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- Diverse Hiking Options: Whether you plan to take peaceful walks along the coast or challenging treks up Mount Hood, enjoy outdoor getaways ranging from easy day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips
- Find Your Hike: Looking for something specific? Choose from strategic lists of the best hikes for wildflowers, waterfalls, or hiking with your dog, plus a breakdown of the best hikes by season
- The Top Outdoor Experiences: Explore a Mars-like red rock landscape in the Alvord Desert, or marvel at one of the 90 rushing waterfalls in the Colombia River Gorge. Peer into the mouth of a volcano crater, gaze at the Portland skyline from afar, or climb to the top of a picturesque lighthouse. Take a dip in relaxing hot springs, study real wagon ruts on the historic Oregon Trail, and spot puffins, pelicans, and plovers along the coast
- Nearby Fun: Spend a night under the stars at a nearby campground, sip a refreshing local brew after a day of hiking, or enjoy fresh-caught fish at a beachfront restaurant
- Essential Planning Details: Each hike is described in detail and marked with round-trip distance and hiking time, difficulty, terrain type, elevation gain, and access points
- Maps and Directions: Find easy-to-use maps, driving directions to each trailhead, and details on where to park
- Expert Advice: Seasoned hiker Matt Wastradowski offers experienced insights, local secrets, and honest opinions of each trail
- Tips and Tools: Advice on gear, first aid, and camping permits, plus background information on climate, landscape, and wildlife
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Hit the Trail
Best By Season
Best Waterfall Hikes
Best Brew Hikes
Best Wildflower Hikes
Best Dog-Friendly Hikes
Easy Waterfall Walks
OREGON HIKING TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Explore the Columbia River Gorge.
2 Take in Pacific Ocean views and spot marinelife.
3 Hike around the state’s highest peak.
4 Wander through fields of wildflowers.
5 Chase waterfalls.
6 Discover fossils, dramatic rock formations, and the surreal Painted Hills at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
7 Swim in mountain lakes.
8 Follow trails through the urban forests of Portland.
9 Gaze into Crater Lake’s dramatic blue depths.
10 Kick back with a post-hike beer.
HIT THE TRAIL
The secret’s out: Oregon is a hiker’s heaven. What makes it such a magical destination for the trail-bound is its surprising diversity of terrain.
It’s famed for its lush greenery, exemplified by the Willamette Valley surrounding Portland. The waterfall-strewn Columbia River Gorge and the state’s tallest peak, snowcapped Mount Hood, are world-class recreation destinations. The rugged Oregon Coast is speckled with crags, peaks, lighthouses, and viewpoints that reflect millennia of intense rains, frostbitten winters, and never-ending windstorms. Along the spine of the Cascade Range running through the state, you’ll find high-desert expanses and volcanic landscapes near Bend, not to mention Crater Lake, an isolated sapphire gem. The John Day Fossil Beds in central Oregon evidence more than 40 million years of changing climates, ecosystems, and natural evolution, as well as the Painted Hills, showcasing surreal layers of color. On the less-discovered eastern side of the state, you can wander the granite Wallowa Mountains and find authentic Oregon Trail wagon tracks in the Blue Mountains. Steens Mountain forms a natural wall hiding Oregon’s driest point: the Alvord Desert. In between you can delight in wildflower-flecked meadows, swim in alpine lakes, and hop on a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.
It’s possible to spend a lifetime discovering and rediscovering Oregon’s landscape.
Camping the Coast
With a mix of sea stacks, lighthouses, towering capes, tide pools, and beaches, the Pacific Northwest’s coast offers classic adventure. Pick a hike and then pitch a tent nearby for the night, or string these suggestions together—they’re listed north to south—to hop your way down the coast on a hiking-camping trip. Driving time between successive campgrounds ranges 0.75-3.25 hours.
The tent sites at Saddle Mountain State Natural Area promise a quiet respite from some of the region’s more crowded campgrounds. Situated early along the Saddle Mountain Trail, you’ll appreciate the proximity after climbing nearly 1,500 feet up the mountain’s slopes.
Sitting on a sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Cape Lookout State Park has a developed campground nestled in the heart of the Tillamook coast. Just a few miles south, you can hike to the tip of Cape Lookout, one of the best whale-watching spots on the entire Oregon Coast.
