Bill's 14 Top Hikes
Washington Park: A walk through Washington Park is a reminder of what’s so wonderful about Portland. What other city would have a forest path leading from a world-class zoo, past a Japanese garden, to a mansion with a mountain view?
Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls: Oregon’s tallest waterfall, Multnomah Falls was the state’s most popular tourist attraction until it lost that title to a casino. Still, thousands of visitors pull off the freeway each day to snap photos of the 620-foot, two-tiered cascade. The trails here closed after a 2017 wildfire and may not reopen until 2019. When it's open, the paved 1.1-mile trail to the top of the falls is a classic little hike. Less crowded is the longer loop that begins at the quiet Wahkeena Falls trailhead nearby.
Timberline Lodge Trails: Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge began as a Depression-era make-work program, but by the time President Roosevelt dedicated this elegantly rustic hotel in 1937 it had become a grand expression of Northwest art. Surprisingly, few visitors venture very far into the scenic alpine landscape that lured hotel builders here in the first place. Three particularly tempting goals await hikers: the Silcox Hut, Zigzag Canyon, and Paradise Park.
Bagby Hot Springs: Cedar logs have been hollowed to create 8-foot-long bathtubs at this rustic, free hot springs. Even if you don’t plan to soak, the trail here is a delight, leading through a towering old-growth forest along a fork of the Collawash River. Just don’t expect solitude. On weekends and all through summer the trail is heavily used and there’s a long waiting line at the bath house.
Canyon Creek Meadows: One of the easiest routes to the High Cascades’ wildflower meadows, this short loop is ideal for children and amblers. More energetic hikers can continue up a steep glacial moraine to an ice-filled cirque lake and a breathtaking viewpoint beneath Three Fingered Jack’s summit pinnacles. For solitude, however, skip summer weekends when this trail attracts hundreds of visitors a day.
Sweet Creek Falls: This sleepy Coast Range valley, with its beautiful cascading creek, was settled in 1879 by the Zarah T. Sweets, a family of Oregon Trail pioneers. Portions of an early wagon road have been incorporated in a dramatic trail past a dozen falls. Four trailheads along the route make it easy to hike the path in segments.
Willamette Mission Park: This riverside loop through Willamette Mission State Park not only visits the nation’s largest black cottonwood tree and the site of a historic 1834 settlement, it also includes a free ferry ride across the Willamette River and back.
Sahalie and Koosah Falls: This hike starts at 100-foot-tall Sahalie Falls, a raging cataract that pounds the river into rainbowed mist. Then the loop descends past 70-foot Koosah Falls and returns on the river’s far shore through forests of 6-foot-thick Douglas fir and droopy-limbed red cedar.
Neahkahnie Mountain: Neahkahnie Mountain juts 1600 feet above the beach. Indians thought it a viewpoint fit for gods, and named it with the words Ne (“place of”) and Ekahni (“supreme deity”). White men shroud the peak with legend as well. Treasure seekers sift the beach at the mountain’s base, spurred by tales of gold buried by sailors from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon.
Cape Disappointment: Members of the Lewis and Clark expedition reached this dramatic coastal headland after trekking nearly 3000 miles. Today the hike is shorter and features several added attractions—a lighthouse, an artillery bunker, and a museum.
Tillamook Head: Tillamook Head rises 1000 feet from the ocean, with jagged capes and rocky islands. The Lewis and Clark expedition crossed this formidable headland in 1806 to buy the blubber of a stranded whale from Indians at Cannon Beach. At a viewpoint along the way Clark marveled, “I behold the grandest and most pleasing prospect which my eyes ever surveyed.”
Cascade Head: Cascade Head’s panoramic, blufftop wildflower meadows were threatened by commercial development in the 1960s, but fans of the wild headland rallied to purchase the fragile area and donate it to the non-profit Nature Conservancy for preservation. Ironically, the impact of up to 10,000 nature-loving visitors a year now threatens the meadows’ ecology.
Jacksonville: This well-preserved gold mining boomtown from the mid-1800s is more than just a living museum; it’s an active cultural center with shops, a first-rate summer music festival, and miles of hiking trails through recently-acquired parklands.
Steens Summit: The windswept cliffs at the summit of Steens Mountain seem perched on the edge of the planet. More than a vertical mile below, the Alvord Desert shimmers faintly, a mirage in the void. At 9733 feet, this is the ninth tallest mountain in Oregon, and the easiest to climb. In fact, after strolling through an otherworldly landscape half a mile to the top, you’re likely to have enough energy left over to scramble down into a hanging valley of wildflowers.