Portland and outdoor recreation go hand-in-hand. Many Portlanders even live in the city and its surrounding communities solely because of the area’s proximity to the mountains, access to rivers, and abundance of hiking trails.
With an area as beautiful as the PNW, it’s only right to get outside and explore all that it has to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or your idea of #OptOutside is sipping beer on a patio, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Portland’s lush backyard!
Hiking is one of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, there is no shortage of iconic hikes in the Portland area.
Keep it simple with an urban hike through one of the many expansive parks in the heart of the city, such as Forest Park or Washington Park, which have approximately 70 and 15 miles of hiking trails, respectively. Or venture out of the city limits with a trek along some idyllic trails, including Saddle Mountain, which offers incredible mountaintop views, Ramona Falls Loop Hike, featuring one of the best waterfalls in the state, Lost Lake Loop Hike, which offers idyllic views of Mount Hood, or Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain, an excellent day trip to a scenic mountain summit.
Still looking for hiking destinations? Check out these incredible hikes under 5 miles near Portland (plus several in Southwest Washington and Central Oregon).
Photo Courtesy of Naked Falls
Portland’s geographic location amongst a number of meandering rivers and sparkling lakes makes it a great place for water sports enthusiasts. There are a number of popular swimming holes near Portland, perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day. Some of the best swimming holes include:
High Rocks Park is a popular destination for cliff-jumping from tall rocks into cool, refreshing waters below. The park is situated in Gladstone along the Clackamas just before it meets up with the Willamette River.
Oxbow Regional Park is the closest taste of the Gorge you can get from the city. This makes the park a popular summer destination for swimming, kayaking, rafting or fishing. The current is peaceful and slow, as the river has wide curves winding through the park.
Naked Falls is an exciting swimming hole in Southwest Washington known for its pristine cliff diving spots. Plus, the scenery here is particularly breathtaking — whether or not you decide to jump in the water!
Portland is an ideal location for avid bikers — and casual bikers, too! Gateway Green is one of the city’s most recent and exciting additions. The 25-acre green space in East Portland is a haven for bikers, featuring single-track trails, a skills area, and a gravity area making use of the area’s natural topography. Plus, the park is easily accessible, as it is situated between I-205 and I-84.
Other popular biking trails in the Portland area include the Willamette River Loop, Mountain View Trail, and Marine Drive Trail. Wherever you direct your wheels in the Portland area, you are sure to be challenged, refreshed, and inspired by scenic views.
Photo Courtesy of Mary Anders via Blue Sky Rafting
There are a number of rivers winding throughout the Portland area, offering both peaceful currents and intense rapids. Test your courage on a thrilling whitewater rafting trip along one of the many beautiful rivers in the area.
The Clackamas River is the largest river this side of the Oregon Cascade Range, with 47 miles of water flowing through the Mt. Hood National Forest. It is one of the closest places for whitewater rafting from Portland!
The Sandy River extends from its headwaters on Mount Hood to its entry into the Columbia River. Experience an unbeatable rafting trip in the Sandy River Gorge, where you’ll encounter soaring rock walls with waterfalls and lush foliage.
The North Santiam River offers a more laid-back rafting experience, especially if you visit in August when the current is calmer. Water levels and rapid intensity increases in September and October when the Detroit Dam spills over.
Speaking of all the amazing rivers in the area, you can probably guess that there are plenty of options for kayaking near Portland as well! Whether you’ve been kayaking all your life or you have yet to try the sport, there is a stretch of a river or a beautiful lake for you.
Some of the most popular rivers for kayaking include the Columbia Slough Watershed, Lower Hood River, the Tualatin River, the Willamette River, and more. And if you’re looking for a more laid-back kayaking trip, you might consider a wide open lake void of rapids and turns, such as Clear Lake, Lost Lake, Timothy Lake, and Trillium Lake.
Photo Courtesy of Columbia Edgewater Country Club
If your idea of outdoor adventure includes going on a leisurely golf cart ride amongst some of the most stunning scenery in the region, golfing just may be your cup of tea. There are plenty of venues for golfing in and around Portland. In fact, last year, three Portland courses were included amongst Golf Digest’s list of the best golf courses in Oregon. If you love golf enough, you might consider becoming a member of these private and prestigious clubs bathed in history.
Chartered in 1896, Waverley Country Club is the second private golf club established west of the Mississippi. The historic and scenic golf course resides on 138 majestic acres along the banks of the Willamette River. Starting times are rarely scheduled and most games are organized on the practice range or first tee, creating a community of members dedicated to enlarging their circle of friends.
Situated between Beaverton and downtown Portland, Portland Golf Club is regarded as one of the most prestigious, challenging and enjoyable member-owned golf clubs in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1914, the club has strived to cultivate its place in history as a championship golf facility.
Columbia Edgewater Country Club is another historic golf club in the area. The country club has been a part of Portland’s golf community for nine decades, serving as a place where families can come together and enjoy the company of other members and embrace the game of golf.
Spend a little extra time immersed in the great outdoors with a camping trip! You can even pitch a tent to serve as your home base before enjoying any of the above-mentioned activities. There are countless campgrounds in the area, offering dense forest settings, water access, mountaintop experiences, and more. Some of our favorite campgrounds near Portland include:
Barton Park may be in Boring, Oregon, but it is anything but boring. Nestled along the Clackamas River, the park is a popular destination for camping, hiking, biking, picnicking, and other activities. Beware of larger crowds accumulating in the day use area — especially on sunny days and weekends.
Oxbow Regional Park is situated just 30 minutes outside of Portland along the Sandy River. Explore 12 miles of hiking trails and unwind one of the campsites equipped with tables, fire pits, and grills. Oxbow Regional Park offers 57 drive-up campsites, 10 RV sites, and heated restrooms and showers, all of which is surrounded by towering old-growth trees.
Skiing + Snowboarding
If you’ve been skiing or snowboarding in the Portland area, it’s likely you’ve conquered the slopes at Mount Hood, located about an hour and a half from the city. But you may not realize that Mount Hood offers pristine snow conditions during both the winter and summer!
That’s right — Timberline Lodge is the only ski area in North America open all 12 months of the year, and it’s right in our backyard! That means you can ascend the 3,690 vertical feet to the summit and ski or snowboard down majestic slopes — even if it’s in the middle of August.
We’ve just scratched the surface!
There are so many more outdoor activities to do in the Portland area. Plus, there are many more trails, rivers, mountains, and other natural phenomenons we did not mention within each of these categories. What activity or destination would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!