Oregon is for hikers.
Even if you live in the Rose City — or you’re just visiting — there are countless trails waiting to be explored just out your front door. With more than 5,000 acres of greenspace and 80 miles of soft-surface trails, Portland’s Forest Park — the largest urban forest in the U.S. — is calling you.
Let’s just say Portland’s got it made. There’s no shortage of ways to take this all in, but here are 16 ideas to get you started. (Note: Many of the links below go to MapMyHike routes, which were logged by MapMyHike users — exact routes and distances may differ slightly.)
This is a precious gem of Portland that you’re probably not taking advantage of as much as you should. The Maple Trail, in particular, is amazing. It’s a quiet route, perfect for a hike on a whim after a day cooped-up in the office. For an easy 4-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.
Clear your calendar or call off work. Elowah Falls needs your attention. It’s a quick 1.2-mile trek with ample reward — consider combining this one with another nearby hike for a full day of exploring. Stand at the footbridge while you’re surrounded by towering rocks speckled with neon green moss and feel the mist on your face as the falls crash down from nearly 300 feet above. On a quiet day, this is one of the most peaceful settings imaginable.
MACLEAY PARK TO PITTOCK MANSION
Get your nature fix and work up a sweat without 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 Henry Pittock, the onetime publisher of The Oregonian. Tour the interior for $10, 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 Avenue.
EAGLE CREEK TO PUNCHBOWL FALLS
This is the definition of beauty within the Columbia River Gorge. With several options of varying difficulty and length, this trail is a popular choice — and for good reason. On this easy 3.8-mile out-and-back trail, wander through an impossibly green wonderland to the dreamy oasis that is Punchbowl Falls. The circular basin at the bottom of the falls serves as a swimming hole, output for kayakers and the focal point of many postcards.
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MARQUAM TRAIL TO COUNCIL CREST
The highest point in Portland, Council Crest boasts impressive views of the city and 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 greenspaces 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 in the sunshine and equally glowing scenery.
Three falls for the price of one! This is a great family-friendly loop with minimal elevation change and plenty of scenery to keep things interesting. The trail actually takes you behind one of the falls to a cavernous area eroded beneath a lava flow — a fun perspective to show off next time you have a visitor in town. Begin this hike at one of two trailheads: Horsetail Falls or Oneonta Gorge.
The best view comes after the hardest climb. We know, cliche alert — 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 erase any and all problems and remind you how small you are in this world. Pack a lunch to refuel while admiring the stunning 270-degree view of canyon below.
What better way to beat the summer heat than hike where the creek is the trail? Prepare to submerge waist-high or deeper as you slither your way through the narrow canyon toward the roaring waterfall ahead. A local favorite on a hot day, don’t be surprised to find everyone has come to the same watering hole. You’ll be traversing slippery rocks and a potentially unstable logjam, so choose your shoes accordingly, put your phone in a sandwich baggie and leave the little ones at home for this one.
Spend the entire day here surrounded by nature, trails and mountain views galore. Explore the Powell Butte Perimeter Loop Hike, a moderate 3.3-mile trail with 500 feet of elevation gain. This family- and dog-friendly hike is open year-round and includes stunning views of Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. Like a storybook, this route takes you through peaceful, shaded woods with plenty of nature to enjoy in addition to some picnic-worthy spots.
How about hiking up an extinct volcano? Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday to us. Enter Mt. Tabor — this scenic park is only 15 minutes from the city. And this easy, family- and dog-friendly loop trail is only 2 miles round trip with a sick view of Mt. Hood from the top. If the fact you’re stomping on a volcano isn’t enough, the path weaves through forested trails, gorgeous reservoirs and open meadows. Take note: This one gets very crowded.
This place has it all. Seriously. The zoo, museums, arboretum, the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden. It also has a whopping 15 miles of trails. Explore the 3.9-mile Washington Park Loop, a scenic hike that starts at the Sacajawea Statue Trailhead and ends at the Hoyt Arboretum trailhead. Don’t be surprised if you break a sweat — this popular route features 585 feet of elevation gain, with the highest point 850 feet above sea level. 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.
MULTNOMAH FALLS-WAHKEENA FALLS LOOP
Why see one waterfall on a hike when you can see eight? Hiking this one grants you access to that many different falls, an Instagrammer’s dream. It’s not without some effort, though — this moderate-to-challenging 4.9-mile trail features 1,600 feet of elevation change. The best time to trek it is during the spring, when the falls are at their most epic. Be careful during winter, as snow and ice can cause some slippery delays. Make for either Multnomah or Wahkeena Falls to begin your journey. Fitt tip: Start at Multnomah to get through the crowds first — and end your hike with the Multnomah Falls Lodge’s 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, it includes more than 150 acres of wetlands and forest. This 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 wigeons (no, we did not make that name up).
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This 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 and 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. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions and bald eagles. You can’t see that downtown.
This hike is a little more than an hour from PDX, but it’s totally worth it. It’s difficult — a 6.9-mile trek with 2,800 feet of elevation gain — but your reward will be some of the most stunning views you have ever seen. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of Mt. Hood, the Columbia River, Wind Mountain and, of course, the top of Dog Mountain. Be prepared: This popular hike gets crowded.
DRY CREEK FALLS
Just 45 minutes from Portland is the beautiful Cascade Locks. Explore this hike, which you can start from either the Bridge of the Gods Trailhead or the Pacific Crest Trail Winter Trailhead. A 4.4-mile route, it’s relatively easy and features a total elevation gain of just 710 feet. Trek by scenic forests, large lava boulders, wildflowers and trees until you reach the eponymous falls. Once you stop openly weeping from the beauty 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.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT HIKE