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So it’s raining, and that means no hiking near Portland, right? Wrong! There are still plenty of great Portland hikes this time of year, and here, from my book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland, are the five best Portland hikes in the rain.
Gorge Hike: Triple Falls
Update: As of January 2021, this trail is still closed because of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Check the National Forest website for the latest info.
Let’s start in the spectacular Columbia River Gorge, where you can go hiking almost year-round. One that has the same views in rain as in sun is the 4.5-mile, fairly easy walk to Triple Falls. The trailhead is on the Historic Columbia River Highway at Horsetail Falls, and since it isn’t summer, this trail shouldn’t be crowded at all. Of course, it might not be clear like in the photo, but you’ve got a much better chance of having it to yourself.
After a very brief climb you’ll walk behind Ponytail Falls (in the photo), then to clifftop views of the Columbia, then across the top of Oneonta Gorge, then after some more climbing through a wooded canyon you get to Triple Falls, where one creek splits into three and a beautiful bridge offers access to picnic sites (and more trail) on the other side.
Start at: Horsetail Falls on the Historic Columbia River Highway, 33 miles from Downtown. Distance: 4.5 miles, out and back. Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Fees? No.
Coast Hike: Cape Lookout State Park
I’m not gonna lie: If it’s raining anywhere in Oregon, it will probably be raining at Cape Lookout. However, if by some miracle it isn’t raining, this is an awesome winter hike, as the ocean is likely to be very active, and right around this time of year there’s a whale migration.
The park has three great coast hikes: one from the campground to the cape, one from there down to the beach, and the best one, from a parking lot just off the Three Capes Scenic Route to the end of the cape. There, 2.4 almost flat miles from the car, you’ll be 500 feet above the ocean at the end of the cape. Amazing! (There are some clifftop areas towards the end that might make you nervous.)
Start at: The upper trailhead at Cape Lookout State Park, 85 miles from Downtown. Distance: 4.8 miles round-trip to end of cape, 3.6 miles round-trip to South Beach. Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Fees? No.
Portland Hike: Macleay Trail to Audubon Society and/or Pittock Mansion
Down under the Thurman Street bridge in northwest Portland lies a little treasure of a park called Lower Macleay. From there, a paved trail winds into Forest Park and connects with the Wildwood Trail, meaning this “hike” is really several possible great Portland hikes. My suggestion is to stick with the Wildwood going up Balch Creek; it will climb a bit and then, 1.1 miles later, pop out at Cornell Road and the Audubon Society. Cross the road and put in another mile and a quarter, climbing gently again, and you’re at the Pittock Mansion and its great views of Portland.
Start at: Lower Macleay Park; consider taking TriMet bus #15 to skip tough parking. Distance: 2.2 miles to Upper Macleay Park and Audubon Society, 4.5 miles to Pittock Mansion. Difficulty: Moderate. Fees? No.
Coast Range Hike: Wilson River Trail
This relatively new trail explores the canyon of the Wilson River, where salmon and steelhead come to spawn. For many years, it was known to those who don’t fish as “that river along Highway 6 on your way to Tillamook,” but with a trail and a forest center now in place, plus a healthy forest making a comeback after catastrophic fires, the Wilson is a destination all its own.
Several trailheads along the highway mean you can decide what kind of hike you want: long or short, one-way or roundtrip, easy or hard. For much more on this trail, see my Wilson River Trail blog post.
Start at: Several trailheads along Highway 6 towards Tillamook. Distance: The whole thing is 21 miles, but the four sections average about 5 miles each. Difficulty: Easy to hard. Fees? No.