Moving near Portland, Oregon? Check out these 7 County Options.

oregon county map

When looking for a new home near a city center like Portland, Oregon, how much do you consider the county where the property is located when making your decision? Counties have important features and facets that can impact quality of life, and their boundaries are not always clear. County policies and practices trickle down to suburban cities and towns, then to individual neighborhoods. Portland is located in Multnomah County, but Multnomah reaches beyond the confines of the city’s boundaries.

Also, Portland’s tri-county area consists of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties, Oregon’s three most populated, with 1,826,725 total residents, according to Census.gov‘s 2021 report. Multnomah County makes up 803,377 of that number, with Washington County at 600,811 and Clackamas County at 422,537.

We explored the tri-county area and other surrounding Oregon counties within a 70-mile radius. Keep reading to see what we discovered.

But first, let’s look at why counties matter and how you can find essential information about each.

Why do Counties Matter?

When people decide to move to a new locale, they’re usually concerned with the city alone. But learning more about the county you’ll be living in is just as important. Why? Because counties can own, operate, and invest in many of the necessities for quality of life, like roads, hospitals, bridges, parks, airports, utilities, police departments, jails, and courts. A county can hold a lot of sway over a community’s support systems. Property and business taxes can also vary significantly.

Here are some ways to learn more about Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties.

Oregon County Tools and Resources

To help make your exploration of Oregon counties surrounding Portland easier, we found these handy tools to give you answers to some of your questions.

County Property Tax Rates

Remember that counties can have a multitude of zones used to calculate property taxes, depending on each area’s desirability. Property taxes can also have bonds attached to them, making exact comparisons difficult. A big-picture view of the tri-county area tells us that Clackamas County generally has lower property taxes with Washington County next, and Multnomah County being the highest.

If property tax is high on your list of concerns, check out these free Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah Counties guides and calculators.

County Locator Map

Knowing the county location of the property you’re interested in is a good thing to know sooner than later. The last thing you want is to have your heart set on a home only to discover that it falls in a county with policies and tax rates you want to avoid.

To help with this, PDX Maps has this handy County Boundaries Map. Simply enter the address of the property in the search bar in the upper right-hand corner of the map. When you know the appropriate county, you can then visit their website to learn about what the county is involved in locally, its latest news, and more.

Your Real Estate Agent

Overlapping county jurisdictions in a large metro like Portland can create confusion around rules and regulations, as well as quality of life factors. We’re happy to share our knowledge about Portland and surrounding cities and counties so you can make a well-informed decision about where you want to call home.

1. Multnomah County

Multnomah County consists of all of Portland proper and also extends far to the east, nearly all the way to Mt. Hood. Other cities, towns, and municipalities located within Multnomah County lines are Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale, Wood Village, and Maywood Park.

Multnomah County has the distinction of being home to Downtown Portland, Portland International Airport, and large sections of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

Here’s a closer look at what Multnomah County has to offer.

Transportation: Highlight

The Trimet transit system consists of the MAX Light Rail system and the bus system. The MAX provides transportation between Portland’s City Center, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Clackamas, Gresham, Milwaukie, N/NE Portland, and Portland International Airport. Trains run every fifteen minutes or less, with most lines running from 4:00am to midnight, seven days a week. The bus system transports people within the city and to more far-flung surrounding towns like Estacada and Forest Grove, with some lines running up to 20 hours per day. Portland’s Streetcar system is separate from Trimet and operates from early morning to late at night, running north to south on Portland’s west side, while the A and B loops cross the river to the city’s close-in NE and SE quadrants.

Food Culture: Highlight

Portland has earned itself the ranking of one of the top ten best foodie cities in the U.S., and it’s no surprise, given the Rose City’s penchant for quality food, whether at high-end, award-winning restaurants, farmers markets, or food carts.

Crime: Lowlight

Portland is a sizable city and comprises much of the county, which translates to Multnomah County having higher crime rates than other nearby counties. We’ve seen a rise in crime here over recent years, but this doesn’t mean the city is unsafe. Neighborhoods in Portland’s West Hills continue to see lower crime rates, as do those in parts of southwest Portland and pockets in SE—like Eastmoreland and Laurelhurst, northeast Portland—like Beaumont-Wilshire and Sabin, and N Portland—like University Park and Cathedral Park.

2. Washington County

Just to the west of Multnomah County lies Washington County, home to the following communities: Hillsboro, Tigard, Beaverton, Forest Grove, Sherwood, Aloha, Cornelius, North Plains, Banks, King City, Cedar Hills, Metzger, Durham, Raleigh Hills, Laurelwood, West Slope, Westhaven-Sylvan, Garden Home-Whitford, Dilley, Timber, and Mulloy.

Transportation: Highlight

While the county doesn’t have its own mass transit system, many of the towns and cities within its boundaries are well-served by Multnomah County’s Trimet system and Clackamas County’s SMART (South Metro Area Regional Transit) system. Washington County is currently working to create even more systems to fill in gaps to outlying communities, those in residential areas to connect with employers and already-existing mass transit options, and door-to-door transit options.

