to brunch or a brewery). Life is good.
What we do require, though, is a daily dose of green and a little fresh air. And that’s a pretty easy order considering our urban center is touted as one of the best cities in the country for nature-lovers (hey, that’s us!). Not to mention we have some seriously awesome neighborhoods to explore.
So lace up your sneakers and flip your Portland Gear cap backwards. It’s time to explore the Rose City by foot.
This walk is a long one, we know. But the seven-mile stroll along the northern tip of Sauvie Island is worth it when you’re walking among bald eagles, sandhill cranes, Canada and cackling geese, snow geese, and tundra swans. The walk leads to the Warrior Rock Light, a modest lighthouse built more than a century ago. A nearby bench is the perfect place to watch for seals and birds.
Even Portlanders need a break from all the green. Powell Butte in Southeast Portland offers just that. This dry landscape is painted in yellows and tans — which is a stark contrast to the rich hues characteristic of Northwest trails. It still offers the same bright views of a snow-covered Mount Hood in the distance, though. The best part? You can enjoy this 4.5-mile loop year-round. Go ahead. Get your outdoor fix.
Sellwood has a lot to offer. From antique shops to some seriously awesome bakeshops, you could get lost here for hours. A serious perk is that it’s right near some awesome urban parks, like the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. This quiet neighborhood is a great (and sometimes needed) reprieve from other urban walks — no need to fight foot traffic here.
Kelley Point Park
Situated at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, North Portland’s Kelley Point Park offers both wooded and waterfront walks. After exploring the trails, you can enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables or explore the river by canoe (this park conveniently has a canoe launch).
Bridge, waterfront, and esplanade loop
Walking this waterfront trail in Southeast Portland is just how we like to start our Sunday mornings. First, hop over to nearby Water Avenue Coffee for a dose of caffeine and a slice of avocado toast. Then, walk it off with a brisk stroll along the nearby waterfront. At the end, relax on the esplanade and lose yourself to the sounds of rushing waves and hollers of nearby fishermen casting lines. Is there a better way to start the day? We don’t think so.
Sometimes you want to get outside without all the fuss of a taxing hike or a long drive. Northeast Portland’s Rocky Butte is perfect for those semi-lazy days when both hiking and a Netflix marathon sound equally tempting. It’s only a short stair climb to the top of this extinct volcanic cylinder, which boasts views of the Cascade Mountain Range with Mount Hood in its center. Want a longer walk? Opt for a 3.2-mile trek to the butte that begins at the Grotto Trailhead.
Tall evergreens abound in the Northwest, and they look all the nicer with a view of the Rose City in the background. Visit Mount Tabor and that’s just the scene you’ll get. This Portland park on a vocalic cinder cone in Southeast Portland, provides a quick getaway for anyone in need of some greenery and fresh air. Meander among the park’s three reservoirs or follow the full loop (the Blue Loop) all the way to the top. You’ll be greeted by grand views of Portland to the east and Mount Hood to the northeast.
Sprint the stone steps, bike the trails, or just grab a coffee from a nearby cafe and meander beneath the shade. This 410-acre urban park in Southwest Portland includes more than 10 walking trails that connect to attractions like the Oregon Zoo, Portland Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and International Rose Test Garden. A portion of the Wildwood Trail (a whopping 30.2-mile trail) is one of the more popular picks for walkers and hikers alike. You can follow this trail to Hoyt Arboretum or simply walk far enough to catch glimpses of the Japanese garden. Your pick.
Hoyt Arboretum Loop
Visiting this arboretum is a great way to feel like you’ve left the city—without actually leaving the city. This wooded wonderland in Southwest Portland’s Washington Park is home to more than 2,000 plant species from all over the world, and it’s (quite literally) right in your own backyard. With 12 miles of trails, you can get lost for hours among redwoods and weeping sequoias. Or, ya know, just take a quick stroll.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge
This wooded area is only minutes from downtown Portland, but with all the thick growth, you’d never know it. Take a leisurely stroll along the 3.8-mile loop hike through the wetland, or opt for a longer stroll from the Eastbank Esplanade to the Springwater Corridor Trail, which eventually leads to Oaks Bottom. Fitt tip: keep an eye out for wildlife. Blue heron, widgeons, hawks, quail, and woodpeckers are known to frequent here.
Marquam Nature Park Loop
Sometimes you only have a couple hours in a day to unplug and unwind. Solution? Take a brief stroll through Marquam Nature Park in Southwest Portland, where the towering trees and green-trimmed trails are sure to soothe your racing mind. Plus, several trails are shorter than two miles, offering the quick reprieve you need from fast-paced, urban life.
On a warm summer day, this Southeast Portland park comes to life with grass-covered sunbathers, giggling children, and locals roaming the trails. Take a brief walk on the path through the park, pop a squat beneath a tree for a quick nap, or bring a book to read beside the pond. Don’t forget to bring picnic fixings — you’ll want to stay awhile.
Swap the StairMaster for an outdoor workout in Northeast Portland. This one includes a view, so you can bet it’s better than sweating away at the gym. Alameda Ridge is a gravel bar that was formed by a flood thousands of years ago. Today, this ridge is home to 11 public staircases — ranging from 30 to 127 steps — that make for one heck of a workout. Walk these steps through this scenic part of Portland while setting your calves (and lungs) on fire.
Woods Memorial Natural Area
This natural area in Southwest Portland is bursting with native growth. Walk among tall Douglas firs, bushy cedar trees, and blossoming trillium flowers. Paved and unpaved trails pass through wooded areas and meadows alike. And with 36 acres to explore, you’ll want to visit this one a few times.
Known for its abundance of bizarre boutiques, ethnic dining, and historic storefronts, this corridor (six blocks from Hawthorne) is packed with character. Shop the quirky storefronts or grab a bite at one of the local eateries. Maybe even catch a second-run flick at old-school Avalon Theater, which illuminates this area at night.
This popular Portland neighborhood is for the active foodie. After all, it’s home to some of our favorite restaurants, food carts, and happy hour spots. Just walk the stretch between North Skidmore and North Fremont to see what we mean. Don’t worry about overindulging. You can walk it off later.
Moss-trimmed trees. Gently sloping trails. Fallen logs that beckon you to climb them (though maybe you shouldn’t). Forest Park is Portland’s playground. Sprawling over Northwest Portland, it’s one of the largest urban parks in the country and, as one would guess, home to many, many trails. Run, walk, or (carefully) climb the fallen logs. You won’t believe you’re still in Portland.
This walk is best saved for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The popular street is lined with an abundance of unique shops, local eateries, and even a few tattoo parlors. Take a walk among Portlanders wearing their 90s best and grab a donut from the nearby Blue Star Donuts (how Portland of you). Oh, and don’t forget to check out the historic Bagdad Theater, a destination all its own.