Hiking the Cascades, Columbia River Gorge, or the Oregon Coast is epic, but the round trip can take a while. If you’re looking for a quick outdoor getaway, Portland’s fringes have plenty to offer. Between picturesque mountain mounds, quiet nature trails and historical monuments, the good old suburbs are sure to surprise. So grab your walking shoes and get ready to hit the trails, and always be home before rush hour.
Elevation gain: 350 feet
Once the grounds of a posh summer residence, Jenkins Estate takes you back to the early 1900s with its historic structures and English gardens. Located on the northwest slope of Beaverton’s Cooper Mountain, it was purchased by Ralph and Belle Jenkins in 1912. In the 1970s, Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District purchased the 68-acre park with the intention to restore the grounds, the gardens and the 20th-century house and stable. Jenkins Estate is also listed on the Register of Historic Places.
The manicured property has nearly two miles of trails and is especially magical in the spring, when the gardens bloom with daffodils, trilliums and daylilies. From the parking lot, take the wooded path through a canopy of Douglas firs, alders and hemlocks, and you will eventually reach a slope that takes you to the grounds, where you will see the majestic main house perched high on the hill. The entire property, according to the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, has been preserved to emulate “the genteel lifestyle of the early 20th century,” with both a rhododendron and perennial garden, as well than an herb garden filled with everything from lavender to fragrant geraniums. , and thyme, perfect for a quiet walk. But the highlight is the lotus pond surrounded by Japanese maple trees, adjacent to the teahouse. A miniature waterfall flowing into the pond lends a tranquil soundtrack as you take in the scenery. All in all, the whole hike feels like a great retreat, and between the peaceful gardens and chirping birds, you’ll never want to leave. It’s no wonder the Jenkins chose this spot for their summer getaway. —michelle harris
Distance: 0.5 mile
Elevation gain: 121 feet
From the lookout at the top of this Gresham Park, visitors are thrilled by the sight of bluebirds over Cascadia’s greatest geological successes. Jefferson and Hood turn to your right. Burly heartthrob Adams claims the east. And then, to your left, Rainier and St. Helens tower over the gaps between stands of mossy red alder.
But also consider the mound that brought you. The entirety of Hogan Butte Nature Park—46 acres of picnic areas, interpretive signs, and a half-mile ADA-accessible trail—is itself an extinct volcano, which is predates some of these stratovolcanoes by more than two million years. Part of the boring volcanic field, Hogan Butte was one of around 80 clustered steam vents that helped shape the gorge from present-day Beaverton to east Damascus.
It’s been a while since Hogan Butte exploded. Now this tranquil 930-foot elevation is surrounded by native cedars and maples; each spring it blooms with Oregon grape and red flowering currant. The groves beyond the meadow are home to black-tailed deer, red foxes, downy woodpeckers, and northern flickers. And, since September 2017, the park has also welcomed human visitors: to wander its paths, take snapshots of wide panoramas of the Columbia Gorge and remain speechless, back in the parking lot, in front of the beautiful yellow Brite House, formerly known as the “Crest of Heaven Club”: a speakeasy-turned-dairy (and “disreputable house”) known for its blue neon star on the roof, which is lit during opening hours. —Ramona De Nies
Elevation gain: 210 feet
Once the site of a Boy Scout camp, Scouters Mountain near Happy Valley seems destined to continue to nurture a love of the outdoors. At over 900 feet tall, the extinct lava dome is a natural sight to explore, with sweeping views of the Cascade Range and stands of century-old Douglas fir trees. After several years of restoration work, Metro opened the 100-acre site in 2014, and there are now approximately 1.5 miles of trails. Clear days mean unparalleled views of Mount Hood and glimpses of the Columbia River. After circling the summit, trace the Boomer Trail through deep forest clinging to the mountainside. (The trail is named after an unusual species of mountain beaver that lives here.) As the trail continues through the lush eastern flanks of the mountain, scour the forest floor for mushrooms and herds of black-tailed deer walking silently among the trees. —Brian Barker
