Having heard of Portland’s similarities to Austin (music scene, laid back feel, open-minded residents, etc.), we were ready to experience a taste of home.
Staying in downtown Portland wasn’t feasible, in either dollars or hotel points. Instead, we used points to stay near the Portland International Airport and used Portland’s MAX Light Rail system to get around. The Red Line stopped directly in front of our hotel; from there it was a straight shot into the heart of Portland, so the Escape Mobile remained parked for most of our stay!
Portland’s most notable similarity to Austin is its river, the Willamette, which cuts through the city’s center.
Both banks of the Willamette River are aligned with businesses, hot spots, public parks, gathering spaces, and walking/jogging/biking paths.
Carrying our bikes onto the Red Line, we stopped west of the river to begin a clockwise 11-mile waterfront ride. The Sellwood Bridge Loop led us alongside downtown and across the iconic Steel Bridge, a double-decker vertical-lift bridge completed in 1912.
Biking along the Willamette was a great way to explore the city and spot wildlife.
Trey was thrilled at the site of a decommissioned naval submarine, the USS Blueback (SS-581)…
and we both loved the row of float houses near Sellwood Bridge!
Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge begins about twenty miles east of Portland and is accessible via U.S. Highway 30, also known as the Historic Columbia River Highway. The first must stop is Vista House…
an overlook and information center completed in 1918 located on Crown Point, one of the gorge’s highest points. Vista House offers great panoramas of the gorge, river valley and surrounding hills.
We were surprised to see windsurfers whisking atop the Columbia River, but the area below Crown Point is a popular spot for the sport.
Waterfalls dropping from rocky cliffs dot the riverbank as you head east into the gorge. Most, including Latourell Falls and Shepperd’s Dell, are either visible from the highway or a short hike.
Bridal Veil was our favorite. The trail crosses a creek that may deter some from completing the half-mile trek, but keep going. The two-tiered waterfall is definitely worth it!
We climbed atop a huge boulder and basked in the sun while red and yellow leaves rained down upon us.
Multnomah Falls, photographers’ favorite, was packed and we had to nudge our way across Benson Bridge to access the trail to the top of the falls.
The roundtrip 2.2 mile hike climbs 700 feet via eleven switchbacks. Although it’s labeled as moderate, wear hiking boots or tennis shoes and allow time for breath breaks if you’re not in good shape.
The 4.8 mile loop trail we’d planned to take from the top of Maltnomah Falls over to Wahkeena Falls was closed, so it was down the switchbacks to the car for a backtrack drive west.
Trey hopped over the concrete barrier, across mossy rocks, and balanced on the creek’s ledge to get the above shot.
Portland Night Life
While visiting downtown for dinner the evening of our arrival, we were surprised to find Portland streets subdued with only a few people out and about. We figured that was because it was a Thursday. The next evening, and after a long day of bicycling, we explored the Pearl District, an area described as “buzzing” with loads of unique dining options. While there were a few more folks walking around the Pearl District, there was neither buzz nor music. This was consistent throughout our stay.
Portland lacked Austin’s vibe, that definable energy evident upon deboarding at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where one is met with local eats and live music.
Although the weather was gorgeous, maybe our visit coincided with Portland’s downtime, or we turned down the wrong street and missed music venues. I don’t know.
The most excitement we observed were the long, munchie lines outside of Voodoo Doughnuts. Maybe that’s why all the good people of Portland were so quiet and laidback?
On the Red Line from the airport, there’s a five-second window where Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier can all be viewed.
You need a clear day and good neck flexibility; we managed it once.
A local informed us of another vantage point in town where there’s time to appreciate the views and take photographs. In the late afternoon and on our way out of town, we stopped by Pittock Mansion, a restored chateau built in the early 1900’s by one of Portland’s legacy families.
We arrived too late to tour the home, but enjoyed strolling the magnificent grounds and the views of Portland.
Unfortunately, clouds and haze prevented us from seeing any mountains before it was time to hit the road again.
Destinations Known: Coos Bay for the night, then into the Redwood Forest!