Portland Area Hikes

By Paul Gerald
  |  Gorp.com
Page 1 of 4   |  
creek near multnomah falls in the columbia river gorge
Creek near Multnomah Falls in (Corel)

People move to Portland, Oregon, for many obvious reasons. It's a friendly, young, hip city with excellent planning, nationally renowned public transportation, and microbreweries and coffee shops scattered all over town. But if you ask people why they moved here—and it really does seem that everybody moved here from someplace else—they always mention the outdoor activities.

The fact is, every road leading out of Portland leads to trailheads. By the time your odometer reads 100, you can be looking at ocean, desert, alpine splendor, or the Columbia River cutting through a 4,000-foot gorge. Being a hiker in Portland is like being a music fan in New Orleans or a restaurant lover in New York.

Portland's hiking season runs year-round, especially since 4,000-acre Forest Park is right in town with 60+ miles of trails. Portlanders stretch their legs after work by climbing 700 feet to Council Crest and admiring the views of four volcanoes, or they head out to Sauvie's Island to see which migratory birds are in—eagles, cranes, hawks, and so on.

In spring, it's time for the Columbia River Gorge, a National Scenic Area that starts just beyond the eastern suburbs. Its steep climbs beckon to those in training, its waterfalls and wildflowers to those who just want out of the city. As the snow level rises, so do we, heading into the Cascades for old-growth forest, mountain vistas, and fish-filled lakes and rivers.

But the fundamental magic of life in Portland is that while the mountains are an hour east of us, the coast—where all beaches are publicly owned and accessible—is an hour west. The Nature Conservancy owns the land on Cascade Head, where endangered butterflies hatch in meadows more than a thousand feet above the sea and waterfalls plunge right onto the beach. And from the end of Cape Lookout, you're a mile out from the coast and 500 feet up, with a view of migrating whales.

Honestly, it's all too much. Nobody has hiked it all, and it's a matter of pride when you find some new, wonderful location that your friends don't know about. Portland is a wonderful city, but its setting is second to none.

Published: 24 May 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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