Seattleites Guide to PDX
Portland Checklist: 10 Things to Do in Portland Parks
Hike, bike, and commune with nature in Portland's lush parklands.
① Go on an Urban Safari
There are more than 100 species of birds in Forest Park, plus it’s home to bobcats and some 20 northern pygmy owls nesting along the streams. Reports of 700-pound elk have been made northwest of Germantown Road, though rangers estimate no more than a handful are in the park at any given time.
② Off-Road Cycle
There’s a short singletrack trail on the old fire lanes in Forest Park with a lively jumble of rock- and root-laden curves. Only certain paved and soft-surface roads in the park are open to cycles—grab a map from portlandoregon.gov/parks before you start pedaling.
③ Stand on a Volcano
The volcano is extinct. The volcano is extinct. Just repeat that to yourself atop the gentle knoll that hides a cinder cone, one of only two such volcanoes inside a U.S. city. Get to the top for views over the park’s classic stone reservoir to the city below.
④ Worship (God or Art)
The Catholic shrine and garden includes a rock cave carved into the basalt cliff, with a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture. On the upper levels are a meditation chapel and more gardens.
⑤ Raft (Sort Of)
The World Forestry Center is a two-story museum with a canopy lift ride, a water-free “rafting” adventure that simulates the Clackamas River, and a classic lumber-hauling locomotive.
⑥ Shoot Arrows
There’s a free archery range not far from the Oregon Zoo where you can reenact your own Hunger Games; rent equipment first at Archers Afield (archersafield.com) or bring your own. No crossbows or zombie hunting.
⑦ Leaf Peep
The Ash and Maple Collections at the 185-acre Hoyt Arboretum erupt into reds and yellows in November, proving you don’t have to drive too far from civilized dining to inspire yourself to have a hot cider or hot toddy.
Contained within Washington Park, the walled five-and-a-half-acre swath includes karesansui, a type of garden tended by monks in a Zen monastery as they practice contemplation.
⑨ Drink Tea
The Teahouse in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections serves traditional Chinese varieties, plus noodle dishes and steamed buns. The botanic garden itself was built by visitors from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou.
⑩ Stand, Barely
The world’s smallest park is a pothole-size circle in the middle of busy Southwest Naito Parkway; the newspaper writer who started it wrote stories about a leprechaun who lived inside.