When you get a sunny day in the thick of Oregon’s rainy season, it’s wise to take full advantage of the opportunity.
This week, we’ve had a full stretch of blue sky days, a trend that forecasters expect to last through the weekend. Those looking to get outside will have no shortage of options around the Portland area and beyond, with great day hikes available from the coast to the Cascade Mountains.
Blue skies call for wide open spaces, places where you can soak up the sun before clouds soon return – although a damp or snowy forest is always nice this time of year, too, illustrating the transition from fall to winter.
Wherever you decide to go, some seasonal precautions are in order: Make sure you dress for the season, with extra layers, warm clothing and shoes that can get muddy. Carry proper emergency supplies in your daypack and car, like emergency blankets, extra food and water. And follow all public health precautions (keep your distance from other hikers and wear your mask) in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While most hiking areas remain open, many in higher elevations have closed for the season. On Mount Hood, you’ll often be parking at sno parks along the highway instead of trailheads in the forest. Don’t drive down remote forest roads that may not be plowed, and carry tire chains and a shovel in case you get stuck.
Most important, make sure enjoy yourself while you’re out there. These are the last days of fall, and the waning days of a difficult year. Try your best to let go of any stress and appreciate your day in the sun.
1. Oxbow Park
With riverside beaches and old-growth forest, Oxbow Regional Park is one of the best all-season recreation areas in the region. Nestled along the Sandy River east of Troutdale, the park offers several places to hike, fish or lounge on the beach. String together a quick day of hiking by exploring the forested trail system, climbing up to Elk Meadow, and walking the trail that runs along the river.
2. Tryon Creek
One of the only state parks in Portland, Tryon Creek State Natural Area has many interconnected trails to discover, winding through the woods and crossing over trickling streams. Start out at the main parking lot near the closed visitor center and pick a direction. There are eight miles of trails in the park, allowing for a quick walk or several hours of wandering.
3. Silver Falls
One of Oregon’s marquee state parks, Silver Falls is a spectacular destination in the rainy season, when the waterfalls are flowing at full volume. You can hike the entirety of the famous Trail of Ten Falls, or just pick and choose among your favorite plunges. Watch your footing during the cold season, as water and ice can make some spots dangerously slick.
4. Powell Butte
Powell Butte Nature Park boasts spectacular mountain views on clear days, and with nine miles of hiking trails, it’s a good place to spend an afternoon. A 4.3-mile loop hike around the Southeast Portland park will show you a good variety, running through the forest and up to hilltop meadows. The trails are by no means difficult, but a few uphill portions will get your blood pumping – it is an extinct volcano, after all.
5. Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge
Fall is a great time to go bird watching in the Willamette Valley, as waterfowl gather and settle down for the season in the many wetland habitats throughout the region. One place to see them is the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge south of Tigard, home to nearly 200 species of birds and 50 species of mammals, as well as many kinds of reptiles, amphibians, fish and plants.
With one trail leading along cliffs overlooking the ocean, and another leading through a quiet coastal rainforest, Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach is one of the most impressive hiking spots on the north Oregon coast. The Clatsop Loop Trail offers a 3 mile round-trip hike from Indian Beach to the Hikers’ Camp viewpoint and back, or you can take the much wilder (and muddier) hike through the northern portion of Tillamook Head near Seaside.
7. Sitka Sedge
The newest state park site on the north Oregon coast, Sitka Sedge State Natural Area offers a diverse experience for hikers, with trails that run past wide-open wetlands, through a dense coastal forest and eventually out to the beach just north of Cape Kiwanda. Some trails in the park are currently closed due to storm damage, but there still should be plenty to see.
8. Trillium Lake
Trillium Lake is one of the easiest winter hikes on Mount Hood, and one of the most popular as well. Start at the Trillium Sno Park off U.S. 26, and follow the well-signed trails for a loop hike that normally runs from about 3.6 to 5 miles round trip. The hike will be cut short this season: The trail is partially closed due to storm damage. Be ready for crowds if you show up on a weekend, and bring snow shoes or skis if the area has had a lot of snow lately.
Open meadows, quiet woods and Willamette River views greet visitors to Champoeg State Park near St. Paul. A short walk along the riverside trails also leads to some historical markers and monuments, though the museum at the visitor center is currently closed. The state park is home to a sizable campground as well, which is open year-round.
10. Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens State Park is expansive enough to fill a whole day of recreation, between its bike paths, hiking trails, historic military batteries, shipwreck, jetty and many, many miles of sandy beach. It’s also home to one of the biggest campgrounds in Oregon, with more than 500 campsites, many of which are open year-round (yurts and cabins, normally open, are currently closed due to the pandemic).
11. Wilson River Trail
The Wilson River Trail is a phenomenal long-distance hiking trail that runs 22.6 miles from Elk Creek to Keenig Creek, found along Oregon 6 in the Oregon Coast Range There are several trailheads to access both the east and west portions of the trail, including the popular Footbridge Trailhead and a trailhead behind the Tillamook Forest Center, which is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
12. Warrior Point
Home to Oregon’s smallest lighthouse, Warrior Point on Sauvie Island is a great year-round excursion with phenomenal Columbia River views. The flat, forested trail (which gets extremely muddy in the rainy season) runs about 3.5 miles from the parking area near Collins Beach to the beach at Warrior Point, where hikers can walk up to the base of the little lighthouse before hiking back.