Southwest Hills Neighborhood Guide
Southwest Hills is located in Southwest Portland. It is bordered by the Sylvan Highlands, Goose Hollow, Downtown, Homestead, Healy Heights, and Bridlemile Neighborhoods. This neighborhood is located close in, for an easy commute to downtown Portland. Unlike most major metropolitan areas, it’s unique to find such an upscale neighborhood within spitting distance of the downtown area. However, thanks to Southwest Hills’ natural boundaries, you’d never know that you were so close to the hustle and bustle of this growing city.
Southwest Hills Neighborhood MapClick the image for a full searchable map that includes all Southwest Hills homes for sale.
Council Crest ParkThis park has commanding views and used to be the home of a city amusement park. Meet the illustrator.
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Features of Southwest Hills
The Southwest neighborhood is located in what is popularly known as the “West Hills” in Portland. The hilly terrain and lush nature parks in this area create stunning views from many of the homes. Depending on which area you are in, you may have a panoramic view of downtown Portland, and on a clear day, it is possible to see Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Saint Helens in the distance.
Another aspect of Southwest Hills is that it’s full of history and connections to Portland’s storied past. In fact, one of the oldest and most notable homes, the 1918 Frank J. Cobbs House is in this neighborhood. For architectural enthusiasts, this is one of the most luxurious estates you can find around Portland, save for Pittock Mansion.
Southwest Hills Neighborhood Parks and Trails
One of the primary reasons why Southwest Hills is so desirable for the upper crust of Portland’s society is that it comes with so many green spaces. Even if you’re not exploring one of the several parks within the neighborhood’s boundaries, you are surrounded by lush trees and a verdant landscape.
That being said, Southwest Hills is home to some of the most decorated and historic parks in the area, particularly Council Crest. You can take a veritable trip through time by walking through these parks as they are deeply rooted in Portland’s history. Let’s take a closer look at the natural beauty you can find within this neighborhood.
Council Crest Park
If you go up to Council Crest today, you’ll be greeted with some of the best views in all of Portland (or Oregon, for that matter). However, near the turn of last century, this spot held a lot more than nature trails and a scenic overlook. Council Crest was the home of an amusement park, which opened on Memorial Day of 1907.
The park was originally named after the belief that local native Americans used to hold meetings at the top of the ridge. While there was no evidence to support that, the name stuck and continues to this day. The rides and games were installed as part of a promotional campaign by the Portland Railway Light and Power Co. PRL&P had just finished a streetcar line that went up to the park, so they wanted a compelling reason for travelers to visit.
When guests arrived at the amusement park, they were greeted by a handful of rides and several other installations. The two main attractions were the Trip Up the Columbia (which we see above), and the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway. In addition to these rides, there was also a Ferris Wheel, a Japanese Tea House, a carousel, a midway with various carnival games, and a dance hall. At the time, Council Crest was called “The Dreamland of the Northwest.”
One element that was prominently displayed in postcards and concept art was a proposed observatory, called the “Big Tree.” Unfortunately, it was never erected before the park shut down in 1929. Instead, they built the Lewis and Clark Observatory, which was much shorter, but provided incredible views of the city below.
Other attractions within the park included a canal ride, where riders would float along a trellis filled with water, and hot air balloon rides. During its heyday, hundreds of people would come to marvel at the scenery and play “at the top of the city.” Although the amusement park shut down in 1929, it wasn’t demolished until the early 1940s.
Today, the park is still a popular site for both tourists and locals, and it is the highest spot in Portland at 1,073 feet. On a clear day, you can see four different mountains. Mount Hood, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. From Council Crest, you can connect to some of the trails that venture down into Marquam Nature Park.
Technically speaking, Washington Park is not within Southwest Hills’ borders, but it’s just across Highway 26, so you can see it from various parts of the neighborhood. Washington Park is a natural highlight of Portland, thanks to its multiple attractions. Here you can find the world-famous Portland Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Oregon Zoo. If you’re a fan of nature and exploration, we highly recommend you visit all three.
