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6 Great Hiking Spots Near Portland
These hikes range from mountaintop to sea, and all within two hours of Portland.
Multnomah Falls is only one of many waterfalls you'll encounter when you hike through the lush Columbia River Gorge.(U.S. Forest Service)
Portland, Oregon, is an ideal base for launching your next outdoor adventure, whether that's climbing a mountain, wandering through a forest or meditating by the ocean.
"In an hour and a half, two hours, you can be on a glacier up on Mount Hood or you can be at the coast," says Andy L. Welsh, front office manager at the Hotel deLuxe. "You can be in the deepest forest. Or you can be on Sauvie Island on the beach. That is one of the fun things about Portland," the array of choices.
U.S. News asked local experts to recommend their favorite places to explore the outdoors in and around Portland. Here are their top picks.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area(U.S. Forest Service)
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is the canyon area where the Columbia River runs through the Cascade Mountains, separating Oregon and Washington state.
[Read: The Best Hotels in Portland.]
"It's stunningly beautiful," says Alex Dawes, general manager at the Embassy Suites Portland – Downtown. "You're driving right beside the river. On one side are steep cliffs and on the other side is the river itself. It's full of beautiful waterfalls."
To reach a number of short or long hikes, take the Corbett exit (exit 22) from Interstate 84 and then head east on the Historic Columbia River Highway. This will take you past the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, as well as the Crown Point State Scenic Corridor and Vista House. Both have excellent views of the gorge. Keep going, and you'll reach several waterfalls – including Latourell, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, Multnomah, Oneonta, Ponytail and Horsetail falls – with hiking trails nearby.
Michael Rowland, chief concierge at The Benson Hotel, says, "Some you have to hike up to and some you hike into, but once you get to the falls, it's spectacular. Take a lot of pictures."
Another quintessential Gorge hike is Eagle Creek to High Bridge, which is about 40 miles east of downtown Portland on Interstate 84. The hike to High Bridge is 6.4 miles round trip with 840 feet of elevation gain. Along the way, you'll walk past several waterfalls along the creek, as well as tall basalt cliffs and forests of Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock.
Mt. Hood(U.S. Forest Service)
"Mount Hood is our mountain, and part of the Cascade Range," Dawes says. "On a clear day, you can be at the top of Mount Hood and you can see to the north Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and if it's very clear, you can almost see up to Mount Rainier. And then to the south you can see Mount Bachelor, which is all the way down in Bend. Mount Hood almost has year-round snow, and it's beautiful up there."
You can get close-up views of the mountain via the Mountaineer Trail, which takes you from the Timberline Lodge at about 6,000 feet to the Silcox Hut at 7,000 feet over the 2.7-mile round-trip hike. If the elevation gain is too much, you can see if the Magic Mile Chair Lift is running and just hike down. To get there, take U.S. 26 east about 60 miles, and follow the signs to Timberline Lodge.
Many of the iconic Mount Hood photos you've seen have been taken from Mirror Lake. To take some of your own, head to the Mirror Lake trailhead, near U.S. 26, for an easy 1-mile hike to the lake, or make the nearly 3-mile trek to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
Saddle Mountain State Natural Area
Saddle Mountain in Oregon's northwest corner is a great place for hiking. From the top, on a clear day, you can see the mouth of the Columbia River where it enters the Pacific Ocean. You can also look east and see Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood. The main trail is a moderate 5-mile round-trip hike that takes you through forests to mountain meadows of wild flowers. To get there, take U.S. 26 west about 70 miles.
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
The nearly 15 miles of trails at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park allow visitors to channel their inner explorer. The park's Fort to Sea Hike starts at the replica of Fort Clatsop, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's Corps of Discovery wintered near the mouth of the Columbia River, and heads west, winding through woods, across rivers and wetlands, and under the highway to reach the Pacific Ocean. The hike is 6.5 miles one way. Take two cars, and park one at each trailhead so you can shuttle back to the start after you finish. To get there, take U.S. 30 west about 100 miles.
4T – Trail, Tram, Trolley and Train
The 4T is a loop through Portland that requires about 4.5 miles of walking. The rest of the route is designed to take you around the city by tram, trolley and light rail train – which, with "trail," make up the four Ts in its name. It passes through plenty of wooded areas, but also features spectacular views of the city and the mountains beyond.
"I think that's a really cool way to incorporate public transportation, and also do a less rigorous hike but still something that's so accessible in the city," says Katie Gallagher, front desk supervisor at the Hotel Lucia. "And it's cool you can kind of hear the cars on the freeway going by, but you're completely surrounded by nature."
Forest Park(Bruce MacGregor)
Forest Park is Portland's backyard and includes more than 80 miles of hiking trails across almost 5,200 acres.
"The entrances to it are less than 10 minutes from downtown," Dawes says. "There are big wide-open paths and then there are very narrow trek trails. There's kind of something for everybody in there."
A favorite entrance to Forest Park is via the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead. From there, you can follow an easy 2-mile out and back to the Stone House, a 1930s rest house that has also been called the Witches Castle. While the Lower Macleay Trail is closed through mid-September 2017, you can still access the Stone House via the Upper Macleay Trail at NW Cornell Road.
To experience more of what Portland has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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