Elevation gain: 85 feet
This 44-acre park, just steps from the Orenco Station MAX stop, officially opened in February 2017. It was once home to the Oregon Nursery Company (famous in the early 1900s for its sweet Orenco apple), its remnants of wetlands, its oak savannahs and riparian forest now serve as a bulwark for residential developments, providing refuge for beavers, black-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks and songbirds. Tour the rolling topography along the 0.9-mile Habitat Trail over pocket meadow and up to Gurgling Rock Creek, a tributary of the Tualatin River containing cutthroat trout and lamprey. Then climb to join the paved Rock Creek Trail (which connects to nearby Orchard Park), where an arched bridge rises above wetland creeks and ponds. —Brian Barker
Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation gain: 55 feet
Winding along the Tualatin River, this breezy trail was designed for suburban brisk walks (or bike rides). The good news is that you can choose your own adventure here since the trail – which runs through Tualatin, Durham and Tigard – has multiple access points. Of course, you can also tackle the whole thing, but keep in mind that you will then have to hike all the way back for this out-and-back hike.
Beginning in Tualatin, the Tualatin River Greenway Trail technically begins near the intersection of SW Natchez Court and SW 46th Avenue, but it might be easier to start at Brown’s Ferry Park. Clear signage will keep you on the right track as you navigate city streets, forests and wetlands. Part of the trail crosses the Tualatin Art Walk, where you’ll walk along a concrete path lined with everything from crushed blue glass to scale juggernaut footprints, all designed to represent Oregon’s geological history from the Ice Age to when pioneers began to settle the Willamette Valley – a great adventure indeed. You can also see a life-size mastodon skeleton, excavated in the early 1960s in the area where Fred Meyer of Tualatin is now, on display at the Tualatin Public Library, which is just along the trail.
Admire herons and egrets as you pass the wetlands, and you’ll soon cross the Tualatin River over the scenic Ki-a-Kuts bicycle and pedestrian bridge, where you’ll continue to Durham City Park (which, by the way, by the way, has a dog park), then meander through a peaceful forest of Douglas fir, bigleaf maple, and Oregon ash. End at Jurgens Park, a 12.15-acre park named after William and Rosa Jurgens, who operated a potato farm nearby in the 1800s. —michelle harris
Distance: 4.6 miles
Elevation gain: 775 feet
In terms of nature and the outdoors, the suburban landscape of Lake Oswego probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, unless you’re Carl Halvorson, the landscape artist who, in the 1970s, was responsible for integrating nature trails and green spaces into a planned community called Mountain Park. What we have now is a complex trail system that meanders through quiet, leaf-speckled parks, watersheds, and playgrounds. Best of all, it’s all built on an extinct volcano, Mount Sylvania, which is part of the boring volcanic field.
Depending on the length of the hike, there are several starting points, such as McNary Park, located near Nansen Summit Park (where you will likely end your trip). For the ultimate suburban hike, start at Westlake Park, where you’ll have access to ample parking and restrooms. From here you can turn right onto Melrose Street and then loop onto Botticelli to connect to the trail system. Tip: bring a printed copy of the Mountain Park Trail Map or at least have it handy on your phone. Along the way, you will encounter faded green road signs that are simply marked “PATH” to guide you. An unexpected trail feature that makes this hike unique? A series of drainage tunnels integrated into the pathway network to help protect pedestrians at level crossings.
The hike gets more intense as you get closer to McNary Park, where you will then continue through a community of houses that are more or less reminiscent of the McMansion era of the 80s. A small staircase leads to Nansen Summit Park, which turns rises 300 meters above the ground and offers breathtaking views of the Tualatin Valley, the West Hills and Mount Hood. The park also has a grassy area and a few benches for a well-deserved rest before descending. —michelle harris