The Gorge gets all the glory. Mount Hood steals all the cover shots. It's normal to covet what's far away, so when summer hits, you hit the highway. But there are plenty of surprisingly beautiful nature settings within the Portland metro area—often accessible by bus, and not much hassle for people who would usually just spend their summer sucking down Montucky at White Owl. And when you're done, you're like four minutes from beer. Here are some great urban hikes that'll make you forget you're in the city at all, and then the spots to grab a pint afterward. Or before. Or both.
Sauvie Island, Warrior Rock: Beyond Nude Beaches
The hike: Easy, about 6 miles.
The trailhead: Collins Beach (38149-38155 NW Reeder Road)
To find the trailhead, drive to Collins Beach until you hit a dead-end gravel parking area. Ignore the trash bins overflowing with empty cans of light beer from city beach bums, and set out toward the sandy beach, where you'll stand out not only for being sober but also fully clothed—this isn't a clothing-optional area, but topless sunbathing isn't rare here.
You'll leave the beachgoers behind quickly. Shortly after spotting a giant bird nest on some pilings and the weathered remains of a boat, you'll head inland to a trail that will take you to the lighthouse. Much of the hike is shaded, but you'll find a few clearings and, in late summer, sections of the path nearly swallowed by thick, tall grass. The Warrior Rock lighthouse, Oregon's smallest, is at the north end of Sauvie Island and serves as a great place to snack while sitting on some logs and watching river traffic.
Post-trail ale: On the way back into town on Highway 30, head across the Fremont Bridge to Widmer Brothers Gasthaus Pub (929 N Russell St., 281-2437). The smell of grains from the nearby brewery will hit you from at least a block away. It'll then be impossible to resist. Have two beers. You've earned it. This is the only hike on the list that takes a bit more than an hour.
Sandy River Delta: One Big Dog Park
The hike: Easy, less than 3 miles.
The trailhead: Sandy River Delta Park, on Crown River Highway off I-84 Exit 18.
Every hike here's dog-friendly, but the Sandy River Delta—at the confluence of the Sandy and Columbia rivers—is basically a 1,000-acre off-leash dog amusement park with wide swaths of mowed green grass lining most paths, and groves of trees in the distance.
There are several trails, so if you'd like some easy cardio in about an hour, take the Meadow Trail to a bird blind, which is the turnaround. Fair warning, though: This is not a hike pinnacle with a view unless you're into mourning extinct birds. The trail leads up a sloped wooden bridge to a circular structure that's beautifully crafted out of black locust wood; the bird blind, by Maya Lin, is inscribed with all the species Lewis and Clark saw on their journey, and whether the birds still exist. For a change of setting on the way back, take the Boundary Trail.
Post-trail ale: When in Troutdale, McMenamins Edgefield (2126 SW Halsey St., 669-8610) is basically a drunken little village of beer.
Macleay Trail to Audubon Society: Fly the Coop Without Leaving Town
The hike: Easy, with a few make-you-sweat switchbacks, about 2 miles.
The trailhead: Lower Macleay Park (2960 NW Upshur St.)
Macleay Trail offers an amazing opportunity to disappear into a forest while remaining within city limits. The trailhead is in Lower Macleay Park, and you'll quickly find yourself walking along Balch Creek, named for a man who settled in the area and was publicly hanged for killing Mortimer Stump in 1859. For some reason, nobody named the creek after poor Mortimer Stump.
Anyway, continue to follow the Mortimer Stump Memorial Creek upstream on a trail crisscrossed by fallen trees and nestled among moss-covered canyon walls and the occasional man nursing a malt 40. Places worth a pause include a small waterfall and an old stone cottage that used to be a working public restroom until the 1962 Columbus Day storm took out its water line. Soon the trail will gain elevation and you'll find yourself drawn to the sight of the vibrant ravine below.
Once the route reaches Upper Macleay Park, turn right to explore the Audubon Society, where behind the building you can visit rescued birds in outdoor cages, including Julio the Great Horned Owl, who silently suffered while everyone around her assumed she was male. (They considered renaming her Julia, but it didn't stick.) Want a turnaround with a view? Continue about 2 miles on the Wildwood Trail to reach Pittock Mansion.
