If Earth Day (April 22) could claim a capital, Portland would be a top contender. Thanks in part to locals’ passions for recycling, renewable energy, bicycle commuting and sustainably designed buildings, Portland routinely ranks as one of America’s greenest cities.
Having oodles of green space helps, too: More than 14,000 acres (5,666 ha) of parks and green spaces fill the city. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors this Earth Day, head to one of the locally beloved natural areas (and check out the list of upcoming Earth Day events) below.
Sauvie Island, a 26,000-acre (10,522 ha) island at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, is a federal wildlife preserve, and critter sightings are almost guaranteed. The Sauvie Island Wildlife Area provides sanctuary for more than 250 species of swans, herons, cranes, bald eagles and other animals. Other outdoor attractions include boating and kayaking; long, flat bicycling loops; and clothing-optional beaches.
Many choose to celebrate Earth Day by participating in Forest Park Conservancy’s annual restoration of Portland’s backyard wilderness: Forest Park. This mammoth park attracts hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians with 70 miles of tree-shaded trails fanning out over 5,100 acres (2,064 ha). At the center of the action, the popular Wildwood Trail extends 26 miles (42 km) and conveniently connects trekkers to Washington Park, the historic Pittock Mansion and the Audubon Society of Portland. Best of all, this verdant retreat is only a few minutes from downtown Portland — and the nearest latte.
Accessible from downtown Portland via MAX light rail, Washington Park provides an array of family-friendly attractions perfect for Earth Day:
The 187-acre (75.7 ha) Hoyt Arboretum is home to more than 1,100 tree species — a lovely spot for an easy hike, as is the tranquil and meticulously maintained Portland Japanese Garden. Considered the most authentic, highly ranked Japanese garden in North America, it’s a perfect place to quietly reflect on nature’s delicate beauty.
The nearby International Rose Test Garden, which boasts more than 10,000 rose plants in 500 varieties, and an unobstructed view of Mt. Hood, offers visitors similar repose. The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum acts as an educational outpost for forest conservation, teaching visitors about different kinds of trees, habitats and forest sustainability.
Tryon Creek State Natural Area
Portland’s only state park, Tryon Creek lies just 15 minutes south of the city center. This 645-acre (261 ha) jewel includes 8 miles (13 km) of hiking trails, two horse trails and a 3-mile (5 km) paved bicycle path. To help maintain this natural area, people join the Friends of Tryon Creek for their annual Earth Day Birthday celebration where “eco crews” remove invasive plants, tidy the trails and eat cake — it is a birthday celebration, after all.
Join an Earth Day Clean-Up
Every Earth Day, SOLVE Oregon hosts an extensive lineup of clean-ups throughout the state, drawing thousands of volunteers who pick up trash, remove invasive weeds and plant native trees and shrubs in the state’s beloved outdoor spaces. Interested in participating in one of these clean-ups? Browse through SOLVE’s directory of dozens of Earth Day clean-ups and events happening in 2021 in Portland and beyond.
Put on some comfortable shoes and start walking — you’ll be surprised how easy Portland makes it.
To truly appreciate the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, spend a memorable night under the stars at these scenic campsites located within an easy drive from the city.
Feast your eyes on the many wildflower patches around the region for natural beauties you won't find anyplace else.
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