Portland is a nature lovers paradise. We're lucky to have access to so many nature parks and hikes on our front doorstep. Sometimes it's difficult picking a hike that everyone in the family can manage, especially the kiddos. Here's 10 family-friendly hikes that the whole family will love.
By family-friendly we mean trails that are 5-miles or under, have fairly low increases in elevation, and have some exciting things for kids to look out for, like wildlife, some old structures, and interpretive signs. We recommend doing a bit of research on each hike so you know where you're going to minimize your chances of getting lost.
Pack lots of snacks and water and lather on the sunscreen. Happy trailblazing!
Cooper Mountain Nature park is an oasis located less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland. There are picnic tables, restrooms, a Nature House, and a nature-themed play area for kids close to the parking area. The 3.1-mile Loop Hike takes you through a lush meadow and along the Cooper Mountain Quarry Pond, where you might be able to spot red-legged frogs, salamander, and larvae. Along the trail, kids can count the rings of old tree stumps and hunt for insects. There are fantastic views of the Chehalem Hills and Parrett Mountains. All the trails in the Park start with a descent, so we be prepared to feel the burn in your thighs on the way back, and pack plenty of water!
Oxbow Regional Park contains 15 miles of great hiking trails. If you're feeling like an easier hike, there's trails with gentle grades that run along the Sandy River. If you feel like a challenge, there are steeper trails along the ridge that run parallel to the river. Keep an eye out for animals like beavers, mink, and black bears roaming around the river's sandy beaches.
Oxbow is a great place to spend an entire day. After hiking, tube or kayak in the river, watch the salmon spawning, or camp here for the weekend. The park is open from 6:30am to sunset.
If you don't want to leave the city but you still want to stretch your legs and go on an adventure, the Pittock Mansion trail is a great hike. It's 5.7 miles roundtrip and begins at the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead and eventually meets up with the Wildwood Trail. This hike is a really fun experience for kids. You'll come across a creek, Portland's tallest tree, the old Stone House, and old-growth Douglas-firs. At the Pittock Mansion you'll get awesome views of downtown Portland and Mount Hood. Take your time and meander through the Mansion's well-kept gardens.
This is a great nature sanctuary that nature lovers of all ages love to explore. The 658 acre park is filled with second-growth forests, and there's 8-miles of easy hiking trails. Bring binoculars so kids can spot the park's abundant wildlife. Squirrels, bats, beavers, and woodpeckers are just some of the fascinating creatures that you might spot. The parking lot can get quite busy on the weekends, so try and get there early if you can manage to rally everyone out of the house early in the morning.
The Nature Center, Jackson Shelter, and restrooms are currently closed until further notice due to construction, but the park remains open and there are porta potties. The construction is scheduled to finish this July. Their regularly scheduled Guided Nature Walks are still taking place every Saturday morning from 10 to 11:30am throughout June, July, and August. These walks are a great opportunity to explore the forest and stream ecosystems and learn about the natural history of the park.
Hoyt Arboretum, located in Washington Park, is 190-acres and home to 2,300 different species of trees and shrubs and 12 miles of trails. There's a number of different trails depending on the kids' energy levels, from the Fir Trail, which is a short 30-minute, 0.5-mile loop, to the 2-hour Overlook/Wildwood/Hawthorn/Maple/Holly loop. There's also 3 ADA Accessible trails for wheelchairs and strollers. When you're walking walking through the Arboretum, you won't realize that you're in middle of bustling Portland.
Less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland, the Loop Hike in Graham Oaks Nature Park is an easy trails that is more of a walk than a hike. It takes walkers along the Tonquin and other trails, through a tranquil meadow, and past the Elder Oak Tree - a 150-200 year-old Oregon White Oak that stands by itself in the middle of the meadow. The hike is 3.1 miles roundtrip and the gain in elevation is only 60 feet. This is a great place to learn about nature with placards along the trails describing the wildlife.
There's a never-ending network of trails in Washington Park. It seems like you could get lost in here - I'm sure some people have! The Park is the city's greatest treasure with so much natural beauty and so much to see and explore. You'll forget that downtown is just a few miles away!
Along the Loop Hike you'll pass Historic Reservoirs and monuments like the Portland Holocaust Memorial. From some vantage points, you'll get great views of the city, and at the end of the trail you'll meander through the International Rose Test Garden. The loop is 3.9 miles in total with an elevation gain of 585 feet. Make sure to pay attention to the signs because there are a lot of twists and turns throughout the hike.
Browns Ferry Park is 28.3 acres featuring a pond full of wildlife and creatures, a rustic barn, and tons of beautiful Douglas-firs, grand firs, and big-lead maples. The 2.1-mile short loop hike takes hikers along the Tualatin River. Kids love to spot ducks and geese here. And if you're feeling like more of an adventure, after your walk you can kayak or canoe in the river; there's a private canoe and kayak rental service that operates throughout the summer.
You'll want the kids to wear boots on this hike because the trails can get muddy, and there's no stopping them from jumping in those mud puddles! The Loop Hike in Wapato Access Greenway State Park is simple and flat, 2.2 miles, and only has an elevation gain of 40 ft. You won't be breaking a sweat on this hike, but it's a great place to bring young kids. You'll wind through big-leaf maples, Douglas-firs, and cotton woods. Pack binoculars because there's a good chance you'll come across waterfowl and possibly even beavers. And pack a lunch and chill out in the picnic shelter in the meadow at the end of the hike.
Powell Butte Nature Park contains a number of great trails. All the trails are well-signed, and junctions are clearly marked. Keep and eye out for mountain bikers and horseback riders who share the trails with hikers. The park's Loop Hike is 4.5 miles with an elevation of 530 feet, making this a good hike to bring older kids. There are some seriously fantastic views of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount Scott, and Clackamas Butte. Don't worry, there's mountain finder circles that label the surrounding peaks if you honestly have no clue what mountain you're looking at.
Happy hiking! Tell us about your experience on these trails by commenting below. And if we've missed one of your favorite family-friendly hikes, we've love to hear about it.