The Cape Perpetua Campground makes a great base for exploring the area’s natural beauty. Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and “the best view on the Oregon Coast”—according to the U.S. Forest Service—are some of the many highlights along Cape Perpetua’s network of trails.
Embark on a magical hike to one of the coast’s most iconic lighthouses—plus a beach—on the Heceta Head to Hobbit Trail. Less than a 30-minute drive south on U.S. 101 brings you to the campground at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, set amid the Oregon Dunes.
You don’t have to go far to see one of the northernmost redwood groves on Earth—in fact, it’s a short walk from your campsite at Alfred A. Loeb State Park. On the River View Trail to Redwood Nature Trail, you’ll pass through a forest of Oregon myrtle before reaching the towering trees.
Day-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
The 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) stretches from Mexico to Canada and is a dream trip for many backpackers. While thru-hikers take months to walk the entire trail, such an adventure isn’t realistic for many. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the famous route: Oregon is home to about 450 miles of it and offers numerous opportunities for day hikes, as well as nearby camping options.
Columbia River Gorge
The hike to Dry Creek Falls follows the PCT through patches of burned forest—damage done by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire—before an offshoot trail detours to the base of the namesake falls. Camp about 8 miles east of the trailhead at Wyeth Campground.
Ramona Falls, which tumbles over columns of basalt in a shady forest, is a popular destination, and on the hike you’ll hop on and off the PCT. Spend the night about 10 miles southwest at Tollgate Campground; you’re not far from U.S. 26, but the Zigzag River—which butts up against the campground’s western edge—drowns out highway noise.
Bend and the Central Oregon Cascades
Hike part of the PCT on the way to Little Belknap Crater. You’ll travel through a forest and emerge at the foot of a massive lava field with views of Cascade peaks. Camp 17 miles east at Creekside Campground, near downtown Sisters.
Ashland and the Rogue Valley
Hike the PCT through wildflower meadows and gain views of nearby peaks on Mount Ashland. Camp overnight just a few miles away at the Mount Ashland Campground.
Sky Lakes Wilderness and Klamath Basin
Follow the PCT on the Brown Mountain Lava Flow hike, which darts between verdant forests and eerie lava flows, all while delivering photo-worthy views of Mount McLoughlin. Sitting in the shadow of Mount McLoughlin about 5 miles north of the trailhead, Fourmile Lake Campground makes an ideal place to spend the night.
BEST BY SEASON
▪ Tom McCall Point Trail: Each spring, wildflowers dot the meadows leading to the summit of McCall Point, which affords views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams.
▪ Cape Lookout: Spy migrating gray whales from one of the best whale-watching spots along the Oregon Coast.
▪ Lower Table Rock: Hike to the pancake-flat summit of Lower Table Rock and admire its seasonal vernal pools and colorful wildflower displays before the summer heat arrives.
▪ Opal Pool and Jawbone Flats Loop: Follow this trail to a popular swimming hole and an old mining camp.
▪ Cleetwood Cove and Wizard Island: This two-parter is only accessible in summer, when you can take a trail down to Crater Lake’s shore and then boat to a volcanic cinder cone for a hike to its summit.
▪ Sky Lakes Basin via Cold Springs Trail: Hike to some of the region’s most popular swimming holes.
▪ Trail of Ten Falls: This trail’s 10 waterfalls are even more impressive alongside vivid fall foliage displays.
▪ Bagby Hot Springs: With temperatures cooling and crowds dissipating, early fall is an ideal time to hike through old-growth forest to enjoy a soak in Oregon’s most popular hot springs.
▪ Misery Ridge-River Trail Loop: After the summer crowds have simmered down at Smith Rock, enjoy a sunny hike up to one of the best viewpoints in Central Oregon.
▪ Lower Macleay Trail to Pittock Mansion: When the region’s most popular hikes are socked in with snow and ice, this hike remains accessible, delivers a hearty workout, and offers stellar views of the downtown Portland skyline.
▪ Mosier Plateau: The Mosier Plateau’s low elevation makes it a good winter hiking destination, and you also have a solid chance of spotting bald eagles overhead.
