Portland’s Great Outdoors

One reason to love this Pacific Northwest destination is the multitude of nearby outdoor adventure activities easily accessible on a Portland day trip.

Portland, Ore., is a hip destination with a lot to offer visitors, but ask any local why they live in “The City of Roses” and you’re bound to get the same answer 90 percent of the time: the great outdoors and Portland’s close proximity to them. The Pacific Northwest is well-known for its green offerings, and Portland makes for the perfect base to explore the Cascades, the Columbia River, Bagby Springs, Smith Rock, Mount Hood and beyond.

Portland Hiking

For those with little time in the city or not much gear, a Portland day hike may be the right choice. Oregonians love hiking as much as they like chai tea lattes, and on any given weekend, there are many day-packers trekking around nearby Mount Hood, Portland’s mountain backdrop, or in the scenic Columbia River Gorge.

Get an early start and drive east on I-84 into the Gorge to find Multnomah Falls and the many trails twisting around it. The falls is one of the tallest in the nation at 620 feet. Set up for visitors, Multnomah Falls is easy to get to, has easy parking and offers well-maintained trails cutting through thick evergreen forest. There’s also a café to get snacks near the parking area, making Multnomah a no-hassle option for families.


Just down I-84 from Multnomah Falls, windsurfers will find a town that caters to their every need. Folks flock from all over the United States to windsurf and kayak on this portion of the Columbia, using Hood River as their base camp while playing on the river. Hood River is a sweet little town with gorgeous views of the Columbia Gorge, plus charming-meets-cool cafés and bars with local Oregon brews and fare served up to hungry river rats.


For those who like some class three to four rapids with their rivers, Oregon offers a few rafting trips that promise to get the adrenaline pumping. The Rogue, McKenzie, Owyhee and Deschutes rivers are the four most-famed waterways for white water rafting and for the most part can be tackled as day trips out of Portland. In the spring, rafting trips are more dangerous and therefore more thrilling. Come late summer, the rapids are less intense and trips during this season may be better for families or first-timers. Prices vary, depending on trip chosen. www.oregonrafting.com

Hot Springs

Those looking to take in the waters have two Portland hot springs options. If calmer waters are more your style, then head to the Mount Hood National Forest, which is a little more than an hour from Portland, and to Bagby Hot Springs. These locally famous hot waters are reached by hiking in on a dirt trail 1.4 miles through woods which are classically Oregonian: thick with towering trees in every shade of green, limbs and boulders smothered in neon moss, and forest floors carpeted with curled ferns.

At Bagby Hot Springs, hikers can either choose to jump in the communal tubs or opt for a single private tub, which are carved from hollowed-out evergreens. From the source, the water at Babgy is 136 degrees Fahrenheit, but can be cooled with stream water. Cost: Free. oregonhotsprings.immunenet.com/bagby

South of Portland about two hours, hot springs-seekers will find Breitenbush, which is an off-the-grid mountain community set up on 154 acres with several natural thermal springs. Visitors can buy a day pass at Breitenbush, which includes use of the springs and wellness programs such as yoga and meditation. A retreat, Breitenbush offers overnight stays in cute forest cabins or in the main lodge. Day use: $15. www.breitenbush.com

Rock Climbing

When it’s time to get out of the water, climbers will have plenty of options just a couple of hours from Portland. Smith Rock is the most famous climbing destination offering the spider-men/women of the world 550-foot spires to scale. Smith Rock is in eastern Oregon, meaning this is best done as a day trip with a very early morning start or extend to an overnight trip. If you don’t have all your climbing gear with you, Smith Rock Climbing Guides can help you with all the particulars plus show novice climbers the ropes. Cost: $65 for a half day. www.smithrockclimbingguides.com

Skiing and Snowboarding

When winter hits the Northwest, Portlander skiers head to nearby Mount Hood to hit the slopes at Timberline, which boasts 3,690 vertical feet of fun. Mount Hood is such an easy drive from the city center that a skiing daytrip is really quite easy.

In 2007, Still Creek Basin was opened at Timberline offering eight more alpine trails and a lift-served cross-country skiing trail. Snowboarders will want to check out Timberline’s Freestyle Terrain, which is packed with jibs, jumps and pipes. There’s a lodge at Timberline for those who want to spend the night, and classes are offered by a team of 100 instructors. Cost: $55 per lesson. www.timberlinelodge.com 

Destinations: Portland

Themes: Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Hiking, Rafting, Skiing, Snowboarding, Rock Climbing