"Portland's First "Uptown" in a Literal Sense" Portland Heights by glabah

Portland Heights Travel Guide: 8 reviews and 26 photos

Great Views, Hard Winter

Portland Heights was established as a community in Portland in the 1880s, when the first cable car line ran up the hill to this area. The area had (and in some places still has) great views but until the coming of the cable car the area was inaccessible, particularly in winter as the steep, wet roads became extremely slippery for horses and any cart or carriage they were trying to pull.

By the early 1900s, the cable car lines had been eliminated as new electric streetcars came on the scene.

Even today, during ice storms, some of the roads in this area become impossible to use.

Some of the houses in the area are still old, beautiful mansions from the early years of Portland. However, there are fewer and fewer of them every year as more of them are replaced with luxury condominiums and appartments, or new ultra-modern homes that lack the personality of the 120 year old veterans of the neighborhood. Yet, the neighborhood remains interesting because many of the houses have to be unique due to the topography of the area. Exploring this area on foot can be an interesting experience.

The area is famous for its views of downtown Portland and Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens (and sometimes Mt. Adams from some locations). However, the views that once gave Vista Avenue its name have now become filled up with homes with great views and the Scenic Drive through the west hills no longer applies for the most part along the length of this road. There are still a few scenic vistas to be found in the area, but they are not easy to find at all. SW Upper Hall is one of the places that still has great views, particularly on clear days.

The area really is "uptown" in a literal sense: TriMet's bus route #51 passes through Portland Heights on its way to Council Crest, and eventually climbs over 1,000 feet (300 meters).

A Great Place to Walk if you Don't Mind Hills

The area is filled with big old trees, narrow sidewalks, and due to the hills many residential streets don't go through to anywhere in particular.

Thus, this is a great place to walk, as long as you don't mind hills or having to take the stairs to get where you need to go.

You can explore places that have great views of the city, quiet residential streets, and take a look at some of the beautiful old houses that are here. Some of the more modern houses are interensting as well.

As a very upscale residential neighborhood, it should not be too surprising that there are few restaurants and no hotels directly in the Portland Heights neighborhood.

There are a few hotels nearby, and there are a very few restaurants and other types of businesses.

With these great views and the proximity to downtown Portland, if you can find someone willing to let you stay in their house or appartment this would be a great opportunity, however. Two warnings: 1) not in the depths of winter when the stairs and roads are likely to have ice 2) public transportation is quite limited - though walking to downtown Portland or MAX or a frequent bus route is not difficult, walking back up the hill may be a different story!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Neat old homes, still a few great views of Portland available
  • Cons:Lots of money, crazy drivers, hills impossible when ice on roads
  • In a nutshell:Great place to visit if you like to explore interesting old neighborhoods
  • Last visit to Portland Heights: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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