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.
THE 2020 EVENT IS CANCELED. The Bridge Pedal is scheduled to return Aug. 8, 2021. Please visit the event website for current information. Portland’s annual Bridge Pedal is a community celebration of the city’s iconic bridges and biking culture. Join your friends and neighbors for the one opportunity each year to bike or walk on…
The PDX Adult Soapbox Derby at Mt. Tabor Park pits grown-up kids against each other every August in pursuit of speed and laughs.
The 2020 Sunday Parkways bike rides have been canceled and events will be digital-only due to the coronavirus pandemic. See the Sunday Parkways Facebook page for details. Sunday Parkways heads to the historic North Park Blocks for a 7-mile route along Portland’s Green Loop. This ride will pass by multiple cultural hotspots, including the Portland…
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. Hood to Coast is the world’s largest running relay race, stretching 200 miles from the top of Mount Hood to the Pacific Ocean in Seaside. The overnight event culminates in the West Coast’s largest beach party and draws more than 12,000 runners and walkers annually….
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. Portland’s annual Dahlia Festival is a must-see for the dahlia lover, or if you just love flowers. View over 400 floral arrangements of dahlias and over 15,000 cut dahlia blooms on display in the three indoor display rooms. This is the largest display put on…
Join family, friends and neighbors to celebrate life together. The River Lantern Lighting brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one memorable night to celebrate community in Portland, Oregon. Every participant gets a lantern, candle, marker, beer or cider (over 21), snacks and live music.
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.
EVENT CANCELED. Please visit the event website for current information. Enjoy Portland’s annual Dragon Boat Festival, featuring dragon boat racing along with food vendors, a beer garden and more. The event features as many as 96 dragon boat teams from all over the world who race in Taiwan-style dragon boats.
The Portland Classic is the longest-running stop on the LPGA tour, and 2020 marks its 49th year. Watch world-class women golfers who are “keeping Portland diverse, legendary, strong and powerful.”
The 2020 Sunday Parkways bike rides have been canceled and events will be digital-only due to the coronavirus pandemic. See the Sunday Parkways Facebook page for details. Come out and enjoy the last Sunday Parkways of the season with this 7.6-mile ride in Northeast Portland! Enjoy the walking/biking boulevard of Ainsworth along with the neighborhood…
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.
Join The Oregon Garden for the Opening Day of Art in the Garden. This will be an opportunity for you to wander the garden, check out art installations, chat with the artists and enjoy a complimentary mimosa too. Local artists will showcase their handcrafted pieces throughout the summer, giving guests an opportunity to purchase new…
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 driver covers all tasting fees with charcuterie plates ($150 value for full day, $90 value for half day). Experience the best of Willamette Valley wine country on an all-inclusive, guided wine-tasting tour from Portland. Be chauffeured in a luxury SUV with a small group of fellow wine lovers and spend a half day or…
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…
Subaru Kids Obstacle Challenge is an adventure and obstacle course race for kids ages 4-14, with 15+ fun and challenging obstacles and mud. Its mission is to inspire and challenge kids, and forge family bonds, through obstacles and adventure. It is the largest touring adventure and obstacle course race series for kids in the nation….
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…
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…