Post-trail ale: A 10-minute drive will get you to a brewery that's one of the area's oldest and also closest to Forest Park: Portland Brewing Company, formerly MacTarnahan's (2730 NW 31st Ave., 228-5269), which boasts ample patio seating and is rarely crowded.
Marquam Trail to Council Crest: Skyline View Without Tipping Your Server
The hike: Moderate, about 3 miles.
The trailhead: Terwilliger Trailhead, 1 mile north of Capitol Highway on Southwest Terwilliger Boulevard. Or if you don't drive, walk a mile of switchbacks down the woodsy Connor Trail from atop Pill Hill (follow the 4T trail signs from Oregon Health & Science University's space-age tram station).
The best views in town usually come with a bill at the end of a meal. But the Marquam Trail will leave you feeling just a bit more satisfied having that beer at the end of the hike, since you put in the sweat to earn it. About a minute into the Marquam Shelter Trail ascent, you'll feel like you're on a hike far from the streets of downtown. Thick vegetation provides shade all the way up the switchbacks and carpets the deep ravines. However, the sudden, jarring sight of giant homes is a reminder that you haven't left the city. It may feel as though you're sneaking through the backyards of people who make a lot more money than you do. Don't worry. You're not actually trespassing.
The summit is Council Crest, where a group of ministers believed the area's Native Americans must have held council. They didn't, but there's a nice view from the stone circle near the middle of the park. Signs direct your gaze toward four mountains, and the cityscape stretches out below. You can then look forward to the downhill return.
Post-trail ale: Walk to the Oregon Zoo MAX station and ride light rail downtown, where there are plenty of nearby breweries. Try one you've never been to, like maybe Fat Head's (131 NW 13th Ave., 820-7721), which just opened last year. The Trailhead Pale Ale seems fitting if it's on tap.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge: Urban Oddities Galore
The hike: Very easy, about 3 miles.
The trailhead: Sellwood Park, Southeast 7th Avenue and Miller Street.
Some Portland metro-area hikes allow you to feel as though you've abandoned civilization, at least temporarily. But Oaks Bottom offers constant reminders that this wildlife refuge is surrounded by city. The marshland was saved from development in 1969 when the city of Portland purchased it from a company that wanted a park of the industrial kind. It sits on an old construction landfill, but where else can you pass by a haven for dozens of species of birds; an old, eight-story mausoleum with a mural; and a Ferris wheel on a single outdoor excursion?
That massive structure with the bird mural on it is Wilhelm's Portland Memorial Funeral Home, a historic building that houses seemingly endless rows of urns and even a grand tomb. At night, if you circle around to where the route meets the Springwater Trail on the Willamette River, you're at the eerie confluence of a warehouse of human remains and a closed amusement park.
Post-trail ale: Given the name of the refuge, Lompoc's Oaks Bottom Public House (1621 SE Bybee Blvd., 232-1728) seems a natural fit. But if you haven't tried 13 Virtues Brewing (6410 SE Milwaukie Ave., 239-8544), it's worth a stop for its award-winning weizenbock.
Tryon Creek State Park: Suburban Sanctuary Stuffed With Nature Worshippers
The hike: Easy, with a few hills that'll get you breathing, about 3 miles.
The trailhead: Tryon Creek State Park (11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd.)
There's a stone wall at the park's Nature Center that reminds hikers what can be gained during a visit: "You'll always find something young—a leaf, a thought, a new life." You'll also always find plenty of company, since the location is a couple of miles off I-5, which means the trail can get as clogged as Northwest 23rd Avenue. Regardless, the more than 650 acres allow you to shed the city and slip into nature in an eye blink.
Multiple routes await inside this thick forest of rolling hills and ravines. Among 8 miles of hiking trails and 3.5 miles of horse trails, you could take a different path every visit. And there's an abundance of wildlife, from the tapping of woodpeckers to baby owls emerging from their trees. Try the Horse Loop—which takes you near the creek, across several bridges and through an obstacle course of horseshit—and the Old Main Trail, called the Old Man Trail by some because of the uphill slog toward the end of the route.
Post-trail ale: Sasquatch Brewing Company (6440 SW Capitol Highway, 402-1999, sasquatchbrewery.com) is a mere nine minutes away. And if the brewery's namesake beast did live in Oregon, Tryon Creek wouldn't be a bad place to call home.
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