Sunshine? Probably! Rain? Sure! Wildflowers? Definitely. Oregon summer weather is anyone’s guess, but one thing we can count on is an abundance of bright green landscapes dotted in an ever-changing rainbow of blooms. And with so many low-impact/high-beauty hikes in and around Portland, there’s a route to keep you moving all season long—and some that are perfect for when the weather is sweltering. We’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite local summer hikes with kids, plus a tip or two about a nice spot to grab a pre or post-hike nibble.
Noble Woods Loop – Hillsboro
Kids will love the clomp clomp clomp of their shoes on the boardwalk at Noble Woods Park. They’ll stop to peer into the babbling Rock Creek (keep an eye out for beaver bites or crawfish!) and crane their necks upward to gaze into the branches of big leaf maples and Douglas firs. This simple hike may be just over a mile long, but it’s a wonderland of nature exploration! Start the hike at the Baseline Road Trailhead, and stop for a snack break at the covered picnic tables near Borwick Road. Then circle back to the main paved trail, tromp over a bridge and then another, and then you’ll find yourself back at the trailhead, a collection of memories in your pocket.
Distance: 1.2 miles
Elevation gain: 65 feet
Trailhead: 23480 W. Baseline Road, Hillsboro, OR 97123
Canemah Bluff Loop – Oregon City
Canemah Park is a friendly destination with a playground and picnic tables, but once you’ve hopped off the slide and set foot onto the trail, there’s so much more to see! The Canemah Bluff Overlook sits atop 15 million year old basalt and 2 million year old lava flows, with a gently sloping forest of Douglas fir, red alder, and big-leaf maple. Stroll past the gated Canemah Pioneer Cemetery for a glimpse of pre-settler and pioneer history, when these trails served as a main portage route for getting around Willamette Falls. This easy hike is conveniently located in Oregon City, so there will be ample time for brunch before, or a leisurely lunch at the park after!
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation gain: 190 feet
Trailhead: 815 4th Avenue, Oregon City, OR
Powell Butte Summit Loop – SE Portland
Families can find themselves among mountains at Powell Butte! With views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Jefferson on a clear day, this east Portland nature reserve is a geologic goldmine. Begin your journey at the Powell Butte trailhead and then follow the Mountain View Trail up through the walnut trees and across a meadow. Take a pause at the mountain finder circle and get to know our neighboring volcanoes, and walk over a trail that is essentially right on top of two 50 million gallon reservoirs from Bull Run! Powell Butte offers a world of discovery for families wanting to get better acquainted with the region, or just wanting to take a hike!
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation gain: 220 feet
Trailhead: 3982 Southeast 162nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97236
Firelane 7-Springville Road Loop – NW Portland
Forest Park is a favorite for Portlanders hoping to squeeze in a quick hike, but where Lower Macleay can get quite crowded, the Firelane 7-Springville Road Loop is less-traveled. Before the Wildwood Trail was built, fire lanes were the main point of access. Springfield Road is an old wagon road that was formerly used by produce farmers. Between the fire lane and Springville Road you’ll hike on the well-loved Wildwood Trail, dappled by sword ferns and forest flowers. Stay alert for mountain bikers, as they also use the wide expanse of the fire lanes. After this easy (but longer) hike, pop down into St. John’s where a number of coffee shops and top off a day hike with a tasty sip!
Distance: 4.9 miles
Elevation gain: 1120 feet
Trailhead: NW Old Springville Road, Portland
Catherine Creek Arch Loop - White Salmon
There’s something magical about a hike that takes you through flower-laden meadows, weaving in and out of oak trees, and just beyond in the distance the sunlight glistens off of the Columbia River, Oregon on one side, Washington on the other. Catherine Creek is a gem of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area, with shallow soil that resists grass growth, but gives life to an abundance of wildflowers. Enjoy breakfast in Hood River or White Salmon, then cruise up the road for the irresistible beauty of Catherine Creek. Take I-84 east from Portland and take Exit 64 for White Salmon, Government Camp, and Highway 35. Turn left on to Button Bridge Road, then drive 1.1 miles and cross the Hood River Bridge ($2 toll per car). At the junction with Highway 14, turn right for Bingen and White Salmon. Then drive 5.9 miles on Highway 14, turn left onto Old Highway 8, skirt Rowland Lake and drive another 1.5 miles to a parking lot on the left side of the highway.
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Fee: $2 bridge toll
Trailhead: Old Highway 8, White Salmon, WA
Silver Falls Lower Loop - Sublimity
Just a quick drive south of Portland and east of Salem and you’ll find waterfalls and wildflowers at Silver Falls! The full loop to see all 10 waterfalls is a moderate hike of 6.9 miles, but it’s easy to “choose your own adventure” and shorten the distance to 4.6 miles (skip Twin and North Falls), or even 2.8 miles (turn back after Lower South Falls). Kids will love the behind-the-scenes action of traversing trails that tuck behind the shimmering falls.
Distance: 4.6 or 2.8 miles
Elevation gain: 660 feet
Fee: $3 per car
Trailhead: 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385
What is your family’s favorite summer hike? We’d love to know! Share them with us in the comments.
— Kelli Martinelli