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10 Top-Rated Hiking Trails near Portland, Oregon

Written by Brad Lane
Nov 17, 2020

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Portland is an urban oasis, with many hiking trails in and around the city. The largest urban forest in the country occupies over 5,000 acres in Portland, aptly named Forest Park. And outside of the 80-plus miles of trails here, several other areas for hiking dot the city.

Trekking on trails is part of the Portland lifestyle. Many of the best hiking within city limits leads right to some of Portland's top attractions. Historic mansions, world-famous rose gardens, and more than one stunning waterfall are accessible from trailheads in Portland, making it easy for visitors to lose themselves in nature without ever really leaving the city.

Hiking trails on the outskirts of Portland offer even more alluring landscapes to explore. The Columbia River Gorge directly north of the city offers several hiking trails ending at dramatic waterfalls. Public transportation is available to nearly all trailheads within and near the city.

Plan your adventures with our list of the best hiking trails near Portland.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion Hike

Macleay Trail

Macleay Trail

The trek from Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion is one of the most defining urban hikes of Portland. The route takes hikers from city streets into a quiet forest and to an iconic landmark of Portland history with a five-mile round trip.

Beginning at the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead, accessible by public transportation, the trail immediately dives into the deep wonders of Forest Park. Here, the trail connects with the Wildwood Trail before ascending to Upper Macleay Park. Lush vegetation and many green shades define much of the surroundings as the trail gains approximately 900 feet of elevation along the route.

A recommended detour along the roughly 2.5-mile trek up includes a quick stop at the Portland Audubon Society, where hikers can visit the current wildlife residents being rehabilitated. From the Audubon Society, the Pittock Mansion parking lot and historic manor are only a short distance away.

Once home to the family of Henry and Georgiana Pittock, the Pittock Mansion was built in 1914 and purchased by the city in 1964 with major support from the Portland community. Contributing to the success of The Oregonian newspaper, Henry Pittock and his wife were both influential members of Portland society well before the city became the major cultural center it is today.

The Pittock legacy can be explored in more detail with a guided tour of the mansion, available by appointment. The impressive facade and landscaped gardens of Pittock Mansion make it a worthy hiking destination without the guided tour, including the great view overlooking the city from the backyard.

2. Blue Loop Trail, Mount Tabor Park

Mount Tabor Park

Mount Tabor Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On Portland's east side, the extinct volcanic cinder cone known as Mount Tabor is a popular park for all sorts of recreation. Hikers, cyclists, and soap box derby drivers often populate the park, alongside picnickers, playground users, and yard game enthusiasts.

Encompassing just under 200 acres and two water reservoirs, Mount Tabor Park is easy to explore. Several trails at the park connect and sprawl throughout the public space. For those that like some direction, the Blue Loop is a popular route to follow.

The trail extends just over three miles and circles the park, including both reservoirs. Portions of the trail include long sets of stairs that ultimately lead to the summit. The route is a loop, and blue arrows designate the preferred counterclockwise direction of travel.

Other designated hiking trails at Mount Tabor include the Red and Green Loop Trails, both offering a less steep route to follow. Many of the trails pass by the iconic attractions that define Mount Tabor Park, including the bronzed statue of longtime Oregonian editor Harvey W. Scott, as well as great overlooks of the city to the west.

3. Washington Park Loop Hike

International Rose Test Garden

International Rose Test Garden

Featuring top Portland attractions like the Hoyt Arboretum, International Rose Test Garden, and Oregon Zoo, Washington Park is the city's centerpiece natural space. With many cultural attractions worth some attention, one of the best ways to explore the 400-acre park is with a hiking loop, using the start of the 30-plus-mile Wildwood Trail.

Beginning near the Oregon Zoo, the trail quickly passes by the entrance to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial before heading up to the Hoyt Arboretum. Alongside topside views of the many different trees comprising the arboretum, the Wildwood trail continues ascending to the Portland Japanese Gardens.

To make the trek a loop, a cut-off trail passes by historic tennis courts and descends its way back to the park's trailhead and south side. This looped route totals nearly four miles in length. To really take advantage of everything this hike leads to, it's highly recommended to take at least half the day to hit the trail and explore whatever catches your attention.

The Washington Park Loop trail has plenty of cultural attractions to encourage a leisurely pace. Other attractions of Washington Park that encourage side trips include an archery range, a children's museum, and a wide range of memorials and statues.

