Make tracks on a road trip to Portland, Oregon’s biggest city, a buzzing hotspot set against the jaw-dropping backdrop of the Pacific Northwest. Sitting where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet, Portland serves up both waterfront beauty and eye-popping views of Mt. Hood, which climbs more than 11,000 feet into the clouds. If you’re looking to soak up nature’s eye candy and much more, aim for these six spots.
1. Mount Tabor Park
The primo spot to get a bird’s-eye view of the city, Mt. Tabor Park, sits on top of an extinct volcano. This go-to green space is covered with forests, plus a combo of paved paths and dirt trails that lead to the killer views at the top. You don’t have to stick to any one path — you can pick from three loop trails to reach the peak. The 3-mile Blue Trail loop has moderate difficulty and serves up a full tour of the park. From the peak, you can scope out downtown Portland, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and — on a clear day — Mt. Rainier. The park’s reservoirs that sit along the paths also deliver photo ops that pop.
2. International Rose Test Garden
Portland is nicknamed the City of Roses, and a visit to the International Rose Test Garden shows why in a big way. Founded in 1917, it’s the oldest continually run public rose test garden in the country. As you zigzag around the garden’s more than 7,000 rose bushes, don’t miss the amazing views of downtown and Mt. Hood. The garden is free and open year-round, but May to September is peak rose peeping time. If you’re swinging by during the summer months, snag a spot on one of the free public tours held daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
3. Portland Japanese Garden
Feel like you’ve popped out of Oregon and into Japan at Portland Japanese Garden. Said to be the truest Japanese garden outside of Japan, it’s laid out with all kinds of mellow garden spaces for chilling out, like the strolling pond garden, the tea garden, the flat garden, the sand and stone garden, and the natural garden. Roam the grounds, and check out the quiet paths, Zen gardens, gorgeous flowers, and ponds. Swing by the Umami Café and get a kick out of a real Japanese tea service.
4. Pittock Mansion
Built in 1914 by Henry Pittock, the former owner of The Oregonian newspaper, Pittock Mansion is a cool link to Portland’s past. Tour the mansion’s swanky rooms as you learn about the city’s history, and then chow down on a picnic in the flower gardens. The mansion sits on 46 acres about 1,000 feet above the city of Portland, a spot that delivers some of the best views in the city. Book it straight to the mansion or hike up on the moderately difficult 5.3-mile out-and-back trail from Lower Macleay Park.
5. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
A 7-acre garden that’s a quick trip from downtown, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is all about rhododendrons and azaleas, but quirkier plants and trees shoot up from the gorgeous grounds too. The world-famous garden is at its peak in April and May when the flowers are in full bloom, but the lush green grounds, three waterfalls, shaded paths, and pretty bridges deliver a beautiful setting that doesn’t quit any time of the year. Birdwatchers also dig spotting more than 90 species of birds that call the garden home.
6. Joseph Wood Hill Park
Joseph Wood Hill Park sits on top of Rocky Butte, 20 minutes northeast of the city center. After a scenic drive up the butte, hop out of the car to see the 2.38-acre flat park, and flip out over the jaw-dropping views that surround you of downtown, Portland International Airport, the Cascade Mountain Range, and Mt. St. Helens.
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