Portland Archives - Urban Outdoors



A city surrounded by mountains, rivers, and beautiful forests, Portland is a hotspot for outdoor activities. Environmentally-minded Portland is the perfect place to explore all that nature has to offer. Whether you are looking for peace and quiet or raging waters, these breathtaking spots are the best places to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland.

Portland is a vibrant community for outdoor enthusiasts. Teeming with energy and adventure, kayaking in Portland is an epic experience for all ages and abilities. Portland’s wide variety of waterways creates a diverse and thrilling way to explore nature. While paddling, you will have the opportunity to explore Portland’s vast forests and spot native wildlife. Kayaking down well known sites like White Salmon River, or hidden gems like Scappoose Bay, will excite any paddle enthusiast. Below is a guide we created to help you have an awesome time canoeing and kayaking around Portland.

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Portland

the rushing waters of Portland, oregon's waterways are amazing places to go kayaking in Portland and explore scenic environments.
Exploring Portland’s natural beauty is best done by boat! Photo Credit: Hardebeck Media (Pixabay)

Willamette River

This epic waterway is one of Oregon’s most beautiful treasures. From petrified forests to acres of greenways, the Willamette River is one of the most popular places to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland.

Stretching hundreds of miles, each section of the Willamette River is calm enough for novice paddlers yet still boasts exciting scenery for all paddlers to enjoy. Drawing from the purest lake in the nation, Waldo Lake, Willamette River is not only a clean watershed resource but also home to nearly 50 different fish species (my favorite is rainbow trout). Also, while you’re paddling be on the lookout for shiny jasper and petrified wood!

No matter the season, Willamette’s smooth water is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. Around the river, visitors also enjoy swimming at Poet’s Beach, hiking around Forest Park, and exploring the famous Powell’s City of Books. Most importantly, Willamette Valley is known as an outstanding wine country! People from all over visit Willamette Valley to taste some of the best wine in the nation.

With tons of put-ins along the river, you can truly customize your water adventure. From city kayaking to peaceful tributaries, the Willamette River has it all. Docks in Oregon City and North Portland offer easy access to this beautiful waterway from downtown. If you need to rent a kayak or other gear, check out Portland Kayak Company.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Willamette River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and take exit 243 toward Ankeny Hill. Continue on Sidney Rd. S until you reach the river.

Clackamas River

Just 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Clackamas River is the ideal river rafting, floating, and paddling destination for adventure-seekers. Each section of this river offers a different experience- the upper Clackamas has Class II-V rapids perfect for white water rafting trips. For those looking for a more relaxing paddle, the Lower Clackamas’ rambling waters make for a wonderful float trip.

Many paddlers really enjoy kayaking around a tranquil stretch of water beginning at the Olallie Butte which flows through stunning areas of Mt. Hood National Forest. This southern section of the river is perfect for lazy river float trips and relaxing summer paddles.

However, if you are looking for a thrilling water adventure, the northern segment of the river is home to epic rapids. Altogether, this stretch of rapids is about 13.5 miles. While some courageous kayakers attempt all 13.5 miles on one trip, it is popular to do a 4 mile-long run from Fish Creek to Bob’s Hole. Small yet mighty, Clackamas River is packed with adventure around every bend.

With so much to try so close to Portland, Clackamas River is a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking near Portland. The Barton put-in is closest to Portland, and therefore usually the most crowded. I’d recommend driving the extra five minutes to Mclver or Carver areas to start your journey.

You can launch your own boat from any put-in along the river. Or, if looking to rent gear or want to book a guided tour the Clackamas River Outfitters has everything you need. They are conveniently located at three locations: Estacada Outpost, Timber Park and Milo Mclver State Park.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Clackamas River is to drive. If you are driving, take OR-224 E toward Clackamas. Continue on FS-4613 until you reach the river.

Scappoose Bay

Catering toward beginners and families, Scappoose Bay’s intricate network of lakes, channels, and tributaries is a peaceful oasis for canoe and kayakers. Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Scappoose Bay is the perfect place to find some peace and quiet.

A haven for wildlife, this sheltered area is home to numerous species of birds and fish, most you can spot from your boat! Scappoose Bay’s flat waters truly make kayaking Portland easy, relaxing, and accessible to all ability levels.

Right on the shore, paddlers can rent gear from and enjoy Scappoose Bay Marine Park. Here, visitors can take part in “gunkholing”, which means to meander in and out of shallow marshes and streams. Along with this peaceful activity, Scappoose Bay is known to be an excellent spot for paddle board yoga and fishing.

You can enjoy paddling around this flat, shallow area in about 3 hours. If you are looking for a longer paddle, visitors are encouraged to keep paddling to St. Helens Marina which is a few more miles down the Columbia River. Canoe, kayak, and paddle board rentals are available from Next Adventure’s Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Scappoose Bay is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 3 on the left for U.S. 30 W toward Saint Helens. Continue on Old Portland Rd. to the bay.

kayaking in Portland's Clackamas River is super relaxing and open to all ability levels.
Kayaking down the Clackamas River is a relaxing and scenic experience! Photo Credit: Dolanh (Flickr CC)

Tualatin River

A cool, mellow river to cool off in during those hot summer days, Tualatin River is truly a place where outdoor lovers gather to enjoy Portland’s natural resources. With easy access from Tualatin Community Park, Tualatin River is a nice place for novices to try kayaking in Portland.

