Portland, Oregon: The hiking wonderland you didn’t know existed

Hit any of the Portland Region’s hiking trails, and you’ll be richly rewarded – with unspoilt natural beauty, some truly epic views, and potential wildlife encounters…

Team Wanderlust
29 October 2019
Promoted by
Discover Portland Oregon

From the city itself to the parks and mountains around it, the Portland Region is sheer hiking heaven – with trails of all sizes, levels and styles to choose from. These are some of our favourites…

Long hikes

The Timberline Trail Loop (MtHoodTerritory.com)

For a day-long excursion or weekend escape, head down the Timberline Trail Loop around Mount Hood – one of the most coveted and stunningly beautiful hiking destinations. With forty miles of woodsy paths weaving in and out of deep forests and across alpine meadows, moss-draped waterfalls, volcanic deserts and rocky outcrops, this makes for a strenuous workout and spectacular few days in the great outdoors. If you want to hunker down for the night among the pines, there are plenty of marked campsites, as well as the famous Timberline Lodge. Permits are required for overnight camping and can be found at trailheads around Mount Hood. July-October is the best time to visit this area.


A field of wildlflowers along the Pacific Crest Trail (Shutterstock)

Meanwhile, the mighty Pacific Crest Trail – a magical mix of wildflower meadows, rolling hills and alpine lake – is fantastic for those who like a challenge as well as incredible views. This 4,200km multi-state route weaves its way through the Portland Region and will take you to the edge of some truly spectacular vistas. 

Lookout for bobcats in Cooper Mountain Nature Park (Shutterstock)

A walk with wildlife

Mirror Lake Trailhead (MtHoodTerritory.com)

To see more wildlife while you hike, head to Cooper Mountain Nature Park in the lush Tualatin Valley. The reserve offers smooth gravel-strewn trails weaving through restored woodland habitats and oak savannas, with vistas of distant, vineyard-dotted hillsides and the Chehalem Mountains. Bird lovers can watch migratory flocks in the spring and autumn, as well as year-round residents including great horned owls, bobcats and black-tailed deer darting into the brush. 

A challenging hike 

The Burnt Lake Trail loops around its namesake waterway for a glorious 12km. The first part of the trail is a gradual climb up to 4,120m, where the dark blue Burnt Lake is situated. It’s then a steep hike up to the aptly named zigzag ridge, shortly followed by the zigzag mountain trail. The going is tough, but well-worth it for the incredible views of Mount Hood.  There are numerous campsites dotted around the lake, making for comfortable pit stops. 

4 amazing walks in Portland city 

You don’t have to venture far to find great hikes – these walks are all within Portland city boundary, providing a dose of nature and tranquility within easy reach. 

Beautiful Cannon Beach is famous for its Haystack Rock (Shutterstock)

1. Powell Butte Loop 

Go birdwatching at Killin Wetlands (Jim Shea)

Powell Butte Loop is minutes from downtown Portland, yet feels a world away with over six miles of gorgeous hiking, biking and horse trails taking you through misty forest to wild-open grasslands of an extinct volcano.

Set up camp at Lost Lake (Shutterstock)

2. The Ridge Trail 

Day Hikers at Wildwood Recreation Site (www.hood-gorge.com)

Nestled in Forest Park not far from downtown, The Ridge Trail is a scenic six-mile loop through a canopy of cedar, maple and hemlock trees and culminates to picturesque views of sea-green arches of the city’s iconic St. John’s Bridge.

3. The Wildwood trail 

Perfect for an urban ramble, The Wildwood trail is an almost 50km hiking path shaded by leafy trees. The dog-friendly trail starts at the Newberry Trailhead and will take you all the way to Washington Park. Look out for wildflowers and a plethora of birds along the way. 

4. The public gardens 

For a dose of calm from the urban bustle, wander the fragrant International Rose Test Garden, a tranquil hideaway with thousands of rose bushes, or the nearby Portland Japanese Garden, stretching across five acres in the West Hills with cherry trees, bonsai beauties and Koi ponds. 

3 more outdoor adventures in Portland

Hiking isn’t the only way to enjoy the Portland Region’s parks and nature reserves – try these other activities too…

1. Hit the beach 

With urban beaches nestled in Portland’s backyard, you can take an impromptu swim at Tom McCall Bowl Beach in the downtown Waterfront Park, a summertime hotspot and the location of the city’s grandest beach party The Big Float. A glorious hour-and-a-half coastal trip from Portland, Cannon Beach is big on natural beauty, with shimmering waters, the much-photographed 235-foot basalt column Haystack Rock, where puffins and other seabirds nest, and hiking trails in misty rainforests. Tucked away in Ecola State Park, Indian Beach – a secluded and rugged surf spot fringed by spruce forests – is just as stunning, with coves and rocky shore for exploring. On a clear day you can see the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse offshore.

2. Go birdwatching 

Often called Canyon Marsh, Killin Wetlands is a mecca for birding and wildlife enthusiasts. Bordered by cedar, conifers, willows and farmland, this beautiful flood plain of shallow marshy lakes holds several refuges and provides a rich habitat for birds and wildlife of all kinds. Walk the serene trails with views of rolling hills or enjoy a picnic from the lookout deck and watch for rare willow flycatchers, bald eagles and great egrets and, if you’re lucky, glimpses of beaver or otter on an exposed bank.

3. Set up camp 

The scenic Clackamas River in Mt Hood National Forest lies in the shadow of the park’s namesake peak. The shores of the fir tree-lined river is a gem of a place to pitch a tent, with an abundance of campsite popping up along the shoreline. The Ranger Station in Estacada has information on local camping, hiking and fishing resources, as well as cabin rentals nearby.  Locals love to walk the 1½ mile hike through old-growth forest to rustic Bagby Hot Springs.

Essential information

How to get there

Delta Air Lines now operates summer seasonal  daily direct flights between London Heathrow and Portland International Airport. For more details, visit delta.com.

When to go?

Portland is beautiful and lively year-round. Summer can be hot and sunny and stretching into perfect warm, balmy evenings. Winter can be rainy and bring snow, but is generally mild. Spring and autumn weather are unpredictable, so pack warm clothing for layered dressing, rain gear and walking shoes for a comfortable stay.

Where to stay

If you want to stay in the city itself, Jupiter, Jupiter NEXT, Lucia, Sentinel, Deluxe and Hoxton  are all good options. If you’re planning on hiking around Mt Hood, choose between Timberline Lodge and the Mt Hood Oregon Resort. McMenamins Grand Lodge makes a great base in the Tualatin Valley.  Or, head to one of Ruby Vineyards’ two cottages nearby for a unique farmstay. Clatskanie River Inn is another good option in Columbia County.

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