A stairway leading up into the West Hills

The larger Portland Area is famous for its access to wild places- hikers abound in local regions such as the Columbia River Gorge area, the Coast Range, Mt. Hood, and even the larger St. Helens area are all quick trips away from town. What people often don’t realize is that there are some great hikes right here in the city center. Visitors can easily walk from their hotel door and be away from crowds and into the woods in no time. It’s also possible in many cases to take our transit system, Tri-Met to or from any number of hikeable destinations in the city. All hikes begin and end (with some help from our busses) at Pioneer Courthouse Square- which has long been an easily recognized starting point for adventure near many hotels in the city center.

Hike #1: River trek ~7 miles flat

View from the Sellwood Bridge at sunset

Here is a Google map of a hike to the south along the river. It starts by heading straight down to the water and heading North to the Steel Bridge, then along the East side all the way south past OMSI (The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). That way you will go under many of our central bridges. You can see last month’s article to learn more about the Bridges of Portland. You can find yourself on the Springwater Corridor trail through Oaks Bottom wildlife refuge. Once you get over the Sellwood Bridge, some like to walk up through Riverview Cemetery, but others like to stay with the river northbound up to Willamette. This trip minimizes sharing your hike with cars of any speed. To bus back to downtown take the 90 or the 35 back into the city center.

Hike #2: Bottom to Top ~5.5 miles up hill

A slightly more challenging but shorter hike can take you from our river- more or less the low point in the area- to the highest point in Portland- Council Crest. From there, it’s fairly easy to head over to Washington Park, with easy access to our Light Rail Max system. Here is the recommended route. Go through some beautiful old neighborhoods in the West hills, featuring houses built by the upper crust of Portland throughout it’s history. The woods are thick and traffic is scarce up there, it’s perfect for a good jaunt.

(A quick note, the trail coming off of the intersection of Humphrey and Patton as you head down North towards the zoo is mismarked in Google Maps. The actual trail is accessible on the West side of Patton, North and east of the intersection. The author went to great pains to discover this in the dark recently.)

Hike #3: Volcano hunting on the East side ~8.4 miles, mostly flat

For this last hike, we will head up Rocky Butte, with some of the best natural views in the city. Rocky Butte is an extinct volcano, and former home to a prison. Explore the East side as you head briefly through the inner Industrial district and into our adorable collection of bungalows and wooden houses. Stop by beautiful Laurelhurst Park on your way to the Rose City Golf Course, and then up the volcano itself, with commanding views of the whole river valley. From there, one can take the 12 down Sandy Boulevard towards the city center, or walk south to the MAX along Highway 84.