Forest Park

Forest Park is one of the best places in Portland Oregon to escape from it all for a while, and just one of the many spectacular parks in this Pacific Northwest city. From impressively large Washington Park and its many attractions to the teeny tiny Mill Ends Park, Portland parks offer visitors and residents alike the perfect spots to hang out and enjoy the scenery.

Forest Park covers more than 5,000 acres, and this forested city park is one of the largest of its kind in the country. You can find it stretching along the hilly banks of the Willamette River to the near northwest of the Downtown District. More than 70 miles of trails provide visitors to Forest Park with excellent hiking, mountain biking, and jogging trails, and if you enjoy birding, there are more than 100 species that live here. Some 60 mammal species also frequent this gem of an urban park, and they include northern flying squirrels, bobcats, and weasels. Forest Park is open daily between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., and should you be planning a visit, you might start at either the Audubon Society or the Hoyt Arboretum Visitor Center. You can pick up a map of the park and get other insightful info at these locations.

Another excellent park in Portland Oregon that gets a lot of visitors is Washington Park. Found just south of Forest Park, this urban park features some of the best Portland attractions, as well as acres of wild forest. The terrain is mostly comprised of wooded hillsides, and when you're not enjoying the hiking trails or the open green spaces for things like picnics, you might wander over to the International Rose Test Garden. Other fantastic attractions that can be found at Portland's Washington Park include the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Garden, and the Portland Children's Museum.

When Portland area residents and visitors aren't spending time in these two parks, they might head over to Laurelhurst Park. This city park is a great place for recreation, thanks to its basketball court, its soccer field, and its tennis court. You will also find a playground and a play area at Laurelhurst Park, as well as horseshoe pits, walking paths, and picnic sites. A neighborhood of vintage homes surrounds the park, and you might be interested to know that this was the first city park in the country to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. If nothing else, taking in the scenic three-acre lake at Laurelhurst Park can be a joy, and the dog off-leash area can be a great place to bring your four-legged friend. Many Portland hotels are pet friendly, it is worth noting.

When looking to spend some time at a park while in Portland, two others that are worth adding to the list of possibilities are Mill Ends Park and the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The former is the world's smallest public park and can be found on the Naito Parkway, while the latter is an almost 40-acre park that can be found along the water's edge in Downtown Portland. Mills End Park is a whimsical sort of park that covers less than 500 square inches of land, so it's easy to miss. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which is not entirely unlike Chicago's Grant Park, plays host to some of Portland's biggest annual festivals, including the Portland Brewfest, the Bite of Oregon Food Festival, and the Waterfront Blues Festival. Many of the Rose Festival events also take place there.

The various Portland parks all have their certain advantages. Forest Park is a nature lover's haven and is arguably the best for hiking and animal watching. Over at nearby Washington Park, you can learn about trees, animals, or enjoy all the great attractions. Laurelhurst Park might be the best fit for sports enthusiasts, while the Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the place to celebrate special events. You can also use Tom McCall Waterfront Park as a place to take a break from all the other great downtown attractions, which are close by. As for Mill Ends Park, there isn't much you can do there other than snap a memorable photo. Pay it a quick visit, however, and you'll be able to say that you've been to the world's smallest public park. A handful of other parks dot the Downtown Portland area, and they include the North Park Blocks area in the trendy Pearl District. Not far outside of town, a number of enticing state parks provide nature enthusiasts with prime places to unwind, so you might look to add them to the agenda as well.

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