Road Trip: Gresham

October 17, 2016 (Updated April 17, 2017)

Oregon’s fourth-largest city, Gresham (pop. 109,397), feels more like an amiable small town thanks to its vibrant town center and bounty of public green spaces. Perched at the eastern edge of the Portland metro area, Gresham is a gateway to both urban pleasures and the outdoor wonders of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Well-served by TriMet buses and MAX light rail, this bike-friendly city makes it easy to go car free, too.

Caffeine Kickoff: Begin your day in Gresham’s walkable downtown. Enjoy a cup of organic coffee at Cafe Delirium and fresh bagels at Jazzy Bagels, where your meal might be accompanied by live music on the baby grand piano. On Saturdays from May through October, local farmers, bakers and craftspeople set up booths a few blocks away at the Gresham Farmers’ Market on Miller Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets.

Park It: Gresham’s parks system comprises more than 1,000 acres of parks and natural areas. Right downtown across Powell Boulevard, Main City Park features the soothing Tsuru Island Japanese garden, a skate park and access to the Springwater Corridor, a paved rail-trail bike route along Johnson Creek and a major segment of the 40-Mile Loop. Just south of the park, hike up one of the area’s ancient lava domes on the Gresham Butte Saddle Trail, part of the Gresham Butte natural area.

Back in Time: Pioneers settled Gresham in the mid-1800s, recognizing the region’s rich farmland and abundance of fresh water flowing down from Mt. Hood. Check out artifacts and old photos in the Gresham Historical Society museum, housed in a 1912 English Tudor that was the city’s first library. The building itself is worth a look, with its herringbone brickwork and leaded glass windows that feature the intricate signature stamps of early book publishers. A few miles north, the Zimmerman Heritage Farm preserves one of Gresham’s 19th-century dairy farms.

Cycle City: A centerpiece of the East Multnomah Cycling Hub initiative, Gresham offers plenty of cycling routes for all levels. A great family option is the Downtown Gresham to Pond de Lakes route, which follows quiet roads, and the car-free Gresham-Fairview Trail to the wetlands near the Columbia River. Popular road rides follow the Columbia River west along Marine Drive or east along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Mountain bikers and gravel riders can explore abundant trails and forest roads in the adjacent Mt. Hood National Forest. Check out maps and more ideas here.

Drinking, Dining and Lodging: Downtown restaurants serve up delicious diversity, with authentic Lebanese dishes like shawarma and lamb kibbah at Nicholas Restaurant and gumbo at A Cajun Life. Both The Growler Garage and The Hoppy Brewer offer plenty of rotating taps. At day’s end, choose from among several franchise lodging properties in town — like Super 8 Motel and Days Inn & Suites — or homey B&B accommodations next to Gresham Butte at Forest Springs Bed & Breakfast.

About The

Tina Lassen
Tina Lassen writes about travel and outdoor recreation for several national publications and websites, and is at work on a guidebook about watching wildlife in North America. She has lived happily in Hood River for more than 20 years.