Great Hikes for Kids: Mary S. Young State Recreation Area (West Linn)


  • A great state park in the suburbs of Portland along the Willamette River
  • Hiking trails, off-leash dog park, picnic areas, fields for play and river access
  • The best trail map comes from the City of West Linn
  • Heron Loop Trail is just over 3 miles with very little elevation gain, Riverside Trail .75 miles with elevation gain (from the parking lot near the off-leash dog park area), Turkey Creek Trail .17 miles with elevation gain
  • 45°22’55.4″N 122°38’15.5″W

Last weekend my sister invited me and our pup along on a hike. She suggested we head to Mary S. Young State Park because it is very close to Portland and as temperatures were going to be in the 90s, the river was going to be a special treat for the end of the hike for humans and pups alike! I had never heard of this park, but was so pleasantly surprise when we arrived. It is such a beautiful gem that is so close to home!

This park allows you to pick your own adventure. There are various bark trails available for walking throughout the park. We started in the first parking lot you come to when you turn into the park. We took the .1 mile Railroad Trail that connected the parking lot with the Heron Loop Trail. We took a left and followed the trail up and around, crossing over the road into the park, turning right again and looping and zigzagging down to the Trillium Trail. From there we continued to the Riverside loop Trail and followed that down to the river where there is an off-leash area for the dogs and humans to splash around in the Willamette River or lay/roll on the sandy beach. The route we took netted us around 2.5 miles total. Following just the Heron Loop Trail will get you more mileage, but the beauty of this place is that there are so many places you can explore. One of the best things about this trail system is how shady it is and on a hot morning was nice and cool for everyone.

With the very even trails, no drop offs, and only slight elevation gains (I am guessing the gain is around 100 or so feet going to and from the river), these paths are ideal for people of all ages to get out and see nature. There were lots of walkers and families with children of all ages. The kids were enjoying the sandy/pebbly beaches of the river and splashing in the water.

The park is full of native plants and I saw butterflies sunning themselves on one of the beaches. There are lovely gullies where Turkey Creek and Mary S. Young Creek have cut away the hill-side to feed into the Willamette River. It is a beautiful and quiet place to walk. There are great places for kids to kick the ball around or throw frisbees very near the picnic shelters. Dogs have their own off-leash area to run and play in their own field . They even had kiddy pools for them to play in and water to refresh their bowls.

The river does have motor boats going past and we saw paddlers of all types in this area. The water is very calm here and is a great place for wading. A word of caution: the water in the early summer is quite cold and can cause hypothermia and eventual drowning. Please make sure you are wearing life jackets. We have already had several drownings this summer and are one of the top states in the nation for drownings due to water temperatures. We have a suggestion for a great life jacket for kids here, but any will do. I have also just bought my own PFD for paddleboarding. I went to one of our local paddle shops and found a great Stohlquist life jacket made for women that is super comfortable and will be great for days on the rivers or oceans. It is a great example for my kiddo too that everyone is our family practices water safety, no matter how well we all swim.

We highly recommend this park for all folks. We think you will have a great time!

Where are your favorite places to hike when it is hot? Tell us in the comments do we can try it out!


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