Four Essential Autumn Hikes Near Portland



As the days get shorter and temperatures get colder, it might seem like it’s not worth getting motivated to explore the outdoors. One of the best things about attending Portland State is the easy access to nature — any time of year. We’re 90 miles to the coast and 90 miles to Mt. Hood and there’s plenty to explore in between. Here are some nearby hikes that are especially amazing during the fall and cannot be missed out on:


Forest Park – Lower Macleay Trail

Difficulty level: Beginner
Distance: 1.7 miles
Distance from PSU: 11 minute drive, 1 hour on public transportation

Spanning 5,200 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. This lush forest stretches eight miles along the northeast slope of the Tualatin Mountains. The Lower Macleay Trail follows Balch Creek, and hikers can expect to cross several wooden bridges. This trail passes the famous “Stone House”, otherwise known as the “Witch’s Castle,” a 1936 building that has since been abandoned and covered in lichen. Forest Park is a wonderful hike for visitors to experience the beauty of Oregon forests without leaving the Portland city limits.

Trillium Lake

Difficulty level: Beginner
Distance: 2 miles
Distance from PSU: 90 minute drive

There’s a reason this hike is popular. Views of Mt. Hood across a serene mountain lake make it worth the trek. And it’s beautiful year-round; in the fall the beauty is in the leaves and the reflections off the glassy water. It features gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and a wooden boardwalk that winds through the forest. It’s only two miles with a minimal incline, making this hike great for first-timers. Ducks and geese live near the lake, and you might get lucky and see deer grazing among the trees. In the winter, it’s a great beginner snowshoeing trail. Don’t own snowshoes? Rent them from the Outdoor Program!

Silver Falls – Trail of 10 Waterfalls

Difficulty level: Moderate, with lots of stairs (can be icy in cold temps)
Distance: 8.6 miles
Distance from PSU: 90 minute drive

Have you ever walked behind a waterfall? This is one of the most stunning hikes in Oregon and one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. 50 miles south of Downtown Portland, this hike ambles through lush forest, and takes you past waterfalls that are up to 200 feet tall! This is a long, winding hike, but it’s well maintained and the elevation gain is moderate. You can park at one of the many entrances and take the shorter two or four mile loops.

PSU Outdoor Program is leading a group hike at Silver Falls on November 23! Check out their schedule to view the full list of events.

Cape Horn Trail

Difficulty level: Strenuous
Distance: 6 mile loop
Distance from PSU: 45 minute drive

While this hike is in Washington, just across the Columbia River, it’s only a stone’s throw away from the Portland State campus. If you are up to the challenge of scaling steep inclines and braving muddy trails, you will be able to experience the breathtaking panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge. This hike also takes you past tumbling waterfalls and gives an epic display of the changing autumn foliage.

Oregon is known for its beautiful scenery and there is no shortage of adventure in the area. If you need a little extra motivation to get out and explore this season, head on over to the Portland State Outdoor Program where you can find affordable gear rentals and sign up for guided trips year-round. Have fun out there, and be sure to tag @go2psu on your adventure.