Catch Fall Colors at Hoyt Arboretum

See all the red, yellow and orange leaves in their full, autumn glory during a hike at Hoyt Arboretum.

Credit: Meg Asby

If the Portland area had a favorite crayon, it’d definitely be green: All the better to color Timbers jerseys, Doug firs and the recycling triple arrow symbol. But this month, autumn’s hues give green a run for its money.

There’s nowhere better to see fall colors than Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum. The “living museum of trees” in Washington Park is home to more than 2,300 species, many of which put on a vibrant show every fall. Read on for my family’s three favorite spots to see red, orange, yellow — and even pink and purple — in the trees!


Maple Trail

Unsurprisingly, Hoyt Arboretum’s Maple Trail turns into a many-hued canopy come fall. More than 90 different types grow here. (Keep an eye out for plaques identifying each species; my kids think their Latin names sound like Harry Potter spells!) You can turn the route into a loop by circling back on the Walnut Trail or a portion of the Wildwood Trail. 

Take a detour partway along the Maple Trail, at the base of the paved, wheelchair-accessible Overlook Trail. You’ll walk through a section of ash, whose dagger-like leaves turn yellow and even reddish-purple! 

Marquam Trail

The Marquam Trail winds behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Keep an eye out for a catalpa near the trailhead, which might be sporting yellow leaves and long, bean-like seed pods this time of year. 

Along the trail, you’ll see maple and ash, as well as gorgeous dogwood. While dogwood are better known for their white and pink flowers in the spring, their vibrant red leaves pop against even the dreariest gray days. While you’re here, walk the spiral path of the memorial — my kids love the curling route.  

Bristlecone Pine Trail

On the opposite end of Hoyt Arboretum, circle the paved and accessible Bristlecone Pine Trail loop. A copse of ginkgo grows at the trail’s midpoint; watch for their brilliant-yellow, fan-like leaves. Bring a snack or lunch to eat in the accessible picnic area. 


Just south of the Bristlecone Pine Trail at the end of the Redwood Trail, you can also spot larches turning yellow — a much easier trip than trekking to the famous larches in Washington’s North Cascades. These unusual conifers stand out against the surrounding evergreens before they drop their needles toward the end of October.

Hoyt Arboretum Tips

Getting there: Ride the MAX or the TriMet bus line 63 to Washington Park. The Washington Park Shuttle also stops in front of the visitor center. If you drive, park in the paid lots at the visitor center or next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; otherwise, look for parking at the trailheads throughout the park. Don’t leave valuables in your car, as break-ins aren’t unheard-of. 

Restrooms: The visitor center is the only location in the arboretum with a bathroom and drinking fountain.

Activities: Explore with a discovery pack — a backpack stocked with maps, binoculars, bird books and more. Contact the visitor center to reserve one. Or join Tree Time, a guided walk for preschoolers. Pick up a free Children’s Adventure Map (pictured above, also available in Spanish) at the visitor center. My kids also like poking around the visitor center’s specimens, such as pine cones, moss and leaves. 

Catherine Ryan Gregory
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