Portlanders are park people, and with good reason. We’re pretty spoiled when it comes to well-maintained, bountiful outdoor spaces here. You probably know the best parks around your neighborhood as well as you know the hotspots around town, like the Rose Garden and the Arboretum. But let’s say you’re looking to get out of your ‘hood and explore a bit, or you’re wondering where you can find the next gorgeous view of Mt. Hood. We’ve put together a list for you based on what you might be looking to do, parks you may not have heard of, and new reasons for going back to ones you do know. As always, we’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments, and happy summer exploring!
For Laurelhurst Fans With a Sporty Side and a Jones for a Day Trip
Lents gives you the wide-open space of Laurelhurst with the added bonus of about 80 activities you won’t find at the SE park. Horseshoe? Basketball? A football field to accommodate your well-honed Frisbee toss? Yes to all of the above, plus pretty paths and ample room to flop down and conclude the afternoon with some weather-appropriate rosé and a hearty sandwich from Ararat just up the street. Extra points if you stay long enough to take advantage of floodlit night tennis!
Lents Park, SE 92nd Avenue and SE Holgate Boulevard
To Know That Sweeping Views of Mount Hood Never Get Old
The huge expanse of the aptly-named Forest Park is well-known to residents of the NW hills. Miles of hiking trails offer endless territory to explore, though this is a place where you might want to have a plan—but fewer amenities mean more creativity, right? Try taking the NW Thurman route up to the vista point, and you might be pleasantly surprised by a small bridge from which, on a clear day, Mt. Hood will be perfectly centered over the industrial district. You’ll be neck-deep in joggers and dog-walkers if you continue up the hill around prime weekday post-work time, so if you’re into the meditative element of biking through the woods, we recommend going at off-peak hours. And whether you’ve had a long workout or just headed up for the view, St. Honoré, at the bottom of Thurman, is never a bad place to end the trip.
Forest Park has various entry points. Pick up a pack of maps at Forest Park Conservancy to learn more.
To Mingle With Local River Enthusiasts and Lounge About Under Some Very Un-Portland Architecture
Stroll up to the gentleman sipping on a 24-ounce can next to his fishing pole on the pier here, and he might tell you he’s “waitin’ for Moby” as he cracks a grin. Accept his genial offer of a beer from his stash and wander under the Gothic arches that make up the St. Johns bridge. This park is part of the history of Portland’s ironworking industry, and the grittier elements (train tracks bisect the green expanse) set off the soaring architecture of the bridge running over it. Stretch out on the hilly knoll under the summer sun, take in the view of the water, and watch the traffic roll by high above—formula for a perfect afternoon, anyone?
Cathedral Park, N Edison Street and Pittsburg Avenue
For a Picnic With That Friend Who Always Demands to Sit in the Shade While You Sit in the Sun
Sure, there are plenty of amenities here (really, our horseshoe options are limitless in this city), but you’re really coming here for the organically excellent ratio of sun-to-shade space on the grass. We all have that friend whose preference for the warmth of the sun or the cool of the shade is always in direct contrast to our own. But should that stop anyone from heading to a park for some salami, cheese, and red wine? Of course not. We’ve tested this one a few times, so trust us; nary an argument about sitting in the sun or the shade has to transpire at this small NE gem.
Wilshire Park, NE 33rd Avenue and Skidmore Street
To Unexpectedly, and Briefly, Be Able to Experience the Woodland Thrill of a Run Through the Forest
Columbia Park is no secret to the avid park-going Portlander. But we’re focusing here on that awesome corner that goes from being a residential block to a field of tall, thick-trunked pine trees with the simple crossing of the road (around Lombard and Woolsey, to be specific). Sure, there are plenty of baseball games, weddings, and soccer matches going on in this expansive park, but we recommend bringing a book, leaning up against a tree and spending the afternoon lounging under the canopy.
Columbia Park, N Lombard Street and Woolsey Avenue
Macleay Park (and the Audobon Society)
To Know Why It Is Perfectly Okay to Get Lost in Deep NW on a Glorious Summer Day
Ever felt like being surrounded by emerald-green, mossy wilderness while catching glimpses of breathtaking Portland views? Just keep driving west on Lovejoy, and you’ll end up deep in Macleay Park, where, high up on a hill, you’ll find endless barely-marked hiking trails amongst the lush greenery. Take a few more wrong turns, and you might pass some strange landmarks nestled by the forest, like stone architectural ruins, and, notably, a rusted, graffiti-covered army tank. Don’t miss the Audobon Society, located in the heart of Macleay. If you don’t see some cool birds while hiking in their wildlife sanctuary, you can check some out up-close in their central building.
MacLeay Park is accessible from NW 29th Avenue and NW Upshur Street, and NW Cornell Road next to the Audubon Society.
A Park to Pleasantly Stumble Upon When You’re Winding Through the Richmond Neighborhood on Your Way to the Horse Brass
A low-key little park in the middle of a residential SE neighborhood, Sewallcrest sits right by the Lincoln bike route. It’s perfect for taking a break with some friends on your way to Portland’s most renowned English-style pub. Hopefully, someone remembers the Frisbee or improvises a soccer ball, but, either way, it’s time to break out those local brews one of you has in your front-loading bike basket and enjoy the intimacy of a park small enough to see the entirety of from wherever you decide to sit.
Sewallcrest Park, SE 31st Avenue and SE Market Street
Wanna explore more parks? Check out Portland Parks & Recreation's Park Finder.