Hikes with kids: Hoyt Arboretum (Washington Park, Portland)

Washington Park is a famous landmark in Portland for lots of reasons. The Oregon Zoo is found here, as are the Children’s Museum and the World Forestry Center. There are lesser known attractions like the Vietnam Memorial as well. One thing a lot of families know: there are some great, easy hikes through Hoyt Arboretum for folks of all ages and abilities.
Last Sunday we loaded up the car, and drove on over for a quick 2 mile hike through our favorite sections of the Arboretum. Longer and shorter hikes are available and we consider this a place where you can “pick-your-own-adventure”. There are walks for folks who want to push a stroller or need to have an accessible (ADA) path in nature. Hoyt Arboretum has a 1-mile paved trail that is perfect for that. They also boast a 4-mile self-guided tour of all of the arboretum highlights. One of the best things is that their trails connect with the Forest Park trails and more experienced hikers can make a whole day of it!

Are you wondering what an Arboretum is? I googled it and the definition came back as a “botanical garden of trees”, which means their slogan “a museum of living trees” is pretty spot on!  The Arboretum was founded in 1928 and is home to more than 2,000 species (and 6,000 specimens). Each trail is named after a different tree that can be found living in that “collection”. Magnolia Trail will take you through magnolia trees, on the Cherry Trail you will see cherry trees, and so on.

We always try to find parking near the Visitor’s Center. Going earlier in the morning will assure you a place as these lots fill up as the day goes on and it can be a bit tricky to find a spot later. I have marked up our route on one of the trail maps right here so you have a visual reference, because it can be a little tricky with the different trails. Once you are walking it, it is well marked and easy to follow.

Our 2-mile route starts with the Overlook trail. This trail is a pretty great trail for a couple of reasons. 1) it is flat and who doesn’t love that? 2) On one of our clear mornings, there is a special spot where you can look out and see 4 of our active volcanos. Growing up here, we have a huge respect for these mighty Giants and are reminded of their power, especially this month which recognized the 35th anniversary of Mt. St. Helens blowing her top. It is a day I will never forget. She is one of the 4 mountains you can see (Hood, Rainier, and Adams are the other 3). This is a great place for the kids to learn about some of our geography and what makes our part of the world so special.

Following the Overlook Trail past the less than beautiful water cistern, and through a gate, you will cross over SW Upper Cascade Drive and join the Magnolia trail. This trail leads you through a patch of lovely magnolia trees that bloom April-May usually.  We caught it on the tail end of the blooming season, but it was still very beautiful. As you leave the Magnolia trail you can either turn left, which takes you up the Beech Trail and back to the visitor’s center for a short hike, or cross over SW Cascade Drive into the Winter Garden.  This connects you with the very well known Wildwood Trail. As you continue walking the trail, past the houses that loom above and below you as if they are perched in the trees, you will eventually hear water flowing. If you look down the hill you will see a pond (we could even see the special koi swimming there), and probably people walking around. That is the Japanese Garden at Washington Park. Continue along the trail, past the Archery Range. The Wildwood Trail will eventually split into either the Walnut Trail or the Hawthorn Trail. We just find the Walnut Trail really nice, so we went that way and connected back with the Overlook Trail which took us back to our car and the Visitor’s Center.

The Visitor’s Center is open 9:00-4:00 (M-F), & 11:00-3:00 (S & S), however the grounds are open from 5:00a-9:30p daily. There are tours available for a fee if you wanted to learn more about the gardens. Just give them a call at 503.865.8733.

Have you hiked Hoyt Arboretum? What are your favorite trails? Tell us below so we can check it out!





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