By Coach KB
There is no shortage of fun to be had in the outdoors here in Portland, Oregon: biking, skiing, rafting, rock climbing, SUPing, surfing… even dragon-boating! It seems everyone these days is getting into something new that they can look cool doing on Instagram. But what will be there when the hype runs out? When the gear becomes too expensive to maintain? Or sits unused on your shelf because you realized it actually takes a lot of effort to get it all packed up for an adventure? Or the weather conditions have made it too dangerous or just plain miserable?
Good ol’ fashioned hiking.
Hiking is there for you when the glitz and glam of all the other fashionable outdoor sports wears off.
Hiking is there when you don’t feel like schlepping all your gear from the basement to the car and the car to the outdoors and back again (don’t forget cleaning it all up!).
Hiking is there when you have run out of money for gear.
Hiking is there for you whether you have a whole day or just a couple hours.
Hiking is there for you whether it is raining, snowing, sleeting, hailing, AND when it is sunny and beautiful out.
For all of you who want a no-frills, no-hassle outdoors experience in Portland, I am here to officially give you my TOP 5 HIKES in and around Portland. There is something for everyone here - a hike in each direction, a few levels of difficulty, and all no more than 90 miles from the city center:
There is no place like home. When you live in the city and want the ultimate get-outdoors-quick experience, take the quick jaunt over to Forest Park. There are entrances into the Park everywhere so, no matter what part of town you are in, you can usually be there in under 15 minutes. The best thing about Forest Park is that you can dedicate as much or as little time as you need for your hike. There are tons of short loops you can add on and make longer routes. I literally go to Forest Park every week and am still not bored. It’s beautiful! For a fun challenge that my family did when I was a kid, print out a map of all the trails and highlight the ones you have done. Do a different loop each time until you have traversed the entire park - 80+ miles worth of trails (and even more if you count the connected trail system in Washington Park, which I do, of course)!
THE COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE
Direction from PDX: 30-45 miles east
*Many trails affected by the Eagle Creek fire are re-opening this spring and summer but be sure to check online before you go - https://gorgefriends.org/hike-the-gorge/trail-alerts.html
I’m lumping all these spectacular hikes into one because you really can’t go wrong. There are SO MANY trails and SO MANY waterfalls it’s hard to keep them all straight! I recommend you take the Fill-the-Map Challenge like I recommended with Forest Park. Print out a map of all the major trail systems in the Gorge and get out your highlighter. Pick a different trail until all are highlighted. Many of the trails in the Gorge are out-and-backs, with options to make them into loops connecting with other trails, so they really are for all levels of hikers.
For those of you who want a few specific recommendations, here are my Top 5 for different reasons:
For a physical challenge: On the Oregon Side - Angel’s Rest and Mt. Defiance. On the Washington Side: Hamilton Mountain, Table Mountain, and Dog Mountain.
For the waterfalls: Eagle Creek, Triple Falls, and, for families with children, any of the falls around Multnomah Falls have relatively easy hikes and beautiful scenery. Especially check out Wahclella, Horsetail, and Ponytail Falls.
HONORABLE MENTION: Anything around Mt. Hood. Between the Gorge and Hood there were just too many to choose from. I went with the Gorge because Hood is farther by at least 20 miles, depending on where you go. Basically, we just live in such a beautiful region that you can’t go wrong. Get out the map and put your finger anywhere!
CLACKAMAS RIVER TRAIL
Direction from PDX: 43 miles southeast
I vowed I would never tell anyone about this place because I don’t want it to get overrun with people escaping the crowds at the Gorge, but I feel like I have been selfish keeping this one to myself. If you have never been out to the Clackamas River Wilderness, it is astoundingly beautiful and lush, and is home to the Clackamas River Trail, my personal home away from home. This gem is about an hour away from Portland and offers riverside hiking nearly the whole way. As someone who usually charges a summit to enjoy the scenery from above, this hike is a great reminder to slow down and enjoy the scenery along the way.
If you want to do the whole trail from end to end, it is an eight-mile shuttle hike, which means you will need two cars. My personal preference, however, is to park at the Fish Creek trailhead and hike about halfway to the 0.25-mile offshoot trail to Pup Creek Falls. Hike to the falls, obviously, and then return to the main trail and head back the way you came. While it is not a summit hike, it does have some moderate ups-and-downs, but there are plenty of places along the river to stop and rest and eat some lunch.
*This also makes a great trail run no matter how you do it! Training for a long race? Take one car and run the whole trail out and back for a cool 16 miles! :)
HONORABLE MENTION: If you have ever been to or heard of how beautiful Opal Creek is, but avoided going due to the crowds, the Little North Santiam River Trail is basically the same thing, but better! It's 85 miles southeast of PDX and is another shuttle hike - 4.5 miles one way - but I would just bring a lunch and make it a nine mile out-and-back. The water in these creeks and pools is unreal and there are a lot of places to jump in!
Direction from PDX: 90 miles west
I’ll bet you expected me to say Saddle Mountain or Cascade Head for my favorite hikes on the coast. Don’t get me wrong, they do have spectacular views, but Neahkahnie Mountain offers both incredible views AND a great hike - up to eight miles, which is rare on the coast (although it can be as short as three if you have other things you want to do that day). The longer version does include some time on Hwy 101, but that just means you’re closer to views of the ocean! Truthfully, I don’t hike at the coast nearly as often as I do in the other regions of the state, but every time I do I wonder why I don’t more often! Same beauty; fewer crowds.
HONORABLE MENTION: You guessed it - Saddle Mountain or Cascade Head. Saddle mountain is closer - 72 miles from PDX - but it is often socked in with clouds so you don’t get the reward after the last short, steep climb. Cascade Head is a little farther - 86 miles - but being right on the coast you are almost always bound to get an ocean view at the top… if you don’t mind being cold and wet. :)
MT. ST. HELENS
Direction from PDX: 90 miles north
It is probably irresponsible of me to put this on here as a “hike” but if you spend some time this spring and summer doing all the hikes I listed then you just might be ready to climb Mt. St. Helens. It’s a grind, for sure, but then you can say that you did it. NOTE - You need a permit to climb April 1 - October 31.
HONORABLE MENTION: If you want to climb NEAR Mt. St. Helens but not actually UP Mt. St. Helens, there are plenty of beautiful hikes in and around it. Be warned, most hikes in this area do not allow dogs due to the recovering ecosystem. Goat Mountain is outside the boundary, so it does and is a fun six mile hike with views of all the surrounding mountains.
Leave a comment with YOUR favorite hikes and we’ll check them all out! If you leave your Instagram handle we’ll tag you in a pic of your pick! ;) Be sure to tag @point_gym_kitchen in your hikes and we’ll give you a shout-out!