ONE OF THE GREATEST things about Portland is how great things are outside of Portland: You can hop in a car, head in any direction, and find excellent hiking. But if you don't have a car—or just don't want to deal with Portland's increasingly shitty traffic—you can still get to some pretty fantastic hikes.
Below are three Portland hiking spots, all accessible by TriMet bus—but there are plenty more, like Tryon Creek State Natural Area (which you can get to via TriMet's #39 line) and Mt. Tabor (the #4, #15, and #71). Even if you're just headed out for a couple of hours, common sense still applies, genius: Get a map, dress for the weather, take plenty of water and food, and pack (and read) a guidebook. The books that end up in my backpack most often—and the ones where I learned about these hikes—are 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald (Menasha Ridge Press), Take a Hike Portland by Barbara I. Bond (Avalon Travel), and One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park by Marcy Cottrell Houle (OSU Press).
Powell Butte Nature Park
Distance: Over nine miles of trails
Bus line: #9
Powell isn't usually associated with the great outdoors—but take the #9 long enough and you'll get to the rolling trails of Powell Butte, which offer views of deep Southeast and beyond (on a clear day, you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and more). This extinct volcano was used as an orchard and farmland until 1925, when it was purchased by the Portland Water Bureau, which put a huge 50-million-gallon water reservoir underground. You wouldn't know it: If you wander a bit more, you'll find yourself in some dark, lush, fern-drenched woods, crammed with gnarled trees and trickling streams. A quick note: Through at least the end of this summer, the water bureau is finishing up the installation of its latest underground reservoir; chain-link fencing blocks off big chunks of the park, making some trails and older maps worthless. So instead of planning a route, just give yourself plenty of time to explore—given the size of the park and its conical shape, you'll have to try pretty hard to get too lost.
Difficulty: Easy downhill, moderate uphill
Distance: About four miles (takes about 90 minutes)
Bus lines: #8, #51
The old-timey amusement park at the top of Southwest Portland's Council Crest might be long gone, but the park and the tranquil ravines surrounding it still offer an excellent escape. You can hike the Marquam Trail at either end: To start off going uphill, take the #8 to the Marquam Shelter that's just off Sam Jackson Park Road, then hike up to Council Crest; to start off going downhill, take the 51 to Council Crest, then hike down to the shelter. Either way, the shaded trees offer respite from the sun and lots of city wildlife, while the homes teetering on the hills give you a chance to gawp at rich people and think about how you should actually be glad you don't live in this gorgeous place, because at least your place isn't on fucking stilts, so who's going to survive an earthquake, huh? Anyway, here's a trick: Take the Sunnyside Trail loop on either the way up or the way down. It doesn't add much distance, and it means you won't be covering all the same ground on your way back.
Lower Macleay Trail, Upper Macleay Trail, and Wildwood Trail
Distance: 4.5 miles (takes two, maybe three hours)
Bus lines: #15, #18, #20
This might be my favorite in-town hike. Starting in NW Portland's Macleay Park, the Lower Macleay Trail runs alongside the babbling Balch Creek. Easy, chill, and popular with everyone from families to trail runners to friendly dogs, it's a pleasant stroll through a gully so deep and green you'll forget how close you are to the city. After passing the graffiti-covered Stone House (originally a bathroom, this old WPA project now looks like Tolkien-esque ruins, if Middle-earth had taggers), the trail rises to the Upper Macleay Trail, which climbs deeper into Forest Park. At a junction that's reliably confusing—despite years of hiking inside it, I've never not gotten lost on Forest Park's jumbled trails—take the Wildwood Trail up a series of switchbacks to Pittock Mansion. In addition to being a historical relic—built in 1914 by the then-owner of the Oregonian, it's a reminder of a long-ago era when newspapers made money—the mansion boasts a stunning view of Mt. Hood and nearly all of Portland, spread out far below. If those switchbacks tired you out, you can head from the mansion to W Burnside (where you can catch the #20) or to NW Macleay (where you can catch the #18). But keep in mind that the hike back to the park is all downhill—and there'll probably be some more dogs on the Lower Macleay.
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