Part of Portland’s particular charm is how green the city is — literally. With 200 parks, including the nation’s largest urban forest, you’re never too far from a trail, viewpoint or garden bench. Blaze a trail this winter at these favorite green spaces located within the 145 square miles of Portland.
More than 2,000 species of trees and plants have roots at Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum. Tucked serenely in Washington Park, its 21 trails cover 12 miles (19 km) of greenery to wander. Pick up a free map at the visitor center and head for the evergreen Holly Trail or the Winter Garden, where fragrant viburnums and wintersweet bloom in January and February.
Portland Japanese Garden
After tree-gazing through Hoyt Arboretum, nature-lovers should visit the peaceful Portland Japanese Garden, also in Washington Park. This haven of tranquil beauty spans 5.5 acres (2.2 ha) and offers five separate garden styles, koi ponds, an authentic Japanese Tea House, babbling streams, beautiful walkways and — on clear days — an unsurpassed view of Mount Hood. The garden’s first expansion since its 1963 opening was complete April 1, 2017; the original garden is untouched and was open to visitors during the project.
Perched atop — and carved into — a Northeast Portland cliff, the Grotto is a peaceful oasis in the city. Constructed in 1924 as an outdoor Roman Catholic sanctuary, the nonprofit center now hosts 300,000 people of all faiths each year. Admission to the lower garden is free; for $5, take the elevator to the top of the cliff where botanical gardens bloom in every season.
In Portland, you can escape the city without leaving city limits. In fact, visitors can go from a shopping spree in downtown to the quiet peace of dense wilderness in just a few minutes. Walk, hike or jog along the 70 miles (113 km) of trails in Forest Park, the largest urban forest in the United States (and a local haven).
Mt. Tabor Park
How often does a walk in the park also entail climbing an extinct volcano? That’s just what you can do at Southeast Portland’s Mt. Tabor Park. From the 630-foot (192 m) summit, you can take in some of Portland’s most jaw-dropping skyline and Mount Hood views. The 196-acre (79.3 ha) park also boasts three glittering reservoirs and peaceful, tree-lined trails.
Powell Butte Nature Park
Want to see every mountain surrounding Portland, but don’t have enough time to leave town? From the loop at Powell Butte, you can see four Cascade Range mountains from this Southeast Portland park: Hood, St. Helens, Adams and Jefferson (weather permitting, of course). The 608-acre (247 ha) natural area is crisscrossed by over a dozen trails, including great options for mountain bikers and equestrians.
Smith & Bybee Wetlands Natural Area
Tucked away in North Portland, you’ll find the largest protected wetlands within any American city, Smith & Bybee Wetlands Natural Area. This beautiful hub for canoeing, biking and nature-walking is one of the region’s best-kept secrets. As you stroll the paved pathway, keep an eye out for black-tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles, river otters, beavers and Western painted turtles, all of which have been known to frequent the area.
Now a popular spot for picnics, sunbathing and gorgeous photoshoots, Cathedral Park was once a landing site of the Lewis and Clark expedition and a fishing spot for many Native American tribes. Named for the cathedral-like arches of St. Johns Bridge (which tower over the park), the park offers a boat ramp, canoe launch, off-leash dog area, paved paths, stage and picnic tables.
Put on some comfortable shoes and start walking — you’ll be surprised how easy Portland makes it.
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