While most visitors enjoy paddling around the park area, those looking for more challenging waters should paddle down to the last 2 miles of the river. There, small rapids offer a fun change of pace as Tualatin River joins the Willamette River. Soon after the rapids, kayakers can pull aside and enjoy Willamette Park.

Maintained by the community, Tualatin River’s pristine waters are the culmination of the riverkeepers’ hard work. Truly a community effort, when paddling around Tualatin Community Park kayakers will feel a strong sense of unity and belonging among other outdoor enthusiasts.

If new to paddling or looking for a quiet spot, Tualatin is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland. If you need to rent gear, check out Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Tualatin River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and Take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on SW River Rd. to the river.

Sparks Lake

If you are in the mood for adventuring into true wilderness, paddling around Sparks Lake should be at the top of your list. Formed 10,000 years ago from Mount Bachelor’s volcanic eruptions, Sparks Lake’s ancient beauty is a wonderful place to go canoeing and kayaking near Portland.

This shallow lake is ideal for novice paddlers and those who want to explore rugged terrain. Not only is the Deschutes National Forest a breathtaking backdrop for your water adventure, but Sparks Lake also has tons of campsites on the shore for overnight trips.

Sparks Lake is the perfect spot for beginners and young children because the lake is only 10 feet deep! Bonus- many visitors also enjoy the 2.5 mile-long hike along Sparks Lake’s volcanic shoreline (the trailhead is named Ray Atkinson Hiking Trail). Connecting to the Deschutes River, Sparks Lake offers a quiet oasis from the otherwise busy river.

From its formation to now, Sparks Lake embodies the joy of getting outdoors and exploring nature’s beauty. You can explore this volcanic lake on your own free of cost. Or, you can rent gear from Bend Kayak School.

How to Get There: The best way to reach Sparks Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and Take exit 138 toward Downtown/Mt Bachelor. Continue on Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway to the lake.

Chetco River

An oasis for advanced outdoorsmen, Chetco River’s rugged terrain and hidden location offer a total getaway from the busy city. Sandwhiched between two famous whitewater runs, North Fork and the Illinois River, Chetco River offers equally challenging whitewater kayaking without all of the crowds.

Known for its water being “as clear as gin”, outdoor lovers are drawn to Chetco River’s unique scenery and intense paddling. Chetco River and its surrounding ecosystems were majorly impacted by the Biscuit Fires of 2002. To this day, the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is still recovering, so please paddle with caution during your trip!

While Chetco River’s private location fosters some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife in Oregon, it also makes it a little difficult to reach. However, with some planning it really is no problem! Most visitors access the river from Slide Creek which is a 4 mile downhill hike to Chetco. Or, more adventurous paddlers enjoy accessing Chetco from Babyfoot Lake, a 9 mile hike from the river. Either way, kayaking down Chetco River is truly an outdoor adventure- from hiking to paddling this journey has it all!

You can portage your own canoes to these access spots free of charge. Or, you can rent gear from Smith River Kayaks. This shop, and many others nearby, rent kayak gear and offer whitewater kayaking tours of the area.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Chetco River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S toward Crescent City. Then, continue on  N Bank Chetco River Rd. to the river.

Chetco River is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking in Portland!
The Chetco River is a beautiful place to go canoeing and kayaking near Portland! Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service (Flickr CC)

Henry Hagg Lake

Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Henry Hagg Lake is one of the many beautiful waterways in the Tualatin Valley. Known for its epic fishing, Henry Hagg Lake is the perfect spot to finally try kayak fishing.

One of the best parts about Henry Hagg Lake is that half of the water is a dedicated no wake zone. Therefore, these flat waters are perfect for novice paddlers and famailies paddling with young children. With 15 miles of sandy shoreline, paddlers can choose from tons of beach banks and have a private picnic spot.

This quiet lake is a wonderful spot for any ability to try canoeing and kayaking in Portland! From kayak fishing to sandy shores, Henry Hagg Lake is an idyllic paddling spot for all! Besides being a super convenient paddling spot, visitors also love Henry Hagg Lake’s 15 mile-long bike path along the shoreline.

You can launch your own boat at Henry Hagg Lake. Or, check out Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe for kayak gear rentals, tours, and lessons.

How to Get There: The best way to get to Henry Hagg Lake is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on SW Herr Rd. to the lake.

Sauvie Island

Full of history and charm, Sauvie Island is certainly an outdoor lover’s dream! With tons of wildlife and natural areas, a trip to Sauvie Island will truly immerse you in Oregon’s nature.

Sturgeon Lake on the north end of the island is the best spot for canoeing and kayaking on Sauvie Island. There, paddlers can see views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. St.Helens right from their boats! Sturgeon Lake connects to two other waterways which are also great for paddling. Because this is island kayaking, some experience is necessary to paddle with ease around the island.

Kayakers looking for a challenge can paddle in the open water around the island. Otherwise, many visitors love paddling to Oak Island, a peninsula with epic hiking trails. Whether you have Oak Island as destination in mind or just want to paddle freely, there is no shortage of outdoor activities at Sauvie Island! Bonus- there is a pumpkin patch and blueberry farm on the island!

In addition to beautiful waterways, Sauvie Island is home to amazing historical landmarks. Visitors can explore Fort William and Warrior Rock Lighthouse, the smallest operational lighthouse in Oregon! There are also tons of hiking trails to lead you around the island (we recommend the Oak Island trail).

