If you’re a Portland veteran, you may think you’ve seen it all: the Portland Oregon sign, the Unipiper, Powells Books, the million bridges in the downtown area, etc. However, this weird, glorious city has a few sights hidden up its sleeve for those urban adventurers and aspiring photographers worthy of its wiles. Unless you’ve seen all of the following five Portland viewpoints in-person, you haven’t seen this unique city at all.
1. Pittock Mansion
The first one’s easy. It’s highly tourist-friendly and is a great place to learn significant Portland history (and tour a rad century-old mansion). Despite it’s close proximity to downtown, the vastness of the surrounding Forest Park makes it easy to forget that the historic landmark is sitting right next door to the trendy Alphabet District. Hike or drive up here, snap a pic, tour the grounds, and then grab a bite to eat along NW 23rd right below. (Pro tip: The view is even more beautiful at night.)
2. Mt. Tabor
You owe it to yourself to check out all of the places on this list at night. And the above picture from the summit of Mt. Tabor is one of the many reasons why. Portland might be the largest city in Oregon, but as far as big cities go, it’s pretty petite. You’re more or less looking at the entire downtown area from the top of a volcano – yes, you read that right: “volcano.” Don’t worry, it’s dormant (for now).
3. Vista Bridge
Overlooking the quiet and almost quaint neighborhood of Goose Hollow in SW Portland is the final entry in our list – the unobtrusive little Vista Bridge. Also known as the Vista Avenue Viaduct, this 200 foot stone crossing is a quiet place to get away from the hubbub of downtown while still remaining intimate with the lush beauty of Portland. [Note that it has had a sad history since its completion in 1926 as it has seen over a dozen suicide attempts – a fact that can’t be ignored no matter how lovely a view the modest bridge provides. Whether or not this deters you, we would be remiss in not paying tribute to the memories of those who have passed.]
4. Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade & Tom McCall Waterfront Park
One great feature of downtown Portland is the Willamette River running through it. This is why I’ve combined two Portland areas into one entry on this list. There’s a snap-worthy shot every three feet along the river and with a route that’s roughly 2.5 miles long, that’s a lot of photo opps. The waterfront loop takes you around the Hawthorne Bridge to the Steel Bridge and dips you down to water level, giving you a variety of vantage points across the route. Beware of cyclists – do not, I repeat, do not get in their way. You’ve been warned. (Pro tip: Walk down to the small dock just south of the Hawthorne Bridge and adjacent to OMSI. It’s a pleasant place to just sit and look across the length of the waterfront area.)
5. Portland Aerial Tram
Completing construction in 2006, the tram was a source of controversy in terms of government use of taxpayer dollars. What isn’t controversial is the magnificence of the view from that metal box 3,000 feet above the ground. The tram is mostly used by students and staff of OHSU, the scientific beacon on the hill. Take advantage of the fact that it’s only free going down. Keep your camera at the ready; hike up to the station above and enjoy the breathtaking four minute ride down. (Pro tip: Be sure to look North toward the city and South toward the newest addition to Portland’s bridge obsession, the Tillikum Crossing.)
And there you have it. You now have no excuse to not have a gigabyte’s worth of photos to plaster on your Facebook of these five great Portland viewpoints. Did we miss one or two or three? If you have a scenic viewpoint that we overlooked, share that knowledge in the comments!