Portland earns praise for its perfect summers, but fall might be the best time to experience the Northwest’s natural beauty. Emerald-leaved trees seem to catch fire in slow motion as temperatures cool, and northern breezes tease out autumnal displays of gold and red. Meanwhile, wild critters in water and on land are easily spotted through the thinning flora as they prepare for winter. Hiking is one of the best ways to drink in the region’s beauty; read on for three great fall hikes near Portland.
Punchbowl Falls and Metlako Falls
Know Before You Go
Editor’s note: Due to wildfire damage to the Columbia River Gorge, Eagle Creek Trail and Punchbowl Falls are closed and access to several other destinations in the Columbia River Gorge are impacted. Please read our article for updated information on road and park closures.
A 45-minute drive east of downtown Portland delivers hikers to the popular Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. Autumn is a prime time to visit — not only to avoid the crowds, but also to spot Chinook and coho salmon spawning near the mouth of the creek.
From the trail’s lower junction, follow the path about 2 miles (3.2 km) to one of Oregon’s most iconic sites, Punchbowl Falls, named for the deep bowl-shaped basin at the waterfall’s base. On the way back, keep an eye out for a sign pointing to lesser-known Metlako Falls. This showstopper’s 100-foot (30 m) plume seems to shoot straight out of a cliffside before plunging into the pool below.
On your way home, detour slightly to the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic drive that connects several family-owned farms offering apples, chestnuts and cider.
Starting just 30 miles east of Portland, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers amazing vistas, trails and more than 90 waterfalls.
Families can find an entire day’s worth of adventures on this island just northwest of Portland.
The small logging town of Vernonia has become a central hub for bike routes through the surrounding state forest.
Sauvie Island has so much to offer, including beaches, farms, wildlife areas and trails that seem to go on forever. Every autumn, folks flock to the island to harvest pumpkins, take hayrides and wander through corn mazes at several local patches.
Once you’ve had your fill of U-pick apples and fresh cider, visit Warrior Point Trailhead at the island’s northern tip. The mostly flat path winds its way along the Columbia River and through the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area. In fall, you’ll see migrating sandhill cranes, snow geese, tundra swans and Canada geese. After 3 miles (5 km), trekkers will arrive at the 16-foot (5 m) Warrior Rock Light, Oregon’s smallest lighthouse.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
A century ago, a mighty railroad curved over the hills northwest of Portland, hugging ravines and cutting across creeks. Today, 21 miles (34 m) of the dismantled railroads have been transformed into the scenic, multi-use Banks-Vernonia Trail. Six trailheads give hikers (and cyclists, joggers and horseback riders) plenty of opportunities to customize their route. Each path is lined with deciduous trees (think cottonwood, Oregon ash, red alder, big-leaf maple and sour cherry) that display some of the most splendid fall hues in the region.
Sunrise Hikes Near Portland
The secret is out: Oregon’s delivers some of the nation’s best hiking. Beat the crowds by heading out extra early to embark on a breathtaking sunrise hike.
Portland has numerous kid-friendly hiking spots with trails under 4 miles (6 km) close to the city and bursting with natural beauty.
Favorite Hiking Spots in Portland
Put on some comfortable shoes and start walking — you’ll be surprised how easy Portland makes it.
Accessible Trails in and Near Portland
Portland and the Columbia River Gorge are filled with hiking opportunities, many of which have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible portions.
Spring Hikes Near Portland
There’s something special about the first spring hike of the year. Enjoy wildflowers, bird watching and breathtaking scenery on these springtime rambles.
Experience nature not far from the city's hustle and bustle at these wildlife preserves.
Catch sight of 200+ types of birds at the Portland area's dozens of prime bird watching destinations, including sanctuaries, refuges and urban parks.
The Audubon Society of Portland Nature Sanctuary is a great starting place for hiking Forest Park and (of course) bird-watching.
Every September, spectators gather to see the world’s largest roost of Vaux’s swifts swarm and spiral into the chimney of a Northwest Portland school.
Taking runners along a loop of Portland along the east and west sides of the city’s Willamette River, the Portland Marathon is an excellent way to see a lot of Portland in one great run. The race starts and finishes at Waterfront Park, crossing four bridges and passing by some of the city’s most iconic…
This annual race series consists of paddlers piloting a gaggle of gigantic gourds through a water course.
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art has championed the practice of contemporary artists since 1995. TBA:20 brings together a global audience in a truly contemporary way. For everyone already in the PICA community, and for those attending TBA for the very first time, PICA invites you to join them in witnessing works by artists from around…
World-famous pinot noirs, crisp chardonnays and sweet rieslings are just a taste of the dozens of wines that Oregon has to offer. On this adventure through the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley, you’ll visit three carefully selected vineyards. Guests will partake in tasting flights and experience a behind-the-scenes view of viticulture.
The Portland Walk to End Colon Cancer is a family friendly, hope-filled fundraising event created by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance that includes a 5K walk and a 1-mile turnaround to make it inclusive for all abilities. It’s a chance for anyone who’s been affected by colorectal cancer to come find strength and support, collectively. All…
Join a walking tour that takes groups around, across, under, and inside the unique and storied spans that shape life in Portland. Strolling along the waterfront the tour will cross several bridges, pausing at the Morrison Bridge to meet the bridge operator and see the view from the control tower. The tour may then head…
The Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools presents their Ninth Annual Twilight Run, in partnership with RunSignUp and the Tigard Festival of Balloons. The 5K Twilight Run follows a flat and fast course along the beautiful bike trails. As you race towards the sunset, you will be surrounded by the wonders of the park and excitement…