The Best Hikes to Take with the Kids This Summer

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There’s no better way to spend your summer days with your kids than exploring the hiking trails in and around Portland. You don’t have to go far to find day hikes in Portland that are perfect for little feet. Grab some water bottles and snacks and load up your young explorers—these summer hikes are all short, fun, easy, with great payoffs. Read on for more!

Cooper Mountain Nature Park

Situated just outside of Tualatin, Cooper Mountain offers 3 ½ miles of kid-friendly trails in a stunning natural area. You’ll get views of the distant Chehalem Mountains while enjoying trails under the canopy of white oaks.  The nature park playground offers a play area inspired with natural materials like boulders, tree trunks, a sand pit, and more. From the playground, the Little Prairie Loop makes for a great short outing, or extend it up to three miles by connecting to the Cooper Mountain Loop.

18895 SW Kemmer Rd
Beaverton, OR

Mt. Tabor Park

One of the best urban explorations is on the slopes of a dormant volcano. Start at the trailhead by SE 64th and Lincoln, near the reservoirs, then wander at will through the paths and roads. Dirt trails, paved paths, stairs and more wind around the cinder cone volcano, until you arrive at the very top, with fabulous views of downtown Portland. A playground is on the north side-access it from Salmon St or Yamhill, or make your way there by foot.

6220 SE Salmon St.
Portland, OR

Wapato Greenway, Sauvie Island

One of Portland’s favorite playgrounds is Sauvie’s Island, full of berry picking and beach-going in summer and pumpkin patches in fall. And, you’ll find a great year-round hike at Wapato Greenway, which features a wetland lake, meadows, grassland, and oak trees. Kids will love hunting for snakes (harmless garter varieties!), frogs, ducks, and more on the trails. The loop around the pond is 2.2 miles total and is great for kids.

18846 N.W. Sauvie Island Road
Portland, OR

Oxbow Regional Park

The gentle current of the Sandy River flows through Oxbow Park, offering great swimming, fishing, or floating. It’s a popular place in summer, but the 12 miles of hiking trails will allow you to beat the crowds. Two big loops wander through the 1,000 acres, with the southern part being the more developed campsites and day-use area, and the northern being less well known.  Head to the brand new visitor center for park info and maps. Whichever route you choose, you’re likely to see river bends, meadows, old-growth forests, wildlife, and more.

3010 SE Oxbow Pkwy.
Gresham, OR

Scouters Mountain

This easy, mile-long trail is beautiful in the summer, walking through old-growth forests with Mt. Hood peeking in and out of view. A strict no dog policy means that while you can’t take your pooch, you can enjoy seeing plenty of wildlife along the trail--take water breaks at each art bench along the way, as well. The small park is located in Happy Valley, and doesn’t keep very busy even in summer, so it’s a nice out of the way place to explore.

Southeast Boyscout Lodge Rd. and Southeast 147th Ave.
Happy Valley, OR

Powell Butte

Hike around a giant extinct volcano at this park in the city limits! Powell Butte is a beautiful place for a hike, with wooded paths, meadows, and perfect views of surrounding peaks on clear days. Starting at the small visitor center kiosk it’s an easy trek to the top on the paved path. There you’ll find a viewing platform pointing out the nine different mountains encircling you, including Mount Jefferson, Adams, St. Helens, and even Rainier. From there, you can follow the hiking trails around the back of the park into the forests or turn around and wind through the grassy meadows instead. The summit is a 0.7 mile hike, and the whole loop is about 2.9 miles. Spring sees wildflowers galore on the hills, and with them comes the buzz of bees and flutter of butterflies.

Powell Butte Nature Park
16160 Powell Blvd.
Portland, OR

Katrina Emery

Beacon Rock State Park

If you’re not set on ending at a waterfall, one of the best hikes in the Gorge is on the Washington side at Beacon Rock. The unique monolith stands tall above the Columbia and offers amazing views of the river and Gorge. The hike is a fun one, too-- lots of twists and turns, stairsteps, railings, and a finish that feels like you’re on top of the world. If your little one is likely to bolt, this may not be the hike for them, but for older kids who can stay on a trail, they’ll love the twisty climb to the top, 850 feet high. It’s just a mile each way, so it’s very manageable, even if you do gain a lot of elevation. The state park is a 50 minute drive from Portland along Highway 14 in Washington.

WA Park Pass, $10/day, $30 annual
34841 WA-14
Stevenson, WA

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

The Wildlife Refuge is a great place to catch the migration of spring and fall birds, but in the summer you can still see plenty of wildlife along a beautiful wetland area. In the northern Carty Unit, the Oaks to Wetlands Trail is an easy 2.4 mile loop that passes through oaks, near ponds, and around the wetlands. The trail is re-opening after some maintenance in late June of 2019, so check ahead before you go. The best sight along the way is the authentic Cedar Plankhouse, a modern interpretation of a traditional Chinookan one. In the summers it’s open most weekends from 12-4pm, with many special events. The refuge is about 30 minutes north of Portland, near Ridgefield, Washington.

$3/car entrance fee
1071 S Hillhurst Rd.
Ridgefield, WA


—Annette Benedetti

featured image by Susanne via pexles.


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