5 Gorgeous Oregon Hikes to Get You Psyched About Autumn


If you’re like me, autumn is a bittersweet time in the Pacific Northwest. On the one hand there’s football, seasonal brews, and everyone and their mother are giving you free zucchini. On the other, the long, gray winter is hanging out on the corner up ahead and it’s a little creepy. One thing we all seem to agree on is that autumn colors rock in Portland.

Here are 5 great hikes to sweeten up the bitter, soak up some vitamin D while you still can, and get away from that creepy winter dude on the corner.


Powell Butte

Location: Portland
Difficulty: Easy
Length: Up to 10 miles of meandering trails

I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know about Powell Butte. It’s right in the city, has nearly 10 miles of hiking trails, and turns into gorgeous yellow fields in the fall. You can see deer, foxes, pheasants, rabbits, and construction workers (they’re building a new reservoir right now). To get there from Portland: Located at 16160 SE Powell Blvd in Portland.


Wapato Greenway

Location: Sauvie Island
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 3.2 miles, loop

I adore this simple, easy hike. It’s flat, beautiful, and close to the city. It can get quite muddy after a rainfall. To get there from Portland: Take Highway 30 West for about 8.5 miles. Make a right onto NW Sauvie Island Road. Go 2.1 miles to the junction with NW Reeder Road. Keep straight for 0.4 miles on Sauvie Island Road. Sign for Wapato Access Greenway and parking area is on the left. Tip: After crossing the bridge onto Sauvie Island, stop at the little general store on your left to buy a parking permit for $7 daily / $22 annual.


Angel’s Rest

Location: Columbia Gorge
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: About 4.5 miles, in and out

Really, all the Gorge hikes are great for autumn colors, but Angel’s Rest also gives you a stunning view at the top. The steep, narrow path is worth the beauty. Can get overly crowded on weekends. To get there from Portland: Take I-84 east for about 28 miles to Exit 28/Bridal Veil. Go a short way on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Parking lot on right, at junction with East Bridal Veil Road. Trailhead across Historic Hwy and slightly east. Tip: Be seriously careful at the top. It can get quite windy!

salmon trail

Salmon River Trail

Location: Mt. Hood
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: Up to 16.6 miles one way (but I usually just walk a few miles and turn around)

This is a little bit of a drive for a “nearby” hike, but it is well worth the trip. I recommend the Upper Trail for fewer people, but the Old Trail has great river action. To get there from Portland: Take Highway 26 east for about 40 miles to Zigzag. Turn right on Salmon River Road. Drive about 2.7 miles to trailhead on the right. Alternatively, continue on for another 5 miles to the Upper Salmon River Trailhead, just before the bridge (less populated section of trail). Tip: You’ll need a wilderness permit if you go before October 15th.

opal creek

Opal Creek (Jawbone Flats/Opal Pool)

Location: Willamette Wilderness (near Detroit, OR)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 6.25 miles round trip

Oh, Opal Creek, why do you have to be so far away? If you haven’t done this hike, you need to make the time. It’s amazing. To get there from Portland: Take I-5 south through Salem to Exit 253 for Highway 22. Head east on Hwy. 22 for about 22 miles. Turn left at the flashing yellow light onto North Fork Road. Opal Creek Trailhead is at the very end of this road, about 20 miles (road will turn to gravel and become Forest Road 2209. Stay on it, and stay left at junction).

Mercy Strongheart grew up in Northern New Mexico. The child of radical, hippie folk musicians, she spent her childhood making up stories and searching for sugar. Mercy is currently working on her second novel and writing freelance articles about things she likes, including hiking, bicycling, health, and watching extreme sports from afar. She has also been a Licensed Massage Therapist for the past 13 years (hence her know-it-all fitness articles). She lives in Portland.
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