: NashCO Photo

Ultimate Guide to Portland Outdoor Adventures

Journey out into the city’s green spaces with activities from guided walks to river floats.
May 28, 2024

With 152 miles of trails and nearly 300 parks and natural areas, Portland is rich in green spaces. Hikers of all skill levels love 5,200-acre Forest Park on the west side and the Mt. Tabor Park, which the 636-foot-tall extinct volcano known as Mt. Tabor in Southeast Portland. Seems like everywhere you go in town, you run into a neighborhood park or a public garden. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy an adventure in Portland’s outdoors this summer and year-round, either on your own or with expert guides, who can show you the city from an insider’s perspective.

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Two men walking a dog along a trail in Forest Park.
Spend a day in Portland's nearby trails. (Courtesy of NashCO Photo)

Take a Guided History Walk or Experience a Car-Free Day Downtown

It’s no ordinary walk when Portlander Tanya Lynn March, founder of Slabtown Tours, shows you her city. Her 90-minute tours cover neighborhoods like posh Nob Hill in Northwest Portland and historically working-class areas like St. Johns in North Portland. The Slabtown Historic Walking Tour of Northwest Portland is her most popular summer tour, covering everything from baseball to social justice. The newest tour highlights the Southeast Foster neighborhood, which March calls “authentic, gritty and wonderful.”

In the Best of the City Tour, Sarah Gilbert, founder of Around Portland Tours, introduces guests to downtown Portland’s art, activism, architecture and parks. Alternatively, lace up your boots for a guided urban hike through Forest Park, where you can “literally walk into the forest a few moments from a coffee shop and a bus stop,” Gilbert says.

Lone Fir, Southeast Portland’s favorite pioneer cemetery, offers two different tours. Dig into Portland history or learn more about grave markers — your choice. Friends of Lone Fir also offers 10 different themed self-guided tours you can download on your phone.

The self-guided 4T Trail provides a mix of woodsy and urban views within Portland’s west side. (The Ts stand for trail, tram, trolley and train.) Start by hiking up a forested trail to Portland’s highest point, Council Crest Park. From there you walk to OHSU to board the Portland Aerial Tram, getting bird’s-eye views of the Willamette River and surrounds as you glide down to the riverfront. The last two legs are via the Portland Streetcar tram and MAX train, which trundle through the city.

People biking on an urban bike trail under the Hawthorne Bridge.
Bike along Portland's downtown bridges. (Courtesy of NashCO Photo)

Experience the City on Two Wheels

Portland is ranked as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation. Don’t have your own bike? No problem. You can rent one or join one of Portland’s many cycling tours. Several hotels in Portland Central — including The Hotel Zags and The Bidwell Marriott — loan out bicycles to their guests, too.

If you want a little history or culture lesson with your bike ride, enjoy a two-wheeled introduction to downtown by choosing a tour led by resident experts. The Essential Portland Tour with Cycle Portland goes through Old Town Chinatown and the Pearl, and you’ll cruise the waterfront esplanade and park-block corridors. Choose from a multispeed or an e-bike. Themed tours like Food Carts of Portland’s East Side are also popular. In Northeast Portland, Everybody’s Bike Rentals offers a food tour and a Beyond Portlandia tour, which promises to expose you to the radical history, ecology and eccentricities of North and Northeast Portland. If you want to head out on your own, choose a rental from more than 100 bikes, including e-bikes, road bikes, hybrids and full-suspension mountain styles.

Every June Portland cyclists lead themed bike parades in the monthlong Pedalpalooza celebration. Check the calendar for important parameters — if a ride is costumed or naked, or based on a certain type of music, food or wacky theme — that will color each ride. Events are free, many are beginner-friendly and you don’t need to pre-register. The rides do vary in skill level and family-friendliness, however, so do your research ahead of time to see if it’s a good fit for your crew.

For those looking for an alternative to pedaling on a bike, consider gliding upright on a Segway. These one-wheeled electric vehicles move in whichever direction you lean. Your guide at Portland Segway Tours teaches you how to drive your rental Segway, and then you can tour downtown and the waterfront at your leisure.

People in a floating hot tub in the middle of the Willamette River near the Tillamook Bridge in Portland.
Yacht Tubs floating on the Willamette River. (Courtesy of Paige Stoyer/ Yacht Tubs)

Enjoy Portland’s Waterways by Kayak, Jet Boat or Floating Tub

With the Willamette River easily accessible from the east and west sides, it’s an irresistible summer draw. Portland Kayak Company leads tours from downtown Portland. Circumnavigate Ross Island while watching for blue herons, bald eagles and osprey. Join a sunset tour or watch for special full-moon paddles.

On a trip with Willamette Jetboat Excursions, you board near OMSI in Southeast Portland for this wet and thrilling ride. More interested in drifting down the river? Rent a floating tub at Yacht Tubs and meander down the Willamette, starting from downtown’s Riverplace Marina. They’re built in Portland, and the temperature can be adjusted from a soaking pool on a warm day to a steamy hot tub for winter floats. Another great option is to take a swim in one of Portland’s favorite swimming holes or many outdoor pools.

About The
Author

Teresa Bergen
Teresa Bergen is a Portland-based writer who specializes in outdoors, vegan and eco-travel. She’s on a mission to kayak or paddleboard in every US state and Canadian province. Teresa is the author of Easy Portland Outdoors and co-author of Historic Cemeteries of Portland, Oregon.

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