Enjoy a Picnic at 5 of Portland’s Prettiest Parks

An outdoor enthusiast’s dream, Portland is home to more than 10,000 acres of public parks and natural areas. Guided by the 1903 Olmsted Portland park plan — which served as the model for much of the young country’s then-developing urban park systems — there are at least 279 designated green spaces to choose from.

More than just a pretty place to relax, Portland’s parks are an integral part of daily life — one that Portlanders take full advantage of, be it open expanses, flower-laden landscapes or tree-shaded forests.


What better way to enjoy them, really, than with a picnic in hand? Read on to discover some top spots to indulge.


There is so much to do at Washington Park (4033 SW Canyon Rd., 503-319-0999, (explorewashingtonpark.org). Brimming with gardens and museums, as well as a zoo and a forest, the opportunities to explore feel endless. Situated adjacent to downtown, with trails that connect to Forest Park and the Pittock Mansion, it features picnic tables scattered across the park’s breathtaking 458 acres. Home to the Oregon Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, World Forestry Center, a children’s museum, a rose garden with 10,000 bushes abloom from May through October, and an absolutely stunning Japanese Garden, reasons to linger post-picnic abound.


Mysterious-feeling — particularly when hung with morning mist — enchanting Forest Park (503-223-5449, forestparkconservancy.org) is a 5,200-acre urban oasis stretching more than seven miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains. Overlooking Northwest Portland and the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, it’s frequented by more than 112 species of birds and 62 types of mammals. Adding to the draw is its proliferation of trees and shade-loving plants and more than 70 miles of trails. If you’re looking to hike, the 30-mile Wildwood Trail is the way to go. It’s the longest stretch of Portland’s 40-Mile Loop. As for where to picnic, you can pretty much point and pick — there’s beauty everywhere.


Presided over by towering redwood, ginkgo, maple, spruce and giant sequoia trees, 191-acre Mt. Tabor Park (SE 60th Avenue and SE Salmon Street, 503-823-7529, portland.gov/parks) is perched atop an extinct volcano and known for its open-air reservoirs, massive old-growth trees, concert series and annual Adult Soapbox Derby. When the fog lifts, head to the mountain’s summit. On top of being an ideal place to enjoy a sandwich, it offers jaw-dropping views of southeast Portland, the skyline and the distant West Hills. It’s also an incredible vantage point from which to enjoy a summer sunset.

In bloom from February to July (the peak is around Mother’s Day), nine-acre Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (5801 SE 28th Ave., 503-267-7509, crystalspringsgardenpdx.org) is an undeniably romantic place for a picnic, given you’re enveloped by 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas and companion plants. Don’t forget to check out the waterfall grotto and explore more along the trails, keeping watch for all manner of waterfowl drawn by the park’s lake.


A tranquil sanctuary steps from Chinatown’s bustle, Lan Su Chinese Garden (239 NW Everett St., 503-228-8131, lansugarden.org) was built in classical Ming Dynasty style by artisans from the Chinese city of Suzhou. Taking cues from 2,000 years of Chinese history, it was designed as a spiritual haven, one that harmoniously melds art, architecture, design and nature. Wander along the quiet garden paths, taking in flowering trees, a lake dotted with lily pads, pavilions, arching bridges and colonnades. Activities such as a summer jazz series, tai chi lessons and discussions on Chinese culture and history only add to the appeal. Just be forewarned, only small snacks with lids are allowed, so don’t expect to have a full-blown spread here.


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