Hiking with Kids: Tryon Creek State Park (Portland)

IMG_0785Last week we had some amazing weather in Portland. After suffering through one of the wettest winters we have had on record, the sun was a welcome visitor and everyone was outside. On Sunday we wanted to do a hike. Due to some other plans in the afternoon we wanted to do something on the shorter side close in to the city. Forest Park might be the pride and joy of the Portland, but Tryon Creek State Park, located next to Lewis & IMG_0812Clark College, is such a gem and can be far less crowded! Last weekend it was more crowded than usual due to the Trillium Festival (and the sun), but we got there early and didn’t see very many people until the last half mile of our hike. The festival was fun though with native plants on sale (I picked up a new Wild Larkspur for our yard) and there were stations set up along the hiking trail with examples of animal skins of critters who call the park home, deserted bird nests, and more. During our hike we got to see the various ecosystems in bloom, and it was such a perfect day for a hike.

IMG_0821Tryon Creek is found in Southwest Portland (in the Riverdale area), and the main entrance is right off of SW Terwilliger Blvd. That entrance can often get very busy, and there are other entrances and parking along SW Boones Ferry on the west side of the park, and off Boca Ratan Drive on the south side of the park.

Hikers and horses share several trails although there are trails that are available only to hikers (click the picture to the right for the park’s online trail map). The beauty of this park for kids is the size of it, the things they get to look at, and varying levels of hiking available too. Nothing is difficult, although a few trails have steeper inclines than others. For instance, for the youngest hikers, there are loops around the Nature Center you can do that vary from just over a half mile to a slightly longer than a mile. Bigger kids can venture down the hill and have a look at the creek. They have to hike back up the hill, but kids 3-4 should have no trouble with it and they will love hanging out on High Bridge looking for fish. Our guy is pretty good up to about 5 miles, so he is able to do all of the part these days and he has walked most of these trails. We started bringing him on hikes here when he was a baby.


We wanted to do about 3 miles and wanted to try to hike some areas we hadn’t been through yet, so we set out to the north on the North Horse Loop, connected with the Lewis & Clark Trail heading south crossing the Terry Riley Bridge, crossed High Bridge and continued south on the Middle Creek Trail, joined the Cedar Trail where we got to cross both the Bunk and Red Fox Bridges before heading up the slight hill towards the Nature Center. When all was said and done we logged 3.1 miles. On the horse tails, please yield to the horses as they have the right of way.

The park also has special events (like the Trillium Festival) and the kids summer camps are very popular. There are also weekly events that The Friends of Tryon Creek put on where folks can either learn more about the park, various species, go on field trips or help with the maintenance.

Speaking of wild life! There is lots of wildlife to be seen! The birding is very good and we were hearing either Northern Flickers or Woodpeckers tapping away at trees. The park is home to owls and bats and lots of other critters as well from moles to squirrels to salamanders to coyotes. Due to this, please keep your dog on a leash the entire time you are walking through the park. This is not only law, but protects the various ecosystems within the park. I felt the need to mention it because we saw more dogs off leash than on leash (full disclosure – we are dog owners and keep our dog on a leash here as well).

On our walk we saw some of our native flowers in full bloom! Here are just a few I took pictures of, but you can see a full list of vascular plants that call the park home HERE! There was so much color this time! Tis the season!



Pacific Trillium : (Trillium ovatum) We saw this blooming in white, purple and pink in the shaded areas of the park.



Stinging Nettle : (Urtica dioica) While stinging nettles can be a real pain if you brush up against them, they are a really important native plant. They have very fine hairs that will embed in your skin and make it feel like it is on fire, but has been used for centuries as an herbal tea. My son actually pointed this out to me! I guess our plant lessons are starting to pay off!


IMG_0798 Salmonberry : (Rubus spectabilis) We saw this blooming while in the park, but come summer time the berries will ripen and are safe for humans and various animals to eat!


IMG_0803Western skunk cabbage : (Lysichiton americanus) I found several of these growing in a marshy area of the park south of High Bridge along the boardwalks.


IMG_0791 Yellow Wood Violets : (Viola glabella) We saw these along the Northern Horse loop, right along the side of the trail. I love looking for hearts in nature, and the leaves of this plant are hearts! It is like nature telling you it loves you.


This is one of our favorite places to go and helps one feel as though they have escaped the city for a bit. The bubbling and sometimes rushing creek, the croaking of frogs, the chirping birds, and the wind blowing through trees transports you somewhere traffic isn’t snarled and life moves at a slower pace.

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