Portland is known for having the perfect combination of city and nature. One second you’re on a bustling street, and the next you’re surrounded by huge trees with not a car in sight. Some parks in Portland, Oregon will transport you to a new world, while others give you the most amazing views the city has to offer. Whether it’s one or the other, visiting the parks in Portland is a must while in the area.
During my time living in Portland, I was able to visit all of these parks and more, but can say that these five are all great options for visitors. Portland is a place full of beauty, and adding one of these parks to your list of places to see might end up being the highlight of your trip.
Located in Northwest Portland, Forrest Park is a place that embodies the Pacific Northwest. It’s damp, and lush, and absolutely stunning. If you have to pick one park to go visit in Portland, it should be this one. Like every other park in this list, access to Forrest Park is completely free, so it’s a great option if you’re traveling in Portland on a budget. Being here feels like entering a whole new world, with moss filled trees displaying a vivid green that you’ll never forget.
This park is a whopping 5,200 acres big and has over 80 miles of trails to explore. You can access Forrest Park from a few different entrances, though some are harder to get to/park at than others. You can’t go wrong by entering the park through the Lower Macleay Trail entry point. It only has a few parking spots, but you can park on the streets of the neighborhood for free. This is one of the most popular access points of the park and for good reason. The trail that opens up from this access point is accessible, not too long, and goes past some of the most popular areas of the park like the Balch Creek and the infamous Stone House, which is also a great place to snap some pics for the gram!
Did you even imagine that your trip to Portland could potentially involve hiking up a volcano? That’s right, the very charming Southeast area of Portland is also home to a dormant volcano cylinder that is now called Mt.Tabor, and if you’re in the area you should check it out!
Mt.Tabor is a staple in Southeast Portland. This was actually the only park that i visited on my first trip to Portland, and played a big part in my decision to move there. It’s a popular area for runners, and bikers, as the park features a lot of paved roads and stairs. You can get to the very top without ever stepping on grass if you want, which can actually be pretty perfect if the ground is still wet from the rain. And at the very top, you’ll have a great view of downtown. It’s a postcard type of view, with lots of benches at the top for you to stop and take it all in.
Mills End Park
You just have to see it. It takes a hot second, you don’t even need to get out of the car. Why you ask? Because this is the smallest park in Portland Oregon. It’s actually the smallest park in the country, as it takes up an entire 452 square inches. I don’t even want to go into too much more detail, for fear or ruining the experience for you. However, I will say that if you do end up getting out of the car to see this park, you may as well go to my favorite weed shop in the city, Chalice Farms!
When it come to parks in Portland, Oregon, Washington Park might take the cake for best place to take pictures. Thats because it’s home to the International Rose Test Garden, which holds over 600 varieties of roses and 1,000 bushes to bask in! Almost every color you can imagine is featured in this amazing garden, and visiting it is totally free. And this is just one of the many attractions featured in the park.
The Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, and Hoyt Arboretum are also located in Northwest Portland park. Wait, there’s more. The Portland Japanese Garden is there as well, which is one of the cooler things in Portland. It costs to get in, but I’d say it’s worth it, just because it’s so unique. There’s a lot of traffic in this park, especially in the summer time. Usually you can find a parking space, but if not they offer free shuttle rides to save you the hassle. There’s really so much to do in Washington Park, so check out the website for more details.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Tom McCall is a great park to visit in Portland, as its location is very central to the city. Sitting right along the Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the perfect place to take a stroll. If you’re around in the spring time, you’ll be walking through tons of cherry blossom trees in bloom with their gorgeous bright pink flowers guiding you along. You’ll see boats going by, bikers riding through, and usually a ton of local people.
Aside from being a leisurely park to visit, walking the length of it will also bring you right to the thick of the Portland Saturday Market. This weekly market is thriving with local food and craft vendors over the weekends, and attracts a huge crowd. It’s a great place to grab a souvenir from a local artists, instead of at the airport gift shop. But to be fair, the gift shop at the airport has a lot of local goods as well!
Visiting any of these parks in Portland, Oregon will give you a good PNW experience to reminisce on later. Whether it’s the straight up natural beauty that is Forest Park, or the weirdness of Mills End Park, you’ll leave feeling more like you experienced Portland. Visit them all out if you’re up to it! Then go check out some of the other budget friendly things to do in Portland!