The crisp air, cloudy skies and intermittent rainstorms mark the changing of the season in Portland. As we transition from hot to cool weather, our city shines with pops of red, yellow, orange and gold around every corner. Fall colors in Portland reign supreme.
Starting in October, the leaves and needles on our deciduous trees and shrubs turn from lush shades of green to crisp, rich colors of fall. The best times to take in this beauty is during the fall color peak.
When will we reach peak fall color in Portland? Here are a few predictions for 2021:
- In 2021, the fall foliage prediction map states that peak color in the Portland area will occur between October 11-18, 2021 with beautiful colors lasting through October 25.
- The 2021 Farmers Almanac leaf color prediction provides the probable dates for peak fall color in Oregon to be between October 12-28, 2021.
Even if you don’t get to visit during peak color, chances are you’ll still see some beautiful foliage before all the leaves and needles have hit the ground for the year.
Here’s a list of my favorite places to see fall colors in Portland. All of these locations are free to visit. Slip on a pair of durable shoes, wrap up in your favorite cozy outfit and bring something warm to sip as you stroll through these incredible outdoor oases in our city.
Best Places to See Fall Colors in Portland
The 400-ft towers, lush foliage and water lapping against the shore give Cathedral Park a transcendental aura. Located in the St Johns neighborhood, this park is an ideal spot to gather with the ones you love and enjoy some time in the presence of beauty and serenity.
In the fall, you can take in the changing colors in contrast to the light green bridge. Among the coniferous pines, firs and cedars you’ll find a variety of maples, willows, mulberries, birches, alders, larches and more. The park gives you the best array of beautiful fall foliage all within a short walk around the park.
This park has so much amazing foliage that it has its own tree tour! In 2017, 52 volunteers inventoried 467 trees in the park. During your visit, open the tree map on your phone and learn about each tree you spot.
Cathedral Park is located at N Edison St. and Pittsburg Ave. in Portland.
Spanning 5,200 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. Towering among the Douglas firs (Oregon’s state tree), hemlocks and cedars, you’ll find bigleaf maple trees. In fact, a 2012 wildlife report published by Portland Parks and Recreation found that nearly half of all trees in the park are bigleaf maples. That makes Forest Park an ideal place to see fall colors.
Bigleaf maple turn vibrant gold and yellow colors, sometimes tinged with orange, in the fall. These are the trees that create the giant leaves. You can make a fun game out of finding the biggest leaf.
Forest Park has more than 80 miles of trails giving you plenty of paths to explore this fall. One is even called the Maple Trail. True to its name, you’ll see the giant yellow leaves hanging among the limbs and scattered across the trail.
There are several areas where you can access the park. Plan your visit to Forest Park.
Welcome to Portland’s museum of trees! This beautiful naturescape located in Washington Park features 2,300 species of trees from around the world along 12 miles of trails. This a great place to see Northwest favorites and new deciduous species in all their fall glory.
The system of trails will wind you through the forest filled with various fall foliage. This is also one of the best places to see cherry blossom trees in Portland during the springtime.
Hoyt Arboretum is free to visit with lots of great cheap events available each week, including tai chi and preschool walks. Depending on your preferred mode of transportation, you’ll have to pay for parking or ride the MAX to the park. While you’re there, hop on Washington Park’s free shuttle.
Hoyt Arboretum is located at 4000 SW Fairview Blvd. in Portland.
Leach Botanical Garden
Have you visited Portland’s secret garden? The 320-acre Leach Botanical Garden is nestled along Johnson Creek just off of two busy streets in East Portland—122nd and Foster. As soon as you walk through the gates, it feels like you’ve stepped into an outdoor oasis miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Among the forest of native plants, massive ferns and skyscraping evergreens are bigleaf maple, winter hazel, gingkos all taking on different shades of yellow and golden. You’ll also spot the vibrant reds of Japanese maples and black tupelos.
The upper garden opened this spring and gives you more places to explore, including a tree walk that lets you stroll amongst the giant pine trees and overlooked the garden below. If you have kids, or you’re a kid a heart, try out the scavenger hunt during your visit.
Leach Botanical Garden is located at 6704 SE 122nd Ave. in Portland.
Portland’s hillside mansion is a fall foliage delight. Henry Pittock, the former owner of The Oregonian, spared no expense building his mansion on the hill. That included beautifully manicured grounds. In fact, Georgiana Burton Pittock, Henry’s wife, was instrumental in the development of Portland rose gardens.
In the fall, the grounds take on a new shade with bright, bold foliage. See dogwoods, willows and maples surrounding the sandstone mansion with accents of copper and teal. On top of the beautiful grounds is an impressive view of Portland’s skyline from 1,000 feet up. On a clear day, you can see all five cascade mountains with the city in the foreground.
My favorite way to get to the Pittock Mansion is by way of the Lower Macleay Trail. The trail starts just off of NW 23rd Avenue under the Thurman Street bridge. Along the way you will pass the Witch’s Castle, converging the Halloween season and the changing of the seasons. You’ll link up with the Wildwood Trail to get to the Pittock Mansion. It’s about 5 miles there and back. You can also drive up to the mansion, but you will need to pay to park.
You do not need a ticket to enjoy the mansion’s grounds, which are open daily until 9 p.m. The Pittock Mansion is located at 3229 NW Pittock Drive in Portland.
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