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Our Favorite Parks & Gardens in Portland

We’re called Portland, but honestly, we could really be named Parkland for all the gorgeous parks we have in our area. Here’s the best list of parks around here. See if you can visit them all!

Best parks for a day trip

Cathedral Park: Located under the east end of the St. Johns Bridge and named for the intricate arches on the bridge, this park is one of the most photogenic backdrops in the city. You can spend hours wandering through this park. It is especially beautiful in the summer and hosts a free jazz festival in the month of July. With epic views of Forest Park and the Willamette River, this is a great park to spend an afternoon or a whole day. Fun fact: There is a time capsule from 1980 sealed in the park’s Memorial Garden, and will be opened in 2030. Mark your calendars!

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden: This garden features over 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas and other plants, all of which were either donated by volunteers or purchased with donated funds. Admission is free between the months of October and February and just $5 any other time of year. This peaceful park is most spectacular during the spring months when the rhododendrons are in full bloom; Mother’s Day weekend is the best! The various waterfall structures are built out of rocks from Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams and the Crystal Springs Lake attracts a variety of native Oregon birds. If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the city, this is the place for you.

Washington Park: Probably our most well-known and popular park, Washington Park contains a zoo, gardens, memorials, museums, wilderness and more. A vast 410 acres, you could easily spend a whole day exploring all this park has to offer. The Oregon Zoo, located towards the southern end of the park, is known for their state-of-the-art interactive elephant exhibit. The Portland Japanese Garden has been reclaimed as one of the most authentic examples of Japanese landscaping outside of Japan. Their collection of bonsai trees is truly a marvel. Free to enter, the Hoyt Arboretum is Portland’s living museum! Explore 12 miles of beautiful hiking trails while gazing at thousands of different tree species from all over the world. The International Rose Test Garden is the oldest maintained rose garden in the nation, and is in peak bloom from May to September. Washington Park has something for everyone and is a great spot any time of year.

Closest to PSU

Tom McCall Waterfront Park: This park is on the west bank of the Willamette River and is a great place to go for a walk or stumble upon an event. Although beautiful all year round, Waterfront Park is especially delightful in the springtime when the cherry blossom trees are blooming. Salmon Street Springs is an impressive fountain that you can play in during the hottest summer months. Make your way towards the north end of the park to see the Oregon Maritime Museum (look for the boat!). If you’re visiting over the weekend, the Portland Saturday Market should be on your list. This is one of our claims to fame, the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the country. Here, you can pick up some souvenirs for your loved ones back home: artisan jewelry, hand-crafted ceramics, natural soap, or even a flower crown!

Tanner Springs Park: One of the newer parks in the city, Tanner Springs is the perfect mix of urban and natural elements. Designed by a notable landscape architecture firm, it contains elements that remind us of the wetland that used to occupy the space. There is a cool art installment at one end of the park composed of railroad tracks and fused glass. The park is located in the heart of the Pearl District, so you can easily hop on the Portland Streetcar to get to some classic Portland landmarks: Powell’s City of Books, McMeniman’s Crystal Ballroom and Living Room Theaters.

Best for trail running for hiking

Mount Tabor Park: This is the only park in Portland that was built on an...extinct volcano? Yep, that’s correct! In fact, ancient volcanic cinders were used to pave the park’s pathways! The floor is literally lava here. Besides that, this park has one of the best views of the city skyline and is the best spot to watch the sunset. There are three official trails you can follow, but any footpath can take you across the park. Be on the lookout for an impressive bronze statue of Harvey W. Scott, editor of The Oregonian; it was built by the same person who created Mount Rushmore!

Forest Park: Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States, made up of over 80 miles of trails and spread across 5,200 acres. The Lower Macleay Park Trailhead is a great place to start your hike. It links up to the popular Wildwood Trail and will take you to the Witch’s Castle, an abandoned early 20th century stone structure among the trees. There is a vast network of trails throughout this park and some parts are very secluded while others are more populated. Want to help with the park’s restoration efforts? Volunteer with the Forest Park Conservancy to help clean up some of the trails.

Most Unique

Mills End Park: If you’re not looking for this park, you probably wouldn’t even notice it! A great example of our city’s sense of humor, the “World’s Smallest Park” was once a vacant hole in the middle of the street overgrown with weeds. Now, it is an official city park and is home to one tiny tree.

Council Crest Park: This park will give you hands-down some of the most gorgeous views of your entire life. From the top, you can see five mountains! On a clear day, Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Jefferson are all visible. If you’re up for a hike, you can take the 3.3 mile trail up the hill from Marquam Nature Park, or you can take it easy and just drive to the top.