To get a sense of just how healthy the residents of Oregon are, take a walk around Portland on any day. Rain or shine, cyclists and runners can be found on the streets and trails. Add to that the abundance of restaurants that serve only locally grown, fresh ingredients from organic farms, and you can understand why the statewide obesity rate is below the national average.
Of course, it’s not just Portland. The state’s natural beauty — at places such as Crater Lake National Park and Multnomah Falls — encourages people to venture outside and explore from the coast to the mountains. That active lifestyle also extends to Oregon residents’ commute: Only Washington, D.C., has a higher percentage of people who bike to work.
To determine the places that offer the most benefits, NerdWallet analyzed 86 places in the Beaver State to find the locations that are home to the healthiest cities. We examined health care coverage, the quality of hospitals, the number of parks and how many people walk, bike or take public transit to work.
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Greater Portland. Seven of the top 10 cities are in the Portland metro area. With a strong public transit system, a focus on fresh, local food and plenty of green space, Portland could be considered a national model for healthy living.
Park-filled cities. There are an average of 13.8 parks per 10,000 residents across the top 10, double the statewide average of 6.6 parks.
Bicycles everywhere. While Portland’s bicycle culture is often skewered in the comedy show “Portlandia,” there truly are bicycles everywhere in Oregon. Statewide, 2.3% of commuters travel to work by bicycle, which is more than double the percentage of bicycle commuters in California. Some of the Oregon’s friendliest communities for bicyclists placed in the top 10.
Healthiest cities in Oregon
This community of about 9,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, gets to enjoy the best of both worlds. With its location just east of Portland, residents benefit from some of the qualities of urban living: About 7.3% of the population uses public transit to get to work, the third highest in the top 10. Hospitals in Multnomah County, where Fairview is based, also received some of the highest quality scores in the state. Even with these bigger-city amenities, residents can easily escape to a green oasis at one of Fairview’s parks, which number 28.88 per 10,000 residents, the second-highest total in Oregon.
2. Hood River
It shouldn’t be surprising that the city known as the windsurfing capital of the world is also one of the healthiest places in Oregon. In addition to the recreational opportunities along the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is a statewide leader in health and wellness. Hospitals in the county received the highest survey rankings in the state, according to Medicare data. A local initiative, the “Veggie Rx” program, allows residents in need to get vegetable “prescription” vouchers at local farmers markets.
Portland, with its urban green belt, more than lives up to its reputation as a health-conscious city. With an extensive, popular streetcar system and bike lanes traversing the entire city, getting around without a car is an easy, quick option for almost a quarter of commuters. Hospitals in Portland’s three counties (Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington) also have some of the highest quality rankings in the state. As for finding a McDonald’s, good luck: for every 10,000 residents in the three counties, the number of restaurants works out to 0.39 locations.
4. Raleigh Hills
Residents of Raleigh Hills, about 6 miles southwest of Portland, boast a health insurance coverage rate of 90.8%, which is higher than the top 10 average of 87%. Hospitals in Washington County, where Raleigh Hills is located, also have some of the highest rankings for quality in the state. As for commuting, 10.2% of residents get some daily exercise by walking to work.
The home of Oregon State University is also home to the most alternative-transportation friendly community in the entire state. About 27.6% of commuters walk, bike or take public transportation to work, a percentage that tops Portland’s 23.5% who are non-car commuters. Corvallis residents are also covered: 88.3% have health insurance, which is above the state average of 83.9%. For those hungry for a Big Mac, there are only five McDonald’s restaurants in Benton County, which has about 86,000 residents.
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Located just north of the California-Oregon border, Ashland combines the beautiful scenery of a mountain town with the layout of a smartly designed urban center. Nearly 20% of commuters get by without a car, thanks in large part to an extensive system of bike paths and walking trails. Residents can also easily escape to some of southern Oregon’s best outdoor attractions: the Bear Creek Greenway, an 18-mile biking and hiking path that begins in Ashland, and nearby Siskiyou Mountain Park, which provides a number of trails to explore.
7. Cedar Mill
It makes sense that the home of outdoor clothing company Columbia made the list of Oregon’s healthiest places. This Portland suburb straddles Washington and Multnomah counties, which gives locals access to some of the best hospitals in the state. Residents are happy to take full advantage of these top-quality medical facilities and clinics — the town has a health insurance coverage rate of 92.7%, which is one of the highest in the state.
This community of over 20,000 is located south of Portland, on the Willamette River. Milwaukie has 16.2 parks per 10,000 residents, well above the top 10 average of 13.8 parks. Residents can take full advantage of nearby destinations, such as hiking at Spring Park Natural Area or canoeing down the Willamette. The town also hosts a huge weekly farmers market that features 75 vendors and live music, which has helped turn shopping for fresh produce into a social event.
Maybe Nike should design clothing for folks who use public transit. Beaverton, the city where the footwear company is based, can claim the state’s second-highest percentage of commuters who take public transportation at 7.8% of residents. Folks here can show off their latest swoosh-logo attire as they run the trails in Tualatin Hills Nature Park or play disc golf in Greenway Park.
10. Lake Oswego
Lake Oswego, a city of over 37,000 that’s located just south of Portland, has a 93.6% health insurance coverage rate, the third-highest percentage in Oregon. Hospitals across Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties (Lake Oswego is in all three) are among the most highly rated in the state. The town has 13 parks per 10,000 residents, almost double the statewide average.
Healthiest cities in Oregon
|Rank||City||Non-car commuters||Health insurance coverage||County hospital rankings||Parks per 10,000 residents||McDonald’s per 10,000 residents
|85||Deschutes River Woods||0.7%||78.7%||71.50||1.91||0.62||23.65|
The score for each place was derived from the following sources:
- The proportion of commuters who don’t drive is 30% of the score.
- Health insurance coverage and hospital survey rankings from Medicare are each 15% of the score.
- The number of parks per 10,000 residents is 30% of the score.
- The number of McDonald’s locations in the county per 10,000 residents is 10% of the score.
All data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, OpenStreetMap, Medicare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AggData. NerdWallet analyzed 86 places in Oregon. Places with fewer than 5,000 residents and 11 places without park or hospital data weren’t included.
Hood River, Oregon, image via iStock.