4. Maple Trail Loop, Forest Park

Maple Trail Loop

Maple Trail Loop | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Encompassing over 5,000 acres within Portland's northwest city limits, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the country. Easily accessible by public transportation and with over 80 miles of trails, forest roads, and fire lanes to explore, this urban getaway invites a true escape from the hustle and bustle of the sidewalks and streets nearby.

Numerous trail junctions within Forest Park invite customizable hiking endeavors. The 30-plus mile Wildwood Trail serves as the main corridor and usual trail connector. With such big acreage, some trails in Forest Park see far less traffic than others. Other trails like the Maple Loop, however, see much more foot traffic and are popular for first-time visitors and long-term Portlanders alike.

Accessed from the Lower Saltzman Trailhead, the Maple Loop immediately introduces users to the tallest trees of Forest Park, including big-leaf maples, Douglas-firs, and red alders. Crossing bridges and gullies, the Maple Trail connects with either the Leif Erickson Trail or Wildwood Trail for a variable-distance loop. The route that connects with Wildwood adds up to an 8.4-mile loop with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

Whichever direction you head, the tall landscape only becomes denser the farther you travel. While signposts are prevalent throughout the park, it's recommended to bring along a map or detailed reference guide.

5. Marquam Trail to Council Crest

Council Crest Park view

Council Crest Park view | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Council Crest Park reveals a rich landscape of Cascade mountain peaks. Just over 1,000 feet in elevation, Council Crest is one of Portland's highest points and once was the site of an early 20th-century amusement park. While it's possible to drive to this still-popular center of community attraction, it's much more rewarding to hike your way to the top.

One of the most popular routes up to Council Crest begins at the Marquam Nature Park Shelter. The nature park is a common jumping-off point for other hikes in the area. The trail to Council Crest from Marquam is a consistently uphill, two-mile trek. It's over 1,100 feet of elevation gain to reach the top. Hikers make their way through a dense forest punctuated by neighborhood homes and a few road crossings along the way.

Sunset is a great time to arrive at Council Crest to enjoy the view, though hikers will want to be sure to leave themselves enough light to make it back down to the nature park shelter. At the top of Council Crest, alongside great views, a community piano awaits anyone who knows their way around the keys.

6. Latourell Falls, Columbia River Gorge

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Accessible from the Historic Columbia River Highway, Latourell Falls plunges over 200 feet to create an impressive display of moving water.

The trail begins from a popular and sometimes crowded trailhead. A recommended approach to the falls involves parking at Guy W. Talbot State Park just below the main trailhead parking area. Here, a vast picnic area makes for a great break before or after hiking.

It's just over a mile and 600 feet of elevation gain to reach the popular waterfall viewpoint from Guy Talbot. The trail makes a loop for a total 2.5-mile journey.

Latourell Falls is one of the most scenic waterfalls in Oregon and it's also the closest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge to Portland, making it a great starting point for all-day exploring of this scenic region. The nearby Eagle Creek Trail in the Gorge offers another hot spot for waterfall hikes.

7. Mountain View Trail, Powell Butte Nature Park

Hikers descending from the Mountain View Trail

Hikers descending from the Mountain View Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the east side of the city near Gresham, Powell Butte is an extinct cinder cone volcano surrounded by many excellent trails to explore. Open to hikers, cyclists, and horse riders, Powell Butte encompasses over 600 acres and many great vantage points overlooking surrounding Cascade peaks.

One of the best trails to explore the scenic attraction of Powell Butte is the aptly named Mountain View Trail. Beginning near the parking area and visitor center, the Mountain View Trail takes an easy approach up to the ridgeline before evening out for constant views. On clear days, a few of the prominent peaks seen on the horizon include Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and most predominantly, Mount Hood.

After appreciating the views, hikers on Mountain View Trail can connect with the Wildhorse Trail to make a 1.3-mile loop. This route is rated easy and accommodates most hiking abilities. The Mountain View Trail also connects to the park's vast network of multi-use trails for a bigger adventure.

8. Tryon Creek State Natural Area Trail System

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Tryon Creek State Natural Area | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Comprised of over 650 acres of wooded and second-growth forest environments, Tryon Creek State Natural Area is an easy escape south of the city. Visitors in downtown Portland can reach Tryon with a 30-minute drive or 45-minute ride on public transportation. Upon arriving, visitors have over eight miles of routes to choose from.

