Jan 2, 2024 - Things to Do

Three great winter hikes close to Portland

A view from Cape Horn on a sunny January day. Photo: Meira Gebel/Axios

Oregon's snow season is starting slowly this year, but the warmer winter so far means it's a great time to get out and hike.

These three hikes — all about an hour's drive or less from Portland — are among our particular favorites this time of year.

  • Always — but especially in winter — be prepared for changes in the weather when you're heading outside.

Cape Horn

About a half-hour drive east of Vancouver on the Washington side of the Columbia River, this 7.2-mile hike is challenging and dramatic.

  • The loop trail climbs 1,300 feet for great views of the gorge, then drops close to the river, rolling over rocky terrain past waterfalls and more views.

Pro tip: The lower section of the loop is closed from February to July for bird nesting season.

  • Out-and-back also is a fantastic hike.

Old Salmon River Trail

Flat and kid-friendly, this Mount Hood hike wanders through tall evergreens next to a cold, rushing river.

There are several trail access points, starting about 2.5 miles past Welches.

  • Waterproof boots are handy on this jaunt — the trail can get very muddy and there are a couple of small streams to cross.

The Wilson River Trail

Pick your own path on this 24-mile trail — shared with mountain bikers — along the Wilson River in the Tillamook State Forest west of Portland.

  • Multiple trailheads let you customize your hike out and back.
  • Or buddy up and leave a car at your destination trailhead.

Two hiker-only trails — up Elk Mountain and the somewhat less steep Kings Mountain — intersect the Wilson River Trail.

Pro tip: Both trail summits are about 3,000 feet, so check snow levels before you head up.

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