Until I moved to Oregon from the Midwest seven years ago, I had never hiked. Having grown up with virtually no trails to hike on, sweltering summer heat, high humidity and plenty of biting bugs, spending much time in the outdoors didn’t appeal to me. But, when I discovered the extensive trails that exist in Oregon, a state with an abundance of diverse scenery, I was hooked.
Most of my favorite hikes are in mossy forests alongside creeks or rivers with waterfalls. I love the many shades of green, the sound of rushing water, spring wildflowers and spending time in places where elves and fairies might live. Even a light rainy day can be pleasant, with impromptu waterfalls appearing on hillsides and fewer people on the trails.
In the summer and early fall, I seek out higher elevation hikes in the mountains with meadows full of wildflowers, alpine lakes and scenic views of nearby peaks. The best fall color I’ve ever seen is in the mid-elevation plateaus of the Cascades, with fields of huckleberries and heather turning brilliant shades of red and orange.
The Oregon Coast is also a favorite, with hikes along beaches that feature sea stacks and tide pools, or on headland and cape trails that offer fantastic views of the ocean while hiking through beautiful coastal rainforest.
Here are a few of my favorite hikes:
Triple Falls & Beyond (Columbia River Gorge)
moderate: 6.4 miles with 1,200 ft. elevation gain
With four waterfalls, including one you can walk behind, a narrow slot canyon, viewpoints overlooking the Columbia River, two cascading creeks, plus moss and ferns that cover everything in site, this hike is one of the best in the Columbia River Gorge. Beginning at Horsetail Falls, going behind Ponytail Falls, over the Oneonta Gorge and back to Triple Falls, I like to continue along the trail for another mile or so where the scenery just keeps getting greener and greener.
Ramona Falls (Mount Hood)
moderate: 7 miles roundtrip with 1,100 ft. elevation gain
This hike has three distinctive features: the trail begins along the Sandy River’s glacial floodplain – a sandy, rocky and desolate area due to the glacial fed river that runs through this valley. The milky color of the river is due to the silt it carries, which starts as rock on Mount Hood that gets worn down by the glaciers. Next is Ramona Falls, a magnificent 120 ft. waterfall that seems to come from nowhere, fanning out and cascading down a blocky basalt cliff. To complete the loop, follow the trail beside scenic Ramona Creek as it meanders through a delightful mossy forest.
McNeil Point (Mt. Hood)
difficult: 9.6 miles roundtrip with 2,220 ft. elevation gain
Hike along Bald Mountain ridge on Mount Hood’s northwest side, passing through wildflower-filled alpine meadows to the McNeil Point stone shelter just below the Sandy and Glisan glaciers. Surrounding panoramic views include the nearby Cascade peaks of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.
Ecola State Park (Oregon Coast)
easy to moderate: options from 2-3 miles roundtrip with 200 – 800 ft. elevation gain
Take one of three hikes at Ecola State Park – one of the most scenic sections of the Oregon Coast – to secluded Crescent Beach, to Indian Beach, or follow a route on Tillamook Head taken by Lewis and Clark. These often muddy trails traverse through fern-filled coastal rainforest with outstanding ocean views.