Several trails branch out from the main parking area at Tryon. These paths lead to various bridge crossings, an interpretive Nature Center, and near-guaranteed wildlife sightings. A few of the trails have minimal elevation gain, but many of the routes require a little climbing. Tryon is a popular place for young families and little explorers.

Horse riders also come to Tryon to get some riding in near city limits. The natural area features 3.5 miles of packed gravel trails for equestrians, as well as a designated parking area. These trails are also open to hikers.

The 0.3-mile Ruth Pennington Trillium Trail is a popular and universally accessible route in Tryon, including with it an array of interpretive information about the surrounding environment.

9. Bluff Trail, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge | Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington / photo modified

A collection of paved paths and dirt trails lend easy access to this landfill turned wildlife refuge on the city's southern edge. Alongside hundreds of species of birds, the area is also popular for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The hiking-only Bluff Trail is the main exploration corridor, with most adventures starting at the southern end of the refuge at Sellwood Riverside Park.

The trail navigates north on an easy grade beneath various trees, which support the refuge's diverse wildlife. Affording great views and observation points along the way, the trail skirts along an open water area before reaching a junction with the Springwater Corridor. The entire route is very flat and easy to follow the entire way.

The Springwater Corridor is one of Portland's longest cycling paths. To complete a loop back to Sellwood Park, pedestrians should hop on the Springwater Corridor, watching out for faster-moving cyclists, and head back south to complete a 2.3-mile loop.

10. Four T Trail

Four T Trail sign

Four T Trail sign | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Incorporating the train, trolley, tram, and hiking trails, the Four T Trail is a unique, self-guided hiking endeavor that tours some of Portland's best sights. Well signed and popular for tourists and residents alike, the trail's official start begins at the Pioneer Courthouse Square.

From this historic area of the city, Four T followers hop on the MAX light rail to the Oregon Zoo. After spending time exploring the Oregon Zoo, the next step of the journey involves hiking 1.3 miles up the Marquam Trail to Council Crest (see above).

From Council Crest, 4T signs lead the way to the Oregon Health and Science University campus. It's easy to catch the Portland Aerial Tram downhill from campus while appreciating the views of the Willamette River. The tram is free to ride downhill and just under $5 for round-trip service.

At the Tram's terminus, users hop aboard a Portland Streetcar to complete the loop back to Pioneer Square. The streetcars provide service every 15 minutes. In total, this urban trail offers a rewarding way to experience the city without ever using a personal vehicle.

Where to Stay in Portland

  • Luxury Hotels: One of the best hotels in all of Portland, the Hampton Inn & Suites Portland-Pearl District is centrally located and delivers well beyond the ordinary customer service. Featuring a rooftop patio, saltwater pool, and a complimentary hot breakfast, the real appeal of this upscale hotel is the surrounding neighborhood filled with boutique shops, local restaurants, and other top attractions of the city.

    On the riverfront in the downtown district, the Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel is another first-class hotel in the heart of the city. The hotel features unique decorations, unlimited class, and rooms and suites that embrace the Portland lifestyle.

    Another luxurious option downtown, the Sentinel is a five-star accommodation oozing with culture and comfort, and features spacious suites, which serve as a true getaway.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: To find the right combination of affordability and a first-class stay, hotels like the Silver Cloud Inn NW Portland offer an unbeatable value. With a friendly rate, the Silver Cloud Inn provides clean rooms, quiet facilities, and a friendly front desk staff all within proximity of downtown Portland and Forest Park.

    Another good-value hotel, the Residence Inn Portland Airport at Cascade Station is northeast of downtown and provides spacious suites for a favorable rate.

    For a historic and eloquent stay in the heart of downtown, The Benson, a Coast Hotel is a great mid-range option, which features antique furnishings in upscale accommodations and comfortable rooms all close to the excitement of the city.
  • Budget Hotels: For a comfortable hotel that won't break your budget, Nordic Inn and Suites on the northeast side of the city fits the bill. With close access to the Columbia River Gorge, Nordic Inn provides clean facilities in a quiet location.

    Another great affordable option is the Aladdin Inn and Suites. Located in southwest Portland, Aladdin Inn is near downtown and central attractions, like Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo, and is well reputed for an attentive front desk staff and thorough cleaning crew.

    Over in North Portland, the Monticello Hotel is another favorite affordable option featuring free parking, a continental breakfast, and quiet stays.

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