In Portland, we get outside no matter the weather. And the fall—even though it tends to get a bit wet—is no exception. Going for a hike is a great option for restless kids. Hiking gets kids moving, lets them see some beautiful fall colors and wildlife, and often isn’t even that wet thanks to some amazing tree cover.
Here are some of our favorite places to get hiking in Portland with kids.
- Tryon Creek. Although it’s only about a ten minute drive from downtown Portland, once you walk a few feet into Tryon Creek you feel like you’re in the middle of the deep woods. This is a great place for kids to hike. There’s a well-equipped visitor center with maps and information about the local flora and fauna, plus real flush toilets. The trails themselves are wide and well-maintained with gorgeous towering firs and scenic bridges. You may even spot a few horses on the horse trail. For even more fun, print out one of the self-guided activities on the Friends of Tryon Creek website. 11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd
- Forest Park. What better place to experience the fall colors than in Forest Park? Although there are near limitless options for hiking in the 5100-acre park, two great family-friendly options are the 1.7-mile Hardesty Trail loop, beginning at the NW Springville Road trailhead, or the Cannon Trail, a .7 out-and-back jaunt.
- Laurelhurst Park. For younger kids, Laurelhurst Park is just the ticket. Cross the street from the playground for a short little hike around the duck pond. There’s a paved path, along with ample opportunity to spot ducks, frogs and turtles before heading back to the playground for some more active fun. (And yes, there are bathrooms nearby.) SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd & Stark St
- Reed Lake. Tucked behind the Reed college campus there’s a scenic, well-maintained path that goes through Reed Canyon and around Reed Lake. The loop of the canyon is just under 1 mile, making it a great distance for younger hikers. Despite being smack in the middle of campus, it’s usually pretty empty. And no matter where you are, you’re not far from campus, so it’s easy enough to find your way back home. (Says the directionally challenged hiker—this is a good one.) 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
- Crystal Spring Rhododendron Garden. Just across the street from Reed is the lovely Crystal Spring Rhododendron Garden. While spring is when the flowers are in full bloom, this garden is gorgeous no matter the weather. You can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to a full afternoon here, wandering around the paved trails, looking at the different kinds of ducks, and admiring the little waterfall. Note there is a $5 admission fee for adults from March 1 through August 31. Kids are always free. 5801 SE 28th
- Hoyt Arboretum. Hoyt Arboretum is a wonderful place to see fall color and learn a lot about what trees surround us in the Pacific Northwest. Start at the visitors’ center and pick up a Meet the Trees activity map (or download it from home). You’ll find three routes perfect for families, two about an hour, and one a bit more strenuous at about two hours. They also have a one-mile route suitable for strollers. (For some other paved jogging/hiking options, check out this post.) Along all the routes, you’ll see many different examples of trees, from magnolias to redwoods. 4000 SW Fairview Blvd
- Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. In addition to the well-known paved path along Springwater Corridor, there’s a lovely mile-ish trail that stretches from Sellwood Park to the tadpole pond about half a mile down the hill from the parking lot on Milwaukie and SE Mitchell. If you make it a loop, you’ll end up going 3.1 miles, with about half of it along the streets of Sellwood and Westmoreland. Along the trail, you’ll see wooden bridges, views of purple loosestrife in the summer, and maybe even a glimpse of a deer or two. SE Milwaukie and SE Mitchell St
- Kelley Point Park. There’s a lot to love about this park—it’s where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers converge, so you get some scenic marine views and even a bit of beach to explore. You are also near some industrial areas, giving you some pretty close-up views of container ships—a big hit for my youngest when he was in that three-year-old range. There are lots of little trails, both paved and unpaved, throughout the 104-acre park, allowing you to cobble together an hour or so of low-key hiking and walking. There are also bathrooms on site. Marine Dr. and Lombard St
- Leach Botanical Garden. Beautiful trails meander along the scenic Johnson Creek, while tall trees make you feel outside of Portland even while you’re in the thick of it. The garden is super welcoming of families, and even has a downloadable scavenger hunt map you can take along with you, which takes about an hour from start to finish. Clearly labeled plants allow you to learn more about the plants you are seeing. Weekly hikes are also offered for children. See their website for details.
An earlier version of this post listed Powell Butte as a kid-friendly hiking destination. We have since heard of some recent not-so-safe activity and items in the area and have decided to remove it from this list.
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