Diversity: Highlight

Based on data from Census.gov, Washington County remains Oregon’s most diverse. The county’s population passed the 600 mark in 2020, and as of July 2021, 600,811 people call Washington County home. The non-Hispanic white population dropped from 69.7% to 60.8%, with the Hispanic and Asian populations growing from 15.7% to 17.9% and 8.6% to 11.4%, respectively.

Top Job Opportunities at World-Renowned Companies: Highlight

Washington County is home to the global Nike headquarters and multiple Intel Campuses. Other highly recognized employers include Columbia Sportswear, Kaiser Permanente, Epson, Adobe, and more.

3. Clackamas County

Just south of Multnomah County, is Clackamas County, serving the following towns and cities: Clackamas, Oregon City, Happy Valley, Milwaukie, Canby, Sandy, Estacada, Gladstone, West Linn, Molalla, Damascus, Boring, Oak Grove, Beaver Creek, Government Camp, Molino, Mt. Hood Village, Stafford, Barlow, Oatfield, Johnson City, and Jennings Lodge.

Mt. Hood / Government Camp: Highlight

Clackamas County is blessed with the presence of majestic Mt. Hood, where you’ll find ski-resorts, vacation cabin rentals, shopping, and dining, all a short drive from Portland’s amenities. In nearby Government Camp you’ll find more skiing and vacation rentals, as well as a variety of year-round outdoor activities.

Public Schools and Downtown Areas: Highlight

Located within Clackamas County boundaries, Lake Oswego and West Linn have some of the country’s highest-rated public schools. For award-winning shopping and dining, the quaint downtown districts in both Oregon City and Lake Oswego have much to offer.

Real Estate and Property Taxes: Lowlight

Living in such a beautiful place with access to so many life-enhancing amenities can mean higher prices when it comes to real estate and property taxes. Clackamas County is no exception. According to rockethomes.com, Clackamas County’s median sold price is $589,967, close to the same prices as Portland city center.

4. Columbia County

With a population of 53,074, Columbia County is sixty miles from Downtown Portland with its borders partially consisting of 62 miles of Columbia River shoreline. The county serves the towns of Scappoose, St. Helens, Rainier, Columbia City, Clatskanie, Vernonia, Warren, Deer Island, Prescott, and Birkenfield.

Outdoor Activities and Marine Parks: Highlight

Thanks to Columbia County’s close proximity to water, residents here enjoy easy access to popular boating and fishing grounds, as well as windsurfing. The county is also home to the only two marine parks in Oregon. J.J. Collins Memorial Marine Park is a 23-acre island located on the Multnomah Channel, only accessible by boat, offering a 1.5-mile nature trail, camping, and outstanding birding. Sand Island is on the Columbia River and covers 32 acres, with lots of camping and kayaking. A former mill pond, Vernonia Lake was converted into a city park—another sought after natural feature of the county—taking up 45 acres and providing residents and visitors with prime camping, fishing, and birdwatching.

Sauvie Island: Highlight

Columbia and Multnomah Counties share the much-coveted Sauvie Island, land of farms, lakes, beaches, and wildlife areas. Throughout the year, you’ll find people reveling in nature’s bounty on the island with hiking, swimming, sun bathing, boating, camping, and gathering luscious produce from one of the many U-pick farms.

Fluctuating Revenue Sources: Highlight / Lowlight

Columbia County has four main industries that bring revenue to the area: agriculture, lumber, fishing, and tourism. Each one can be affected by uncontrollable outside influences, like the weather. And pandemics. The latter deeply affected Columbia County’s tourism revenue in 2020 and 2021, and the former can hold sway over agriculture. However, due to above-average precipitation in 2022, wheat crops in the area are flourishing. The lumber industry in the county is also currently going strong. At least for now.

5. Yamhill County

Yamhill County has a population of 108,239 and is comprised of several small towns—Yamhill, McMinville, Carlton, Newberg, Sheriden, Dayton, Dundee, Amity, and Lafayette—nestled in lush rolling hills of Yamhill Valley wine country.

Overabundance of Wineries and Vineyards: Highlight

If you love wine, you might love living in Yamhill County. And if you set out to visit all the county’s wineries and vineyards within a year’s time, you’d have to quit your day job. Within its 718 square mile area, you’ll find 80 wineries and over 200 vineyards. This translates to Yamhill County being the largest concentration of wine producers and winegrowers compared to all other counties in Oregon.

Excess of Small-Town Charm with a Side of Adventure: Highlight

Yamhill County is blessed with several towns with thriving downtown areas that offer quality dining establishments serving a variety of delicious cuisine, and of course, wine. McMinnville, Dundee, Carlton, and Dayton are all excellent spots to spend a Sunday and enjoy the unique vibe of each of these lovely communities. Then there’s Newberg, voted #4 by USA Today’s 10 Best Small Town Food Scene for 2022 and known as the Gateway to Oregon’s Wine Country. When you’ve had your fill of shopping, food, and wine, decide which adventure you’ll do first: more wine tasting—but by helicopter or horseback, a hot air balloon ride, or an afternoon with the family at Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.

