Portland is home to 275 public parks and gardens, 152 miles of regional trails and is surrounded by some of the Pacific Northwest’s most sought-after outdoor attractions, like the breathtaking Mt. Hood National Forest, only an hour from downtown. Spend an afternoon biking along the livelyWaterfront Park in downtown, rent a kayak and paddle along the city’s main waterway, the Willamette River, or grab takeout from a local restaurant and picnic in Mt. Tabor Park, an extinct volcano set right in SE Portland.
Here are a few of our favorite outdoor adventures, both in or under two hours away from Portland.
Cathedral Park is both a park and a neighborhood in North Portland bordering the eastern bank of the Willamette River, with the park itself located just underneath the iconic green St. John’s Bridge. Earning its name because of the appearance of its Gothic arches, it’s a popular location for weddings, walks, and Instagram selfies.
Located near Sellwood in Southeast Portland, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is a 141-acre park centered on a floodplain on the banks of the Willamette River. Featuring a large, shallow lake, dense woodlands, and a hiking and biking corridor, Oaks Bottom is a verdant oasis in the heart of the city.
Forest Park is the largest urban wilderness park in the U.S., sprawling 5,000 acres within Portland’s city limits. Just a 10-minute drive from Woodlark Hotel, Forest Park has 70 miles of trails winding through its dense woodlands, and is home to elk, flying squirrels, bobcats, hairy woodpeckers, owls and newts. Noteworthy trail: The Dogwood Loop. This three-mile loop in Forest Park is one of the most picturesque places to take an evening walk. The path is covered by a canopy of Douglas fir and big leaf maples, with yellow woodland violets and trilliums coming out to play in spring, and fairy bells and candy flowers popping up in the summer.
Portland International Rose Test Garden. Unofficially known as the Portland Rose Garden, this iconic space features over 10,000 gorgeous, sweet-smelling roses, and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world each year, for peaceful meandering, top-notch skyline views, and unbeatable floral selfies. Free public tours are offered daily at 1PM from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Despite our fair share of rainy days, Portland is undeniably picturesque year round, with plenty of spots to hone your aperture skills. Within walking distance of the hotel, Tom McCall Waterfront Park offers views of the bridges that give the city its Bridgetown nickname, including the Burnside, Hawthorne, Fremont, Morrison and Tilikum Crossing bridges (pro tip: a couple paces up the Burnside Bridge will give you a good glimpse of the notorious flashing Portland sign).
Further afield selection of full or half day jaunts:
Just an hour away from downtown Portland, Hood River feels a little like a miniature Lake Tahoe— it has the water, the trees and the outdoor adventure. It’s home to Ferment Brewery, Hood River Distillers and popular microbreweries like Full Sail, Pfriem Family Brewers and Double Mountain, where you can dig into the biggest, most delicious heirloom pizza pie you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Dog Mountain People love Dog Mountain for its gorgeous views, easy access to the Gorge, and, at just an hour away, approachable distance from Portland. The main loop is known for wildflower viewing in May and June, with Northwest balsamroot, harsh paintbrush, and springgold flowers covering both the meadows near the summit and the lower section of the trail. But be ready to work for these views — the trail gains nearly 3,000 feet in elevation over a three-mile climb to the lookout — and the three-mile downhill return to the trailhead is a steady quad-burner, but it’s well-worth the hustle.
Trillium Lake Trail An hour and twenty minutes from Portland, Trillium Lake is a gorgeous nature and wildlife area in the heart of Mt. Hood National Forest. The trail around the lake winds through majestic spruce trees and mountain hemlocks, and the shoreline is covered in a variety of wetland wildflowers. The entire area yields postcard-perfect views of Mt. Hood.
Cannon Beach Known for its iconic Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach is one of the most popular beach towns on the Oregon Coast. We recommend wading through the tide pools at low tide to admire the area’s diverse marine life (the Cannon Beach Tide Charts can guide you to the best spots for exploring). Afterwards, warm up and take in the gorgeous view of the beach with clam chowder at Mo’s.
Lewisville Park We recommend heading to the Larch area of this park on the shores of the Lewis River. There, you will find a small sand-and-pebble beach for wading and swimming on hot summer days. Pack a picnic and enjoy it on the little grass clearing right behind the beach.
Opal Creek Pool This popular swimming hole near Portland is 2 hours from downtown, but well worth the drive. A 25-foot-deep turquoise pool at the base of Opal Creek, it is perhaps Oregon’s most scenic swim. Hike 3.5 miles down from an old logging road and take a victorious leap from a 25-foot cliff into the sparkling pool below.
Oxbow Regional Park On hot days, floating lazily on the Sandy River on inflatable rafts and tubes is a popular Portland pastime. Located just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, this extremely accessible 1,000-acre nature preserve is located on the slow-moving river. Take a little day trip and swim, fish, boat or hike along the 15-miles of lush hiking trails of Oxbow Regional Park.
Rooster Rock State Park Just 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Rooster Rock State Park offers a three-mile long stretch of beach on the south side of the Columbia River Gorge. The eastern portion of the park is designated as a clothing-optional beach — it was the first officially designated clothing-optional beach in the U.S.
Oneonta Gorge If you have friends that have visited Portland, chances are they’ve posted about their adventures in the Oneonta Gorge on Instagram, and you probably marveled at the fact that such a dazzling place exists: Hike through a mossy canyon, wade through icy waters and hop over log jams for 0.6 miles until you reach the otherworldly Lower Oneonta Falls. In this case, the destination is just as fun as the journey.
Trail of Ten Falls The name says it all. Count the waterfalls one by one on this 8.7-mile loop inside the 9,000-acre Silver Falls State Park, an hour and 20 minutes south of Portland. Gentle, rolling terrain and a total elevation climb of just 1,000 feet mean the whole, easy hike takes three to five hours, making it a great option for families.
Tillamook Head Traverse Hike An hour and a half west through rolling fields and forests, Tillamook Head’s 6.3-mile traverse hike is a great option for families looking for a coastal walk near Portland. Passing through groves of spruce and hemlock, the trail goes from Indian Beach to Tillamook Head trailheads. Either caravan with another driver to have cars at both ends, or simply pick a starting point and turn around when you want to head back. We recommend starting at Indian Beach, so that you see the water sooner.