Get Your Green on in Portland’s Urban Parks
Portland is a city of parks, and visitors would be wise to make like a local and embrace nature. Three green spaces in particular are the perfect respites if you want to run up steep forest trails or sit in quiet contemplation under a tree. These parks lie close to vibrant neighborhoods where you can pick up picnic supplies or sit down for a meal after your exertions.
With 70 miles of trails for walkers, runners, horse-riders and mountain bikers, there’s no shortage of ways to exercise in Forest Park. This urban forests offers a true wilderness experience within a few minutes of downtown Portland.
First-timers shouldn’t miss the hike up to Pittock Mansion starting at the Lower Macleay trail. At five miles out and back, it’s probably Portland’s most popular urban hike. The trail winds through a green world of firs, ferns and moss next to sparkling Balch Creek.
You could stop right here to listen to the sweet trill of the song sparrow or sketch moss-covered branches tracing arcs over the water.
More energetic types may follow the trail up calf–straining switchbacks to Pittock Mansion. You can tour the inside of the imposing house for a fee, but the views over the city from the gardens are stunning and free. It’s the ideal spot for a post-hike picnic. Pick up supplies at Kenny and Zuke’s Bagelworks or St. Honoré Boulangerie in the nearby Alphabet District.
Oaks Bottom Urban Wildlife Refuge
Oaks Bottom Urban Wildlife Refuge in Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood is a preserved wetland bordered by the Willamette River, two city parks and an an old-time amusement park complete with wooden roller rink. The whole area is an urban stroller’s delight.
Walk the riverbank for great views of downtown and Portland’s iconic bridges, check out the houseboats dotting the water or watch happy dogs swimming out for sticks. If you want a workout, you can run the trails through the refuge. If not, slow down and find a spot by the ponds and watch for blue herons, bald eagles, hummingbirds, beavers, frogs and salamanders.
When you’ve had your fill of nature, head to the charming Sellwood Main Street, where you’ll find plenty of places to eat and drink.
Mt. Tabor Park
Tucked away on the east side of the Willamette River, expansive Mt. Tabor Park is built on the slopes of a volcanic cinder cone. Here you’ll find a mix of towering trees, open meadows, reservoirs and winding trails. From the park’s Southeast Yamhill Street and 69th Avenue entrance, you can run up the almost 300 stairs to the Mount Tabor summit.
It’s not a continuous staircase, so catch your breath on the landings to listen to the tap-tap of woodpeckers or to catch a glimpse of Mount St. Helens. Not up for the climb? You can also drive up to a parking lot just below the summit if you prefer.
Once you reach the top, take in the expansive views of the city from the west side, and don’t miss Mount Hood framed by trees to the east. Or just lie down and people watch — guitar players, slack liners, photographers, “journalers,” sketchbook artists and yogis — all come here to practice their passions. Try the Hawthorne or Montavilla neighborhoods for refreshments.
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