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Happy Valley is one of the Portland area’s best-kept secrets. This compact city 10 miles southeast of downtown Portland offers outstanding international dining options and more than its fair share of forested nature parks and hiking trails. A bonus: You can skip the car for a hassle-free experience. Happy Valley is easily accessible from downtown Portland via Trimet’s Max Green Line to Clackamas Town Center. Here are five awesome spots where you can experience the best of what Happy Valley has to offer.
Accessible Outings and Fusion Fare
On clear days, Mt. Hood is visible from points across Happy Valley, but the best views of the perpetually snowcapped peak are from the top of Scouters Mountain Nature Park. Bring the whole family to walk along the mile-long forest trail flanked by centuries-old trees. There’s a quarter-mile-long, wheelchair-accessible loop and a sheltered picnic area at the summit.
Once you’ve taken in the views, head 2 miles south to Happy Valley Station, a collection of nearly 20 food carts positioned around a covered, semi-enclosed dining area. You’ll find culinary traditions from around the world represented here, from Japanese food at Sakura Noodle House to North Indian fare at Tandoori Cafe. Find more tasty fare at K-BOP, where you can build your own bibimbap bowl or choose from a menu of Korean-Hawaiian fusion dishes. Local’s tip: The owners of Happy Valley Station own a bottle shop called Happy Hops, two minutes away, with more than 40 taps of beer, wine and ciders plus a full bar.
Food, Falls and Four-Legged Friends
If you want to bring your pup along on your Happy Valley adventure, Valley Public House has you covered. One part taproom and one part food hall, this venue offers about 70 different taps of adult beverages, with both adults-only and family-friendly dining sections. There’s also plenty of outdoor patio seating where dogs are welcome. The food hall includes a branch of local Portland restaurant Tamale Boy, which serves burritos, quesadillas and — of course — tamales, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free choices.
After your meal, make your way less than a mile south to Hidden Falls Nature Park, a small, dog-friendly spot (the nearest entrance is at the corner of Southeast Nightingale Avenue and Pioneer Drive). The paved, mile-long trail winds through the forest and across a pedestrian bridge. Just beyond the bridge, a steep path leads down to the park’s namesake, Hidden Falls, a compact waterfall that cascades into Happy Valley’s meandering Rock Creek.
Sweet Summer Fun
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, consider fueling up at Fat Cupcake. The cupcakes here run the gamut from the best-selling Suit & Tie (marble cake with caramel-buttercream frosting) to the Lemon Doodle, a snickerdoodle sandwiched between white cake and lemon buttercream. Vegan, wheat-free takes on classic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes are also available, as are cakes and cinnamon rolls.
Once you have your sweet stash in order, head 4 miles north to Happy Valley Park, a great option if you’ve got kids or pets in tow. The park’s 24-acre stretch of wetlands is a major draw, with a boardwalk that weaves through natural areas, enabling visitors to get a closer look at local wildlife — particularly migratory birds. (Trailhead parking is off Southeast 145th Avenue, just south of Ridgecrest Road.) This popular spot also features playgrounds, ball courts, picnic areas, an off-leash area for dogs and a seasonal water-play area — the Splash Pad — with 16 water sprays.
Trails and Thai Food
One of the larger reserves in the Happy Valley area, Mt. Talbert Nature Park is ideal if you want to get a good workout, with a series of both steep and flat trails, some of which are a bit rocky. There are two major trailheads here — one on Mather Road and one on Sunnyside Road — and several trail options; the longest is the 3-mile-long Park Loop trail, which wraps around the perimeter of the park.
After your hike, head about 4 miles east to Taste of Bangkok in Happy Valley, where you can choose from a wide array of Thai dishes including khao soi (a coconut noodle soup and a Northern Thailand mainstay) and duck noodle soup, made according to the owner’s family recipe.
Off the Trodden Path
Fancy a quiet stroll through the forest? If so, head out to Mt. Scott Nature Trail, a mile-long wooded loop tucked away in a residential part of Happy Valley. Keep an eye out for the rusty remains of a couple of abandoned vintage cars that appear to date back as far as the 1950s or ’60s. Access points to the trail are at Solomon Court, 118th Court, Greiner Lane and Kimberly Court.
For a sophisticated post-hike lunch, make your way to Pho Zen, a sleek (but not stuffy) spot about 5 miles southeast. This Vietnamese spot offers pretty interiors replete with dark-wood furnishings, potted plants, colorful lanterns and plenty of outdoor seating. Find a range of regional dishes from Hoi An such as crisp grilled rice and chicken wings marinated in caramelized fish sauce.