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For us adults nature can return us to a place where we see the hectic hum drum of our responsibilities slip away, if only for a moment, to reveal a place that we grasp and hold onto. Imagine what the intersection of Kid Ave, and Nature St. might look like. A toddler’s smile intersects with a Maple leaf and joy explodes. My kids absolutely love to be in nature. The sparkle in their eyes when they find something new or pretty while we are on a hike is priceless. The following are 5 kid friendly hikes in and around Portland Oregon tailor made for this intersection of children and nature.
For those who have never had the pleasure of walking around in the great pacific northwest, you are in for a treat. For those who are a bit more experienced with what cascade country has to offer, I hope you will find something new here to share with your family.
“It’s a wondrous thing how the wild calms the child.” – Unknown
TYPE: Urban Trail / Loop Trails
DISTANCE: Up to 12 miles of total trail
PERFECT FOR. . . Children of all ages (and I mean all ages)
Standing in the heart of Downtown Portland, Hoyt Arboretum is described as a living museum of trees. Mile after mile of paths weave through curated gardens designed to highlight specific tree families and species. Everything from native Douglas fir to Redwoods to Ginko trees are on hand to wow children and adults alike with their majesty.
The Hoyt Arboretum is perfect for families that have small children. All 12 miles of the arboretum are paved pathways. Also, trail loops of varying lengths allow for an impromptu romp during an afternoon off, or a long planned out day of fun in the trees. If your family loves being in nature, but doesn’t want to be too far away from the comforts of city life, then Hoyt Arboretum is the perfect destination for Portlanders new and old alike.
Furthermore, the arboretum offers nature walks and talks throughout the week, as well as group tai chi and other events. Be sure to check out their website (hoytarboretum.com) for more information.
TYPE: Loop trails primarily
Distance: Up to 8+ miles of total trail; roughly ⅓ of paved all access trail
PERFECT FOR . . . Preschoolers and above; most trails are not paved.
Looking for more hiking close to the city? Then you’ve found it in the Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Just off of Terwilliger Blvd. in Portland Oregon this 658 acre state park instantly transports you from the bustle of city life into what seems like an enchanted forest. Set in a canyon, this second-growth forest is known for its abundance of Trillium flowers. Once harvested for use in a nearby smelting plant and as railroad ties, the trees have come back with a vengeance creating a closely knit canopy that is welcome on a hot summer day.
With ⅓ of a mile of all access trail, 8 total miles of hiking trail, 3 miles of bike trail, and other trails for equestrian use, this state park has something for everyone. This is also the perfect place for kids since most of the trails are flat and well maintained with a number of wooden bridges over the creek itself. Younger ones will marvel at the quick change in landscape from their familiar urban environment to the near wilderness of the park that occurs seemingly in an instant.
The Tryon State Natural Area is a must visit for families new to the area, for those families who have hiked every trail around, and for those just visiting from far flung locals.
TYPE: There and back trail (You reach your destination, turn around, and retrace your steps)
DISTANCE: 2.4 miles total
PERFECT FOR . . . Older kids who know how to handle themselves around a small section of steep drop off.
Crusty old Portland hiking veterans will tell you that the Old Scenic highway just east of Portland Oregon is the perfect place if an intersection of kids and nature must include a waterfall. A 30 minute drive east of Portland Oregon on I-84 will bring you to Highway 101, also known as the Old Scenic Highway, it is here that a long series of waterfalls and waterfall trails begin. While many of these trails are well-worn and crowded during the hiking season, Wahclella Falls is not one of the trails on that list. So, even families that have made the rounds may not have ventured into Wahclella’s path.
Why is this trail great for kids? First off, it’s not too difficult. A MaddieDeer.com blog post notes that while there is a small section of the trail that is a bit narrower than the rest (with a steep drop off) older kids who know how to handle themselves should do just fine. Second, the trail is not too long. At a rough distance of 2.5 miles round trip, it is the perfect length for short attention spans. Although a bit of a challenge, it is totally doable for those families with older kids that want to try something new. Finally, the view is unforgettable.
If you’re looking for something slightly off the beaten path for you and your older kids, then this is the place to go.
TYPE: Multiple Trail Types
DISTANCE: Roughly 5 miles
PERFECT FOR . . . Kids who love magical places near the sea, whether they be 5 or 55
If you are willing to take a bit of a drive then Cape Meares is well worth the trip for you and your family. About 2 hrs west of Portland via Oregon 26 and 6 west on the Tillamook country coastline, Cape Meares is a wonderous seaside adventure. Be sure to visit the Octopus tree while you are there. Looking like its namesake but with its head in the ground and many tentacle shaped trunks in the air it is sure to delight your children.
Other attractions include the largest Sitka Spruce in Oregon (nearly 50 feet in diameter, and 3 times that in height), and two lighthouses. Finally these sites are connected together by roughly 3 miles of trails winding throughout the Cape.
For those looking for a magical seaside hiking adventure Cape meares is a must see, even if it is a bit out of the way.
TYPE: There and back trail
DISTANCE: Foot of Falls (less than .25 miles) Top of Falls (2.5 miles of switchback)
PERFECT FOR. . . The path to the bridge at the foot of the falls is perfect for all ages. The path to the top is a bit more challenging and recommended only for 5 and up.
No list of kid-friendly hiking spots near Portland Oregon would be complete without the grand-daddy of all waterfall hikes: Multnomah Falls. Although the falls have some of the highest traffic of any hiking destination in Oregon, Multnomah falls is still worth wading through the crowds to experience.
Multnomah is the last of a long line of waterfalls that can be found along the Old Scenic Highway heading east and thus can be accessed in two ways. First, you can enter Highway 101 at its western point and witness the beauty of the old highway as you go. This is recommended for anyone new to the area. However, you can also head further east on I-84 and connect up with the Old Highway’s eastern entrance, which meets up almost directly with the falls according to Google maps.
Once park and cross the highway, the Multnomah Falls are hard to miss. For the youngest and oldest of hikers a short walk up a paved trail will lead to the foot of the falls and bridge over its pool. For those able to handle a bit more of hike, roughly two miles of switchbacks take you from Multnomah’s feet to its head where you can watch the water as it cascades over the cliff. Also available on site is a visitor’s center with a cafe, and souvenir shop. If you and your kids are just starting to adventure out in the wild northwest, then I highly recommend this spot despite the crowds.
You will have fun with your kids on these fantastic Kid Friendly Portland hikes! So, check them out and let us know what you find!
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