Where to Go Walking in Portland, OR

Autumn brings changing color, visitors and photographers to Portland's famous Japanese Tea Garden
Autumn brings changing color, visitors and photographers to Portland's famous Japanese Tea Garden | © Carol Barrington / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kevin Johnson
6 August 2020

Portland, Oregon just might be the best city for urban hiking. With a park seemingly in every direction, from Forest Park to Mount Tabor, there are countless opportunities for a serene stroll. Here are the best places in and around the city for an urban ramble.

There are few better ways to spend a day than walking, drinking and eating your way through Portland. If you’re in need of a place to start, we’ve got you covered. Walking through any of these destinations, whether you’re visiting for the first time or are a lifelong local, will teach you something new about the Rose City.

Forest Park

Forest, Park
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Encompassing more acres than New York’s Central Park, Portland’s premier hiking destination is one of the largest municipal parks in the country. Forest Park’s winding, serene trails take walkers through a sizable slice of Pacific Northwest forest, with parts preserved as early as the 1860s. Situated in Northwest Portland, the park’s trail heads are reachable in minutes from downtown, proving Portland’s trail sites are among the city’s most important cultural resources.

Mount Tabor Park

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Reservoir 5, Mount Tabor Park, Portland
© Andrew Haliburton / Alamy Stock Photo

Feeling like hiking to the peak of one of the Pacific Northwest’s famous volcanoes but don’t want to leave Portland? Centered in Portland’s east side, Mount Tabor is popularly known as a great nature park, and less commonly known as a once-active volcano. This dormant destination is a magnet for outdoors lovers in the surrounding neighborhoods and boasts brief-but-hilly trails that take you to sweeping views of the city.

International Rose Test Garden

Botanical Garden
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Taking a walk through Southwest Portland’s International Rose Test Garden places you in the Rose City’s finest oasis of organic blush. This 4.5 acres (1.8ha) segment of Washington Park boasts award-winning rose varieties, and currently ranks as the longest-running test garden in the United States. For a glimpse at something special, the adjoining Shakespeare Garden is a must-visit, containing flora mentioned in the Bard’s most famous works, and roses named after characters from his plays.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park

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Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the banks of the Willamette River, Portland, Oregon, USA
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The Tom McCall Waterfront Park may be best known as downtown Portland’s front yard, but this riverside greenway offers more than just a pretty view. After calls for more public green space in Portland during the latter half of the 20th century, then-Governor of Oregon Tom McCall initiated a plan to remove the existing Harbor Drive highway. The area, bordered by the Marquam and Steel Bridges, was transformed into nearly 40 acres (16ha) of river-lined paths hosting popular attractions and events like the Portland Saturday Market and the Oregon Maritime Museum. Locals advise visitors to come during late March or early April as the Japanese American Historical Plaza’s 100 cherry trees bloom into soft pink hues just as the region nears the end of the rainy season.

Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard

Historical Landmark
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Hawthorne Boulevard forms the border of the northern and southern halves of Portland’s east side, while also making up one of the best walks in the city for urban explorers. Specifically, the strip between 30th and 50th Avenues accommodates some of the best coffee shops, theaters, bars and boutiques around. Wanderers looking to turn a pleasant stroll into lunch, dinner, drinks and a show should not miss this destination. Hoping to keep the good times rolling? Keep walking down the numbers to 12th and you’ll find some of the city’s best grub in classic Portland fashion: two popular food cart pods.

Reed College

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Get (relatively) out of Portland’s urban center for a walk through Southeast Portland’s private liberal arts university. Home to some 1,500 students, the campus is both small and charming enough for anyone to enjoy a self-guided tour. Pass through historical Ivy-League-inspired architecture and a natural spring that fills up the Reed College Canyon natural area. If that’s not enough nature for you, head west to the neighboring Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Summer is the best time to visit, as a majority of students retreat for the season and much of the school’s beauty is in full bloom.

Laurelhurst Park

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Usa, Oregon, Portland. Pond at Laurelhurst Park. Credit as: Steve Terrill / Jaynes Gallery / DanitaDelimont.com
© Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

Nestled in one of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods, Laurelhurst Park in Northeast Portland is a prime example of the nature-first architecture prevalent in a majority of parks across the city. The park’s popularity spikes during Portland’s mild springs and summers as a home for relaxed activities, featuring plenty of walking and biking trails, sports courts and a sizable dog park. Plan to add a little more time to your walk when visiting the park, as the majority of visitors come on foot or public transit due to the lack of parking.

Lone Fir Cemetery

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Southeast Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery is equal parts outdoor museum, public walkway and burial ground, providing the perfect Portland destination for history lovers. Former mayors, suffragists and even some of the city’s founders are buried among the cemetery’s 25,000 graves, along with monuments to famous residents and, in typical Portland fashion, a rose garden. Roamers through the plot’s 30 acres (12ha) should try to spot the grave marker of James C. Hawthorne, physician and founder of the Civil-War-era Oregon Hospital for the Insane, formerly located just a few blocks away.

Portland Japanese Garden

Botanical Garden
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Japanese Garden, Portland
© Panoramic Images / Alamy Stock Photo
If the natural beauty of Oregon seen in the above destinations just isn’t enough for you, head up the hills to Northwest Portland’s Japanese Gardens. Privately maintained within Washington Park, this garden’s design and structure give visitors a slice of authentic gardens from Portland’s sister city, Sapporo, Japan. Walk past Japanese maples, cascading ponds, sand gardens and more from the garden’s high perch in the northwest hills. One of the city’s best views of Mount Hood is available from the eastern edge, even leading some to draw comparisons with Japan’s Mount Fuji.
These recommendations were updated on August 6, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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