Pacific City, Oregon
Located on Oregon’s coast, Pacific City is about a two-hour drive from downtown Portland, so getting there is a bit of a haul, but more than worth it. Driving there, you’ll wind through Oregon’s impossibly green forests and wide swaths of farm country—you’ll also pass through the sweet little town of Tillamook (home of the eponymous cheese brand, which does amazing factory tours that are free and kid-approved). Once you arrive, head straight to the long, wide beach, where you’ll find a huge sand dune full of kids climbing to the top and sliding down, and plenty of tide pools filled with sea urchins, barnacles, and other sea life. When everyone’s tired out, order a flight of the award-winning beer at Pelican Pub & Brewery. Make sure to get a seat on the porch, so you can watch the dorys—crazy local fishing boats that beach themselves at high speeds to get in and out of the water.
Westmoreland City Park
S.E. McLoughlin Blvd. & Bybee Blvd., Sellwood-Moreland
At 40-plus acres, Westmoreland Park is a mecca for outdoor activities. There are sports fields and courts, picnic tables for brown bag lunches, and a nature-based play area that opened in 2014 with wood log and rock boulder structures for kids to climb. Photos: Portland Corps
Roughly the size of Manhattan, Sauvie Island sits 20 miles outside of Portland, flanked by the Columbia River, Willamette River, and Multnomah Channel. There’s plenty to do here on a day trip; depending on the season and the weather, you can hang at the river beaches, ride bikes, check out the wildlife (the northern half of the island, which is owned by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, is big for bird-watching), and/or pick berries or pumpkins at one of the local farms. (If you’re headed here with the family for a beach outing, just be aware that a part of one of the beaches, Collins, is clothing-optional.)
This urban Portland hike is unique for combining a trail, a tram, a trolley, and a train in one well-guided loop that offers great views of the city. You can enter the 4T loop at any point but this is a good order of events for first-timers: Hike from the Oregon Zoo (notable for its conservation efforts and gang of endangered species) to Council Crest Park (the highest point in Portland at 1,073 feet), then down to the campus of Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). Get on Portland Aerial Tram, which will send you gliding 3,000-plus feet downhill along the Willamette River in just a few minutes. Next, step on the trolley (called Portland Streetcar) for a ride downtown and to refuel (we recommend the hot chocolate at Cacao). You can take the train (MAX Light Rail) back to the start of the loop/your car/home base depending on where you’re posted in Portland. Alternately, if you’re staying in a hotel downtown, you can begin the loop with a train ride to the start of the trail. Either way, the entire journey takes around four hours. And it is…
The Columbia River Gorge—occupying about 300,000 acres of land—sits about twenty miles east of Portland. This expansive river canyon is home to incredible waterfalls, some of the finest hiking trails in the region, as well as the best windsurfing. On your way here from Portland, be sure to stop at Crown Point, which is just off of the Historic Columbia River Highway. The panoramic view of the Columbia River from this lookout point is truly majestic.
Gorgeous, snow-capped Mount Hood is visible from virtually anywhere in Portland, but it's totally worth the hour drive to see it up close. Make it an outdoor adventure day trip, whether skiing, mountain biking, lake sports, or picnicking is your thing. Timberline Lodge is an easy jumping-off point—you can pick up hiking trails here—and a good dining option in the area.
Mt. Tabor Park
S.E. 60th Ave. & Salmon St., Mt. Tabor
Portland is home to several beautifully manicured city parks—but what’s really unique about Mt. Tabor is that it’s situated on top of a volcanic vent (don’t worry, it’s dormant). Taking up close to 200 acres, the native plant-rich grounds are outfitted with hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, and two surprisingly serene reservoirs, all in pleasantly close proximity to each other. As you explore, keep an eye out for scenic overlooks offering uninterrupted views of Mount Hood and downtown scattered throughout the park. Photo: Norm Clark
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