Discover the Real Adventure: Top 7 Hikes in Portland

Adventure Hiking Travel By Nancy Raven Kirk

Portland is well-known for its food scene, creative community, and close proximity to endless outdoor escapes. There are countless rich forests, enchanting waterfalls, winding streams, and towering mountains to explore. In addition, Portland has the largest national collection of microbreweries per capita, meaning your happy hour beer will be well-deserved after stretching your legs on one of the top hikes in Portland. Don’t forget to pack day hiking necessities

1.  Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Five miles round trip
Elevation gain: 900 feet
Route Type: Out and back 

Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash 
Family Friendly: Yes

Location: Lower Macleay Park

historical mansion with green grass in front during daytime
One of the popular historic hikes in Portland – Pittock Mansion. Photo by Jim Bahn.

Wander from Portland’s city streets through lush forest before reaching the historic Pittock Mansion on this moderate hike. The mansion was built in 1914 for Henry Pittock, an influential newspaper publisher entrepreneur who contributed to the success of The Oregonian. The mansion was purchased by the city and turned into a cultural center, where visitors can take guided tours of the inside. Along the way you’ll travel by a stream and pass the ruins of an abandoned building before you reach city views from the mansion’s backyard. 

2. Tamanawas Falls Trailhead 

Difficulty: Easy to moderate incline toward the end 

Length: 3.8 miles 
Elevation gain: 560 feet
Route Type: Out and back

Dog Friendly: Yes
Family Friendly: Yes

Location: Tamanawas Falls Trailhead

water falling from gray rocks with pine tree in front
Tamanawas Falls. Photo by Bonnie Moreland.

The relatively easy, yet beautiful trail is surrounded by luscious greenery. The trail runs parallel with Cold Spring Creek, at points crossing the water via rustic wooden bridges. If it’s warm enough, opt to bring water shoes, and get your toes wet along the trek. During winter months, the falls may be frozen over, creating a gorgeous winter wonderland. The final destination of this hike is Tamanawas Falls, standing 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. The falls are a relaxing place to cool down during the summer, but during colder months, pack a rain jacket to protect from its powerful spray. Behind the waterfall lies a dry cave, which hikers can reach by scrambling up boulders. These boulders will be wet, so be careful! 

3. Wahclella Falls 

Difficulty: Easy 

Length: 2 miles 
Elevation gain: None 
Route Type: Out and back

Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash
Family Friendly: Yes

Location: Wahclella Falls

white water falling between the dark rocks
Wahclella Falls. Photo by Zachary Keimig.

If you’re looking for a hike with minimum effort and maximum payoff, Wahclella Falls is one of the best choices among the hikes in Portland. The leisurely trail is surrounded by cottonwoods, alders, maps, and Douglas firs. You’ll pass Munra Falls before you reach the 65-foot-tall Wahclella Falls, which pours into a serene water hole surrounded by mossy boulders.

4. Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Length: 7.8 miles 
Elevation gain: 1300 feet
Route Type: Loop

Dog Friendly: No
Family Friendly: Yes, for active, older children

Location: Trail of Ten Falls

waterfall view during daytime
South Falls, on the Trail of Ten Waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon. Photo by Dan Meyers.

Silver Falls is Oregon’s largest State Park at about 9,000 acres, and it’s not surprising that this area is a favorite among locals and one of the best hikes in Portland. With more than 17 hiking trails to choose from, one of the most coveted is the Trail of Ten Falls. Begin hiking along the rim of Canyon Trail, and pass through an old-growth forest filled with Douglas-firs, hemlocks, and mossy maples. Along the loop, you’ll find ten waterfalls, including the impressive South Falls, Double Falls, and Middle North Falls. Double Falls is the tallest in the park, reaching 178 feet tall, with the most powerful flow during winter and spring.

5. Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls 

Difficulty: Hard 

Length: 12 miles
Elevation gain: 1640 feet
Route Type: Out and back

Dog Friendly: No
Family Friendly: No 

Location: Eagle Creek Trail

water falling next to a green trail and cave in mountain
Tunnel Falls at Eagle Creek, Oregon by Byron Hetrick.

Ideal for a full-day trip, Eagle Creek boasts mossy rock formations, dozens of waterfalls, and a crystal clear stream. The park was closed in 2017 after a disastrous fire, but it recently reopened to much anticipation from local frequenters of this majestic area. The trail itself has some areas with quite narrow paths and steep drop-offs, so hikers beware, especially on rocky ground after rain. There are options to turn around at several landmarks, such as Punch Bowl Falls two miles in or High Bridge 3.5 miles in. We recommend hiking to Tunnel Falls, as part of the trail is literally a tunnel that hides behind the 172-foot tall falls.

6. Powell Butte Loop Hike 

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Length: 4.5-6 miles 
Elevation gain: 530 feet 
Route Type: Loop 

Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash 
Family Friendly: Yes

Location: Powell Butte Nature Park

green field with map board during daytime
Powell Butte Nature Park. Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region.

Portland is home to the Boring Volcanic Field, which consists of more than 80 cinder cones and small shield volcanoes. Powell Butte is by far the largest at 612 acres. The park’s loop trail winds through cedar forests and above underground reservoirs. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with open grasslands that offer pristine, clear views of Mt. Hood’s snowy peak, as well as Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount Jefferson, and Olallie Butte, depending on that day’s visibility.  

7. Mount Tabor Loop

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2 miles
Elevation gain: 350-400 feet 
Route Type: Loop 

Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash 
Family Friendly: Yes

Location: Mount Tabor

gray asphalt road in between trees during daytime
A relaxing day in Mount Tabor Park, Portland, Oregon. Photo by Dale Nibbe.

Mount Tabor is Portland’s best-known urban “volcano.” This essential Portland hike is actually an extinct volcanic vent with its last eruption taking place about 100,000 years ago. Here, you’ll venture through nature without leaving city limits. At the top, you’ll find Mount Tabor City Park. It’s the perfect spot for a sunset picnic, so pack a blanket and a snack. Bring your four-legged friends to enjoy the off-leash dog area. If you’re looking for an uphill stroll with incredible city views, Mount Tabor is a great, family-friendly option.

Bonus: Washington Park Loop Hike

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 4 miles 
Elevation gain: 400 feet 
Route Type: Loop 

Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash 
Family Friendly: Yes

Location: Washington Park

green moss on rock formation near waterfall
Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon by Cody Weaver.

Walk through Washington Park, and find an array of monuments, gardens, reservoirs, and even the landscape of an old zoo. There’s the Hoyt Arboretum, the Japanese Garden, and the longest-running Rose Test Garden in the county, where you’ll find more than 10,000 roses. The loop trail will take you through the top attractions, but there are more than 15 miles of trails to venture on if you’d like to extend your day. While you’ll be surrounded by nature during a portion of the hike, other areas offer educational sightseeing opportunities with intriguing attractions that celebrate parts of the city’s historic culture. 

What’s Your Favorite Portland Hike?

While these are some favorites, there are too many beautiful hikes in Portland to include on a single list. If we missed your go-to Portland hike, let us know in the comments.

Featured Image – Portland from Pittock Mansion viewpoint by adrian.

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Nancy Raven Kirk
Nancy is a writer, traveler, and outdoor enthusiast originally from Los Angeles. She's had work published in the L.A. Times, OC Weekly, and various other publications. Check out her website at www.copybykirk.com.