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

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Why do Counties Matter?

When people decide to move to a new locale, they’re usually concerned with picking the right neighborhood. 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 necessities for quality of life, like roads, hospitals, bridges, parks, airports, utilities, police departments, jails, and courts. A county can hold sway over a community’s support systems. Property and business taxes can also vary significantly from county to county.

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 that are then 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. Multnomah County has the distinction of being home to Downtown Portland, Portland International Airport, and large sections of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Other cities, towns, and municipalities within Multnomah County lines are Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale, Wood Village, and Maywood Park.

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

Highlight: Transportation

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, north/northeast Portland, and Portland International Airport. Trains run every fifteen minutes or less, with most lines running from 4:00 am to midnight, seven days a week. The bus system transports people within the city and far-flung surrounding towns like Estacada and Forest Grove, with some lines running up to 20 hours daily. Portland’s Streetcar system is separate from Trimet. It 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 northeast and southeast quadrants.

The river has few public transportation options, but what is available is found in Multnomah.

Highlight: Food Culture

(lots of outdoor activities and highly ranked hospitals)

2. Hood River County

While Hood River County borders Multnomah County, it is one of the farthest counties from Portland on our list, coming in at 75 miles. This is primarily due to the shape of Multnomah County, which has a “panhandle” on the eastern edge.

Hood River County is home to the communities of Cascade Locks, Hood River, Mt. Hood, Rockford, Parkdale, Oak Grove, and Odell. The county is known as the “Windsurfing Capital of the World” because the pristine stretch of the Columbia River is perfect for windsurfing and kiteboarding. If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, Hood River County is a great place to live.

Let’s take a closer look at everything Hood River County has to offer, and you’ll understand why this hidden gem just outside of Portland is well worth a second look.

Hood River County is where the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade Range meet, creating gorgeous scenery and a natural paradise perfect for the adventurous individual. If you’re a fan of windsurfing, kiteboarding, or boating in general, being this close to the Columbia River is a real boon. Plus, with the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and Koberg Beach State Recreation Site both within driving distance of this County, you’ll never run out of gorgeous water features to explore. 

As mentioned earlier, Hood River County is right against the Cascade Range, meaning there’s plenty of hiking in and around this area. In fact, the City of Hood River has an up-to-date page outlining some of the local trails perfect for beginner hikers and historic routes to explore. If you’re looking for a more intense hike, the Cascade Range is right out your front door (metaphorically of course), so you’re able to head into the mountains whenever the spirit moves you.

If you’re looking for a county close to Portland, OR, Hood River County is right outside of a reasonable commute. Depending on which town you decide to live in, you could be looking at an hour-and-a-half drive into Portland.

While that’s not the worst drive for a day trip, working in Portland means more travel time than the average commuter wants. To be fair, it does have some of the best scenery you’d see on any commute across the country.

3. Washington County

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 in outlying communities, those in residential areas to connect with employers and already-existing mass transit options, and door-to-door transit options.

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  • Smoking
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4. Clackamas County

Thanks to nearby Mt. Hood, this county offers ski resorts and year-round skiing, giving it the honor of the longest ski season in North America. You will find 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 and a variety of year-round outdoor activities.

The educational system in the county isn’t just good; it’s great. Located within Clackamas County boundaries, Lake Oswego and West Linn have some of the country’s highest-rated public schools in the nation. You will also find award-winning shopping and dining. The quaint downtown districts in Oregon City and Lake Oswego have much to offer.

5. Columbia County

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 and 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 on the Multnomah Channel, only accessible by boat. The island offers 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.

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

6. Yamhill County

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, you’d have to quit your day job. Within its 718 square mile area, you’ll find 80 wineries and over 200 vineyards. Yamhill County has the largest concentration of wine producers and winegrowers compared to all other counties in Oregon.

Yamhill County is blessed with several towns and 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.

Highlight: Mass Transit

One thing that can ease the stresses of life is getting where you need to go, whether it’s for work, shopping, or socializing. Yamhill County recently celebrated ten years of mass transit success. 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 McMinnville, West Salem, Grand Ronde, and Tigard. They also offer para-transit services for those with ADA eligibility.

7. 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 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.

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.

Life on the Oregon coast is pretty serene. Until you notice all the “Tsunami Warning” signs on 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 possible. Some would rather not think about it and assume it will happen far enough into the future that they won’t be affected. For others, visiting the coast now and again is better than putting down roots.

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.

If you want the coast life experience and you don’t want to deal with the stench of Tillamook, you can 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.

Covering 744 square miles and housing 89,805 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.

Highlight: High Quality of Life in Natural Abundance

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

Highlight: Real Estate Prices

The Best County is Washington County?

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