Stair hiking: The urban workout in your neighborhood

Personally, I like finding new ways to venture out and get my fitness on. While hiking through Forest Park and the various routes in the Gorge are always fantastic, it’s nice to throw something new into the mix once in a while.

Now that it’s summer, the possibilities are almost limitless. The rivers offer options such as paddleboarding and kayaking, to name a few, and riding bicycles around town never gets old. Yet what about doing something completely different? Something that is not only accessible to you anywhere in this fine city but free as well? Now we’re talking.

My mom, my aunt and I always enjoy our walks and hikes. We either take to a neighborhood park such as Mt. Tabor or simply venture through our neighborhood, looking at the different houses and gardens we pass along the way. That’s one of the great things about Portland: It has so many cute neighborhoods, and sauntering through them is an adventure in itself.

One day not too long ago, the three of us stumbled upon a set of stairs that didn’t seem to belong to a particular house or private residence. We decided to follow them up and realized we were being led to the next street. We kept walking down that street and found a set of similar stairs, so we decided to take those down. To our surprise, we stumbled upon another set of stairs that led to another street and we followed them, too, along with the various other stairs we found along the way. Somehow we ended up in a neighborhood at the top of a mountain, with one of the best views of the city I have ever encountered.

Thus, a new trend was born: stair hiking. Or so we thought.

After some research, we discovered that stair hiking is a thing. As in, people do it as an outdoor activity all the time. We even stumbled across a book dedicated to the art: The Portland Stairs Book by Laura O. Foster. Within the magical pages of this book, readers will find an array of stair-hiking options and routes as well as the stories behind the stairs. The best part? A couple of them loop around Portland State, ending up right in the Park Blocks, making it totally accessible to students.

For those of you who can’t afford a book on stair hiking, there are other options out there. You can visit websites such as to find the different stairs available throughout Portland via an animated map. While these sorts of sites don’t offer the same routes the book does, you can use a pull-down menu to map out routes from one stairway to another.

Another option is to just wing it. Strap on a backpack filled with sunscreen, a snack and lots of water, and pick a stairway you’d like to start off with. From there, you’ll be surprised what other stairs you’ll stumble across. Hint: There is a small stairway at Lovejoy Fountain Park very near the PSU campus. It’s only 25 stairs, but they’ll get you started!

The trick is to have an open mind and a sense of adventure. While you may not always find stair after stair after stair, you’ll always end up somewhere different. With luck and a bit of perseverance, you’ll end up on top of the world, overlooking this beautiful city we call home.