City hikes: Not an urban legend

With summer—and the lovely weather it brings—just around the corner, you might be looking forward to exploring the great outdoors. What better way to do that than with a long, relaxing hike? There’s just one problem: most trails you’re looking at are a long car ride and a half-tank of gas away. Lucky for you, plenty of gorgeous hikes are within walking distance of downtown Portland.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park is probably one of the easier treks for hikers wanting a shorter excursion. The loop crosses the river at the Steel Bridge and Hawthorne Bridge. On the west side, the waterfront park features fields of grass and gorgeous cherry trees, which should be blooming right about now. The east side, on the other hand, features the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, which takes you right down to the water. The breeze coming off the Willamette is a lifesaver on a hot day.

For those situated around West Burnside Street, Washington Park is a great choice for a hike. With an entrance at the end of SW Park Place, it might surprise you how quickly the walk transitions from dense urban housing to lush greenery. Washington Park has trails up to Hoyt Arboretum, the Rose Garden and the Japanese garden, so it’s a great option as either a starting place or a destination.

Unfortunately, these locations are a bit out of the way for folks on the east side of the Willamette. South of I-84, Mount Tabor Park is a great locale for anyone wanting to hike. A pocket of forest in what is otherwise an ocean of suburbs, Mount Tabor features looping trails, a picnic area and a host of benches if you want to relax. It also hosts a trio of Portland’s reservoirs, which are a nice touch for those on the east side looking for waterways closer than the Willamette. You can find it at 60th and Salmon Street.

Council Crest is farther away than some of these other locations, but you can start walking there practically from the Portland State campus proper, and it’s a great spot for photographers looking to admire Portland’s cityscape from up high. There are many routes to Council Crest—even without car or bus routes in the mix—but if you’re looking for a proper hike, the Marquam Trail is probably your best option.

You’ll want to start at SW Sam Jackson Park Road, just south of downtown Portland. From there, follow the Shelter Loop Trail from Marquam Nature Park, then take the Marquam Trail all the way up to Council Crest Park. The trail can get pretty muddy as a result of inclement weather, but under fairer skies, the beautiful stretch of forest it cuts through definitely beats hiking to the park through the suburbs of the southwest hills.

While Portland as a whole is an absolute joy to walk through with its wealth of trees and greenery, these spots are right at your doorstep and offer some of the best scenery in the city if you’re looking to get out and see something more substantial than the Park Blocks.