Outdoor Portland

Go wild this summer with our guide to the city’s green side.

By Shayla Martin

Portland, Oregon, may be rainy much of the year, but all that water makes for lush terrain come summertime. The Portland area has 37,000 acres of green space, including 288 public parks that range from the 5,157-acre Forest Park to the 452-square-inch Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest dedicated park. When temperatures reach the 80s, kayakers, paddleboarders, swimmers and fishermen turn the Willamette River into an aquatic playground. Just outside the city, hikers can escape to the jagged cliffs and roaring waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, and skiers can get their fix—yes, even in summer—on snow-draped Mount Hood. Read on for the many adventures that await travelers in the greater Portland area.

Portland on Two Wheels

Portland is a cyclists’ paradise, and neighborhood cycling maps are available to download from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (for more tips, see our “Safe Cycling” story). To explore the city on two wheels, check out Pedal Bike Tours’ Portland branch. Foodies can sign up for the Oregon Brewery Tour, which rides past eight local brewpubs and ends with a pint, or the Food Carts Tour, during which cyclists sample some of Portland’s more than 600 food carts. Would you rather explore the City of Roses on your own? Head to the downtown location of Bike Gallery to rent a city bicycle for either four hours or a full day; all rentals come with a water-bottle cage and helmet.

Forest Park and the Willamette River

More than 80 miles of trails await runners, equestrians, cyclists and nature lovers in Forest Park. The 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail is a local favorite and spans the entire length of the park. At the southern end, the trail connects attractions such as the Audubon Sanctuary and Pittock Mansion, a 1914 estate turned museum. For a shorter hike, the almost six-mile Tolinda–Ridge Trail loop affords an impressive view of the St. Johns Bridge crossing the Willamette River. If you’re traveling with children, consider taking them just outside of Forest Park for an all-level hike on Hoyt Arboretum’s Redwood Trail, where some trees reach heights of more than 150 feet.

Those looking to cool down can find relief on the Willamette River. The waterway conveniently passes through central Portland. Portland Kayak Company, near Willamette Park, rents out kayak, stand-up-paddleboard and canoe equipment and offers kayaking classes and guided tours. If you’re in the mood for a swim, you can wade directly into the Willamette at Poet’s Beach, a sandy strip of the west shore under the Marquam Bridge. The Human Access Project, a nonprofit that works to keep the river and its banks clean, helped clear a path to the beach in 2014. Keep an eye out for stones along the walkway that are engraved with children’s poems and Chinook words provided by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood

Although only about 15 miles outside of Portland, the Columbia River Gorge feels a world away. The river canyon cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range, reaching a length of 80 miles and depths of up to 4,000 feet. The Historic Columbia River Highway skirts the southern side of the river and passes near several major waterfalls, including the dramatic Multnomah Falls, the second highest in the nation, and the majestic Bridal Veil Falls.

To the south, miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails lead up the bluffs into the Mount Hood National Forest. A stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail—a massive hiking and equestrian path connecting Canada and Mexico—runs through the forest. Experienced hikers can take it through the town of Cascade Locks, which sits on banks of the Columbia River Gorge. Near the base of Mt. Hood, the rolling terrain of the Sandy Ridge Trail System offers more than 15 miles of trails designed for mountain biking. Powder seekers can still hit the slopes from June through August on Palmer Glacier, at an elevation of 6,000 to 11,235 feet on Mount Hood. Whatever your choice of adventure, summer in Portland is meant to be spent taking in the fresh mountain air and soaking up the sunshine.

Audubon Sanctuary
5151 NW Cornell Rd.; 503-292-6855; audubonportland.org
Bike Gallery
1001 SW 10th Ave; 503-222-3821; bikegallery.com; rentals, from $35
Forest Park
503-223-5449; forestparkconservancy.org
Hoyt Arboretum
4000 SW Fairview Blvd.; 503-865-8733; hoytarboretum.org
Pacific Crest Trail
916-285-1846; pcta.org
Pedal Bike Tours
133 SW 2nd Ave.; 503-243-2453; pedalbiketours.com; tours, from $59 a person
Pittock Mansion
3229 NW Pittock Dr.; 503-823-3623; pittockmansion.org; admission, $10 a person
Portland Kayak Company
6600 SW Macadam Ave; 503-459-4050, portlandkayak.com
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2016