▪ Cape Falcon: Hike out to a windswept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where you might see migrating gray whales.
BEST WATERFALL HIKES
▪ Trail of Ten Falls: On this iconic hike you’ll pass 10 waterfalls in less than 10 miles.
▪ Latourell Falls Loop: These scenic falls in the Columbia River Gorge cascade amid lichen-colored columnar basalt pillars.
▪ Wahkeena Falls-Multnomah Falls Loop: Bookend a hike with two of the most popular waterfalls in the Gorge.
▪ Ramona Falls: Hike to one of the most photographed waterfalls in the state, set in the shadow of Mount Hood.
▪ Drift Creek Falls: Cross a dramatic suspension bridge to this waterfall in the Oregon Coast Range.
BEST WILDFLOWER HIKES
▪ Tryon Creek State Natural Area Loop: Trillium, tiger lily, and fireweed dot this trail in spring.
▪ Tom McCall Point Trail: Among the most popular wildflower hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, this trail hosts yellow balsamroot, purple grasswidow, and red paintbrush, plus views of Cascade peaks.
▪ Elk Meadows: Host to everything from purple lupine to white-fringed grass of Parnassus, this is one of the best wildflower-viewing spots on Mount Hood.
▪ Lower Table Rock: The flat summit of Lower Table Rock hosts numerous rare wildflowers, including the dwarf woolly meadowfoam—a plant found nowhere else on Earth.
▪ Mount Ashland (via the Pacific Crest Trail): Find some of the Rogue Valley’s most breathtaking wildflower displays along this hike through hillside meadows.
BEST DOG-FRIENDLY HIKES
▪ Lower Macleay Trail to Pittock Mansion: Fido will appreciate the well-graded, well-maintained paths en route to Pittock Mansion, where you’ll enjoy skyline views.
▪ Lost Lake Butte: Fit dogs and their owners will enjoy the steady ascent to postcard-worthy views of Mount Hood.
▪ Cape Falcon: What dog doesn’t love a day at the beach? Pair your hike with off-leash fun at Short Sand Beach.
▪ West Metolius River: Horseback riders and mountain bikers aren’t allowed on this mostly flat path, which means you and your four-legged friend have it all to yourselves.
▪ Misery Ridge-River Trail Loop: Pick up a cleanup bag near the Crooked River bridge and wander fascinating terrain with your pup.
EASY WATERFALL WALKS
The Pacific Northwest’s renowned precipitation makes it quintessential waterfall country, and many don’t demand a thigh-burning workout to appreciate. Visit in the spring to see them flowing at full force.
BRIDAL VEIL FALLS
Distance/Duration: 1.4 miles round-trip, 45 minutes
Trailhead: between mileposts 28 and 29 on the Historic Columbia River Highway, Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Viewpoint, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
A pair of trails from the parking area showcase the best of the Columbia River Gorge without requiring much effort. The two-tiered falls here come from a creek that begins on nearby Larch Mountain. The upper loop trail shows off Gorge cliffs, along with springtime wildflowers, while the lower out-and-back trail descends to the base of Bridal Veil Falls. Keep an eye out for poison oak along this path.
Distance/Duration: 1.8 miles round-trip, 1 hour
Trailhead: roughly 18 miles northeast of Mehama on Forest Road 2209, Willamette National Forest
The path to Henline Falls starts in a forest of Douglas fir and hemlock, its undergrowth thick with ferns and, in spring, colorful wildflower displays. The out-and-back trail follows an old roadbed to a long-abandoned mine and climbs gently before ending at a small viewing area of the seemingly sheer wall of water. Keep left at two junctions along the way; the user-created trails off to the right don’t head anywhere worthwhile.
Distance/Duration: 1.5 miles round-trip, 45 minutes
Trailhead: roughly 10 miles southeast of Belknap Springs on Highway 242 (typically closed Nov.-June depending on snow; call 541/822-3381 for road info), Willamette National Forest
Just east of the McKenzie River, one stream cascades into two separate curtains of water—each dropping more than 200 feet—to form Proxy Falls. In turn, the water seeps into the porous lava rock at its base. This family-friendly loop affords views of both the upper and lower sections of Proxy Falls.
