Set deep in the city’s West Hills, the Audubon Society of Portland Nature Sanctuary provides a great jumping-off point for exploring Forest Park, the country’s largest urban wilderness. Whether you’re looking to break in your hiking boots, try out your bird-watching binoculars, entertain the kids or meditate under a mossy tree, this 150-acre (61 hectare) refuge offers verdant tranquility only minutes away from the city center.
Start your adventure at the Audubon Society headquarters off Northwest Cornell Road, where visitors can peruse the interpretive center, meet birds of prey at the wildlife care center and stock up on helpful maps and guidebooks at the nature store. Once you’ve said hello to the residents, including Julio the great horned owl and Finnegan the peregrine falcon, head outside to hike any of the three wooded sanctuaries (Uhtoff, Collins and Pittock Bird), which collectively house more than 40 bird varieties and 60 species of mammals. Along the refuge’s 4.5 miles (7 km) of interpretive trails, nature lovers can spot chickadees, thrushes, doves and other avian residents, as well as Pacific giant salamanders and Western painted turtles.
To explore further, hikers can follow Forest Park’s Upper Macleay Trail up the hill to the historic Pittock Mansion or take Wildwood Trail to Washington Park, home to popular attractions such as the Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon Zoo and International Rose Test Garden. No matter which path you choose, you can enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s lush natural beauty and maybe even meet a few woodland creatures.