Forest Park in Portland, Oregon
Another reason why Portland is such a great city
Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, and it’s located in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon. Need I say more? Not only does Portland have great urban, city life that consists of delicious coffee, great night life, an excellent music scene and many charming neighborhoods, it also pulls off having several parks intricately worked into its boundaries and one park that is over 5,000 acres with over 70 miles of trails. And people wonder why Portland is such a well loved city. Somehow it pulls off everything that anyone could ever want, in one well-sized, accessible location.
Forest Park is west of downtown Portland, bordering neighborhoods such as Northwest Heights, Linnton and Nob Hill. The commute from Forest Park to downtown is a mere five minute drive, so many of the park’s trail heads are quickly accessible from busy city life. Forest Park acts as somewhat of a barrier between trendy downtown city life and the comfortable quiet, quasi suburban life of the West Hills.
Forest Park is most known for its walking, running, hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There is a trail for everyone in this park, and dogs are welcome also, which helps because Portlanders love their dogs. To name just a few of the trailheads in Forest Park, there is: Lower Macleay Park, Thurman: Leif Erikson Drive, Upper Macleay Park, Aspen Trail, Holman Lane, Tunnel & Cumberland Trails, Forest Lane: Firelane 1, Birch Trail, Dogwood & Wild Cherry, Wildwood Trail, Ridge Trail, Newton Road and several more. These are among the most popular trailheads, ranging in levels of difficulty, that locals and visitors frequent daily. The park features more than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species, gives glimpses of the beautiful Mt. Hood as well as natural creeks that run through the park and the Willamette River. Although it is a short distance from downtown Portland, while you are inside the overgrowth of Douglas Firs you couldn’t feel further away from the city. There is a unique seclusion that Forest Park gives its visitors, which can be comforting when city life is too much to handle.
Close by, south of Forest Park, are some of Portland’s other most popular destinations for locals and tourists alike.
Portland International Rose Test Garden features over 6,800 rose bushes and 557 varieties. It is one of the largest gardens in the nation, is internationally renowned and holds Portland true to its name of being the “City of Roses.”
Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens outside of Japan, offering five separate garden styles in its 5.5 acre landscape.
Hoyt Arboretum offers 12 miles of trails among 8,000 trees from around the world.
World Forestry Center Discovery Museum showcases interactive exhibits that explores forests and trees.
Portland Children’s Museum gives kids plenty of opportunities to explore how objects work, create their own works of art, shop for groceries in the Kid’s Cafe and Market, use tools in the Garage and more things that make kids feel like adults.
Oregon Zoo allows families to enjoy seeing animals from almost every continent, as well as enjoying concerts at the zoo’s amphitheater, experiencing the Christmas lights at the zoo during the winter holidays and taking part in other events that the Portland Zoo offers annually.
Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial allows visitors to walk the circular path along the black granite walls that list the names of Oregon residents who either died in Vietnam or are missing in action. The memorial provides a beautiful, serene setting that allows reflection and remembrance.
Who occupies the trails?
While walking along some of the different trails in Forest Park, I came to find that most of the walkers and runners with dogs and friends were locals of Portland who come to Forest Park regularly. Some walk or run the same trail daily, others switch it up with going to Upper Macleay one day and Leif Erikson the next. But I also came across some hikers who live on the east side of Portland and were just enjoying Forest Park for the morning.
Whether you are close enough to hike the trails of Forest Park daily or not, it is a great place to go for peace and exercise if you love the outdoors. The information at each of the trailheads is very helpful on levels of difficulty, distance and more information if you want to be particular. But if not, drive up to Forest Park and stop at any of the trailheads that are visible off the side of the road. It’s easy to just drive up, find a hike and go!