Hiking with a book? It may seem a bit strange, but what if you run across a bird and want to learn more about it? Or maybe your child discovers mushrooms on a hike and they want to learn about different types of fungi? Each of these Portland-area hikes comes with a suggested nature theme, as well as a book recommendation for learning more about that theme.
If you need to keep your packs light, feel free to read the book ahead of time — or leave it at home and take back photos to look up what you discovered on your hike!
Watch for birds at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. A long-time favorite for birdwatchers, this wildlife refuge has a year-round 2-mile loop for hiking, in addition to a longer, seasonal trail that closes during the fall and winter. To learn more about birds and birdwatching, take along Look at That Bird: A Young Naturalist’s Guide to Pacific Northwest Birding, by local author Karen DeWitz.
Discover wildflowers on a short, 1-mile loop at Camassia Nature Preserve, just outside of Oregon City. This hike can be a bit puddly in the winter, but it blossoms with wildflowers in the spring and is a fun, easy hike in any season. For a lightweight, kid-friendly identification guide, take along Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, by George Miller.
Spot mushrooms while hiking at Oxbow Regional Park — a lovely place for strolling, as well as for finding fungi during the fall. The trails here are easy and fairly level, with multiple trails intersecting so that families can pick their own route through the park. For extensive information about mushrooms (written for adults), take along Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati. For younger kids, check out the picture book Fungus is Among Us, by Joy Keller.
Explore Oregon’s geology while hiking Neahkahnie Mountain at the coast. It’s a bit of a drive, but this stretch of the coast features some fascinating geological history. The trails can be challenging, so be prepared for a steep climb or plan to visit the nearby Hug Point State Park or Short Sands Beach instead. To learn about the area’s formation, take along Oregon Rocks! A Guide to 60 Amazing Geologic Sites, by Oregon geologist Marli B. Miller.
Hunt for invertebrates at Powell Butte. Here, you might find butterflies and bees in the spring, grasshoppers in the summer, or spiders in the fall, but even in the winter, if you watch carefully, you may spot snails or banana slugs. Take along the guide Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies by Mel Boring to learn about different insects and their life cycles.
Practice identifying different types of trees at Gabriel Park. As a city park, Gabriel Park may not be the first place you’d think to hike, but it offers several fun trail loops and a wide variety of deciduous and evergreen trees. It’s a fun place to spot pinecones and to learn how to recognize different species of trees. Learn how trees communicate and help each other by reading Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben.
Explore an Oregon forest at Tryon Creek State Park. Tryon Creek is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon with its big leaf maples, Douglas firs and western red cedars. Plus, there are creeks, marshes, and all kinds of wildlife lurking around the corner. To learn more about the ecology of forests like the one at Tryon, take along Curious Kids Nature Guide: Explore the Amazing Outdoors of the Pacific Northwest, by Fiona Cohen (currently available in the Friends of Tryon Creek gift store).
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