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.
Note for Fall 2020: Check the locations’ websites for updated information about COVID-related changes and closures. If you head out, follow social distancing best practices, and be prepared to be flexible and come back at another time if you find an area to be crowded. Expect bathrooms to be closed.
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 as if 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 restrooms, although it is currently closed. 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. 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 5200-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. If you are exploring Forest Park, familiarize yourself with the new one-way trails.
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. SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd & Stark St
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 September 30. Kids are always free. Read more about their COVID hours, processes and policies. 5801 SE 28th
Hoyt Arboretum. Hoyt Arboretum is a wonderful place to see fall color and learn a lot about the trees around us in the Pacific Northwest. Download the Meet the Trees activity map to 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. Along all the routes, you’ll see many different examples of trees, from magnolias to redwoods. Update for 2020: This map gives more information on trails’ width to help you choose hikes where it’s easier to social distance. 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. N. 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 downloadable scavenger hunt maps you can take along with you. Clearly labeled plants allow you to learn more about the plants you are seeing. 6704 SE 122nd Ave
Hopkins Demonstration Forest. This one is technically out of Portland (it’s in Oregon City), but it’s a great spot to trample through the forest and explore with kids. The forest is very kid-friendly, with wide paths, towering trees, a small creek, and a good variety of ecosystems to explore. It is also a good place to learn about sustainable forestry techniques through well-placed signs, kiosks and printed materials.
Reed College is closed to the public during COVID-19. 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