How To Play Outside Like a Portlander

Portland is one of the Pacific Northwest’s best adventure hubs.

The city of about 650,000 people is nestled right along the Columbia River, and is only an hour and a half away from both the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains. The so-called City of Roses has a vibrant restaurant scene, is known for being incredibly dog-friendly, and ranks in the country’s top 10 for breweries per capita (with 18 for every 50,000 people, if you’re counting). To earn those fresh-brewed après suds, follow some local guidance below on how to best get outside—no matter the weather—and play like a Portlander. 

Hike the Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is a green and lush trail-lover’s paradise. The Eagle Creek Trail near Cascade Locks is a 25-mile out-and-back that both hikers and trail runners will enjoy. Regardless of how many miles you choose to do, you’ll find incredible views. The trail, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, starts at the Eagle Creek Campground and ends at the sparkling-blue Wahtum Lake. Hikers can expect narrow cliffside singletrack, soft dirt underfoot through miles of moss-covered forest, and numerous waterfalls. If you need a closer outlet, you can’t beat the 80-plus miles of trails in Forest Park, which flanks the northwest part of the city. A popular jaunt is the 10-mile Leif Erickson Drive, which is a mellow, wide dirt road. No car? The MAX Red and Blue light-rail line takes you to the southern end of the 30-mile Wildwood Trail starting from the zoo, and various buses can take you within striking distance of other park trailheads. 

Paddle the Willamette 

The Willamette River runs right through downtown Portland. Kayak and standup paddleboard rentals are readily available (Portland Kayak Co., is located adjacent to the riverside Willamette Park), making it an accessible river to launch a quick paddling trip. More adventurous paddlers should head an hour east to the White Salmon River to experience sections of Class III-IV rapids through dense green forests. Skilled kayakers run various sections of the river, as do commercial rafting outfitters like Wet Planet Whitewater. Pro tip: On clear days, keep an eye out for views of the 12,276-foot Mount Adams (Pahto) across the border in Washington state. 

Bike Sauvie Island

Sauvie Island is a quaint agricultural community just outside of the city and is home to a number of different farms. The flat, 12-mile road looping around part of the island offers a fun and pleasant cruise through a bucolic landscape. If you go at the right time (spring through fall) you can visit one of the handful of pick-your-own farms (like Sauvie Island Farms) and go home with as many berries as you can muster. Level up: Ride your bike over to the island before tackling the loop (it’s about 18 miles from downtown). Looking for an easier in-town adventure? Bike the Eastbank Promenade, a flat bike/pedestrian path that’s right on the river. 

Ski Mount Hood

There are five different ski areas on the 11,245-foot Mount Hood (Wy’east), from the popular Mount Hood Meadows to Timberline, which boasts the longest season in North America (it’s open 10 months of the year). Mt. Hood Skibowl opens a huge swath of terrain for night skiing, with 34 fully lit runs. If you're into mom-and-pop vibes and easy terrain, head to Cooper Spur. True beginners will enjoy Summit Pass (formerly known as Summit Ski Area), which also has a sledding area. Backcountry ski terrain abounds in the area, and you’ll also find many folks skinning up Timberline at sunrise and sunset. Many mountaineers also head for the summit of Mount Hood (the highest point in the state) via the standard south-side route, which also begins from the Timberline parking lot. Earn your turns: Those who want professional instruction to learn ski touring basics can hire a guide from Oregon Ski Guides. And if a summit of Mount Hood is your dream, look to the pros at Timberline Mountain Guides

Surf the Coast

There are a number of well-known surf breaks on the Oregon coast, which is just 90 minutes northwest from Portland. Gearhart Beach, near Seaside, is a great spot for surfers of all abilities to get in the water and try to catch a wave. Rent a board and a wetsuit at Clean Line Surf, or sign up for a lesson if you need it. Its popular neighbor, Cannon Beach, is often more crowded but is another friendly spot for newbies to learn due to the typically small waves and beach breaks. Gear note: This isn’t Southern California; you’ll want to wear a wetsuit year-round when surfing in the chilly Oregon waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Hunt for Mushrooms

While fall tends to be the best season to search for mushrooms (though spring is prime for finding those tasty morels), the best time to head out and start the hunt is right after it rains. And thankfully, rain happens a lot in western Oregon, most especially during the fall. Your best bet is to head for a local forest (mushrooms are often found near evergreens, cedars, and Douglas firs). Make sure to have a good understanding of how to identify different kinds of mushrooms (or go with someone who can teach you) and to remember that part of the fun of foraging is spending time walking around outside. Check first: If you’re on public land, you can freely collect less than a gallon of mushrooms for personal use without a permit, most of the time (if you’re in Mount Hood National Forest, for example, you need a free permit). 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.