Category Archives: Mountains

Mt. Tabor (Spring)

Directions: The main parking area is located on about 60th and Salmon in Southeast Portland

Mt. Tabor is one of Portland’s best parks. It offers a variety of well maintained trails, has a basketball and tennis court, you can see three unique reservoirs, and has a lot of opportunities for nature viewing.

There are maps at a kiosk area in the main parking lot. Mt. Tabor offers three marked trails (blue, green, and red) but has plenty of unmarked trails as well. For this post we are going to focus on the blue trail, which is the longest of the marked paths.

Starting at the parking area find the blue arrow that’s just a few steps past the basketball court. Follow the path through a wooded area downhill where it pops back up and you cross the road, heading down to the tennis courts. From here you walk around the first reservoir and follow the arrows to a steep staircase. Head up the stairs and you will reach the second reservoir, take the upper trail that’s lined with cherry blossom trees around the reservoir. Continue following the blue arrows downhill in a more wooded area that takes you to the third reservoir that you will go around and head up a short paved path.



The path ends at the road which you will get on and go right a short distance to the next arrow taking you uphill on a dirt trail. Follow this trail somewhat steeply uphill to the very top and take the paved loop to it’s west side and follow the trail back down past a play structure to the parking area.



You will get great views of downtown Portland quite a few times on the blue trail. You get to see all of the open air reservoirs and some very pretty blooming trees as well.

Mt. Tabor is pretty much always busy unless you are here really early on a weekday. Even then you will still see people walking dogs or on a morning run. So if you are looking for peace and quiet, this may not be the best place.


Distance: You can do a total of 5.7 miles on all of the marked trails (blue- 3 miles, green- 1.7, red-1)

Elevation: 350 feet

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: Very

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great urban hike with lots to see!

Swampy Lakes Sno-Park (Snowshoe)

Directions: Take the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway to the signed Sno-Park, it will be on the right.

The Swampy Lakes area has multiple snowshoe and x-country skiing trails. We were snowshoeing so we’ll be talking about the snowshoe trails. For a map of the whole area with all of the trails click here.

Trail options: A short loop (1.75 miles) and long loop (3.25 miles). Tie trail that takes you to a nearby Sno-Park.  Lastly, the porcupine trail that takes you past the lakes and to a shelter with a wood stove, this can be done as a 4.6 mile loop or an out and back that is 4 miles.

The weather we encountered was less than ideal, strong winds and steady snow made for low visibility. We decided to explore a small section of the porcupine trail and the short loop.


All of the trails are very well marked with blue diamonds that have a yellow snowshoer inside. The trails all go through a very pretty lodgepole pine forest that switches from heavily treed to sparse. The loops seem to have little elevation and the porcupine trail rollercoasters the whole way. This is a great place to spend time just exploring around.


There are designated trails for what activity you are doing, please make sure you are paying attention to the diamonds and not getting on a x-country trail with your snowshoes.


We can’t wait to come back on a day where the weather allows us more time to see more of the area.


Distance: Depends on which trail you choose

Elevation: Depends- some loops are flat, some take you up buttes with quite a bit of elevation.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Pet Friendly: No. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in the Sampy Lakes area.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking area

Parking Fee: Sno-Park Pass

Seasons: Snowy months for snowshoeing and x-country skiing

Popular: Yes

Overall: Great area, looking forward to going back and seeing the snow shelter.

Best Of 2016

We did a lot of great hikes in 2016, here are some of our favorites and our overall top hike of the year.

  • Willamette Valley:

Henline Falls– This is a short hike but it takes you to an amazing waterfall. Catch it at the right time of day and you might just see a rainbow at the base as well!

  • Columbia River Gorge:

Columbia Hills State Park– Great area to see wildflowers with amazing views of the Gorge.

  • Washington:

Lewis River Falls– So many pretty waterfalls in such a short distance. Definitely a must see.

  • Coast:

The Thumb– This was probably the most unique hike we did this year.

  • Central Oregon:

Smith Rock (Misery Ridge)– The views are amazing at the top and you get a very up close view of Monkey Face!

  • Mt. Hood:

Wind Lake– You get to ride a chairlift up to the top of Ski Bowl and then hike to a somewhat hidden lake. And the whole time you have great views of Mt. Hood and Government Camp. 

  • Portland:

Powell Butte- This is a great hike in the city. On a clear day you can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St Helens, and Mt. Hood.

  • Southern Oregon:

Plaikni Falls– This hike was inside Crater Lake National Park, it’s very pretty, especially in autumn with all the beautiful colors.

  • Kayak:

Disappearing Lake– This was such a treat! It’s a lake that’s only around for about a month out of the whole year.

