The best Urban Hikes in Portland, Oregon

Thanks to huge recreational areas like Forest Park, Washington Park, more than 150 developed city parks, tree-lined streets as well as the river banks of Willamette and Columbia River – Portland, Oregon is one of the greenest cities in the US. An area of 11.670 acres provides an outdoor playground throughout the city center and beyond.

Parks und Stadtwälder machen Portland zu einer der grünsten Städte in den USA

Even though Portland’s unique surroundings like the Columbia River Gorge, Williamette Valley or Mount Hood National Forest offer endless outdoor opportunities summer through winter, the numbers make it clear: You don’t even have to leave the city boundries to go for a demanding hike and soak in the tranquility of nature.

Here are my favorite urban hikes in Portland, Oregon:

  • Ridge Trail & St. Johns Bridge, Forest Park – 7 km / 4.4 miles
  • 4T Trail, Washington Park – 7,5 km / 4.5 miles
  • Hoyt Arboretum, Washington Park – 20 km / 12 miles of trails
  • Portland Japanese Garden, Washington Park
  • Mount Tabor, Southeast Portland
Urbane Wanderungen in Portland Oregon

Ridge Trail & St. John’s Bridge, Forest Park

One of my favorite urban hikes in Forest Park is the Ridge Trail. This 4.4 miles (7 km) long hike starts on Forest Park’s Eastern slope, right next to the iconic St. John’s Bridge. The reason why this trail made it onto my list of ‘Best urban hikes in Portland’ will become obvious as soon as you walk the first hundred metres uphill: Views of the bright blue St. John’s Bridge overspanning the Willamette River open up to your right. The higher you get the better the vistas of the impressive St. John’s Bridge, Cathedral Park and the lively neighbourhood of St. John’s on the other side of the river bank.

St. Johns Bridge von oben, Ridge Trail Portland

Continuing to hike uphill right through huge maple trees will take you to the ridge, where the famous Wildwood Trail and other trails cross. So it’s easy to adjust your route according to your time and fitness level, to shorten or extend it.

Herbstlaub auf dem Ridge Trail Forest Park, Portland
St. Johns Bridge Portland aufgenommen vom Ridge Trail
Wandern durch Herbstlaub auf dem Ridge Trail in Portland
Jogger durch den Forest Park Portland


Local’s tip: There are only very few parking spots available at the shoulder of NW Bridge Avenue (a few metres off the trailhead). Alternatively you can easily cross the Willamette River via St. John’s Bridge – anyways a must when visiting the Bridgetown Portland – and park in St. John’s. Then you can even combine your hike with a casual stroll through Cathedral Park for some impressive bridge views and check out the lovely neighbourhood on your way back.

St. John's Bridge Portland eingerahmt von gelbem Herbstlaub
Spazieren unter der St. John's Bridge in Portland

Culinary tip: If you want to treat yourself after your urban hike: Check in at Urban German Wursthaus, a great place with outdoor seating and afternoon sun, where you can enjoy authentic German dishes like ‘Spätzle’, ‘Schnitzel’ or ‘Schweinebraten’ and choose from a well selected menu of original German beers – or simply do as the Portlandians do & hit up St. John’s versatile food-cart area.

Urban German Wursthaus Portland mit Blick auf die St. John's Bridge
Currywurst, Spätzle und Schnitzel im Urban German Wursthaus Portland

4T-Trail, Washington Park

This 4.5 miles (7.5 km) long trail is a great opportunity to explore the city of Portland and enjoy its nature at the same time. For this self-guided urban hike you don’t even require a car as all locations are well connected by public transport.

4T Trail Portland Aerial Tram

The only things you’ll need to bring along are your hiking boots, some water and snacks for the way and 5 USD to pay for your Trimet ticket to use public transport! This hike isn’t only a fun way to get to know the city, it is also a sustainable hike that can be completed by combining the 4 Ts: Train, Trail, Tram and Trolley. Wanna know more about my no.1 urban hike in Portland including a half-day itinerary and best route option? Read my blogpost: 4T Trail: Explore Portland sustainably by train, trail, tram & trolley

4T Trail Marquam Trail

Hoyt Arboretum, Washington Park

12 miles (19 km) of hiking trails, located just minutes from Downtown Portland. This recreational park is a paradise & home to 2.300 species of trees from 6 continents and represents a living museum of biodiversity. Cherry blossoms and magnolia trees kick-off the spring season, summer is characterized by lush green trees and colorful flowers. Yellow, orange, red and purple leaves dominate the color palette throughout fall.

Herbstfarben im Hoyt Arboretum Portland

Even in winter Hoyt Arboretum is worth a city escape right within the inner city limits. Where else can you walk along giant mammut trees? Correct, in California – or a bit closer: on the Redwood Trail in Hoyt Arboretum.

riesige Redwood-Bäume im Hoyt Arboretum Portland

On a clear day you can even spot Mount St. Helens and Mt. Rainier from the viewpoint at Overlook Trail. So Hoyt Arboretum is definitely worth visiting in any season, no matter if you come for a short stroll or an extesive urban hike. The area is accessible from various directions: from Washington Park and Oregon Zoo as well as from Wildwood Trail in Forest Park.

Washington Park, Portland

Portland Japanese Garden, Washington Park

With 12 acres of beautifully grown and maintained trees, divided into eight garden styles, Portland is home to one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan itself. Stone bridges overspan meandering streams and koi ponds. Winding walkways create a maze of paths through Japanese cherry trees, maples and native evergreens. I could go on and on to justify why the Japanese Garden is a must-do urban hike in Portland.

Portland Japanese Garden

Check out my blogpost “A Japanese inspired day in Portland” for more garden details and and hidden Japanese corners. Visiting is worth at any time of the year. But one thing also applies to this garden: Spring and fall are my favorite seasons & extraordinary beautiful to experience.

Feuerroter japanischer Ahorn im Portland Japanese Garden
Japanische Architektur im Portland Japanese Garden

Mt. Tabor, Southeast Portland

Moving from Northwest to Southeast neighbourhoods of Portland gets you to Mount Tabor, an extinct volcanic vent. The park and surrounding neighbourhood is known as Mount Tabor. The park at its peak lies on an elevation level of 636 feet (194 metres) and is popular amongst picnickers, (dog) walkers, bikers etc. Mount Tabor makes Portland to one of only six cities in the United States to have an extinct volcano within its city boundries. Reason enogh to put the park on the list of best urban hikes in Portland, don’t you think?

Blick vom Mount Tabor, Portland, auf den Mount Hood in der Ferne

I’ve found inspiration for more urban hikes on the website of SW Trails, a community group who supports hiking and walking in Southwest Portland. I’ll probably try some of the listed routes and you might find some additions to this list here.


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QUESTIONS & COMMENTS?

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