You can launch your own boat at Sauvie Island. Or, you can rent canoe and kayak gear from Scappoose Bay Paddling Center.

How to Get There: The easiest way to reach Sauvie Island is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 3 on the left for U.S. 30 W toward Saint Helens. Continue on Sauvie Island Bridge to the island.

Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area

Located between the Columbia River and Slough, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area beholds some of the most breathtaking sights as America’s largest protected wetland area.

Sprinkled with lakes and streams, this wetland area is a hotspot for canoeing and kayaking in Portland. The lakes are usually visitors’ go-to spot for paddling, but smaller waterways offer a unique glimpse of the wetland’s ecosystem and wildlife. If bird watching and spotting critical species is up your ally, then kayaking through these serene wetlands is the perfect place for you to explore.

This easy-going paddle destination is a haven for endangered wildlife and holds one of the largest populations of bald eagles and beavers in the nation! An immersive nature experience, canoeing and kayaking around Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area is sure to be an eye-opening journey.

You can launch your own boat on the preserve and can even paddle down to Kelley Point Park which connects the wetlands to the Columbia River. Or, you can rent gear from the Portland Kayak Company. Throughout the year, the Portland Zoo also offers tours of the area!

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take the Interstate 5 N exit toward Seattle. Continue on Marine Drive W to the preserve.

kayaking in portland offers spectacular views of mountains and other beautiful geological formations.
Kayaking in Oregon offers spectacular views of mountains! Photo Credit: Milford Sound (Flickr CC)

White Salmon River

With rapids galore it is no wonder that White Salmon River is one of the most visited places to go whitewater rafting and kayaking in Portland each year! Mostly Class III rapids, White Salmon River is a fun challenge for intermediate paddlers.

Besides the legendary Class III, IV and V rapids throughout the river, White Salmon River is known for the beautiful Husum Falls. Said to be the largest commercially run waterfall in the U.S., Husum Falls is a thrilling obstacle for rafters and paddlers to overcome.

Nestled in a forested canyon, White Salmon River is surrounded by densely packed forests and lush green lands. If you are looking for a thrilling outdoor adventure, then White Salmon River has the perfect conditions for your next journey.

You can launch your own rafts and kayaks, but make sure to bring a helmet and be prepared for the rapids! Otherwise, you can rent gear and book trips and tours through Wet Plant Whitewater Rafting.

How to Get There: The best way to get to White Salmon River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 toward Mt. Hood/White Salmon. Continue on WA-141 N to the river.

Ross Island

Many people think in order to have a great kayaking experience you must travel far to get immersed in nature. But when it comes to kayaking in Portland, there are tons of flat water opportunities right in the heart of downtown. Ross Island is one of the best places for novice paddlers to explore the outdoors right in downtown Portland.

Most paddlers put-in at Sellwood Riverfront Park. Launching right off of the park’s sandy beaches, visitors can enjoy the easy 5 mile loop around Ross Island. While paddling on Ross Island’s calm waters, you will see blue herons, bald eagles, and of course, ospreys.

Besides stunning skyline views, paddlers can also kayak past the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Here, outdoor lovers can catch a glimpse of the critical species that call Oregon home. With the Portland skyline in the distance and wildlife all around, kayaking at Ross Island really is the best of both worlds. Bonus- it is so close to downtown Portland you can easily fit a paddle trip into your busy schedule!

Even though Ross Island is privately owned, you can launch your own boat from Sellwood Riverfront Park. Or, you can rent kayak gear and book tours of Ross Island through Portland Kayak Company.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Ross Island is to drive. If you are driving, take OR-99 E and continue straight onto SE McLoughlin Blvd to the lake.

Rogue River

Ranked in the top 8 best rafting and white water paddling in the world, Rogue River has a range of rapids and calm waters that will bring adventure to your next paddling trip. Rogue River’s waters are accessible to all ability levels, but intermediate and experienced paddlers will especially love the consistent Class III rapids.

Most kayakers choose to put-in their boats at Grave Creek Bridge. From there, its a wild ride! Class III rapids will guide you downstream (with a dash of calmer waters mixed in). Eventually, paddlers will reach Rogue River’s epic challenge: Rainie Falls. Beyond Rainie Falls, kayakers can continue cruising downstream and even spot bears in the surrounding forests.

A known setting for early adventure writing- from authors like Zane Grey- a day spent at Rogue River will undoubtedly be full of adventure! There are tons of outfitters that offer guided rafting trips down the river to help you navigate these rushing waters.

You can launch your own boat at Grave Creek Bridge, and remember to be mindful of the rapids! Or, you can rent gear and reserve guided tours through Northwest Rafting Company. From Class III rapids to quiet streams, Rogue River will certainly keep your next paddle trip interesting!

How to Get There: The best way to get to Rogue River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S and take exit 48 toward Savage Rapides Dam. Continue on Berglund St. to the river.

Rogue River is a wonderful place for float trips and paddle trips surrounded by beautiful green forests.
Float and paddle trips are awesome ways to explore Rogue River in Portland. Photo Credit: Alphonso Dryer (Flickr CC)

Alton Baker Canal

University of Oregon students and faculty get ready- Alton Baker Canal is calling your name! Stretching from Eugene to Springfield, Alton Baker Canal is a super accessible canal perfect for beginners to test out their skills! Only a few miles long, the Alton Baker Canal is ideal for a quick paddle full of beautiful scenery.

