Know Before You Go
COVID-19 Update: Washington Park is open, but the individual attractions each have their own reopening plans. Currently the World Forestry Center remains closed. See the latest health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19 and reopening information on Washington Park’s website .
Car parking in Washington Park is extremely limited; light rail, bus and walking are the best ways to reach the park.
Portland’s signature park isn’t just loaded with big trees and picnic tables. Located a mere two miles west of downtown and accessible by MAX light rail, 410-acre Washington Park offers up a zoo, two museums, a spectacular rose garden, one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in the world and more, all bordered by Forest Park — at 5,100 acres, one of the country’s premier urban wildernesses. Here’s a tour.
Steller sea lions, mountain goats and lion prides all draw crowds to the Oregon Zoo. But the biggest stars are the Asian elephants, who enjoy a state-of-the-art habitat that lets visitors see them up close. There’s no bad time to visit: from summer concerts to “Howloween” trick or treat to holiday ZooLights, Portland’s beloved zoo sparkles in any season.
Forests have never been more interesting, thanks to the World Forestry Center’s Discovery Museum , a Portland icon since 1971. Visitors to the dramatic wooden building can see get a bird’s-eye-view of a Northwest forest, “travel” to forests around the world, and learn about the future of sustainable forestry. (Outside the museum, visitors can also visit the museum’s 10,000 pound (4,536 kg), 5-million-year-old petrified stump of a Giant Sequoia tree.)
Washington Park’s playground just south of the Rose Garden is a doozy, with slides, giant castle structures, ramps, bridges and swings. Arrive in style via the Oregon Zoo steam train, which stops just a few feet away.
Apricot Candy, Burgundy Iceberg, Rhapsody in Blue — these are just a few of the 722 different varieties represented among the more than 10,000 roses bushes to ogle, caress and, of course, sniff at the International Rose Test Garden, the oldest continuously operated public rose garden in the nation. Peak bloom season runs from late May to September. But even sans petals, the 4.5-acre, multi-tiered grounds dazzle with sculptures, a flower-themed gift shop and stunning views of Mount Hood and Portland’s skyline.
Touted by former Japanese ambassador Nobuo Matsunaga as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of his homeland, the 12-acre Portland Japanese Garden is a breathtaking passageway to the Land of the Rising Sun. Take in eight unique gardenscapes (a strolling pond, ceremonial teahouse, natural garden, flat garden and sand-stone garden) set among cherry trees, azaleas and Japanese maples. Traditional events include autumn moon viewings.
Hoyt Arboretum staffers call it Portland’s “living classroom.” How else to categorize a 190-acre plot chock-full of more than 1,000 species of plants? Grab a walking map and stroll 12 miles’ worth of hiking trails, discovering exotic trees such as the Chilean Monkey Puzzle, weeping sequoias and a multitude of flowering specimens like dogwood and magnolias.
Designated as a National Recreation Trail, the Wildwood Trail stretches 30 miles, spanning the entire length of Forest Park, and offers endless loop options with shorter paths. The trail begins just northwest of the Washington Park MAX station.
Perfect for a little adventure in the city, the 4T Trail, a clearly marked 4.5-mile (7.2 km) loop, directs trekkers on a unique urban route that ropes in trails, a train, a trolley (aka the Portland Streetcar) and the Portland Aerial Tram. Pick up the trail by following the 4T signs outside the Washington Park MAX station; an all-day TriMet pass is required.
Dedicated in 1987, the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial is a curved black granite wall that was inspired by the design of the famed Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The names of 800 Oregonians who died or are still missing in action are inscribed here, contrasted by a record of concurrent local events.
Meant to evoke a town square — the kind of place where Jewish citizens were often gathered before being forced into concentration camps — the Oregon Holocaust Memorial is a small monument that packs an emotional wallop. Bronze casts of shoes, eyeglasses and suitcases representing meager possessions lost in the chaos, and a wall engraved with quotes from those who survived, spur quiet reflection.
Transportation to and in the Park
Car parking in Washington Park is extremely limited; light rail, bus and free shuttle service are the best ways to reach the park.
MAX Light Rail
Washington Park is served by the MAX light rail Blue and Red lines; the MAX station is close to the Oregon Zoo, World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the 4T and Wildwood trailheads.
TriMet bus #63 also goes from Providence Park in downtown to Washington Park, with stops near the International Rose Test Garden and Japanese Garden, as well as the Oregon Zoo and World Forestry Center Discovery Museum.
The free Explore Washington Park shuttle stops at all the park’s major attractions, as well as the Washington Park MAX station. From March 20 through September the shuttle runs every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
From downtown, take US 26W to exit 72 (Zoo/Forestry Center) and follow signs to Washington Park. Pay to park in designated lots and streets. ($2.00 per hour). For real-time parking information and construction alerts and closures, visit explorewashingtonpark.com.
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