My Five Favorite Area Hikes
One of the main reasons that I chose to live in the Northwest is the abundance of natural beauty we are surrounded by. Not only is it amazing to look at, but my personal trainer brain views every mountain, river, trail, waterfall etc. as an opportunity to get a great workout in. When I first started to exercise, like many others, I didn’t enjoy it. I set a timer to 30 minutes and repeatedly cycled my legs around and around on an elliptical machine. If I was lucky enough to snag a machine with a tv at the gym, I caught up on my reality tv shows. But I viewed it as a chore, didn’t enjoy it and despite committing to going to the gym regularly I wasn’t in shape. But I didn’t really know how else to get my exercise in. Growing up in upstate New York, we had some hiking trails, but I didn’t know anyone that utilized them and they were mostly flat through the woods with no rewarding views.
When I moved to Seattle several years ago, I went on my first real mountain hike with a group of friends at Snow Lake. I remember thinking it would be easy, as I worked out regularly and thought I was in decent shape. But wow… I learned quickly that my cardiovascular endurance basically was nonexistent and the burning in my legs was an entirely new sensation. It was really, really tough for me. When we reached the top it all became completely worth it as I took in the vast mountain views and the alpine lake below us. I had never seen anything like this and it was breathtaking; totally worth all the physical pain. A hiking addict was born. Ever since then, I have really built up my endurance and my leg strength and have loved exploring all that this part of the country has to offer us. So here are a few of my favorite hikes I have done throughout the past few years. They vary in difficulty and distance away from Portland. All info about the hike itself is taken directly from portlandhikersfieldguide.org, which is an awesome resource that helps you find a hike based on all sorts of different criteria. Hope you find this helpful and have a chance to get out there!
Start point: Cape Horn Trailhead (off of highway 14 in Washington)
Distance: 6.8 miles
Elevation gain: 1630 feet
This hike is probably my all time favorite. It’s pretty close by, it’s challenging but do-able and it has it all: views of the city, landscape, waterfalls, the gorge and a good mix of uphill hiking with some easier flat sections mixed in. If I have a visitor in town, this is the hike I take them on. It also has a really nice, well-maintained area for eating lunch at.
One thing to note is that a huge section of this loop trail is closed from February to July to protect the falcons. Part of the hike is still available and still worth it, but you will miss out on some of the good parts! Cape Horn is a must do!
Start point: Lower Macleay Park Trailhead (approximately NW 28th and NW Upshur)
Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 900 feet
I like this hike mostly because it is accessible. It’s starting point is right in Northwest Portland, so you don’t even have to leave the city to get there. It’s perfect when you only have a little bit of time or want to squeeze in some exercise before work. It is also a great one to take visitors to because it offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city, including Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood if it’s clear out.
Start Point: North Neahkahnie Mountain Trailhead (the Oregon Coast near Manzanita)
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1450 feet
Every so often I get a craving for the coast. Actually, it’s pretty often. I love the feeling of the air and the vastness of the water. It does wonders for my well-being. Quite often I end up camping on the coast but I have actually done this hike as a day trip as well. I left by 8 am and was back by 6. Just one other thing to love about living in Portland.
Start Point: Saddle Mountain Trailhead (off of Highway 26 towards the Oregon Coast)
Distance: 5.2 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1600 feet
I love this hike because it is so different from any hike I had ever done. You’re hiking a lot of the way on a ridgeline of basalt and get views of the coast and several mountains. It’s a great length and level of difficulty and all around beautiful.
Starting Point: Smith Rock Trailhead (Eastern Oregon, pretty close to Bend)
Distance: 3.8 miles
Elevation gain: 1000 feet
This hike is a little bit of a drive. I recommend making a trip out of it and staying in Bend or camping near by. It is well worth the trip. This is my favorite hike I have ever done. It’s not long but it is fairly strenuous. The views and the terrain are like nothing I’ve ever seen. You are not near Portland anymore and it shows. I hate to use the word breathtaking yet again, but it is. Take a weekend trip and make sure to do this one sometime!
There are so many other hikes out there to chose from. What are your favorites?!