Overall Best of 2016:

Bald Mountain– The hike up bald mountain is beautiful and lined with beargrass. Once at the top you round a corner and come to one of the best views of Mt. Hood we’ve ever seen. Do this hike!

What were some of your favorite hikes in 2016? Any you’re looking forward to doing in 2017?


June Lake (Summer)

Directions: Directions: Take I-5 North to exit 21 (Woodland/Highway 503) and follow Highway 503 East through the town of Cougar. Highway 503 turns into FR-90, continue on FR-90 and take a left onto Road 83 (signed for Ape Caves and Lava Canyon). Follow Road 83 for about 7 Miles where you will reach the June Lake Trailhead.

From the trailhead follow the trail as it gradually heads uphill. The trail itself is fairly wide and well maintained. You will be following along a creek for part of the hike. There are some small side trails off to your left that offer nice views of Mt. St. Helens on a clear day. Continue to follow the trail uphill, it does get moderately steep the closer you get to the lake.

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After crossing over a small bridge the trail soon opens up into a campsite area. Walk through this area and there is a small trail heading to your right that drops you out at June Lake. This lake is fed by June Lake Falls which you can see on the far side of the lake. Off to your left you can see a large tree that has fallen off the cliff and is upside down, roots sticking up in the air. This is an out and back hike, so head back out the way you came.

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Distance: 2.8 miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: None

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass

Seasons: Late spring through fall. There are snow gates, call ahead before hiking.

Popular: Yes during summer weekends.

Overall: This was a fun little hike, we’ve never seen a lake that was fed by a waterfall.

Wind Lake (Summer)

Directions: Take Highway 26 East to Skibowl.

We decided to do this hike with the Sky Chair. If you don’t want to ride the lift you can definitely hike up to the lake. It would be an out and back hike, just follow what we did in reverse 🙂

If you decide to take the lift head into the guest services/ticket sales store and get your tickets for the UPPER bowl. You will be going to the very top of Skibowl. Tickets are $18 per person. Make sure to also get a free trail map while you are there, it’s helpful.

After you get your tickets and get on the lift you will first be heading over the Alpine Slide. Stay on the lift and pass the slide, as you continue up you will be going over some of the trails that  you will be using to hike out. When you get to the top of the lower bowl get off and follow the trail to your right, there is a sign marked for Upper Bowl. This trail is short and heads downhill crossing a bike trail and ends at the upper bowl lift.

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Get on the second lift and take it to the very top of Ski Bowl. Once you get off first head to your right and up a short hill to take in the awesome view of Mt. Hood, Ski Bowl, and Government Camp. It was a clear day so we could also see Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens! It got even better when we looked South and saw Mt. Jefferson! Head back down the hill and take Skyline Road downhill a short distance where you will see a small sign on your right marking the Wind Lake Trail. Follow this trail somewhat steeply downhill for one mile where it ends right at the lake. We did this hike on a nice summer weekend and we didn’t see a single person at the lake. The lake is pretty small but still very pretty. There are plenty of places to hangout and have lunch or just relax for a bit.

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Head back out the Wind Lake trail and back onto Skyline Road. Go right and continue following Skyline Road for about a mile, you will pass tons of views of Mt. Hood along the way. Skyline Road turns into High Road (it’s signed) which you will follow for about a quarter mile. This takes you under the lower bowl lift and to the historic warming hut. After you pass the warming hut follow the trail downhill and around a corner where you will get onto the Gnar Gnar trail. It’s a switchback heavy trail but hikers can go straight through the switchbacks. It’s steep and has a lot of loose rocks but isn’t too bad. You will be hiking right next to the Alpine Slide and there are lots of wildflowers in the grass around here. The trail ends at the base of Skibowl.

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*Warning* Almost all of the trails you will be hiking on are shared trails so you will see lots of mountain bikers and maybe a few horses. The mountain bikers are riding very fast so please keep your eyes and ears open. They come up behind you quickly and the trail intersections can be a bit sketchy.

Distance: 4.8 miles if you are taking the Sky Chair, 9.8 miles if you are hiking out and back.

Elevation: With the lift: You will lose 1,400 feet of elevation hiking from Skyline Road back to your car, but you will also have to hike out from the lake which is 507 feet. If you are hiking out and back: 1,400 feet plus the lake loss and gain.

Difficulty: Moderate

Pet Friendly: We saw dogs down at the base but none on the trail. Call before taking them.

Good For: All ages

Bathrooms: Yes by the ticket store.

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Varies. It depends when Skibowl opens for summer attractions.

Popular: Very busy down by the Alpine Slide. Lots of Mountain bikers but not many hikers.