A quick walk from the University of Oregon campus and Autzen Stadium, Alton Baker Canal is easy to get to (especially for college students)! Along the canal, there is the opportunity to portage, but it is not necessary. Avid fishermen will also love the canal because it is stocked with trout.

Whether you are looking to practice your flat water kayak skills or want to escape into nature, Alton Baker Canal is a wonderful spot for all ability levels- especially people on campus looking for an easy paddle trip!

You can launch your own boat from the ramp near the stadium. Or, you can rent boats from Northwest Canoe Tour.

How to Get There: The best way to reach the Alton Baker Canal is to drive. If you are driving, take I-5 S toward Eugene. Continue on Day Island Rd. to the river.

Upper Deschutes River

Both paddling and floating down the Upper Deschutes River are popular ways of exploring Oregon’s natural beauty! From grassy plains to volcanic formations, the Deschutes River is full of intrigue and adventure.

The Upper Deschutes River, near Bend, is the calmer portion of the river. Here, paddlers can enjoy up to a full day of paddling around beautiful scenery. The river’s flat waters and gentle current also make it ideal for float trips!

As the river flows downstream, the water becomes a bit more challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to stay near the Dillon Falls area where visitors can explore Paulina Peak’s volcanic formations. A truly breathtaking place for outdoor adventuring, all types of paddlers enjoy the Deschutes River and its surrounding aspen groves and mountain views.

With miles upon miles of kayaking available, most paddlers turn canoeing the Deschutes River into a half or whole day outdoor experience. This scenic river will absolutely not disappoint! You can launch your own boat near Dillon Falls. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through Tumalo Creek.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Upper Deschutes River is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 E and take exit 14 for Fairview Parkway. Continue on Jackson Trail Rd. to the river.

Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens State Park is home to two hidden gems in the Portland area! With beaches, lakes and camping grounds, Fort Stevens State Park has everything you need for an epic outdoor trip!

The park’s main lake, Coffenbury Lake, is known for its unique formation. Coffenbury Lake is a dune lake, meaning that is was formed between two dunes as rainwater filled the basin. Usually, dune lakes only last about 100 years (due to erosion) so kayaking at Coffenbury lake is a real treat! Although small in size, Coffenbury Lake is an excellent place for novice paddlers to explore and you can spot elk right on the shore!

Fort Stevens State Park’s other hidden treasure is Crabapple Lake. Although too much vegetation has made it un-kayakable, this small pond is a hotspot for wildlife. Crabapple Lake is a nice spot to break up a long day of paddling and hopefully see some awesome wildlife! Bonus- Social Security Beach is an awesome fishing spot!

Kayaking around Fort Stevens’ Coffenbury Lake is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The crystal blue waters and insane geological features make this park a must-see. Visitors can launch their own boats at the park. Or, you can rent gear from Wheel Fun Kayak Rentals.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to Fort Stevens State Park is to drive. If you are driving, take I-405 N and take exit 1D for U.S. 26 W toward Beaverton. Continue on Columbia Beach Rd. to the park.

Deschutes River kayaking is a wonderful place for beginners to interact with nature and practice their paddling skills!
Fall foliage is breathtaking to see while paddling down the Deschutes River. Photo Credit: Robert Shea (Flickr CC)

Cascades Range

Kayaking in Portland doesn’t get much better than the Cascades Range. A series of mountain lakes, the Cascades Range has bodies of water ideal for all types of paddlers.

The North Cascades is the place for outdoor thrill-seekers! Known for its whitewater kayaking, there are tons of outfitters to help you navigate the Class III, IV and V rapids in the North Cascades.

The Cascades Range has other waterways (that are a bit calmer) still with breathtaking mountain views. Many paddlers enjoy kayaking the Skagit River and the Skykomish River alongside Highway 2. Also, the Wenatchee River along the eastern side of the Cascades Range. All of these options offer a unique way to interact with this massive mountain range!

Kayaking around high-elevation lakes is an awesome experience. These, crystal clear lakes and mountain views of central Oregon are unbeatable- especially from the seat of a canoe! You can launch your own boat at these lakes. Or, you can rent gear and book tours through Wanderlust Kayak Tours.

How to Get There: The best way to get to the Cascades Range is to drive. If you are driving, take I-84 E and take exit 44 for US 30 E toward Cascade Locks. Continue on NF-68 to the lake.

From mountain lakes to whitewater rapids, kayaking in Portland is a wonderful way to interact with Oregon’s environment. Now that you are in the mood to kayak, check out our destinations page to see where else your boat can take you! Need some more inspiration before heading outdoors? Check out these motivational outdoors quotes. Happy paddling!

kayaking in Portland is a wonderful way to see the city and its luscious environment.
Canoeing and kayaking in Portland is an awesome way to experience the outdoors. Photo Credit: Aleksey Kuprikuv (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Portland

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Portland

Hiking near Portland, Oregon is an incredibly easy feat, thanks to the dozens of parks, national forests, and recreation areas that surround the city. Whether you are into skiing, kayaking, or hiking, this city has everything for outdoor lovers. The hikes near Portland range in difficulty from short 1-milers through the city park, to epic mountain summits, offering a wide range of options for everybody. Check out our list of some of the best hikes near Portland, Oregon!

Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Here’s a comprehensive list of our
35 favorite (practical) gifts for hikers, updated for 2020!

Easy Hikes near Portland

Hoyt Arboretum Trail

  • Distance: 1.3 mile loop
  • Location: Hoyt Arboretum

A free park located a couple of minutes from downtown, the Hoyt Arboretum is a sanctuary for trees. The trail is short and sweet, but can be combined with the multitude of other nearby trails to lengthen it (including the epic, nearby wildwood trail). You’ll see magnificent redwoods, spruce, and fir trees along the path. Situated so close to the city, every Portlander should check out this beautiful park.

Springwater on the Willamette

  • Distance: Varies
  • Location: Eastern bank of the Willamette River

This paved riverfront trail will give you lost of options for an urban adventure. Commonly used by bikers and runners, the trail offers sights of the gorgeous Willamette river and the downtown Portland area. The trail is open all year round and is pet friendly. You can extend your trek into the nearby North Woodland and Bluff trails to circle back around Oaks Bottom Lake and catch some ospreys nesting nearby.

Photo credit: Mt. Hood Territory (Flickr CC)

Trillium Lake Loop

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Location: Mt Hood National Forest

Trillium Lake is a classic PNW experience. The lake offers scenic views of nearby Mt. Hood and is easily accessible by car. The lake loop is an excellent hike for beginners and families. The path is made of gravel but is well marked. It will take you through the edge of the woods surrounding Trillium lake, offering a different perspective of this iconic body of water. The area costs $5 to enter, or you can get in with your NW Forest Pass.

Haystack Rock Trail

  • Distance: 8.2 miles
  • Location: Cannon Beach

You’ve probably seen it in pictures before: Haystack Rock is a series of rocky, tall islands located right off the coastline that look imposing and bold up close. Although there are several of these types of rocky islands along Oregon’s coast, the rock near Cannon Beach is the most accessible one. You won’t need to hike the whole 8 mile trail to see the rock. The trail is on the beach, so ensure you have the proper footwear. Birdwatchers should bring their binoculars on them as the area is a bird and wildlife reservation.

Photo credit: Bonnie Moreland (Flickr CC)

Tamolitch Blue Pool

  • Distance: 3.7 miles
  • Location: Willamette National Forest

This gentle trail will take you through old fir trees to a beautiful turquoise colored lake. This trail is actually the site of some interesting geological formations. The Blue Pool is formed from a river that descends into a submerged lava tube. At the beginning of the trail, you’ll see the source of the pool, the McKenzie River. If you hike this trail after a particularly rainy season (or after heavy snow-melt), the submerged river will overflow over the lava tube and created a waterfall that flows into the Blue Pool. This is a great option for beginner level hiking near Portland, Oregon!

Moderate Hikes near Portland

Photo credit: gstewart83 (Flickr CC)

Ramona Falls Loop

  • Distance: 8.2 miles
  • Location: Mt. Hood National Forest

Ramona Falls is a gentle 120 ft tall waterfall near Mt. Hood. The waterfall is unique in that the water trails off and cascades into a hundred different fingers over basalt columns. The trails leading up to it is lollipop shaped and moderate in difficulty. The path is relatively well maintained, but does require a stream crossing over logs. You’ll start and end your trek at the base of the towering Mt. Hood, and it’s one of the most spectacular outdoor day trips from Portland that you can find!

Tamanawas Falls

  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Location: Mt. Hood National Forest

The Tamanawas Falls trail will take you a short distance into the woods to find a large waterfall covering a dry alcove. The trail is technically an easy hike in terms of difficulty, but ice and rain can make the rocks very slippery. If you are going in the cold, crampons/spikes are a must if you want to avoid injury. Despite this, the most magical time to go is winter as the snow and iced over waterfall will give the whole place a fairy-tale-like atmosphere (plus the crowds tend to be smaller).

Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain

  • Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Location: Mt Hood

Take a walk up a mountain to get breathtaking views of Mt. Hood at the Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain trail. This hike will have you ascend 1,700 ft through moderately steep terrain. Somewhere near the halfway point, you’ll encounter Mirror Lake, a tranquil alpine lake that offers a good place to rest. Depending on the climate and snowfall levels, snowshoes or spikes may be required after the lake. Northwest Forest Passes are needed to access the trail during the summer time. Be sure to buy this in advance as you cannot buy them at the trailhead.

Photo credit: Rene Rivers (Flickr CC)

Cape Lookout

  • Distance: 4.7 miles round trip
  • Location: Cape Lookout State Park

If you’re looking for jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean, this is the place to go. This moderate hike will take you out on the cliffs of a peninsula overlooking the sea. The trail has a few moderate ascents and descents, and it will take you through a wooded scene on top of a 400 foot tall cliff in some parts. The views at the end of the trail are gorgeous, however, and the sunset on a clear day is something that’s unrivaled anywhere else. If you’re lucky, you’ll see whales and sea lions below, making this one of the most unique experiences you can get hiking near Portland!

Tryon Creek Loop

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Location: Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Inside a suburban park south of Portland, the Tyron Creek loop will take you on a short adventure inside a lush PNW rainforest. You’ll cross several small bridges that offer great views and great picture spots. The highlight of the trek is a green suspension bridge located in the Lewis and Clark Loop within the park. Trail-finding can be a little difficult here, so we recommend using either a GPS or obtaining a trail map at the information center.

