: Lara Janzen Photography

Accessible River Paths in Portland

Greet the new year with easy routes that reward body and mind.
December 21, 2022

The new year is all about new beginnings, and you don’t need to be an epic hiker to get some exercise in a beautiful setting. The Portland region has myriad options for rewarding wellness walks and rolls along flat, well-maintained paths, many of which follow riverbanks. Add in the soothing soundtrack of water flowing by, some birdsong and the chance to take in the sights, and even a short outing close to urban areas can leave you feeling recharged and ready. Here are a few suggestions to help you kick off the new year in a healthy and peaceful way.

A wood plank bridge and path in a wooded area along a river in Tualatin.
(Photo by Jason Quigley/ City of Tualatin)

Portland Bridges and Maritime Culture

Tucked in the middle of Portland, the 3.6-mile-long Burnside Bridge and Tilikum Crossing Loop takes you along both sides of the Willamette River along the Waterfront Park Trail and the Eastbank Esplanade and across two of the city’s most iconic bridges. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of reasons to keep going, including the Oregon Maritime Museum; the Bill Naito Legacy Fountain, which is dedicated to the city’s immigrants; and Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest park at exactly 0.00007205784 acres. (That’s 452 square inches for the rest of us.) The path runs south beyond the Tilikum Crossing bridge for about another 3 miles to reach Butterfly Park Naturescape on the banks of the river, for even more steps.

Back in Time in Tualatin 

The Tualatin River Greenway Trail runs for more than 4 miles along its namesake, linking the communities of Tualatin, Durham and Tigard, and includes interpretive signs and renderings that highlight the area’s rich ice-age history. You can pick up the 12-foot-wide paved trail at numerous spots in town, like the Tualatin Public Library or the Juanita Pohl Center, or you can start your journey among the native grasses and seasonal wildflowers at Brown’s Ferry Park. From there stroll upstream along the Tualatin River to Tualatin Community Park, a great park to bring your dog pals.

A sunny view of a sentinel near a well-kept park. In the distance, the Willamette River can be seen.
(Courtesy of Mt. Hood Territory)

River Views in Lake Oswego

Starting from George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego, the 3.5-mile out-and-back Old River Road Pathway scoots along the Willamette River on an easy paved trail that comes saturated in wonderful, watery views, including a seasonal waterfall. The route starts by crossing Oswego Creek and then continues along the water. Along the way, look for old logging equipment — including the remains of a hoist — and a new plaque commemorating Olympic track star and hometown hero Shalane Flanagan, part of the Oregon22 Heritage Trail.  

While you’re there, the city offers other paths that are worth checking out, too, like the Lake Loop. One of the most popular trails in town (with some narrow and traffic-adjacent areas that may pose challenges for wheelchair users), the path wanders for 7 miles and includes views of Oswego Lake. 

Peaceful Wetlands in Milwaukie

The Spring Park Natural Area along the Willamette River in Milwaukie recently reopened after some restoration work, and today it still feels like a pocket of nature tucked within an urban area, which is exactly what it is. The half-mile-long path here isn’t paved but remains easy to walk (or roll) with compacted crushed rock, a boardwalk and an overlook area that wanders along the river and through surrounding wetlands. If you’re feeling more adventurous, check the tides and continue across a rocky, seasonal land bridge to Elk Rock Island, a dollop of some of the oldest rock in the region. There’s a 1-mile trail circumnavigating its edges — be on the lookout for bald eagles.

A sunny view of a natural path lined with trees along a body of water.
(Courtesy of Mt. Hood Territory)

The Clackamas Meets the Willamette in Gladstone

The splashy Clackamas River turns broad and mellow by the time it meets the Willamette River near the town of Gladstone, and that is where you’ll find Cross Park. The 5.5-acre oasis is a popular spot for swimmers in summer, but any time of the year you can walk along a paved path (popular with cyclists, too) that follows the Clackamas. At the confluence itself, you’ll find Clackamette Park and a 4.3-mile-long loop hike that will take you along both sides of the Clackamas. Despite being so close to the city, the route offers ample opportunities to spot birds and waterfowl.

About The

Tim Neville
Tim Neville is a writer based in Bend where he writes about the outdoors, travel and the business of both. His work has been included in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and Best Food Writing, and earned various awards from the Society of American Travel Writers and the Society of Professional Journalists. Tim has reported from all seven continents and spends his free time skiing, running and spending time with his family.

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