Overall: This was a fun hike. The Sky Chair added something new and gave us great views. The lake was nice and quiet and the hike was fun.

Dee Wright Observatory (Summer)

Directions: From Sisters, Oregon get onto Highway 242 and follow it for approximately 15 miles to the McKenzie Pass summit.

From the parking area get on the paved trail that’s near the bathroom. The short trail twists it’s way uphill  through lava rock where it ends at the observatory that is also made of lava rock. Take the steps up to the roof of the observatory where you get great views of the surrounding area. It also has a peak finder that tells you the names off all the mountains you are seeing. The main mountains you will see are the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and Black Butte. There are plenty of others to see but these are the big ones.

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When you’re done on the roof head back down the stairs and go into the observatory. There are small square openings along the walls that you can look through and see each mountain. It’s kind of dark inside but it feels good on a hot day.

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Heading back down take the back paved path that ends at the other side of the observatory. You should be dropped off right at the big wooden Dee Wright Observatory sign. Next, get on the Lava River National Recreation Trail. It’s a short interpretive trail that takes you out into the lava bed and gives you more views of the surrounding area. Head back out the way you came in on this trail.

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This place is a great stop to take in all the mountains and get a good look at all the lava rock. We stop here whenever we’re doing a hike in the area, it’s always worth it!

Distance: 1 mile

Elevation: 115 Feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: Open early summer through early fall. Call before heading out to make sure the road is open.

Popular: Yes. This place can get very busy.

Overall: Great place. Looks like the moon!

Scott Lake to Benson Lake (Summer)

Directions: From Sisters, Oregon get onto OR-242 W and drive for a little over 20 miles. Take a right onto NF-260 (signed for Scott Lake) and follow it for just less than a mile (you’ll pass by Scott Lake on your right). The road ends at the Benson Lake Trailhead.

From the trailhead take the trail to the left and start heading uphill on a beargrass and flower lined trail. The trail is dusty and full of the usual trees and bushes you would see on a mountain hike in central Oregon. It’s a pretty straight forward hike, just follow the trail that heads steadily uphill the whole time.

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After just less than a mile and a half you will come to a Mt. Washington Wilderness sign. It’s just a short distance from the sign that you will start seeing Benson Lake. Continue following the trail as you skirt around the lake. When you get to another sign go left on an unmarked trail that takes you down to a good viewpoint of the lake. There are multiple viewpoints along the lake, and they all offer great views of the clear and very blue water. When you are ready to head back just follow the trail out the way you came in.

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Back at the trailhead make sure you stop by Scott Lake before you head out. It’s a bit more swampy but it’s still very pretty. If you hike around the lake you will get good a view of the Three Sisters Mountains.

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We did this hike during peak mosquito season. If you kept moving constantly on the hike it wasn’t so bad, but it was pretty awful at the lake. They were out in full force and swarmed us like crazy. We were hiking with a group this day and some of them chose to only stay at the lake for a minute because of the bugs. The mosquitos were better at Scott Lake due to the massive amount of frogs! It was crazy to see hundreds of tiny frogs jumping around in the grass 🙂

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Distance: 3 miles

Elevation: 400 Feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Almost all ages. It might be a bit difficult for young kids and older folks.

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: NW Forest Pass Required

Seasons: OR-242 closes during the winter at the snow gate. The road and trail are open from late spring to early fall. It’s best to call ahead in spring and fall to make sure the road is open.

Popular: There is a campground at Scott Lake that can become busy during the summer months. The hike to Benson Lake can be a bit busy on weekends.

Overall: Benson Lake is very pretty, just be prepared for mosquitoes in July!


Summer Hikes

Looking for a nice summer hike? Here’s a list of some of our favorites 🙂

If you’re looking to stay in Portland and the surrounding cities check out Oak Island, Mt. Talbert, or Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. They are all easy hikes that have decent shade and lots of birds.


We love hitting up all the great trails that the Mt. Hood area has to offer during the summer months. Tamanawas Falls and Umbrella Falls are great options if you are looking for a waterfall hike. For a lake hike check out Mirror Lake (and Tom, Dick, and Harry Ridge!), and Lower Twin Lake. Zigzag Canyon is also a really fun hike, go in mid to late June while the lupine is blooming!


Some great summer Gorge hikes are Upper and Lower Latourell Falls, Gillette Lake, and Strawberry Island.


Summer time is full of Kayaking as well, be sure to check out Scappoose Bay and Lost Lake!


–Happy Hiking!