Marquam Nature Park
With most of the parks in Portland, the objective is to marvel in nature and relax. However, if hiking is more your prerogative, then Marquam Nature Park is the place to visit. Only part of the park is located within Southwest Hills, but the whole area spans over 178 acres. It contains dozens of different trails, some of them spanning miles. We highly recommend bringing food and water to last for several hours, at you could easily spend all day traversing the various paths that cut through the forest.
Marquam also encloses the Oregon Health and Science University campus and extends down along Terwilliger Blvd. Overall, you can get excellent views of the city and the Willamette River from different parts of the park, although the nature of the forest is the main attraction.
Southwest Hills Community Resources
Southwest Hills Businesses of Note
Since this neighborhood is mostly upscale and residential, there are few businesses that exist within the boundaries of Southwest Hills. However, if you live in the area or plan to visit someone who does, you will want to check out the Vista Spring Cafe, which we dive into below.
Vista Spring Cafe
For over 20 years, this unassuming cafe has served Portlanders of all ages and sizes. The chic, elegant, and yet unpretentious menu specializes in all of your favorites. Pizza, sandwiches, burgers, and pasta are all delivered to your table with a classic presentation to serve as a delicious counterpart to the gorgeous scenery nearby.
Being a cafe, none of the dishes are particularly fancy, but they all have the same level of care and attention to detail you would expect from a Portland landmark. To make their meals even more delectable, Vista Spring sources all of their meats from Painted Hills Farm in Fossil, OR. Farm to table is a cornerstone of Portland cuisine, and Vista Spring has been a pioneer of that mentality for decades.
The age of Vista Spring isn’t usually noticeable, save for the vintage overhead fans that adorn the ceiling. Unfortunately, because they are belt-driven, the noise is quite distracting, so they are never operational. While at one time they helped cool patrons during the summer, they now sit as a monument to the cafe’s roots.
We highly recommend Vista Spring if you’re looking for exquisite craftsmanship in your food, or if you’re looking for specialized accommodations. Vegans and gluten-free diners can find plenty on the menu, as can carnivores and vegetarians. Vista Spring is a welcome space for everyone, whether you live in the Southwest Hills or not.
Vista Spring Cafe – 2440 SW Vista Ave
Southwest Hills Public Schools
Because this area is so affluent, it’s home to one of the highest rated elementary schools within the Portland Public School system – Ainsworth. Residents can feel confident that their children will have some of the best teachers and classes in the area.
Technically, the only school with the neighborhood’s limits is Ainsworth, but students usually attend West Sylvan Middle School and then move onto Lincoln High School, which is nestled close to the downtown Portland area.
Southwest Hills Neighborhood Vibe
A great mix of suburban and urban living, with expansive homes offering stunning views. This is an upscale neighborhood with more grand homes. As you can imagine, Southwest Hills is relatively quiet, thanks to the affluent homeowners and the abundance of nature. Outdoor enthusiasts love the fact that there are so many parks within the neighborhood’s boundaries, including the historic Council Crest Park.
Some of the wealthiest residents of Portland live here, thanks to its scenery and easy access to downtown. It’s not often that a neighborhood like this is so close to the central hub, which makes it all the more attractive. You get the best of both worlds when living in Southwest Hills.
Southwest Hills Stats
Zip Code 97201
Southwest Hills Real Estate
Compared to most other residential areas in Portland, Southwest Hills is one of the ritziest and most high-end. Homes are typically larger custom designs built over years in many different architectural styles from Ranches, two-story Traditionals, Colonial, Craftsman, Contemporary, and even the occasional Victorian. Many of the homes are built on the side of the hill and are cantilevered over the forest floor below. As many of the streets in this area wind through the tree-lined forest, this makes the West Hills an interesting place to drive and a serene and beautiful place to live.Click here to see all current Southwest Hills homes for sale. To learn about the Portland real estate market, we recommend this local Portland-based, top 100 real estate blog in the world. If you are interested in buying a home in Portland, we recommend meeting up with these top 1% Portland buyer’s agents, or if you are considering selling a home we recommend these top 1% Portland seller’s agents. Visit our Portland Real Estate Page for more information.