Difficult Hikes near Portland

Salmonberry Trail

  • Distance: 12.5 mile round trip
  • Location: Clatsop State Forest

A trail for those seeking hikes that are truly off-the-beaten path, the Salmonberry Trail is a secluded trek deep within the Clatsop State Forest. Most of the hike follows an old abandoned railroad track, full of wild overgrowth. Make sure to wear long-sleeves and pants on this hike as you’ll constantly be rubbing up against thick bushes and plants. Some would even recommend a machete to chop your way through the dense bush.

The trail has a steep elevation gain of 1,600 feet over 6 miles. The path will take you through tunnels and over truss bridges. The abandoned nature of the tracks along with the dense foliage adds a spooky feel to the whole experience.

If you’re planning on doing this trek, drive up to the eastern trailhead off of Cochran rd and NOT the Beaver Slide road trailhead. The road on Beaver Slide is narrow, steep, and full of potholes. Low clearance cars without 4WD may get stuck.

Photo credit: David Prasad (Flickr CC)

Wildwood Trail

  • Distance: 29.6 miles
  • Location: Trailheads near Oregon zoo and Newberry road at the edge of Linnton Park

You don’t have to go far at all to get multi-day hiking near Portland. The Wildwood trail is an almost 30 mile path that zig-zags its way through Forest Park. Most runners and beginner hikers will stay within the first few miles of the trailhead near the zoo and arboretum. Most of the northern part of the trail is relatively flat. The difficulty progressively picks up the further south you go, with most of the elevation gain happening in the 5 miles closest to the arboretum. Near the southern trailhead, there is an optional quarter mile detour to the Pittock Mansion. Visitors can tour the mansion for a small fee. The rest of the trail is mostly dense redwoods, without many other epic sights. What the trail offers, however, is tranquility and peacefulness in an extremely close location to the city. This is a superb option for urban hiking near Portland.

Dog Mountain

  • Distance: 6 mile loop
  • Location: Columbia River Gorge

Easily accessible right off Highway 14, Dog Mountain summit offers a scenic overlook of the Columbia River and is well known for its wildflower blooms during Spring. This is a very popular hike and the parking lot can sometimes fill up. Be sure to arrive early and bring $5 cash to pay for passes per hiker. There’s a fork in the path a little less than a mile in where the trail splits into two paths that converge at a later point. The left is labeled “More difficult” and the right “Less difficult.” We recommend sticking to the “Less difficult” route as it is better maintained, less steep, and offers great views of the valley below. Be prepared to work out the calves; you’ll climb over 2,800 feet during this trek, making this one of the more difficult hikes near Portland.

Mt. Hood

  • Distance: Varies depending on route
  • Location: Mt. Hood National Forest

Mt. Hood is the pinnacle of hiking in Oregon (sorry, I couldn’t resist). There are several approaches to the summit, but all, obviously, require quite a bit of training and endurance. Be prepared for unpredictable weather and snow. One of the shorter approaches is a the Timberline route from the south side. This is a 7 mile trek that ascends over 5,200 feet to reach the summit at 11,240 feet. Hikers must obtain a wilderness pass; the US Forest Service has some important information on their website for anyone attempting the climb. The views at the top are unparalleled and you’ll forever have bragging rights for having climbed the tallest peak in Oregon.

Additional Resources for Hikes near Portland, Oregon

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Enjoy Hiking near Portland, Oregon? Check out these Other Resources!

Did you know that Portland, OR is a fantastic hub for snow sports? With the nearby Mt. Hood ski areas and its proximity to the Cascades, Portland is a prime spot for people who love skiing and snowboarding. If you’re looking to ski/ride for the first time, sharpen your skills, or tackle adrenaline-inducing drops, there are ski resorts near Portland for you. Curious about where you should go? Here’s our guide to the best places for snowboarding and skiing near Portland, OR.

Best Places for Snowboarding and Skiing Near Portland, OR

Summit Ski Area

  • Distance from Portland: 57 miles (~1 hour, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site, but nearby lodging available at Timberline Lodge
  • Ability Level: All levels, mostly beginner and intermediate

Located just over an hour outside of the city, Summit Ski Area is a fantastic place for snowboarding and skiing near Portland if you’re on a time crunch. Owned by Timberline Ski, this family-friendly resort caters largely to locals who want beginner and intermediate-level slopes.

It’s one of the many Mt. Hood ski resorts, but it’s typically less crowded and more relaxed than some of the more intense resorts. For beginners and first-time skiers, Summit Ski Area is the perfect choice, as it’s affordable and offers plenty of variety for less experienced skiers.

Fun fact: Summit Ski Area was built in 1927 and is one of the oldest continuously operating ski areas in the country!

How to Get There: If driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles. Continue straight onto US-26 E, then look for Government Camp Loop (village at base mountain). If not driving, there are multiple trains a day that leave from Union Station.

Timberline Ski Area

  • Distance from Portland: 62 miles (~1 hour, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodations Available: Yes, at Timberline Lodge
  • Ability Level: All levels

It might seem hard to believe, but Timberline Ski Area is open year-round for skiing. Yup, that means 12 months out of the year, it’s available for courageous skiers and snowboarders to visit. Located near the top of an 11,245 foot volcano, Timberline has the unique advantage of being on the side of the tallest mountain in Oregon.