Distance/Duration: 0.8 mile round-trip, 30 minutes
Trailhead: roughly 21 miles northwest of Diamond Lake on Forest Road 34, Willamette National Forest
Hike through an old-growth forest of Douglas fir and western red cedar alongside the North Umpqua River to a platform overlooking Toketee Falls, flanked by columnar basalt. The out-and-back trail includes nearly 200 steps.
Distance/Duration: 0.8 mile round-trip, 30 minutes
Trailhead: roughly 19 miles northwest of Diamond Lake on Forest Road 37, Willamette National Forest
The path to Watson Falls—the third-highest waterfall in Oregon and the highest in southern Oregon—climbs through a forest of salal, Douglas fir, and vine maple before crossing a wooden bridge over Watson Creek. Just past the bridge, which affords spectacular views of the falls, a T-shaped junction offers two choices: Head left for a quick climb to the base of Watson Falls, or head right to complete a loop back to the trailhead.
PORTLAND AND THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY
Sixteen of Oregon’s 20 largest cities sit within the Willamette Valley, making it the state’s most populated region. But the area is also home to an abundance of verdant, peaceful landscapes, located conveniently close to the city centers. Portland offers easy retreats within its many green spaces, including 5,100-acre Forest Park, which hugs downtown and hosts miles of hiking trails. Near Salem, Oregon’s largest state park draws crowds to its renowned waterfall hike. Elsewhere in the valley you’ll find secluded hot springs and river walks, as well as summit hikes offering sweeping views of some of the region’s most-beloved Cascade peaks.
1 Lower MacLeay Trail to Pittock Mansion
2 Marquam Trail to Council Crest
3 Tryon Creek State Natural Area Loop
4 Trail of Ten Falls
5 Table Rock
6 Bagby Hot Springs
7 Opal Pool and Jawbone Flats Loop
8 Battle Ax Mountain
9 Marys Peak
10 North Fork River Walk
1 Lower Macleay Trail to Pittock Mansion
Hike through one of the nation’s largest urban parks, and enjoy an iconic view of the downtown Portland skyline from a historic mansion.
BEST: Winter Hikes, Brew Hikes, Dog-Friendly Hikes
DISTANCE: 6.4 miles round-trip
DURATION: 3 hours
ELEVATION CHANGE: 1,010 feet
TRAIL: Dirt trail, paved path, roots, gravel, wooden steps
USERS: Hikers, wheelchiar users, leashed dogs
MAPS: USGS topographic map for Portland, OR-WA
PARK HOURS: 5am-10pm daily
CONTACT: Portland Parks & Recreation, 503/823-7529, www.portlandoregon.gov/parks
START THE HIKE
MILE 0-1: Lower Macleay Trailhead to Stone House and Wildwood Trail
From the restrooms near the Lower Macleay Park parking area, head south on the unsigned paved path—the Lower Macleay Trail—and pass under Northwest Thurman Street, heading southwest. Almost immediately, you’ll begin hiking through a canyon alongside Balch Creek, one of Portland’s earliest sources of drinking water. The trail’s first 0.25 mile is paved, flat, and wheelchair-accessible, before transitioning to gravel and dirt as you head through a forest of maple, alder, and Douglas fir. You’ll cross two footbridges over Balch Creek along this stretch, gradually gaining elevation before arriving, in 0.75 mile, at the Stone House, more popularly known as the “Witch’s Castle.” Despite the nickname, the graffiti-covered stone structure—built in the mid-1930s—is merely an old restroom. This is also where the trail intersects with the Wildwood Trail.
MILE 1-1.8: Stone House and Wildwood Trail to Northwest Cornell Road
Head straight, continuing west on the Wildwood Trail, which meanders some 30 miles through Forest Park, the largest forested natural area within city limits in the United States. On this mostly flat stretch you’ll hike through a forest of Douglas fir. In roughly 0.4 mile, you’ll cross a footbridge over Balch Creek. Over the next 0.4 mile, you’ll ascend a series of switchbacks out of the canyon and follow the trail east before arriving at Northwest Cornell Road. For a fun side trip, you could turn right on the road and walk an extra 0.1 mile to visit the Portland Audubon Wildlife Care Center,
- On Sale
- Mar 2, 2021
- Page Count
- 344 pages
- Moon Travel