Way back before I lived in Portland, I remember my aunt (who did live here) telling me how she loved to explore the city’s “secret stairways.” It stands to reason that a city flanked by hills would have its share of public staircases, but they really are a bit of a secret, even to many locals.
Recently, I’ve become familiar with several of these steep gems, thanks to a group of friends who do weekly stair runs around town. In addition to a great workout, most of these stairs provide wonderful views. Our top spots are the Summit stairs in Northwest Portland (where you can see the Fremont Bridge); the 12th Avenue stairs near Portland State University (with a great perspective of downtown, the river and the Cascade Mountains); and the 282 wide, tree-shaded steps of Mt. Tabor Park. At the top of the Tabor stairs, take a loop around the summit and enjoy the view of downtown and the West Hills.
Ready to explore? This website is a fantastic resource, with a map of all the city’s stairs, along with stats like number of steps and elevation gain. There’s also a pocket-sized guide to the city’s 196 (!) public staircases: The Portland Stairs Book, by Laura O. Foster.
Whether you prefer to sweat or stroll, Portland’s staircases are worth seeking out. Happy climbing!