Winter has settled in, but you’re an Oregonian, and that means your love of the outdoors isn’t limited to just one season. The Portland area stays fairly mild through most of the winter, which means many of the trails you love hiking in the summer are still open today. Here’s a list of seven beautiful hikes that look totally different in the winter time. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Trillium Lake in Mt. Hood National Forest
If you love being outdoors in the winter, you might have already planned your weekend getaway at Mt. Hood. The mountain’s three ski resorts are among the best in the Pacific Northwest, and the drive time is about 90 minutes for most Portlanders. If you can tear yourself away from your skis or snowboard, take a hike around Trillium Lake.
Trillium Lake is a popular summer destination, but in some ways, it’s even better in the winter. For one, the trails won’t be packed. There are also more trails to hike in the winter, since some nearby roads close down during the snowy season, and camping doesn’t start back up until spring. Check snow conditions before you go—you’ll most likely need snowshoes for longer hikes.
Multnomah Falls is another hiking hot spot where crowds die down in the winter, but snow and ice only add to its beauty, making it a rewarding winter day hike. The view from the parking lot alone makes it worth the short drive from downtown. For those looking to spend a good chunk of their day on the trails, the six-mile loop to Wahkeena Falls just reopened in November, after 2017’s Eagle Creek Fire destroyed huge sections of it.
Hikers are technically told to “enter at their own risk,” since the Columbia River Gorge is still recovering from the fire. You’ll want to keep an eye out for loose rocks and falling tree limbs. Icy conditions could exacerbate those dangers. If you want to play it safe, take the short (less than a quarter-mile) walk up to Benson Bridge, then enjoy a burger and a drink at the lodge.
Historic Columbia River Highway
The Historic Columbia River Highway also fell victim to the Eagle Creek Fire. Sections of the highway are still closed, but crews have managed to reopen the stretch between Ainsworth State Park and Bridal Veil. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the car-free trail east of Ainsworth State Park, but there’s still great hiking and biking along the stretch that is open. More trails should reopen later this year.
Another reason to come out to the Gorge is to support the community, which was hit hard by the wildfire. The prolonged trail closures make the winter dip in tourism even more impactful. Take a hike, then eat at a local restaurant in a nearby town. It’ll help ensure that the community has the resources to recover and in turn helps maintain the hiking trails.
Oxbow Regional Park
If you don’t want to drive all the way out to the Columbia River Gorge, you can enjoy the Sandy River Gorge right in Gresham. Oxbow Park features an old growth forest, 12+ miles of trails, and boat access to the river. You can’t go wrong with an easy, low-grade walk along the river, but for the best views, climb one of the steeper trails up the ridge and look down on the whole park.
Check the events calendar before you go, because parking is free some days, and Oxbow also hosts educational events. In February, the whole family can learn basic wilderness survival skills for only $11.
Champoeg State Heritage Area
Depending on where in the city you live, driving south might be easier than driving east to the Gorge. If that describes you, check out Champoeg State Park, less than 10 miles southeast of Wilsonville. The Champoeg Loop is an easy, roughly 3.5-mile hike that’s as pretty as it is family friendly.
The park is naturally beautiful, but it also features a lot of Oregon state history. The loop includes a monument where Oregon’s first provisional government formed, way back in 1843, and other historic landmarks. The campgrounds stay open through the winter, so make a weekend out of it and see all the park has to offer.
Saddle Mountain State Natural Area
For those who want to head west from the city, plan a trip to Saddle Mountain. The main trail is just 2.5 miles, but it’s steep, and the park urges only experienced hikers to try it. The hard work is rewarded with a panoramic view from the 3,290-foot summit. If you don’t think you can handle the 1,640 feet of elevation gain on the main trail, there’s a short, 10-minute trail that offers an only slightly less impressive view from Humbug Mountain viewpoint.
Oregonians know how rainy the coast gets during the winter. That can make hiking dangerous, especially on the longer, steeper trails. During severe winter storms, fallen trees and icy conditions can shut down roads in the area. It’s important to check conditions before you go, and come prepared for the worst.
Tryon Creek State Natural Area
If you’re trying to leave the car at home altogether, take Trimet to Tryon Creek. This state park is nestled in a SW Portland neighborhood, just minutes from downtown. The trails are mostly shallow, including three miles of paved walkways, and tree branches shade most of it, so it isn’t as susceptible to the elements as other parks are.
Despite being a short bike ride away from downtown, it’s easy to get lost in the natural beauty of this 650-acre park. This is the perfect place for someone who wants to squeeze in a quick hike between weekend errands.
Those seven parks should have your weekends filled for a while. But they’re just the start! Keep exploring, and leave a comment with any other beautiful hikes you find this winter. And don’t forget to share any stunning pictures you took along the way!
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