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.
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.)
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
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.