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Spring is upon us and Portland families are itching to get out. Now is a perfect time to, light up the evenings with nature’s best show. Take a break from screen time and start an new end-of-day routine. Stunning sunsets are waiting for your family. Say goodbye to evening screen time and read on to find out where you can catch our top picks for the best places to watch the sun set in Portland. 

photo credit: Ferrous Büller via flickr

1. Mt. Tabor

The Eastside’s favorite dormant volcano, Mt Tabor offers plenty of hillside space for picnics, fun, and exploration. Explore the trails, play in the playground, or hike to the top, then settle in to watch the sun set over the city skyline and the west hills. Tip: the top’s views can be somewhat limited, so spread a blanket out on the west slope over the reservoir. You’ll get to sit and relax and still enjoy the view.

Free, open until midnight
SE 60th St and SE Salmon St.
Online: portlandoregon.gov/

2. Skidmore Bluffs

You might have to come early, and you’ll definitely get a show of the best and weirdest of Portland, but the views on this hillside can’t be beat. The steep bluffs are a classic picnic site, running for miles above the Willamette River. Throw on your best hipster outfit, grab your guitar, and join the show.

Free, open until midnight
2206 N. Skidmore Terrace
Online: portlandoregon.gov

photo credit: Alejandro Rdguez via flickr

3. Pittock Mansion

Built in 1914, the mansion on the hill is a popular destination in Portland. You can take tours inside as late as 5 p.m., but arguably the best attraction is the view of the city. The best views actually face east, but if you weren’t up for the sunrise, you’ll still catch a beautiful scene of the alpenglow on Mt. Hood as the sun sets behind you, casting purple and pink light on the snowy slopes, and the extensive grounds of the mansion are a great place for a picnic.

$8-10 admission inside, kids under 6 free
Check site for hours (As of the date this was published, the museum is still open)
3229 NW Pittock Dr.
Online: pittockmansion.org

4. Cathedral Park

Catch the last of the rays between the cathedral-like buttresses of the St. John’s Bridge. Whether you picnic down by the edge of the Willamette or higher in the park, you’ll see the sun dip slowly behind the trees of Forest Park on the west side of the river. It’s debatable whether it’s better under the bridge or above, so come back and test them both out!

Free, open until midnight
N Edison St & Pittsburg Ave.
Online: portlandoregon.gov

photo credit: Tara K. via Yelp

5. Powell Butte Nature Park

The rocky volcanoes of Powell Butte are home to wide meandering trails through a surprising variety of landscapes–wildflower meadows, old-growth forest, and cottonwood groves. Many trails are paved, making them an easy stroll, and at the top markers point to surrounding mountains like Mt Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, and more. At 600 feet high, it’s a spectacular spot to watch the sun dip. And dusk is the best time to look for the park’s normal residents, like bats, raccoons, gray foxes, and deer.

Free, open until 10 p.m.
16160 SE Powell Blvd.
Online: portlandoregon.gov

6. Eastbank Esplanade

Stay close to home by simply heading to the river for the nightly views. Sit behind OMSI on the pier, take an evening stroll, or ride your bikes up the esplanade and enjoy the glow. The 1.5 mile path includes sections on the water, benches, and plenty of place to sit and gaze. Head to the canoe launch and dip your toes on a hot night, or stay up on the main section and watch the sun set behind the Hawthorne Bridge.

Free, open until midnight
Along the waterfront, entries at Water Ave. and Hawthorne, or OMSI
Online: portlandoregon.gov

Photo credit: Britney B. via Yelp

7. Angel’s Rest

For a spectacular view of the entire Gorge, challenge yourself to the Angel’s Rest hike. This is best for older kids who can handle the 5 mile round trip hike up a steep slope, or kids young enough to be carried. Once you reach the top the natural amphitheater offers an incredible perspective. (safety note: there are no guardrails, so keep the kids away from the edge). There’s a field of boulders on the west side before you reach the ‘summit,’ which is likely a better place to watch the sun go down. Give yourself plenty of time to reach the top before sunset, and bring flashlights and headlamps for the hike down!

From Portland, take Bridal Veil exit #28
Online: oregonhikers.org

8. Council Crest Park

Nestled in the southwest hills, the top of Council Crest offers stunning 360 degree views of the city. You’ll catch the sun setting in the west, and if you turn around you can enjoy the light reflecting off the mountains in the east. It’s a 3.3 mile hike up the top (you can also drive, though), where you’ll find picnic tables, a vista viewing point with all the best views.

Free, open until midnight
SW Council Crest Dr.
Online: portlandoregon.gov/

Photo credit: Bala Sivakumar via Flickr

9. Stonehenge in the Gorge

Cross the veil at twilight and find an otherworldly vista at Stonehenge, Washington. Rather than an ancient Druidic worship site, this replica was built in 1918 as a WWI Memorial, but you could still look for a few witches and goblins between the massive stones. Three miles west of the Maryhill Museum of Art, the perfect replica is perched on the edge of the Gorge, offering stunning views both ways. It’s a more affordable (and maybe more beautiful) way of visiting Stonehenge.

Free admission, open until dusk
Three miles east of the Museum, just off Highway 14
Museum: 35 Maryhill Museum Dr.
Goldendale, Wa.
Online: maryhillmuseum.org/visit/stonehenge-memorial

Featured image by Jim Choate via flickr

—Katrina Emery

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