Winter hikes in and near Portland

It’s well worth braving the elements for these beautiful walks.

angel croppedOregon's famous Multnomah Falls is especially gorgeous when it's partially frozen.
D. Paul Angel via Flickr

In Portland, hiking isn’t an occasional summer activity — it’s a way of life. On any given winter weekend, thousands of locals lace up their waterproof hiking boots, zip rain jackets over their down vests and hit the trails. Ready to join them? These Portland-area paths are perfect for all-weather adventures.


Hoyt Arboretum

Home to more than 1,000 tree and shrub species (more than any other arboretum in America), Hoyt Arboretum sits next to Washington Park, only 2 miles (3.2 km) west of downtown, and is easily accessible by bus or light rail. As you stroll along 12 miles (19.3 km) of hiking trails, look for seasonal highlights like evergreen holly, corkscrew hazel, blooming wintersweet and budding magnolias. Stop inside the arboretum’s visitor center for free maps and guides to all the glorious flora.

Macleay Park

This is Portland, so, naturally, you can take public transit straight to a trailhead! Part of Northwest Portland’s sprawling, 5,100-acre (2,064-hectare) Forest Park, this lush woodland area is open year-round. Hike from Lower Macleay, passing a unique WPA-era structure (known to locals as the “Witch’s Castle”) and the Portland Audubon Society, to century-old Pittock Mansion for panoramic views of the city and a fascinating local history lesson. Don’t expect a leisurely stroll — the path climbs 600 feet (138 m) to the top.

Mt. Tabor Park

On sunny winter afternoons, legions of locals stretch their legs at Mt. Tabor Park in residential Southeast Portland. An extinct volcano dotted with open-air reservoirs, the park offers a number of wide, winding trails to the summit and two playgrounds where little ones can burn off any extra energy. Looking to burn a few extra calories yourself? The series of stairs found at the S.E. 69th & Yamhill entrance are better than a StairMaster.


Multnomah Falls

Editor’s note: Multnomah Falls is an extremely popular attraction. For an optimal experience, take a car-free trip there and go on a weekday when the site is less popular, along with checking out the many other beautiful waterfalls near Portland

Winter is a wonderful time to visit Oregon’s highest falls, located 30 miles (48 km) from Portland and popular year-round. A short climb to the Benson Bridge awards visitors with picture-perfect views of the 620-foot (189 m) Multnomah Falls, while more ambitious trekkers can climb all the way to the top. Dress warmly for the waterfall’s spray and cross your fingers for a cold day — the falls are even more beautiful when they’re partially frozen!

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

A quick 25-minute drive from downtown delivers adventurers to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, a 1,856-acre (751 ha) wetlands sanctuary southwest of Portland. A 3.7-mile (6 km) graded gravel trail entices birdwatchers to brave the elements. During winter months, up to 50,000 waterfowl can be spotted on a single day.

Salmon River Trail

Experienced hikers highly recommend the Mount Hood National Forest’s Salmon River Trail, about an hour east of Portland, where majestic old growth forests transform into a winter wonderland. Frozen ferns, icy eddies and towering Douglas firs provide spectacular scenery. Multiple access points allow for hikes as short as 1 mile (1.6 km) or as long as 8 (12.9 km). Pro tip: If you’re planning a longer hike, bring shoe chains or spikes to prevent any slips.

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