Urban Hikes in Portland for Every Season

By Stefanie Wich-Herrlein

Portland, Oregon, is one of the greenest cities in the United States. As an avid hiker and Portland enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for urban adventures that allow me to connect with nature without straying too far from the city buzz. Fortunately, Portland boasts an array of urban hiking trails that cater to every season, offering breathtaking views, lush greenery, and outdoor experiences year-round. Join me as I take you through five of my favorite urban hikes in Portland, each offering its own unique charm and allure.

best portland hiking trails
4T hiking trails in Portland, Oregon

Five urban hiking trails in Portland to experience Each Season

If you’ve read my article ‘Green reasons to visit Portland, Oregon‘, you already know how much I love Portland and why this city on the US west coast should be on the radar for conscious travelers. In this article, I’m going to dive deeper into what makes Portland, Oregon one of the greenest cities in the United States. Here are five Portland hiking trails that shouldn’t be missed by outdoor enthusiasts, one for each season and one that can be done all year round:

Spring: Lower Macleay Trail to Pittock Mansion

Spring in Portland brings a sense of rejuvenation as nature awakens from its winter slumber. One of my favorite springtime hikes is the Lower McLeay Trail leading up to the iconic Pittock Mansion. The trail meanders through the enchanting Forest Park, offering glimpses of blooming wildflowers and towering trees. It’s a bit of a workout, but not too intense to make you feel exhausted. As you arrive at Pittock Mansion, you’re rewarded with panoramic views of Portland.

where to go for best views of portland oregon
The amazing view from Pittock Mansion

On a clear day, the majestic silhouette of Mt. Hood comes into view. One of the reasons why I personally enjoy this hike most in spring: Mt. Hood still shines with its snow-capped peak contrasting against the vibrant cityscape below, making this urban hike well worth the effort.

  • Trail Length: 7.9 km / 4.9 mi
  • Elevation gain: 270 m / 890 ft
  • Type: Out & Back

Summer: 4-T Trail

When summer arrives, I lace up my hiking boots and embark on the 4-T Trail, a delightful journey that combines hiking with Portland’s sustainable ethos. This unique trail encompasses four modes of transportation: trail, tram, trolley, and train, allowing everyone to explore the city while minimizing their carbon footprint.

This trail is my personal summer hiking recommendation because it’s easily combined with a stop to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at one of the city’s many outdoor eateries, and to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of street festivals and cultural events that take place in summer. In addition, one of the four Ts is a tourist attraction, that’s often missed out: the aerial tram which offers beautiful views across Portland’s waterfront and on a clear day: Mt. Hood in the distance.

  • Trail Length: 7.2 km / 4.5 mi
  • Elevation gain: 236 m / 775 ft
  • Type: Loop Trail
best viewpoints portland oregon
Portland Aerial Tram

Check out a detailed trail description on Smile4Travel.

Fall: Hoyt Arboretum

As autumn paints the city in a kaleidoscope of colors, I find inspiration in the beauty of Hoyt Arboretum. Hoyt Arboretum is part of Portland’s extensive Washington park and offers almost 20 km (12 miles) of hiking trails, located just minutes from Downtown Portland. The Arboretum is home to a diverse collection of tree and plant species from around the globe, including Japanese maple, magnolia trees, and even a grove of giant redwoods.

where to see giant redwoods in portland
Giant redwoods at Hoyt Arboretum

During the fall months the arboretum transforms into a botanical wonderland and strolling along its winding trails, you find yourself surrounded by a symphony of hues as the leaves transition from green to gold, orange, and red. The crisp air carries the scent of fallen leaves, and each year invites me to immerse myself in the sounds of nature’s grand finale before winter arrives.

  • Various trails, length and elevation gains
  • Total trail system covers 19 km / 12 miles
  • Type: Loop Trails
portland fall hiking trails
Fall colours at Hoyt Arboretum

Winter: Forest Bathing in Forest Park

During the colder months, when Portland’s landscape loses its vibrancy, I seek refuge in the serene embrace of Forest Park. As I wander through its moss-covered trails and towering evergreens, I embrace the Japanese tradition of Forest Bathing, allowing nature to rejuvenate my body and mind.

scenic hiking trails in portland
Ridge Trail in Forest Park

The lush greens of the moss and ferns provide a stark contrast to the gray winter sky, offering a sense of tranquility amidst the city’s hustle and bustle. The best part: most of the trails in Forest Park protect you from rain as you are walking under a canopy of trees, which makes it a great escape into nature even throughout the typical Pacific Northwest wet and moody months. In winter, Forest Park becomes my sanctuary, a place where I can escape the winter blues and find joy in the healing power of the natural world.

  • Various trails, length and elevation gains
  • Total trail system covers almost 115 km / 70 miles of trails and fire roads
  • Type: Loop and Out & Back Trails

Year-round: Ridge Trail

One hike that holds a special place in my heart is the Ridge Trail in Forest Park. Offering stunning views of the iconic St. John’s Bridge spanning over the Willamette River. This hike captivates me no matter the season. Whether it’s the lush greens of spring, the shade I find here in summer, the vibrant colors of fall, or the misty allure of winter, the Ridge Trail never fails to impress.

where to go hiking in portland oregon
View of St. John’s Bridge from Ridge Trail

After a rewarding hike, I treat myself to a post-adventure snack in St. John’s, a quirky Portland neighborhood that’s often missed out.

  • Trail Length: 7 km / 4.4 mi
  • Elevation gain: 317 m / 1,040 ft
  • Type: Loop Trail

In conclusion, Portland’s urban hikes offer a diverse range of experiences that cater to every season and preference. Whether you’re seeking panoramic views, colorful foliage, or moments of serenity, the city’s trails have something to offer for everyone. So grab your hiking boots, embrace the great outdoors, and discover the beauty of Portland one step at a time.

For more hiking inspiration, check out other hikes in Portland and the best hikes in Oregon on Smile4Travel.


Stefanie Wich-Herrlein is a travel writer and content creator from Germany. She has traveled around the globe, lived in South Africa, China and the US. Since 20129, she calls Portland, Oregon her home away from home. On Smile4Travel, a community for travel, the outdoors and a sustainable lifestyle, she writes about her travel adventures and inspires her followers to explore responsibly. Stefanie can also be found on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok as @Smile4Travel.


Similar Posts