For just over 5 years, I lived in the beautiful city of Portland, OR. I was gifted my first camera 2.5 years ago and since then, I have chased countless sunrises and sunsets throughout the area. Today, I’d like to take a few moments to share my 5 Favorite Sunrise Locations near Portland, OR. Some of these locations are of no surprise but others may be a bit different than the norm! I will try to include an image I capture from each location so you believe me when I say it’s a beautiful spot!
- OHSU Aerial Tram - As a former medical student, I often found myself commuting to and from work around sunrise time. If possible, and definitely if Skyfire TPE predicted a good sunrise, I would try to leave the house a bit earlier to spend a few moments photographing before heading into work. The Aerial Tram is an iconic aspect of the OHSU campus and the best view is from the top (so ride the tram up or drive to the OHSU Marquam Hill campus). From this vantage point, on a clear day you can easily see Mt. Hood and Mt. Saint Helens as they tower behind the PDX cityscape. This is a location at which there are many compositions possible – so get creative! The tram operates as early as 530am so you should be able to get to this spot no matter the time of year!
- Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint- This location should come as no surprise if you’re from the Portland area! Located just a half hour outside of the city is the beautiful Columbia River Gorge jam packed with thousands of possible compositions incorporating vast views, waterfalls, woodland ‘scapes, and much more! Naturally, one of my favorite sunrise spots HAD to be in the Gorge area and that would be the Women’s Forum. The vantage point has an unobstructed view of the iconic Vista House at Crowne Point. Although the compositions from this location can seem a bit lacking, the clouds, light, and seasons make for a large number of possible images! My absolute favorite thing to do is use my Photo Pills app and the built in Augmented Reality to determine where along the horizon the sun will appear and then set up my composition accordingly. Getting here is quite easy but will require a car – just drive along HWY 84 and take the exit for Vista House and Crowne Point!
Jonsrud View Point - this is another iconic sunrise spot among Portland natives located just outside Sandy, OR. Unfortunately, like the Women’s Forum, this is another location that will require the use of a car. The drive from Downtown PDX is approximately 45 minutes but keep in mind the traffic to return back to Portland may be quite a bit during rush hour. From this view point, you can usually see an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood in all of it’s glory. On some days, however, the mountain can be a bit shy. Much like above, this spot is limited in compositions but thankfully the light, clouds, seasons, etc will make a joy to shoot whenever you make it! Additionally, if you happen to catch the area during a foggy morning, the trees are just a dream to photograph! There a few different ways to get to this spot but it is fairly straightforward! Full disclosure – I have come to this spot multiple times and have only had a couple of good sunrises! Definitely recommend planning using Skyfire TPE and Photo Pills before making the trek!
St. John's Bridge - Portland may as well be nicknamed the City of Bridges given that there are SO many of them! Among the many bridges, St. John’s is, without a doubt, my favorite and the most iconic of the bunch. As for sunrise, this bridge offers MANY compositions. You can stand on the street and shoot car light trails (using a long exposure), or shoot photos of Mt. Hood, or shoot unique photos of the bridge, or even go to the next level and find a way to incorporate St. John’s Bridge WITH Mt. Hood (I’ll let you figure out where the spots are for this). In the end, there are just so many different options and you’ll likely also be one of the only photographs there! Getting there is very easy – just drive along HWY 30 leading out from Downtown Portland. You should be there from the city in about 20 minutes.
Pittock Mansion: This spot is another iconic option but be sure to check the hours! In the summer time, this spot is not technically open… technically. This location offers an absolutely stunning view of the city of Portland with Mt. Hood in the background. There is no other location that offers such a vantage or composition. All that being said – I’m sure you can imagine just how packed this location can be. On a day with good weather and clouds, there can be upwards of 30+ photographers here ready to go! Thus, get here early. As an added bonus, during the winter, you can get some unique shots of the city covered in fog with Mt. Hood in the background. I have yet to get a great shot from this spot since every time I get up there – Mt. Hood decides to be shy!
Overall, these are my 5 favorite locations but not even close to an all encompassing list! There are probably a half a dozen spots I had to leave off the list which made determining a top 5 quite difficult! I am confident you’ll be able to find other spots and soon have your own Top 5!