Outdoor Portland

Called “Stump­town” before its offi­cial title of incor­po­ra­tion was decid­ed by a lit­er­al coin-toss, Port­land is now known more for its crunchy gra­nola neo-hip­pie vibes than its pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion as a dan­ger­ous port town laden with vice and mis­ery, and the efforts of its proud coun­ter­cul­ture res­i­dents have ensured that it remains rec­og­nized as one of the U.S.’s green­est cities for its envi­ron­men­tal­ly-con­scious infrastructure–including over 74 miles of hik­ing and bicy­cling trails and over ten thou­sand acres of pub­lic parks. That’s a lot of oppor­tu­ni­ties to get out­doors! So join us as we explore just a few of the unique trea­sures this quirky city has to offer.

Mult­nom­ah Falls

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge Nation­al Scenic Area beck­ons from just thir­ty min­utes out­side of Port­land, a dra­mat­ic and beloved nat­ur­al trea­sure carved by the Colum­bia Riv­er into 80 miles of the canyon through end­less cliffs and ridges. The Gorge is home to icon­ic Mult­nom­ah Falls, the tallest water­fall in the state of Ore­gon, which draws upward of two mil­lion vis­i­tors annu­al­ly. Under­ground springs from Larch Moun­tain, snowmelt, and rain­wa­ter pow­er its stun­ning year-round 620’ drop over two tiers of basalt cliffs. Dam­age to the region as a result of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire has closed a num­ber of the most pop­u­lar trails in this area as debris flows and rock­fall cre­ate unsafe con­di­tions, so while the his­toric Mult­nom­ah Falls Lodge remains open and wel­comes guests, it’s still best to check the fire restric­tions before plan­ning to hit the trails. (Want to take action to get those trails opened faster? Of course, you do.)

For­est Park

Forest Park trail in Portland, Oregon

This emer­ald gem of a pub­lic park is the pride and joy of tree-hug­ging Port­landers. 5,200 acres of Dou­glas firs, big-leaf maples, and west­ern hem­lock, inter­wo­ven with more than eighty miles of mul­ti-use trails and riv­en with creeks both named and not, stretch for more than eight miles across hill­sides crest­ing the Willamette Riv­er. It’s one of the largest urban forests in the nation, home to myr­i­ad species of birds, mam­mals, and even fish: trout in Balch Creek, and salmon in Miller Creek. There’s a trail for just about every­one in the park, but if you’re not sure where to start, try accom­pa­ny­ing a guid­ed tour dur­ing one of their many Dis­cov­ery Hikes. You might learn to iden­ti­fy herbs and to for­age as you move through the under­growth, or gain bet­ter skills with your DSLR on a nat­ur­al pho­tog­ra­phy hike, or–true to Portland’s crafty, DIY spirit–learn to brew a beer inspired by your trail with a local brewer.

Mount Tabor Park

Sunset over Mt Tabor City Park Reservoir

An extinct cin­der cone named for a moun­tain halfway around the world, Mount Tabor qui­et­ly car­ries on with­in the city lim­its. And though the vol­cano itself belongs to the igno­min­ious­ly-named Bor­ing Lava Field, a net­work of shield vol­ca­noes and cin­der cones dat­ing to the Plio-Pleis­tocene era and rang­ing from Bor­ing, Ore­gon, to south­west Wash­ing­ton, this park is any­thing but dull! Its amphithe­ater offers live music and hosts pri­vate events like wed­dings, chil­dren rough­house at its acces­si­ble play­ground, and besides that, the park boasts soc­cer fields, ten­nis and bas­ket­ball courts, pic­nic areas, and reser­voirs. The route to its 636’ peak is wheel­chair-acces­si­ble and fam­i­ly-friend­ly, mak­ing it a pop­u­lar point for pic­turesque panora­mas of Port­land, and the city’s dog lovers give two paws up to its off-leash area. 

Smith & Bybee Wet­lands Nat­ur­al Area

If you’re look­ing for more than just over­land adven­tures, pack your pad­dles and head over to the hid­den-trea­sure Smith & Bybee Wet­lands Nat­ur­al Area. As one of the largest urban fresh­wa­ter wet­lands in the U.S., it’s home to more than thir­ty-five species of song­birds, hosts a num­ber of migra­to­ry species through the tran­si­tion­al sea­sons, and boasts a pop­u­la­tion of around 200 West­ern paint­ed tur­tles in addi­tion to its assort­ment of beavers, riv­er otters, and mule deer liv­ing amidst its wil­lows and cot­ton­wood trees. Vis­i­tors don’t typ­i­cal­ly expect to find such beau­ty in the mid­dle of a major indus­tri­al zone, but between the bird­watch­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, wildlife sight­ings, and the clean­est kind of fun worth having–that is, sim­ply mess­ing about in boats–you’re bound to leave more sat­is­fied than when you arrived.