Why it’s great: This walking tour of Northeast Portland’s vertiginous Alameda neighborhood makes the most of short winter sunbursts—and shrinking daylight hours. The scenery-packed, calf-blasting route explores an intriguing network of public staircases tucked among bungalows, cottages, and stately manors. The climbs and urban vistas come courtesy of Alameda Ridge, a four-mile-long Missoula Flood–born outcrop that rises 250 feet to survey the West Hills and downtown Portland. Eleven staircases—ranging from 30 to 127 steps—connect the residential terrain, adding intermittent cardio boosts and a sense of mystery. (Several stairs, such as the ones near NE 32nd Avenue and Fremont Street, are literally hidden in the hedges.) Wildlife may be scarce, but the civilized landscape offers plenty of scenery, with Japanese maples, murals, tabby cats on the prowl, and enough gorgeous homes to keep you rubbernecking all morning.
Don’t forget: Siri. Or some other GPS-enabled assistant. The twists, turns, and hidden signs could confuse the hardiest orienteer. Pack a handy map from Metro or Laura O. Foster’s excellent Portland Stairs Book.
Post-hike watering hole: THE MOON AND SIXPENCE This British-themed den provides the antidote to rain-soaked days. Try the massive plate of fish and chips or the messy-good turkey and cranberry sandwich. Among the 20 beers on tap, you’ll find plenty of local micros, and the bottle selection goes on for days. 2014 NE 42nd Ave; 503-288-7802
Trailhead directions: Climbers can enter the loop anywhere between NE 50th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard (down the street from the post office) and the Sabin HydroPark, at NE 19th Avenue and Prescott Street. Five TriMet lines serve the neighborhood. No fees or permits required.