The 41 trails here are fairly evenly split between easy, moderate, and difficult ratings, with plenty of resources for beginners and first-timers. Interestingly enough, this mountain was developed as part of the New Deal, and a lot of people flock here to learn about the history of this National Historic Landmark.

Some of the most highly recommended runs are Upper and Lower Salamander, Upper Dew Drop, and Lower Almost Heaven, as well as skiing on Palmer Glacier.

How to Get There: If driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles, Continue straight onto US-26 E, then turn onto Timberline Highway to resort. If not driving, there are shuttles that take you directly to Timberline lodge, or trains leaving from Union Station.

Mt. Hood Skibowl

  • Distance from Portland: 55 miles (~1 hour, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels

For more extreme skiers and snowboarders, Mt. Hood Skibowl is one of the best ski resorts near Portland, OR. With 69 trails spanning beginner to expert level, you can opt to tackle the resort’s longest trail, the Skyline Trail, which spans 3 miles! For advanced and expert-level skiers, Mt. Hood Skibowl has the most black diamond runs in Oregon, and they also boast fantastic night skiing opportunities (the largest in North America!) for those wanting to extend the ski day. For non-skiers and riders, there’s also a winter adventure park with snow tubing, sleigh rides, and more available at the park.

As it’s right off of Highway 26, Mt. Hood Skibowl is one of the more accessible resorts on Mt. Hood, so it’s perfect if you want to do a short trip from the city. While it’s a pretty no-frills, simple resort, the trails here are definitely worth a trip!

How to Get There: If driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles, Continue straight onto US-26 E, then look for Government Camp Loop (village at base mountain. If not driving, there are multiple trains a day that leave from Union Station.

Mt. Hood Meadows

  • Distance from Portland: 67 miles (~1.5 hours)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels

Another spectacular place to go skiing and snowboarding near Portlant is Mount Hood Meadows, which operates in the Mount Hood National Forest. The resort’s 87 trails are largely intermediate and advanced level, so we’d recommend having plenty of experience under your belt before choosing to tackle this resort.

The highest elevation at the resort is 7,300 feet, so many of the runs are fairly advanced and are definitely not for the faint of heart. More experienced skiers can head to Heather and Clark Canyons for a more back-country trail experience with a variety of terrain.

How to Get There: If driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles, Continue straight onto US-26 E, Take the exit toward Ski Resort/Bennet Pass/Soo Park/Mt Hood Meadows. If not driving, there are shuttles from Portland that take you directly to the Meadows Lodge.

Teacup Lake (Nordic)

  • Distance from Portland: 67 miles (~1.5 hours)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels

For avid Nordic/cross-country skiers, Teacup Lake is a fantastic place to go cross-country skiing near Portland! At 1.5 hours from the city, it’s easy to get to on a day trip, or for a weekend getaway. Teacup Lake is run by a non-profit and provides access to 12+ miles of trails, with Nordic lessons and a 4.5 loop trail available depending on your skill level. The outer trails are more appropriate for experienced Nordic skiers, with challenging hills and forested trails.

Pro tip: Rental equipment is NOT available here, so be sure to bring your own gear or rent at a ski/snowboard shop in Portland before you leave.

How to Get There: If driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles. Take the State Route 35 N exit toward Hood River, continue on OR-35 to the lakes. If not driving, Oregon Nordic Club provides an a bus from Portland to Teacup lake ($23).

Cooper Spur Mountain Resort

  • Distance from Portland: 90 miles (~1 hour, 40 minutes)
  • Accommodations Available: Yes, at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort
  • Ability Level: All levels, mostly beginner and intermediate

On the north side of Mt. Hood lies Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, which is a smaller resort that has just 50 acres of beginner and intermediate trails. The resort offers skiing, snowboarding, tubing, cross-country, and snowshoeing, making it a fantastic option for families or groups that have non-skiers and riders.

If you book a stay at the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort, you can get discounted lift tickets for a perfect winter weekend getaway. Visitors refer to Cooper Spur as a “hidden gem,” as it’s less crowded than Timberline or Mount Hood Skibowl.

How to Get There: If driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles. Turn right onto Button Bridge Rd/Mt Hood Hwy (signs for OR-35 S/Govt. Camp) and continue on Cooper Spur Rd. If not driving, Mt. Hood charters a bus to and from the Portland Metro Area, and you can purchase tickets online.

Hoodoo Ski Area

  • Distance from Portland: 132 miles (~2 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels

Moving away from the Mt. Hood area, you’ll find one of the locals’ favorite ski resorts – Hoodoo Ski Area. Cited by visitors as a “more affordable version of Whistler,” the park offers over 800 acres of skiable terrain and 34 runs, as well as one of the largest tubing parks on the West Coast. Located in Willamette National Forest, the resort itself sits on a volcanic cone area called Hoodoo Butte.

The front side is much better for beginners and less experienced riders and skiers, while advanced practitioners should find something that suits their fancy on the back side. Wide open trails and spacious runs are what visitors love the most about the slopes here, plus an affordable price tag compared to other ski resorts near Portland (come on Thursdays for the special “Thrifty Thursday deals!).

