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Explore Portland’s ‘hidden’ stair walks step by step

Public stairways connect neighborhood streets across the City of Roses, offering views and a free alternative to gym exercise.

A set of concrete stairs in a neighborhood with flowering trees.

You’ll find many stairways on dead-end streets near Wallace Park in Northwest Portland.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

We PDXtoday editors love long hikes full of wildlife watching, heart-pumping exercise, gorgeous views — and maybe a waterfall or two for good measure. But we also know how difficult it can be to set aside the time and energy to make one happen, not to mention the anticlimactic feeling of finding 100 other cars parked at a trailhead when you arrive.

Enter: Portland’s “hidden” stair walks.

While not on quite the same level as San Francisco when it comes to hilly terrain, Portland is by no means a flat city. Natural inclines characterize its layout, from the West Hills which stand as a gateway to the Oregon Coast Range to the four extinct volcanoes in East Portland. Roads switchback their way up and down — but public stairs offer more direct routes between neighborhood streets… if you’re willing to rely on your own two feet.

Dozens of these stairways exist in Portland. (There’s even a book devoted to 142 of them.) Here are a few to explore.

Alameda Ridge and Stairs

Route type: loop
Distance: 4.4 miles
Starting point: Northeast 50th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard
Map: available

Climb or descend six different sets of stairs on this walk that winds through the Alameda neighborhood, offering lovely city and residential views, including a 1927 mansion built by lumber baron Thomas Autzen.

A long and wide set of concrete steps with metal handrails lead up a forested hillside.

The stairs at Mt. Tabor Park are ready for your best Rocky Balboa impression.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Mt. Tabor Park

Route type: out-and-back
Distance: 0.2 miles
Starting point: Southeast 69th Avenue and Park Drive
Map: available

Take the shortest route to the top of this extinct volcanic cinder cone by climbing two wide sets of stairs with a combined 413 steps between them. A few more small staircases are waiting for you near the top.

NW Stairs and Trails Loop Walk

Route type: loop
Distance: 3.3 miles
Starting point: Wallace Park
Map: available

Motivated hikers can treat this as a long warm-up before kicking off a longer journey into Forest Park, or simply enjoy it for the mix of neighborhood views and brief introductions to the Lower Macleay and Wildwood trails.