Going for a hike near the city can often feel like you've joined a parade or a conga line. There are certainly the must-see spots, but there are plenty of places to find a breath of fresh air and leave some of the crowd behind. These hikes are close (or in) Portland and are often less traveled than their popular neighboring trails. And check out our companion guides for Seattle and San Francisco if you're planning a trip there as well.
At 5,157 acres, Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the United States. Even though there are over 80 miles of trails, some of the park's areas can become quite crowded. Head to the north end of the park where the crowds are thinner and the trails are just as nice. The Springville Trail is a 4.5-mile loop with very little elevation gain, making it great for strollers and the whole family. Dogs are allowed.
The Marquam Nature Park is located in southwest Portland and is part of a larger trail system that weaves its way through numerous parks and neighborhoods. The nature park's signature trail, the Marquam Trail, is a 4.6-mile route that takes hikers to Council Crest Park for amazing views of the city and, on a clear day, Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. Dogs are allowed.
About a half-hour drive down the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side, you'll reach the easily accessible Lacamas Creek Trail. Lacamas Creek Park is arguably the most wild and scenic urban park in the Portland area. This short 3.4-mile loop will take you past three waterfalls and Round Lake. In the summer it can become quite congested, but crowds seem to thin in the fall and winter.
If you're interested in a nice stroll and some birdwatching, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is the place for you. A short 30-minute drive out the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side will bring you to this 1,000-acre refuge. The 3.1-mile compacted gravel loop leads to the Columbia River Dike Trail and offers additional trails should you choose to extend your walk. Dogs and bikers are not allowed in the refuge.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail is a 21-mile paved trail located about 30 minutes west of Portland. The trail can be broken up into a number of there-and-back trips, making it suitable for walking, jogging and biking. Operated by Oregon State Parks, it was the first "rails-to-trails" state park in Oregon. Banks-Vernonia Trail is a great mixed-use trail that is open to dogs as well as horses.