Triple Fall, Columbia River Gorge
A funny truth about living in Portland: We’ve got waterfalls that we barely notice and never bother to name, which, in other parts of the country, would get a million visitors every year. This 4.5-mile loop, with free parking, will show you five of the best waterfalls for minimal effort. Start from Horsetail Falls, a 176-foot roadside gusher, and climb above Ponytail Falls, which erupts from a narrow crevice 75 feet high. Just about 65-foot Oneonta Falls, follow the creek through old-growth forest to the 85-foot Triple Falls, where Oneonta Creek splits in three.
Lookout Mountain, Mt. Hood National Forest
Every Portlander has a favorite view of the city’s 11,239-foot backdrop, Mt. Hood. For our money, the best place to see Oregon’s highest peak is from the top of Lookout Mountain, where you’ll also see Mt. Rainier, the Three Sisters, the central Oregon desert, and the Columbia River. And the 9.6-mile out-and-back there is a stunner. From OR 35, switchback through a young forest to Gumjuwac Saddle and pick up the Divide Trail, which takes you from wet, west-facing forest to drier, eastern meadows. Continue up, with Mt. Hood, your constant companion, to the old fire lookout spot at Lookout’s 6,525-foot summit. Got more time? Take the 2.2-mile side loop to High Prairie, a flowery wonderland whose multi-colored show peaks in August with an explosion of daisies, lupine, arnica, and paintbrush.
Serene Lake Trail, Roaring River Wilderness
Six lakes and views of five Cascade volcanoes over 12.6 miles highlight all the best of the area in a single night. Take the Shellrock Lake Trail to Frazier Turnaround, then drop down to junctions for the three Rock Lakes. Upper is the prettiest and most peaceful to stop for a rest, while Middle is the best for a quick dip, especially into deep holes from rocks along the shore. Continue on to Serene Lake (mile 5) and camp at the far end, past a shoreline boulder that’s perched 10 feet above a deep, inviting pool. The next morning, pass Cache Meadow and close the loop back to Frazier.