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.
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Up to 20,000 gray whales migrate along Oregon’s coast every winter and spring. Spot them from these four locations.
At the 35th Festival of Balloons in Tigard, the hot air balloons are definitely the featured attraction, but it’s more than balloons! The Festival of Balloons is a place for families and friends to gather, play and relax. Join up in the pre-dawn hours as approximately 20 hot air balloons launch into the morning sky…
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.
Offered by Wildwood Adventures. Upon departure from downtown Portland, the Gateway to the Gorge is where the real beauty begins. From earth-shaking landslides to enormous glacial flooding, the formation of the area has left us with breathtaking sights to behold. As you traverse from a temperate rainforest in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area to…
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Offered by Wildwood Adventures. With the Willamette River down the center and the Columbia River above, Portland is often more wildly known by its nicknames such as “Bridgetown,” “Brewtopia,” and “City of Roses.” Nestled at the base of a volcano and bundled snugly by old growth forests, this city boasts a landscape beyond a basic…
Offered by Wildwood Adventures. 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…