Parks and Rec in Portland

Contributed by Laura Buchholz.

Laura Buchholz works in Reed College Special Collections & Archives, responsible all things digital, and grew up hiking in the rain in Portland and Oregon.

As you plan your conference schedule, be sure to build in some time outside! Portland has beautiful parks and hiking opportunities to enjoy, whether your ideal outing is a picnic and people watching, a stroll through forested trails, or a heart-pumping hike up a volcanic cinder cone. All of the following are within city limits and accessible by public transit.

Want to know more about a trail to determine if it is a good match for your mobility needs? The Access Trails site lets you know what to expect, beyond simple ADA compliance, for selected trails.

Forest Park

Forest Park, Portland“Forest Park, Portland” by “Robert Tuck”. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Accessed 18 April 2017.


Over 5000 acres of forested beauty on the hills west of Portland. So many paths to choose from that it can be overwhelming: I recommend hiking a section of the popular Wildwood trail.


Claim to fame: the largest forested natural area within city limits in the U.S.


Good for: forested and shady hikes for all fitness levels, bobcat or coyote sightings (very rare, but possible!), gurgling creeks, views of Mt. Hood.

Laurelhurst Park

laurelhurst_park“IMG_0806a” by “Sam Churchill”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Accessed 18 April 2017.


A large city park with established trees, pond, play areas, and dog park. The surrounding neighborhood is beautiful for a long walk or run.


Claim to fame: Site of an old cattle farm, voted most beautiful park in 1911 by the Pacific Coast Parks Association, site of Rose Festival Queen coronations, and first city park to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.


Good for: picnics, people watching, dog watching, feeding the ducks, laying in the shade, outdoor yoga, free summer concerts, exploring the neighborhood front gardens.

Mt Tabor

mt_tabor“Mt. Tabor, November 2007” by “brx0”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Accessed 18 April 2017.


Mt. Tabor is a city park on top of a dormant cinder cone, part of the Boring Lava Field*. Hike your way to the top for a good workout, then watch the sunset over two large reservoirs, with Portland in the background. You can also drive to the top, but the park is closed to cars on Wednesdays.


Claim to fame: It’s a volcano!

Good for: picnics, cardio hikes, views of the sunset, skateboarding down a volcano, people watching, free concerts.


*Unfortunately not named according to some kind of a lava field excitement rating, but instead after the nearby town of Boring, Oregon, which is named after William H. Boring.


South Park Blocks

south_park_blocks“North end; South Park Blocks” by “Rosa Say”. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Accessed 19 April 2017.


If you’re staying downtown, you’ll want to check out the park blocks, a strip of 12 consecutive city blocks with tall trees, sidewalks, sculptures, and shade. The far southern end of the park blocks, near Portland State University, hosts a large farmers market on Saturdays.


Good for: city walking, sculpture viewing, farmers market browsing, sipping early morning coffee.


Claim to fame: Site of Portland’s first Gay Pride celebration, among many other marches, protests, and celebrations.

Waterfront Park & Eastbank Esplanade


“Tom McCall Waterfront Park” by “Joel Mann”. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Accessed 19 April 2017.


Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade hug the Willamette river and are connected by several bridges, making it an excellent option for a sightseeing bike ride loop. The park hosts many major festivals throughout the summer, including the Oregon Brewers Festival during the conference. Bringing kids to the conference? Salmon Street Springs is a favorite for local kids to cool off during the summer.


Good for: running, biking, rollerblading, frolicking in fountains, memorials, admiring the Willamette river, beer drinking.


Claim to fame: Waterfront Park used to be a major traffic artery, and is an early example of freeway removal in U.S. cities.

Washington Park

washington_park.jpg“International Rose Test Garden, Portland OR USA” by “Travel USA”. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0. Accessed 19 April 2017.


Washington Park encompasses several Portland destinations: the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden (peak bloom is June, but there will still be plenty in July!), the Portland Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden Children’s Park (a massive play structure!), the Hoyt Arboretum, the Portland Children’s Museum, and more.


Parking is limited this summer due to construction, so take the MAX to the Washington Park station, and hop on the free shuttle to get to your destination.


Good for: Smelling the roses, burning off energy, waving hi to the hippo, appreciating the wonder that is the Pacific Northwest gardening climate, hiking.


Claim to fame: One of 24 testing sites for the All-America Rose Selections (AARS).


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