Larch Mountain to Multnomah Falls (Spring)

Directions: Take I-84 East to the Corbett exit and take a left on the Old Highway. Take a right onto Larch Mountain Road (there is a big sign) and follow it for 14 miles to the trailhead. If you are doing this as a shuttle first drop a car off at the Multnomah Falls parking area (see explanation below)

This hike can be done as an out and back (14+ miles) or shuttle (just over 7 miles), leaving one car at Multnomah Falls and one at the Larch Mountain Trailhead. We chose to do a shuttle since we were hiking on a day that was forecast to be 100 degrees. If you do decide to do this hike as an out and back please be prepared for over  4,000 feet of elevation gain and over 14 miles, it’s a hefty hike. We chose to start at the Larch Mountain Trailhead and hike downhill to Multnomah Falls.

From the parking area take the trail pointing you up to Sherrard Point. You’re going somewhat steeply uphill on a paved path with lots of stairs for a little over a quarter mile. Once at the top you will come to a fenced in viewpoint where, on a clear day, you will get great views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson. As well as amazing views of the Gorge. In our opinion it’s one of the BEST viewpoints in all of the Gorge, it’s always worth the trip!

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From the viewpoint head back down to the parking area and get on the trail that runs behind the bathrooms. You are now on Larch Mountain Trail and it’s ALL downhill. This trail is quite steep (you are loing 4,000+ feet of elevation) so it can be kind of hard on your knees and legs in general. The trail is mostly dirt and very rocky. You will be in a heavily wooded area for about a mile and a half when you come to a trail junction. Follow the signs that say Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Falls Lodge. From here you wind down even farther and will eventually come to a rock slide area. The trail opens up here as you now hike on shale for a bit before reentering the woods.

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Soon you will start to hear Multnomah Creek and eventually see it. You will pass this creek a few times, some of the bridges are log and one is metal. There are a lot of waterfalls along this creek, you will probably see at least 5 unless it’s late in the summer and water levels are low. After you cross the creek and are on it’s left side you will pass by the top of Ecola Falls and soon come to Wiesendanger Falls. If the creek is low enough you can go off trail and make it to the base of this waterfall.

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Continuing back on the main trail make sure you follow the signs for Larch Mountain Trail and Multnomah Falls Lodge and every intersection. After a while you will head uphill slightly to get onto the paved trail that takes you down to Multnomah Falls. This trail is marked by it’s 11 switchbacks that end at Benson Bridge. From here it’s just one more switchback and you’re at the base of the falls and can head to your car that you left in the parking lot. The paved switchback path is always VERY busy. You really need to pack your patience on this trail with the swarms of people.

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Distance: 7.2 miles

Elevation: 4010 feet of elevation loss.

Difficulty: Moderate- it’s all downhill but it’s still a long hike and can be hard on the knees.

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: Wouldn’t recommend this for young kids or older folks. Older kids should be just fine.

Bathrooms: Yes at both parking areas

Parking Fee: $5 NW Forest Pass required at the Larch Mountain Trailhead

Seasons: Early summer through late fall. Check for road gate closures heading up to Larch Mountain.

Popular: Very popular when you get down towards Multnomah Falls. Not Bad otherwise.

Overall: This hike really has it all with mountain views, waterfalls, and massive trees. Just prepare yourself for quite the steep downhill hike! One drawback would be the massive amount of people when you get down towards Multnomah Falls.

Catherine Creek (Spring)

Directions: Drive I-84 East to Hood River and cross the Hood River bridge ($2 toll). Take a right onto Highway 14 and drive for about 4.5 miles where you will take a left onto Old Highway 8. Follow the road for about 1.5 miles until you come to the gravel parking area on the left side of the road.

The trail starts when you walk through a fence and see a small metal trail marker that says 020. You will be on a wide gravel path as you head down towards Catherine Creek. The trail continues as you come to a small bridge over the creek. After crossing the creek you will start to see the large basalt formations to your right.

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Soon you will come to an old corral and here is where you will be able to see the arch in the basalt. The trail heads uphill to a wide flat area and the start of the wildflowers. There will be two forks in the trail, stay right at both of them as you head up to the top of the basalt wall. There are numerous wildflowers that bloom at the top and you get a great view of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge as well.

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Once a the top, the trail heads downhill as you pass the top of the arch. Keep following the trail through all the wildflowers where it ends at Old Highway 8. Walk along the highway a very short distance back to your car.

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Please be sure to watch for ticks and poison oak on this hike!

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation: 500 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pet Friendly: Yes

Good For: All Ages

Bathrooms: Yes at the trailhead

Parking Fee: None

Seasons: All but best in spring.

Popular: Yes

Overall: This is a quick easy hike for wildflowers in the spring. Great views as well.