Find a great urban park in your neighborhood
Finding a place where you can escape the city may be easier than you think. Many of us leave Portland to enjoy nature and find it isn’t quite what we expected.
I am sure many of you have experienced the dread of driving an hour to a hiking spot to walk single file along a busy trail with hundreds of people. And we probably all understand the mind-numbing search for parking at Portland’s most popular tourist parks.
For an introvert like me, this sensory overload can ruin the experience. It makes me forget what I was truly there for—to enjoy nature.
Here’s my list of Portland’s best urban parks that are a short drive from your home. These urban parks have lots of parking, family-friendly trails and beautiful sights.
Portland’s Best Urban Parks
In the upper most tip of North Portland, you’ll find Kelley Point Park. The 22-acre park offers a great mix of wooded areas and open grass with paved paths, covered picnic areas and a canoe/kayak launch.
Find a scenic bench to watch ships come into the Columbia River and look for wildlife on the beaches of Sauvie Island just across the river. Pack in a bundle of wood and s’mores fixings for a bonfire on the sandy beach.
Oh, and I forgot to mention parking is free and there is plenty of it.
This incredible garden is free to all. Seriously, it is free. The 320-acre Leach Botanical Garden is located just off of two busy streets in East Portland—122nd and Foster.
Wind through the gardens and admire the many manicured plants and trees. If you have kids, bring along this scavenger hunt. The garden has guided tours and events weekly.
And again, two lots of free parking.
Take in views of the city from the top of an extinct cinder cone volcano. Powell Butte’s 611 acres of meadowland and forest has numerous trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. See if you can spot the variety of wildlife that calls this park home.
My favorite park of this park is the different elements of scenery,. You can be in an open field with 360 views or in the middle of the woods, but just a short distance from each other.
The butte can be accessed along Powell Blvd, and has spacious parking and a visitor center. It can get busy on the weekend, so plan to visit early or late in the day.
Located at Ainsworth and Albina, Portland’s oldest public rose garden is always a great place to smell the roses. Take in the many features that have been at the rose garden since 1912: ornamental fountain, street lamps, brick walkways and the music pavilion.
Afterward, walk the 16 acres of Peninsula Park. Okay, okay this one does not have designated parking, but the neighborhoods surrounding it have space.
If you’re looking for a great place to escape the city, Lower Macleay Park is a treat. The park sits nestled just off of NW 23rd Avenue under the lightly traveled Thurman Street bridge with plenty of picnic tables and an open field perfect for playing catch.
Take a short walk up the Lower Macleay Trail along Balch Creek to the Witch’s Castle, an old stone structure sitting beside the trail. For a longer hike, 5 miles there and back, keep going to the Wildwood Trail, which leads you to the Pittock Mansion. The lawn and views of the city a free for you to enjoy.
Located in Southwest Portland, Tryon Creek is a great example of our temperate rainforest climate: trees covered in moss with huge ferns lining the trails that leads to the waterway. More than 658 acres are protected in this natural area.
The natural area features 8 miles of hiking trails, 8 bridges and a wetland boardwalk, a Nature Center with interpretive displays and a store, and sheltered structure that is an ideal place to take in a view of the woods and enjoy a picnic or snack.
This area has ample paved parking, but does get busy on the weekend. I recommend going early or later in the day to avoid the crowds.
This trail is not technically in Portland, but it well worth the short drive north. Located in the Salmon Creek neighborhood of Vancouver, this trail is a short 10-minute drive from the state line.
The Salmond Creek Greenway Trail is a 3 miles long and takes you into a nature oasis. Last time I was here I got to take in the sights and sounds of migrating trumpet swans. It was like my own private bird symphony set along a winding creek with a picturesque scene of Mount St Helens in the background.
The best part about this trail is that it is accessible to anyone. The entire route is paved, making it a great place for everyone to recreate. You can even bring along your bikes.
To avoid parking fees at Salmon Creek Park, I choose free on-street parking at 13853 NW 36th Ave.
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