9 Scenic Spots to Watch the Sunset

Kids run toward a father during a sunset with the ocean in the background

With summer days winding down, a sunset viewing party is something you need to get on the calendarpronto. It’s pretty much our favorite free summer family activity. And while we know many of your favorite city picnic spots easily double as sunset-viewing destinations, we think you’ll be surprised by a few of the best places to watch the sunset. Really want to make the most of the night out? Pack some popcorn and all your stargazing supplies to see what you can glimpse in a galaxy far, far away once the sun has said “goodnight.”

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Mt. Tabor

The Eastside’s favorite dormant volcano, Mt. Tabor offers plenty of hillside space for picnics, fun and exploration. But when it comes to dusk, it's definitely one of the best places to watch the sunset. Hike the trails, play at the playground or stroll to the top, then settle in to watch the sun put on a show over the city skyline and the west hills. Just remember that although the park is open until midnight, it's closed to motor traffic after 10 p.m. and all day on Wednesdays.

Insider tip: The top’s views can be somewhat limited, so spread a blanket out on the west slope over the reservoir. You’ll get to sit and relax and still enjoy the view.

S.E. 60th St. & S.E. Salmon St.
Online: portlandoregon.gov


Mocks Crest & Skidmore Bluffs

This simple park on a hill offers tree-shaded areas, grassy open spaces and views of the beautiful Willamette River. You might have to come early to get a spot at this locals' favorite, but the views on the hillside are worth the effort. The bluffs tower above a steep drop down to Swan Island, and the views just can't be beat. This classic picnic site runs for miles above the Willamette River. This may be the best spot North Portland has to offer for killer sunset views.

2206 N. Skidmore Terrace
Online: outdoorproject.com


Stonehenge in the Gorge

Cross the veil at twilight and find an otherworldly vista at Stonehenge, Washington. Rather than an ancient Druidic worship site, this replica was built in 1918 as a WWI memorial, but you can still look for a few witches and goblins between the massive stones. Three miles west of the Maryhill Museum of Art, just off Highway 14, the perfect replica is perched on the edge of the Gorge, offering stunning views both ways. It’s the more affordable (and maybe more beautiful) way of visiting Stonehenge.

35 Maryhill Museum Dr.
Goldendale, WA
Online: maryhillmuseum.org

RELATED: Celebrate Summer at These Amazing Picnic Spots

Pittock Mansion

Built in 1914, the mansion on the hill is a popular destination in Portland. You can take tours inside as late as 5 p.m., but arguably the best attraction is the view of the city. The best views actually face east, but if you weren’t up for the sunrise, you’ll still catch a beautiful scene of the alpenglow on Mt. Hood as the sun sets behind you, casting purple and pink light on the snowy slopes. Also, the extensive grounds of the mansion are a great place for a picnic.

Good to know: If a pre-sunset mansion visit is on your list you can score tickets online to make the trip easier. It's free for kids under 6.

3229 N.W. Pittock Dr.
Online: pittockmansion.org


Cathedral Park

Catch the last of the rays between the cathedral-like buttresses of the St. John’s Bridge. Whether you picnic down by the edge of the Willamette or higher in the park, you’ll see the sun dip slowly behind the trees of Forest Park on the west side of the river. It’s debatable whether it’s better under the bridge or above, so come back and test them both out. 

N. Edison St. & Pittsburg Ave.
Online: portlandoregon.gov


Council Crest Park

Nestled in the southwest hills, the top of Council Crest offers stunning 360-degree views of the city. You’ll catch the sun setting in the west, and if you turn around you can enjoy the light reflecting off the mountains in the east. It’s a 3.3 mile hike up the top (you can also drive, if that's easier), where you’ll find picnic tables and a vista viewing point with all the best views.

S.W. Council Crest Dr.
Online: portlandoregon.gov

RELATED: 6 Family Forest Park Hikes You Can Do Now

Powell Butte Nature Park

The rocky volcanoes of Powell Butte are home to wide meandering trails through a surprising variety of landscapeswildflower meadows, old-growth forest and cottonwood groves. Many trails are paved, making them an easy stroll, and at the top, markers point to surrounding mountains like Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson and more. At 600-feet high, it’s a spectacular spot to watch the sun dip. And dusk is the best time to look for the park’s normal residents like bats, raccoons, gray foxes and deer.

16160 S.E. Powell Blvd.
Online: portlandoregon.gov


Eastbank Esplanade

Stay close to home by simply heading to the river for the nightly views. Sit behind the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) on the pier, take an evening stroll or ride bikes up the esplanade and enjoy the glow. The 1.5 mile path includes sections on the water, benches and plenty of place to sit and gaze. Head to the canoe launch and dip your toes on a hot night, or stay up on the main section and watch the sun set behind the Hawthorne Bridge.

S.E. Water Ave. & Hawthorne Blvd.
Online: portlandoregon.gov

RELATED: Free & Cheap Museum Days at Portland's Best Museums


Angel’s Rest

For a spectacular view of the entire gorge, challenge yourself to the Angel’s Rest hike. This is best for older kids who can handle the five-mile round trip hike up a steep slope or kids young enough to be carried. The natural amphitheater offers an incredible perspective once you reach the top (safety note: there are no guardrails, so keep your Littles close). There’s a field of boulders on the west side before you reach the ‘summit,’ which is likely a better place to watch the sun go down. Give yourself plenty of time to reach the top before sunset and bring flashlights and headlamps for the hike down.

Bridal Veil Exit #28
Online: stateparks.oregon.gov


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