First things first—go to Multnomah Falls just outside of Portland and get the required selfie.
Multnomah Falls is arguably the most-photographed body of water in the area, the iconic 620-foot-high falls live up to their reputation, and while you’re there some of the guaranteed tourists behind by hiking 1.2 miles up to the high platform. And then go visit the other killer waterfalls in the region—Latourell, Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil, and Wahkeena.
Then consider these more far-flung, less-crowded hikes.
Beyond the ubiquitous beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood may be the most visible reminder of all the natural glory that lies at Portland’s doorstep. And while legions of hikes proffer killer views of that peak as well as others in the Cascade Range—to say nothing of the region’s alpine lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and forests, ascending Hood should be on every resident’s to-do list. Unlike some peaks, it doesn’t require serious mountaineering experience.
In fact, Mount Hood ranks just behind Mount Fuji as the most-climbed glacial peaks in the world.
But don’t let that fool you. Mount Hood is still a serious mountain. Hit the South Side Route, which starts at the parking area of Timberline Lodge at 5,800 feet; once you reach the Palmer Ski Lift, hit either the popular Hogsback/Pearly Gates route, the Old Crater for less crowds, or the more challenging West Crater Rim. And—as with all summit hikes—start early, expect loose rock and variable weather, and don’t linger around the fumaroles, which create oxygen voids.
Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain
With easy accessibility come big crowds, so try to visit this quintessential Pacific Northwest (PNW) hike on a weekday to avoid the surge of hikers that head to Mirror Lake each weekend, which sits just off Highway 26. The 5.6-mile round-trip proffers postcard-perfect views of Mount Hood, Mirror Lake, and the rugged Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain—as well as dense forest, carpets of summer wildflowers, and an open, rocky crest to the 4,920-foot summit. Go in warmer weather, and break up the hike with dips in the lake, or head out early on a Friday and snag a backpacker-friendly campsite along the shore and day-hike all weekend long.
Rock of Ages Loop
Ready to feel the burn? Too soon? Sorry.
Hit this punishing 10-mile loop, which gains approximately 1,000 feet for every mile traveled, while taking in views of the Rock of Ages and Saint Peter’s Dome, twin rock formations on the Yeon Mountains and the Columbia River Gorge. Expect rock scrambles, exposure, blowdowns, loose rock, side-treks to waterfalls, and lots of steeps. Start early from Horsetail Falls Trailhead—and don’t miss the 0.2-mile side route to Rock of Ages Arch, a natural rock arch. All that, and a fraction of the crowds typical to less “extreme” hikes in the region.
Eagle Creek Trail (#501)
Part of Mount Hood National Forest, this 7.2-mile route swaps the typical PNW vista of volcanic peaks for old grown forests and rambling waterways, including loads of stream crossings of the tributaries of Eagle Creek. The grade is modest—with only 1,410 feet of elevation gain—and sits east of the community of George, at the far west end of the Salmon-Huckleberry Area, so the crowds stay thin.
Angel’s Rest/Devil’s Rest Loop
Play with polarities of good and evil on this 10.9-mile trail, which boasts a modest elevation gain of only 2,770 feet. Start at the Angel’s Rest Trailhead, climbing up to views of the Columbia River Gorge from an open talus slope before hitting a few waterfall overlooks and the summit known as Angel’s Rest, an exposed bluff dominated by a long, rocky spine flanked on three sides by cliffs.
Here the views of the river feel as if standing on nature’s own private balcony.
Then onward via Foxglove Trail to Devil’s Rest, a modest moss- and tree-covered formation that will doesn’t live up to its name—unless you recall the phrase “the best thing the devil ever did was convince people that he doesn’t exist.” From here you could sync up with trails that hit Multnomah, Fairy, and Wahkeena falls—or just loop back to the Angel’s Rest parking lot via Wahkeena Springs.