How to Get There: The best way to get to Hoodoo Ski Area is by car. If you are driving, start on I-5 S, Take exit 253 for OR-22 E toward Detroit Lake/Bend. US-20 E to Big Lake Road (Sister, OR).

Willamette Pass

  • Distance from Portland: 173 miles (~2 hours, 45 minutes)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels

Willamette Pass is a locally owned ski area that has 555 acres of skiable terrain. At under 3 hours from Portland, OR, it’s accessible as a weekend escape or a long day trip. Here, there is a broad mixture of difficulty levels on the trails, from bunny hills to steep, challenging runs.

A less crowded option than Mt. Hood Meadows or Mt. Bachelor, many locals enjoy coming here for the local, community-oriented feel. The panoramic views from the top and wooded trails are some of the aspects of Willamette Pass that visitors to the resort love the most.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-5 S, take exit 188 for OR-58 toward Oakridge/Klamath Falls, then resort is right off of Highway 58. If not driving, the buses and trains go to Eugene, OR, and then there are free shuttles to the mountain.

Mount Bachelor

  • Distance from Portland: 181 miles (~3.5 hours)
  • Accommodations Available: Yes, at Mount Bachelor Village Resort
  • Ability Level: All levels, mostly intermediate and advanced

While it’s not exactly the closest of the ski resorts near Portland, Mount Bachelor is an excellent option for a weekend getaway, especially for experienced skiers. Founded in 1958, Mount Bachelor is now one of the largest ski resorts in the US. Located in Deschutes National Forest in Oregon’s Cascades, the Mount Bachelor boasts stunning views of several surrounding mountain peaks. It’s also the highest elevation ski area in Oregon and Washington!

For skiing and riding, the snow here is powdery and dry, with great conditions throughout the season. The resort’s 101 trails feature a whopping 50% of black diamond and double black diamond routes, and another 35% of intermediate runs.

Pro tip: If you can, go on weekdays to avoid the crowds – this is one of the most popular options on our list, and it can get quite crowded on weekends and holidays.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-5 S, Take exit 253 for OR-22 E toward Detroit Lake/Bend. Take exit 138 toward Downtown/Mt Bachelor. If not driving, Mt. Bachelor partners with Deschutes Pub to have a bus directly to the mountain, included dinner and beer (must be 21). Otherwise, buses and trains connect through Eugene, OR and you can take a shuttle from there.

Crystal Mountain Resort

  • Distance from Portland: 204 miles (~3.5 hours)
  • Accommodations Available: Yes, at Crystal Mountain Chalets
  • Ability Level: All levels

At 3.5 hours from the city, Crystal Mountain Resort is one of the top places to go for a weekend getaway of snowboarding and skiing near Portland, OR. Given its beautiful location spanning two peaks, the resort became famous after hosting the 1955 National Alpine Ski Championship. With 58 trails ranging from beginner to advanced levels, you can definitely test your skills here. Crystal Mountain Resort has great offers, like discounts during the month of January, family Sundays, and more.

Not planning on skiing? No problem! Crystal Mountain also has plenty of non-slope activities, like snowmobiling, ice skating, and snow biking.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get there is by car. If driving, start on I-405 N, take the Interstate 5 N exit toward Seattle. Continue onto Chinook Pass Hwy/SE Enumclaw Chinook Pass Rd to Crystal Mountain Boulevard.

Stevens Pass

  • Distance from Portland: 250 miles (~ 4 hours)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels

Stevens Pass is another one of the ski resorts near Portland that people in the Pacific Northwest absolutely love. Located between two national forests, the resort boasts over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain, with 52 trails and numerous bowls, glades, and faces. With night skiing five days a week, there’s literally no shortage of time to explore the many trails that Stevens Pass has to offer. While the park does have trails for all skill levels, the vast majority are rated intermediate or advanced.

For non-riders and non-skiers, there’s free snow tubing available at Stevens Pass, as well as the charming Bavarian ski town of Leavenworth nearby. There are also options to go snowshoeing on the property as well.

How to Get There: Take the Interstate 5 N exit toward Seattle, exit onto US-2 E toward Wenatchee and continue on US_2 to resort.

Anthony Lakes

  • Distance from Portland: 292 miles (~4.5 hours)
  • Accommodations Available: Not on site
  • Ability Level: All levels, mostly intermediate and advanced

At 4.5 hours away, you might be wondering why we’ve included Anthony Lakes on our list of places for snowboarding and skiing near Portland. Our answer? Because it has some of the coolest trails for experienced skiers. Originally part of the Oregon Trail, Anthony Lakes was voted as the “friendliest little ski area in the USA.” With a base elevation of 7,100 feet, it’s one of the highest skiing spots in the state.

Advanced skiers love this resort because it has steep cliff slopes and various backcountry options accessible by cat. There’s also a sizable area for Nordic skiing here as well.

Pro tip: Every Thursday, Anthony Lakes offers half price lift tickets!

How to Get There: If you are driving, start on Pacific Hwy W, then follow signs for U.S. 30 E/Interstate 84 E/The Dalles. Take exit 285 for US-30/OR-237 toward N Powder/Haines to Anthony Lakes Highway (the resort is right off of the highway).

Additional Resources for Skiing Near Portland, OR

What to Pack

  • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
  • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
  • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of things to pack, read our guide on What to Wear Skiing & Snowboarding and our Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List to view our full packing list and gear recommendations for the slopes!

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