Mass Transit: Highlight

One thing than can ease the stresses of life is to be able to get where you need to go, whether it’s for work, shopping, or socializing. Yamhill County recently celebrated ten years of mass transit success, and while their system doesn’t run all the way to Portland, it does allow you to make a connection in Hillsboro to hop on a Trimet bus. Yamhill County Transit also runs to McMinville, West Salem, Grand Ronde, and Tigard. They also offer para-transit services for those with ADA eligibility.

6. Tillamook County

Tillamook County has 27,748 residents spread across the towns of Tillamook, Pacific City, Garibaldi, Rockaway Beach, Bay City, Manzanita, Nehalem, Oceanside, Netarts, Wheeler, Cape Meares, Neskowin, Cloverdale, Hebo, and Beaver. While many of these towns are small and out-of-the-way, some reach all the way to the coast and offer a sublime experience of beautiful beaches, protected parks, and thick, lush forests. In fact, 44% of Tillamook County is owned by the State of Oregon in Siuslaw National Forest. The county is also home to four wildlife refuges: Cape Meares, Nestucca Bay, Oregon Islands, and Three Arch Rocks.

Health and Wellness are Top Priorities: Highlight

Tillamook County Wellness (TCW) is a coalition led by local friends, families, and organizations working in cooperation to improve community health. Partnering with local health systems, businesses, and organizations, TCW provides the county with education and activities that inform and encourage the healthiest of lifestyles.

Tsunami Threat: Lowlight

Life on the Oregon coast is pretty serene. Until you notice all the “Tsunami Warning” signs posted along the beaches. While the threat of the “Big One,” the earthquake that could disrupt the entire west coast, has been talked about for years, the reality is that with any degree of quake, tsunamis are a possibility. Some would rather not think about it and assume that it will happen far enough into the future they won’t be affected. For others, visiting the coast occasionally is better than putting down roots.

Award-Winning Cheese and… What’s That Smell?: Highlight/Lowlight

Tillamook County is home to the revered Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA), maker of Tillamook dairy products and routine winner of many awards from the American Cheese Society and other groups. But of course, to get all that delicious cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and all the other products TCCA produces each year and sells nationwide, you need cows. And Tillamook County has a lot of them. If you haven’t been to Tillamook before, you’ll know you’re getting close by the pungent smell in the air. What is it? Manure. There’s the natural cattle byproduct, as well as liquid manure that’s frequently used in the county as fertilizer, so there’s no getting away from it. And the problem isn’t just about the ever-present, unpleasant smell that permeates everything. It’s also about the health hazard caused by manure-produced methane and nitrous oxide emissions. While steps are being taken to address the issue, it’s hard to tell how long it will take, if ever, to disappear.

Of course, if you want the coast life experience and you don’t want to deal with the stench of Tillamook, you can always head north up the coast to Garibaldi, Rockaway Beach, or Manzanita, south to Pacific City or Neskowin, or further inland to Cloverdale, Hebo, or Beaver.

7. Polk County

Covering 744 square miles and housing 89,164 residents, Polk County is the land of plenty. Towns served by Polk County are Dallas, Independence, Monmouth, Rickreall, Falls City, Grand Ronde, Eola, and McCoy.

High Quality of Life in Natural Abundance: Highlight

It’s hard to know where to begin with all the perks Polk County has to offer. In addition to a massive amount of outdoor activities, family-friendly fun, and museums and galleries, Polk County is home to a plethora of verdant land brimming with vineyards, farms, and nurseries.

Oldest, Most Affordable University and the Counties Biggest Employer: Highlight

Western Oregon University (WOU) was founded in 1856, making it the oldest higher learning institution in Oregon. And it’s also the most affordable. Not only does WOU provide students with a well-rounded education, but it’s also situated in a pretty idyllic location. And it’s an Emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, the first four-year public university in Oregon to have this designation.

Real Estate Prices: Highlight

It’s rare these days to point out real estate prices as a highlight anywhere. But in comparison to surrounding areas in Oregon, Polk County’s are pretty reasonable. Realtor.com reports that the recent median sold price in the county is $437.5K. Not too shabby when you consider all the perks of living here.

The Best County is Washington County?

It all depends on what your looking for. For us, it was a bit of a toss-up between Washington County and Polk County, but when you take into account the easy access to city amenities, diversity awareness, and job opportunities, not to mention easy access to both nature and the freeway, Washington County is pretty hard to beat.

If you’re looking for a top real estate team to help guide you to the best home for yourself or your family, give us a call today or chat with the bot on this site. We’d love to connect!

August 8, 2022
AUTHOR

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.