Fall is here and you don’t have to go far to get a good dose of nature an an incredible view of the new season. Did you know that Portland is home to the country’s largest urban forest reserves that provides families with a multitude of outdoorsy experiences without having to leave the city. Forest Park features a variety of trails, rushing creeks and opportunities for live encounters with an abundance of wildlife and it’s open! With almost 100 miles of trails within the park, your crew can hit a different trail each week until more option open up. Read on to find our rundown of the best hikes for families in Forest Park.

photo: shea R. via flickr

1. NW Skyline Blvd to BPA Road (2 miles)
This relatively effortless, two mile hike is easy to access from NW Skyline Blvd. from BPA Road. Here, look for the signs for Firelane 13 to reach the flat, lookout area with picnic tables. Don’t forget to pack in your lunch to enjoy from the overlook! On a clear day, you can even spot Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.

Ages: Appropriate for all ages (you can even take baby in a backpack carrier)

2. Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion (5.3 miles)
The hike to Pittock Mansion from Lower Macleay Park is a bit of a climb (an elevation gain of nearly a thousand feet), and is more difficult in nature at 5.3 miles round trip—but this hike has it all! You’ll find street parking near the park entrance on NW 29th and Upshur, plus the park has picnic tables and restrooms. The hike itself is parallel to a lovely gurgling river bank, and the trail is paved. A highlight is the mysterious Stone House, for a fun photo op, where you can either opt to return on the Wildwood Trail or soldier on. If you opt to continue, you’ll ultimate reach Pittock Mansion, with stunning views of the city that are sure to impress.

Ages: 6 years and up

photo: Emily U via flickr

3. Lower Maple Trail Loop (3 mile loop)
From Hwy 30, turn on to Saltzman Road, and follow the winding residential road up to the top. Now, follow the Saltzman Road trail head to the Maple Trail, then go right on the Leif Erikson Trail. Return to the beginning via Maple, and you’ll have taken one healthy, three mile loop. While the directions may sound complicated, it’s a fun quest and sign exploration game for older children to participate in, plus they’ll love the forested paths with birds, slugs and bugs. (Don’t forget your bug spray!)

Ages: All ages

photo: Ben Timney via flickr

4. The Big Stump (2 miles or 6 miles)
Turn on to Old Springville Rd. from Skyline Rd. to reach the parking area and Wildwood trail head. There, you’ll follow Fire Lane 7 to the the Hardesty Trail, reaching The Big Stump (which is exactly what it sounds like—kids love it!). To return, either follow your inbound route, or if you’re feeling very ambitious, opt to loop to the Wildwood Trail, then Ridge Trail, back to Fire Lane 7. Depending on your course, this will take you either two miles and less than two hours, or a few more hours to do the six mile loop.

Ages: 2 mile loop is appropriate for all ages. 6 mile loop is best for 7 years and up.


5. Audubon Society Hikes (1-5 miles)
If you have a novice avian expert in your family, check out the Audubon Society of Portland at 5151 NW Cornell Rd. From here, you can take an easy, 1.3 mile stroll from the Founders Trail to the North Collins Trail to hear and view wild woodpeckers and over 40 species of other birds. The 150 acre nature preserve surrounding the Audubon Society has four miles of hiking paths, plus onsite restrooms and a store to pick up a birding guide. 

Ages: All ages

photo: Audubon Society of Portland 

6. The Wildwood–Newton Loop (1 mile)
Last but not least, your little tree hugger will love the Wildwood Trail! This round-trip loop is about a mile and easy enough for smaller legs. From Skyline Blvd, turn on to NW Newton Road and park. Then walk right on the first path, to the Wildwood Trail. From here, head south on Wildwood. To return, take a right onto Fire Lane 10. Along the Wildwood Trail, you’ll find a hollowed-out tree that little ones will love to tuck inside for a fun photo.

— Annette Benedetti


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