The era of asking a friend to recommend a good hike, driving countless miles on gravel back roads to get there, and winding up in the middle of nowhere, clutching an outdated map and staring down a landslide, has come to an end. Lisa Holmes has made sure of that.

Released in February by Holmes’s design studio, I Heart Oregon (& Washington): 25 of the Portland Area’s Best Hikes is a refreshing guide from a “graphic designer by trade and a hiking fanatic by accident.”

You couldn’t ask for better pre-hike research. For each trail, it looks like Holmes ripped out and annotated the most relevant sections of a USGS topo map, collected the best professional photos of the area, and stitched everything together in a stunning collage.

Unlike the backwoods experts who rule Internet hiking forums, Holmes writes in complete sentences. She eschews rambling descriptions for bold sidebars with essentials like distance, fees, and difficulty. Her directions come with paragraph breaks. 

Better yet, she keeps her guide centered on Portland. The three world-famous wild places within two hours’ drive—Mount Hood, the gorge, and the coast—are the first areas featured. Drive times and directions stem from downtown. 

Once you arrive at the Trailhead, the book loses some of its usefulness. It’s best to keep its clean and colorful pages far from the woods. The wide layout would fit awkwardly in a daypack.

Holmes chose quality and user-friendliness over quantity. Her write-ups extend to Southwest Washington, but she doesn’t pretend to offer a comprehensive guide the Pacific Northwest. Hardy explorers will exhaust the 25 routes before summer’s end.

On the other hand, anyone looking to break into the local hiking scene should refer to this text often and in every season (it even includes a showshoe trek). Non-hikers might want to keep a copy on the coffee table. It’s easy on the eyes.

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