Within minutes of landing in Portland, you’re likely to see a bumper sticker, or in some cases, huge murals that beg to “Keep Portland Weird.” It’s true. I have had my fair share of interesting moments while running here. A college student in a bathrobe having an earnest conversation with a squirrel in the woods at 7am might be scary in some places, but here, it’s just part of what makes Portland, well, Portland.
The Portland metro area is home to half a million people. Driving 90 minutes East you land in the mountains and driving 90 minutes west you’re at the ocean. It’s a sweet spot, nestled in the Willamette River Valley.
We’ve got the Unipiper, the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium, the World’s Smallest Park (452 sq. in), and until recently, the 24-hour Church of Elvis. We’ve got more food carts and strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country. Quirkiness reigns supreme.
Fortunately, so does nature.
What makes Portland so desirable and what many people fall in love with here is the access to nature. In Portland, you can always see it, and you can always get to it. There are literally hundreds of miles of trail within the city limits.
Forest Park (Choose Your Own Adventure): At nearly 7 miles long, nestled in the Tualatin mountains just west of city center, Forest Park is one of the nation’s largest urban parks. You’ll find over 80 miles of trails, fire lanes, and forest service roads to enjoy. There are numerous trailheads you can access from downtown Portland, and the main artery through the park is the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail (perfect 50K training!).
Post-run grub: Missing your four-legged buddy while you’re traveling? Get ye over to the Lucky Lab in NW Portland! Beer, doggies (real ones!), pizza, and soup await you. If it’s breakfast time instead, head for some scrumptious comfort food at Besaw’s instead. This iconic spot boasts a solid Portland brunch that your stomach won’t regret.
Tryon Creek State Park (Fairy Tale Forest magic): This State park is just south of downtown, and is one of my all-time favorites. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2000, some smart and awesome people took me there to check out the local flora and scenery. I’ve been going back weekly ever since. There are 8 miles of lush trails, almost all of them rolling single track.
Post-run grub: Just past Tryon Creek you’ll find the home of 4-time Cupcake Wars winner at Kyra’s Bakeshop. Since their opening in 2010, they have moved well beyond cupcakes to offer soups, salads, sandwiches and cocktails in a 100% gluten free facility. Move over, Voodoo Doughnuts.
Powell Butte (Epic views of the Cascade Range): This 611-acre park is half old growth forest and half exposed grassland which makes it awesome. On a clear day, you can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood from the exposed side, and head in to the forest for miles of hilly single track.
Post-run grub: Head back towards downtown Portland on Highway 26/Powell Boulevard until you reach the HUB (short for Hopworks Urban Brewery). The beer is brewed on-site and their sustainability practices are tight enough to make any steward of the trails beam with pride.
Mount Tabor (Volcanic Cinder Cone Extravaganza): Rising from the middle of southeast Portland is an extinct volcano that doubles as an extraordinary city park. There are three main trails that encircle the volcano, and numerous auxiliary trails that take you up to the summit (635ft). On any given day, and at any given hour you’ll find elevation junkies starting at SE 69th & Yamhill and climbing the park’s 293 stairs to the top. The views are not to be missed, as you catch Mt. Hood on the East, and a stunning panorama of our fair city to the West. [Pro Tip: On Wednesdays, the park is closed to motorized vehicles, so bikes and feet rule the roost].
Post-run grub: It wouldn’t be a Portland experience without a food cart pit stop. Spitting distance from Mt. Tabor you’ll find carts at:
- SE 50th & Division St
- SE 50th & Foster Rd
- SE 43rd & Belmont
Food carts are an ever-changing landscape, so it’s best to check them out in person and keep the adventure going!
Silver Falls State Park: hands-down one of the most beautiful waterfall runs in the nation. The 8-mile “Trail of 10 Falls” is and incredible jaunt around the park, weaving above, below and behind the State Park’s seemingly endless waterfalls.
Post-run grub: keep running to The Gallon House in Silverton, Oregon. This place feels like they meant to cater to ultrarunner appetites. High-quality burgers, fries and beers served on industrial lunch trays will make you feel like you’re playing hooky in all the right ways.
Columbia River Gorge: In the summer of 2017, we mourned the loss of our extensive Columbia River Gorge Trails to forest fires that consumed nearly 50,000 acres of wilderness. Trail updates can be found here. Many trails on the Oregon side of the Gorge have re-opened. However, trail stewardship opportunities in the Gorge will be an ongoing need for the foreseeable future. The Washington side of the Gorge continues to offer steep technical terrain and rewarding summit views of both the Cascade Range and the Gorge itself.
Dog Mountain (2948ft) and Hamilton Mountain (2438ft) are both quick elevation gain loops that can be accessed off WA state highway 14.
Post-run grub: Take the Bridge of the Gods back over the Columbia River ($2 toll, worth every penny). Thunder Island Brewery all but straddles the PCT. There’s a bit of trail magic happening here and a lot of good beer & food.
Tillamook State Forest: 45 minutes west of town, you’ll find the Tillamook State Forest. If you’re game for a challenge, hit up the Elks-Kings loop. At 10.8 miles roundtrip and rated “very difficult” you get 3700ft elevation gain and much more in summit views from both mountains.
Gear and Running Shops
Foot Traffic: multiple locations in the Portland Metro area
Fleet Feet Sports: located near Forest Park in NW Portland
The Mountain Shop: Adventure gear and great selection for trail running needs
Good to know:
We have an active local Trail Sisters group, the Wy’east Sisterhood, that meets for weekly workouts and group runs. Come find us so we can show you around! See you in Portlandia!
Feature Photo: Jeff Fisher