There are still several places in Portland Heights that have scenic views of Portland, aside from SW Upper Hall. Some of them are lots that are for sale, others are gaps between the buildings, a few of them are houses under construction, and one or two of them are public or private staircases that create a gap.
Because of the ongoing development in this area, exact locations of these scenic view spots are not permanent - except for several of the public staircases, which will probably have good views for a long time to come.
The best thing to do is just explore the neighborhood and see what you can find. It isn't a large area. The area you need to cover is also quite a bit smaller if you stay only on those streets that are on the hills rather than on the flat area around SW 16th & Spring Street - which will obviously not have any scenic overlook points.
One staircase with the best view I have found is on Vista Avenue slightly south from the Vista Avenue bridge, about 150 feet north of the intersection with SW Montgomery Drive. Approximate address is below
This tree on SW Prospect Drive is just one of the examples of how the steep hills, narrow roads, old neighborhoods and forested hillsides all combine to create a unique neighborhood.
Part of the road has been carved out of the side of the tree, but the tree has gown around the cutout, creating a very unique shape - creating a living retaining wall in some ways.
From its inception, Portland Heights has been very much an "uptown" section of Portland.
While a number of the interesting and spectacular Victorian era houses have been demolished in order to construct newer homes and appartments, a number of those buildings do remain.
Furthermore, while some of the new buildings are fairly plain structures, there are also quite a number of them that are very unique. After all, the people who live in this part of town have enough money to hire their own architect(s) to design a home that is unique.
Of course, in order to put a home here it is usually necessary to build something unique anyway. The shape of the hillside, and the odd shaped lots that are caused by roads that run at all different angles, and the spectacular views that are possible given good house design, pretty much require houses that are one-of-a-kind.
Thus, exploring the neighborhood on foot is an interesting way of exploring this old and wealthy part of Portland.
For one thing, a unique feature of this restaurant is that it exists: it is the only restaurant in the area known as "Portland Heights" proper, and one of the very few in the West Hills period. The area is pretty much expensive residential real estate, and very few commercial properties exist in the area. The building in question houses an antiques store, a real estate office featuring the local high-end houses, and this restaurant.
The restaurant has been operating in this place for some 20 years. It serves beer and wine, and yet also has a children's menu and crayons are available. It is the local singles bar, neighborhood cafe, business meeting center, mother and child outing spot (half of the people in the restaurant seem to be mothers with children but father was away), and friends and family get watering hole. It is the only place in the area, and so it must serve many different functions for everyone in the neighborhood. It sounds strange maybe, but it works.
Outdoor seating is available along Spring Street, which is nice as it is much less busy than Vista Avenue.
Interior decorations include historic photos of Portland and surrounding areas (including Mt. Hood) and a unique early-days ceiling fan.
PLEASE NOTE it is not easy to find this place coming up the hill from Portland. After going over the Vista Avenue bridge, you will wind around for a while, and then hit a straight section of road that passes by several side streets. The Vista Spring Cafe is at the end of this straight section. If you get to the traffic light (there is only one on Vista south of the Vista Avenue bridge) you will want to turn onto a side street at that location, as the next intersection is Spring Street, and it is very difficult to turn onto it from Vista due to the shape of the curves.
Favorite Dish: All of the food is made to order. That may mean slow service, but you don't have to worry about stuff having a stale taste. Supposedly, they make every attempt to make sure fresh local ingredients are used whenever and wherever possible, but every restaurant in Portland makes that claim these days.
If you are with people, go for the Pizza. They do not sell it by the slice (remember, everything here is freshly made to order) so you pretty much have to have more than one of you to make it worthwhile. Pizza here has a very strong reputation.
If you are not in a group, I suggest the Oregon Blue Cheese Burger.
All burger meats may have a Gardenburger patty substituted at no additional charge.
TriMet bus route # 51 is the only public transit route that directly serves this part of the Portland area. This bus route operates weekdays and Saturdays, but not very often. Service ends fairly early in the evening as well, so be very careful of the timetable and what time it is.
The bus service starts in downtown Portland and crosses the transit mall on the same streets where the very popular bus route #15 runs (if you can't find anyone who knows where the #51 stops, ask about the #15 and that might get you farther). Parts of this route are on SW Washingtong Street, and later runs parallel to MAX on SW Morrison Street. Read the bus stop signs and make sure you are going the right direction.
The bus route alternates between serving Patton Road and Council Crest park, but both routes pass through the central part of the area known as "Portland Heights". If you get off at SW Vista Avenue and Spring Street (right next to the Vistaspring Café) you will be able to explore much of this neighborhood while walking downhill. This may be better than driving into the neighborhood and parking your car, since wherever you park you will have to return to it and therefore spend some time walking up hill - there is nothing flat in this part of Portland.
You will find that there are some things you see on the bus that you will not see by driving this route, because the bus sits much higher than an automobile. You are able to see over fences, guard rails, the tops of trees, and other items that obstruct the view from automobiles.
Photo 1 shows a view of the Portland skyline as seen from bus route #51 as it passes over the Vista Avenue bridge.
UPDATE: TriMet has announced that bus route #51 will cease operating on Saturdays starting in September of 2009.
Portland heights is built on a series of steep hills overlooking downtown Portland. Many of these are too steep to built a road, except as a very narrow ledge cut across the face of the hill.
Thus, Portland Heights and the sidewalks that connect it with downtown Portland are filled with staircases of all manner of shapes and sizes. These serve as a vital transportation link within Portland Heights and connecting it with the rest of Portland.
Some of these staircases are elaborate affairs, while others are very simple wood slat affairs. Wood can become slippery when wet, and the concrete can crack over the long decades these staircases have been in use. Therefore, be careful. Ifyou fall, you may have a very very very long way to fall before you come to a stop.
In a number of areas in Portland Heights, the formerly good views have been obstructed by various construction. This includes big new houses that obstruct views from streets and older houses. It also includes big new fences and walls to keep houses private, but also obstruct the views from the sidewalks and streets.
There is one spot on SW Elizabeth Avenue where someone was thoughtful enough to put diagonal slats in a fence so that privacy could be maintained in some directions, but still allows those on the sidewalk to take a look of the view through the fence.
The slots in the fence aren't entirely obvious, but it is there. The best way to see it is to be one of the people walking through the neighborhood. The view through the fence depends a lot on the weather, however.