With summer in full swing, nearly every day ends with a stunning swirl of purple and pink lighting up the sky as the sun sets behind the West Hills. And given its close connection to nature, it’s no surprise there are more than a few places to catch the summertime sunsets.
We’ve rounded up five of the best place to see the sunset, and each offers an experience unique to the Rose City (or the surrounding region). The 4T Trail, for instance, offers two vistas for enjoying the sunset, and Mount Tabor affords hikers the chance to enjoy the sights from on a dormant volcano.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to bring a flashlight and exercise caution on the way back to your car.
1. The 4T Trail
The 4 T’s that make up the 4T Trail stand for trail, tram, trolley (as in the Portland Streetcar), and train (as in MAX light rail). The different experiences combine to make a nine-mile loop that gives hikers a look at the tight-knit relationship between Portland’s urban core and nearby outdoor attractions. It also offers some of the most underrated sunset views in the city.
The 4T Trail passes through Council Crest, the highest point in the city, which offers views of North and Northeast Portland, as well as Mount Hood. The views of Mount Hood are fine enough, but the real treats on Council Crest are the unencumbered views of the rapidly-changing sky over the city.
The trail leads to Oregon Health & Science University and the upper terminal of the Portland Aerial Tram. The platform provides views of downtown Portland, the Central Industrial Eastside, and Mount Tabor, with Mount Hood lording above it all. Sure, the sun sets in the west while the terminal provides views to the east, but Mount Hood is often awash in deep purples and pinks, creating an almost ethereal glow.
(Take note: The tram closes at 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, though it only runs on Sunday between mid-May and September.)
2. Neahkahnie Mountain
Hikers who find themselves on the North Coast this summer could find worst places to enjoy the sunset than from the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain . The rock scramble near the mountaintop affords hikers views of Manzanita, Nehalem Bay, the mountainous Oregon Coast Range, and (of course) the Pacific Ocean. The ocean views are somewhat blocked by the mountain, but the viewpoint is nevertheless high enough up to appreciate the grandeur and beauty of the setting sun.
There are two trailheads that lead to the summit—one from the north, one from the south—but only the southernmost trail (with substantially less elevation gain and a much shorter distance) is recommended for hiking at dusk. (Even then, hikers should come equipped with flashlights.)
3. Powell Butte Nature Park
The 600-acre Powell Butte Nature Park sits atop an extinct volcano and offers beautiful sunset views for comparatively little effort. Several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails with a fair grade make it an ideal destination for a quick (and safe) jaunt at sunset.
Powell Butte rewards the quick trip with pristine views of both Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, as well as the surrounding forest. And despite its proximity to Portland, Powell Butte feels removed from the city and its accompanying noise pollution.
(Take note: The park’s hours vary with each season, so check the official park website for the latest closing times.)
4. Skidmore Bluffs
There’s not much to see most of the day at the Skidmore Bluffs (along North Greeley Avenue, just south of North Going Street), which overlook industrial rail yards, the Willamette River, and downtown Portland.
But the park becomes crowded by sunset as onlookers settle in to watch the setting sun behind the Willamette River and West Hills. It’s a pristine view that doesn’t require any effort besides a quick walk from the car.
5. Mount Tabor
Portland’s Mount Tabor , a volcanic cinder cone, provides of miles of moderately steep hiking trails (not to mention adequate vehicle access until 10 p.m.), making its sunset view an ideal reward for an evening stroll. Numerous benches provide perfect viewpoints to watch the sunset over central Portland and behind the West Hills.