Stumptown may be best known for its forests of evergreen trees, but Portland is also home to an impressive variety of deciduous trees, with leaves that erupt into a range of color before cascading into jump-worthy piles. Whether you’re looking to snap a family photo for your holiday card, or simply soak in the beauty, we’ve got you covered with this list of local spots for fall color. Read on for more.
photo by katrina emery
When you’ve got pre-walkers in your group, these beautifully-maintained gardens are perfect for fall viewing. Not all pathways are stroller friendly, however, so consider a baby carrier for more effortless navigating. The garden often updates its website in the fall with the progression of the leaves, as every year a variety of factors can influence peak color times. Whenever you go, there is one much-photographed Japanese Maple that is truly magnificent in the fall– and you’ll know it when you see it! The teahouse welcomes you after your fall viewing for lunch and treats.
Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Ave.
If you’ve got time to venture north, consider the Columbia Children’s Arboretum in North Portland’s industrial area. Tucked away from the noise, it’s a quiet and underused wooded park centered around a large meadow and former orchards, with loads of fall color from the sugar maples and American sweet gums. Acquired by Portland Parks and Recreation in 1999, there’s a plan in place for eventual development into a more extensive educational park. For now, it’s a great place to take in the turning leaves.
Columbia Children’s Arboretum
10040 NE 6th Dr.
Photo: Fall Trail via flickr
While the upper garden is under construction, this curated garden in outer Southeast Portland is still a peaceful, easy choice for families. Nestled along Johnson Creek, the gardens were created and cared for over decades by John and Lilla Leach, who bought the property in 1931. Their historical home– a rambling white cottage with several outbuildings– now includes a visitor center, stone cottage, and upper gardens (currently closed) with greenhouses and pollinator gardens. Admire the well-labeled plants as you learn about them, then venture across the bridge to visit the stone cottage, where the Leaches lived in the summer months, and while they were building their home. If it’s one of those fall days that feel like summer, Leach is a great place to escape the heat, with towering conifers creating cool shade and vine maple and ginkgo trees providing spectacular color. Also check the calendar for Honeybee Hikes, a local favorite with little ones.
Insider tips: The construction barrier prevents access to about half of the garden. It should be finished by Fall 2020. Because of the proximity to water, this walk may be best suited to preschool age and older– or strap your wandering toddlers to your back to keep them close.
Leach Botanical Garden
6704 SE 122nd Ave.
Visit the library of trees for over 12 miles of hiking trails through a wide range of deciduous trees. In stunning shades of red, orange, and yellow, the maples, oaks, and birches are in full display this time of year. Stop at the visitor center for more information on the most colorful trails and stroller-friendly paths. You can also pick up a scavenger map for the kids!
4000 SW Fairview Blvd.
Photo: Hoyt Maple Trail via flickr
This is arguably one of the best places in Portland to take in the fall colors, with 360 degree views of the entire city. You can hike from Forest Park, take transit, or drive to the peak. Built in 1909, the Pittock mansion overlooks the city limits facing west, including a view of Mt Hood when the weather is clear. Tour inside the mansion before wandering the grounds.
3229 NW Pittock Dr.
Photo: Fall Leaves via flickr
With nearly 150 parks in the Portland Parks system, it’s easy to see why some of the best fall viewing might be just around the corner. Local favorites for fall color include Irving Park, in the Northeast Irvington neighborhood, where 169 deciduous trees await. (There are 189 trees total in the park, so you can imagine just how colorful the fall can be!) Just a bit south, Laurelhurst Park features fiery ginkgoes, maples, and lindens, standing out against a solid backdrop of evergreen trees. The gently curving trails loop around the duck pond, where sweeping willows bend over water lit up by the reflection of fall leaves. Of course, nothing quite beats the Park Blocks this time of year. Chapman Square, at SW 5th & Main, is especially beautiful, with exclusively female ginkgo trees dressed in their signature bright yellow. Cathedral Park, nestled just beneath the Gothic green towers of St John’s Bridge, offers picturesque views of deciduous trees along the Willamette river– and usually a plethora of leaf piles to jump in. And don’t forget to check out the impressive results of the city’s Tree Inventory Project. Interactive maps allow you to find out just what kind of trees live in your neighborhood park!
Photo: Sauvie Island Color via flickr
Just north of St John’s, Sauvie Island is THE fall destination for fun. Besides the trifecta of pumpkins, apple cider, and hay rides, there are also tons of sprawling oaks turning color all along the route. Take a drive or pick a pretty picnic spot (Howell Territorial Park is a good choice) and enjoy the harvest while you feast your eyes on autumn leaves.
Ready to head a bit further? Hop on the Historic Columbia River Highway for one of the most scenic drives this time of year. It begins in Corbett, 20 miles outside of Portland, and winds along the Columbia through a wide range of both evergreen and deciduous trees. Pack a lunch and make a day of it– and don’t forget to try out some of the short hikes along the way, just perfect for little adventurers. Latourell Falls is doable at just under 2.5 miles, while Horsetail Falls is another great option. Of course, no one can forget Multnomah Falls, which tends to be slightly less crowded than summer, but no less stunning.
Getting there: From Portland, take I-84 east to Corbett. Take exit 22 and follow the Historic Columbia River Highway/Highway 30 east toward Multnomah Falls.