For more than a century, Portland has been affectionately dubbed “The City of Roses”. And ever since the city hosted its first annual rose show in 1889, Portland’s magnificent roses, rhododendrons and trilliums have been enchanting flower lovers, young and old, as they burst into bloom each spring. If your family loves wandering through gardens, frequenting parks or colorful hikes in the woods, there are places you can catch the show as the bees begin to buzz and flowers blossom, and we’ve rounded them up just for you.
photo: Adam Baker via flickr
Camassia Natural Area
Perched in the hills of West Linn above the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers, the 26-acre Camassia Natural Area is owned and maintained by The Nature Conservancy. This global conservation organization has been working to restore the park’s white oak woodlands from invasive Douglas firs—but come April and early May, it’s the blooming common camas that will catch your eye. Stop by for a spring hike through this beautiful preserve and you’ll even find a staff of volunteers to guide you through more than 300 species of plants.
5000 Walnut St.
West Linn, Or
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
The site of a former farm owned by 19th century Mayor William S. Ladd, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden was acquired by the city of Portland in 1923. This nine-acre expanse was first developed as a test garden, but it has come to include more than 2,500 donated rhododendrons, azaleas and companion plants that begin their bloom in early spring. Plan a visit for the Early Show during the first weekend of April, attend the spectacular display on Mothers’ Day or simply stop by for an after-school stroll.
5801 SE 28th Ave.
Apr. 1-Sep. 30, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.; Oct. 1-Mar. 31, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.
Admission: $4/guests over 12; free for kids 12 & under
photo: Aaron Shumaker via flickr
With more than 80 miles of trails and fire roads that wind through a total of 5,157 acres, Forest Park offers a family-friendly hike or activity for every day of the year. But there is no time like springtime to explore Firelane 7 and its connections to the Wildwood Trail and the aptly named Trillium Trail. Simply park your car at the NW Springville Road entrance near NW Skyline Boulevard, and you and your kiddos will be walking among towering alders, bushes ripe with huckleberries and tiger lilies and trilliums in the peak of their bloom.
NW Springville Road and NW Skyline Boulevard
5 a.m.-10 p.m.
International Rose Test Garden
Since its dedication in 1924, the International Rose Test Garden has become Portland’s most famous spot to stop and smell the roses. Beautifully situated on a hillside in Washington Park, the garden features world-class buds of every imaginable color that begin to unfold in early April. What began as a sanctuary for European hybrid roses endangered by World War II is now an ideal spot for an afternoon picnic or a fun morning of tennis in the courts just above.
400 SW Kingston Ave.
7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
The 16 acres of Peninsula Park are full of history, as the site of Portland’s first community center, its second oldest playground and a former track for quarter-mile horse races. But it is the city’s first public rose garden that comes alive in the early days of spring, offering a colorful, uncrowded expanse where roses bloom among stone pillars, intricate brickwork and a century-old fountain. Take an afternoon walk and breathe in the intoxicating fragrance—and remember to come back Memorial Day weekend when the summer splash pad opens to the public.
700 N Rosa Parks Way
photo: Steve Law via flickr
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Known throughout Portland as the site of annual festivals, concerts, marches and carnivals, Tom McCall Waterfront Park is also home to one of the city’s most breathtaking springtime displays. In 1990, 100 ornamental Japanese cherry trees were planted around the Japanese American Historical Plaza to help tell the story of Japanese internment in the United States. And come late March or early April, these blossoming trees create a stunning pink canopy for games of tag on the grass, walks along the river and bike rides across the 30-acre park.
Naito Parkway between SW Harrison and NW Glisan Streets
Tryon Creek State Natural Area
It’s all about the abundant white trilliums that reveal themselves each spring at Tryon Creek State Natural Area, Oregon’s only state park within a major metropolitan area. This refuge sits just south of downtown Portland and offers 658 acres of forestland, as well as trails designed for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. Children will delight in guided hikes, a Junior Ranger program and a Trillium Festival in April, while parents can savor a wondrously quiet escape within minutes of home.
11321 SW Terwilliger Blvd.
Where do you go to enjoy the spring bloom in Portland? Let us know in the comments below!
— Maura O’Brien