Hikes for kids: Cooper Mountain Nature Park (Beaverton)

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Nitty Gritty:

  • Hiking trails are perfect for even the littlest hikers! Nice and level with no drop offs or long steep stretches.
  • 3.5 miles of trails in the park
  • No pets are allowed, so please leave your 4-legged fur babies at home
  • There is lots of poison oak in the park and there are signs everywhere about it. If you stay on the trail you should be able to avoid it easily. To see a picture of poison oak, click here.

 

My son had an early release day from school recently and since the weather was amazing we decided to take advantage of the situation and have a picnic lunch and hike that afternoon. We drove out to Cooper Mountain Nature Park in Beaverton. I had been planning to visit for a while, but moved it up the list because a friend mentioned the cows were still out there grazing and I love cows. This is the 2nd year in a 3 year test that the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Department and Metro are running where they are using the young cows to help with grazing in the prairie area of the park during the Spring to cut down on the invasive species plants and to take care of the hill side in the least invasive way possible. They are studying the affects of the cows and will be re-evaluating the process to see if it works better than alternative methods. In the mean time we all get to enjoy them! More on where to find them later!

About the Park

IMG_1360The Nature Park was something that was built after voters decided to dedicate money towards the project. THPRD and Metro maintain the park and it is a really beautiful place that will be a protected habitat hopefully forever. On top of the 3.5 miles of trails that loop through the park there is a Nature House where nature programs are frequently held, lovely picnicking areas, and a nature inspired play structure for the kids.

The Trails

IMG_13623.5 miles was enough trail system for us for a quick afternoon hike. In the end we ended up walking 3 miles total and missing only a few of the paths. We were able to see most of the park and enjoyed the varying ecosystems that call this place home.

We started our walk at the trail-head and setting off towards the Little Prairie Loop. We turned right and worked our way towards the Overlook Trail which branches off from the Cooper Mountain Loop Trail (in Red on the map). This trail takes you more towards the prairie area and give you a beautiful vistas of the Tualatin River Valley and the Chehalem Mountains. You can see farm lands on the opposite hills and you don’t feel like you are in a suburb. Birds and bugs are IMG_1372IMG_1373flying all over and we were even surprised by a little gardener snake. It is also just down the path from this view point that you will start seeing the cows and the fences. The temporary electric fences allow the park crew to move the cows around to graze different parts of the meadow. This area is fairly exposed also, and can get quite warm, so you might bring a hat and sunscreen on sunny days. The field while we were there was covered in wild flowers and grasses. Some invasive and some native.

IMG_1384As this path winds around you will come to a little pond area. My son loved looking for tadpoles and water-skippers. We even saw a snake swimming in the water, which was a big surprise. This is another ecosystem in the park, and is a nice place to have a stop for a snack. There are some nice benches here. This is nearly the half way mark if you are doing the big loop, so it can give the kids an idea about what is to come. Plus, most of the hike from here on out is a slight uphill climb, so fueling up is a great idea!

IMG_1381We extended our walk a little bit by adding the Larkspur Loop (in purple on the map). This is a lovely addition, it keeps with a similar habitat to the Cooper Mountain Loop in that is more like a prairie, but there are some shaded areas and we saw Oregon Iris and Indian Plums in bloom here. It adds only about a half mile to the hike.

IMG_1388From here we headed up the Blacktail Way towards the Little Prairie loop. Here the ecosystem gets a bit more forested and we enjoyed a bit more shade. You start seeing fir and pine trees again, smaller native shrubs line the walk and the incline starts to IMG_1364increase a bit. Keep an eye out for the the really cool “listening trumpets” scattered throughout the park. They look almost Steampunk inspired and you can’t miss them. If you put your ear up to them and have a listen it will intensify the bird calls in the area. They are positional, so make sure you give them a twist so you can have a listen in all directions! We saw several varieties of birds and at the very end of our walk my son thinks he caught sight of a bald eagle!

IMG_1391When you merge with the Little Prairie Loop, things start to get very shady and cool. This was a welcome break from the sun. If you are walking with a little one, this loop is going to be perfect for them to walk on their own. No steep grades and the whole loop is under a mile with lots to look at. Keep an eye out for squirrel nests in this area too!

IMG_1369IMG_1367-001The park is laid out really well and my son loved being able to help with directions! Maps are posted on wooden posts at all trail junctions with signs pointing to where you want to go. He was able to track his progress as we continued along and he would help to decide which way we went. This helped him with inspiration to continue the walk and kept his interest in what we were seeing. He doesn’t get to carry a map very often, but this might be something we start doing to help him learn to read them better and because of how interesting he found it.

Cooper Mountain Nature Park is a great place to get outside and have a wander and we will be back for sure!

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