Welcome to Washington Park – one of Portland’s premier outdoor areas!
If you’re looking to get away from the urban city center, you won’t have to go too far, as Washington Park is located just two and a half miles east of downtown Portland.
This verdant space offers tons of fun, family-friendly activities, so much so that you can come back time and again to explore the various areas of the park. If you don’t know where to start, keep reading for a comprehensive guide to Washington Park.
About Washington Park
Situated atop a forested ridge above the sprawling city of Portland, Washingon Park is a splendid oasis spanning over 400 acres. The park was first created back in 1871, though it sat untouched for decades until development slowly started in the early 20th century.
Today, this expansive green space is home to endless outdoor offerings, making the park seem like a collection of numerous smaller parks and attractions. Some of the highlights include an archery range, an arboretum, a Japanese garden, and an array of nature trails, among other things.
Below we’ve highlighted some of Washington Park’s top attractions, in addition to some tips and transportation advice.
Highlights of Washington Park
One of the most unique attractions at Washington Park is the archery range. Set your sight on the targets and enjoy the great outdoors while honing in on your archery skills. The range is completely free to use, but you must bring your equipment. Note that crossbows are not allowed.
A gravel parking lot is located across from the range, but you could also take the MAX Red or Blue line into the park and walk the rest of the way.
Without a doubt, the Hoyt Arboretum is one of the most popular areas in the park. This 190-acre area is brimming with towering trees, unique plant species, and numerous trails from which to take it all in.
The arboretum is a self-proclaimed living classroom, and there are labels along the trails to identify the different species and note their origin. For a more structured form of learning, check out the arboretum’s upcoming classes and events.
No matter which season you visit, you’re sure to spot some exotic and interesting flora and fauna.
The Hoyt Arboretum is located on the northwest side of Washington Park. Paid parking is available at the Visitor Center, though this small lot often fills up quickly.
You could also take the light rail to the Washington Park MAX Station and walk to the arboretum or catch Bus Line 63 in downtown Portland from Province Park directly to the Visitor Center.
There are more than 1,000 plant species from all over the world inside the Hoyt Arboretum, and one of the most fascinating is the bamboo. The bamboo area of the arboretum is located inside the Winter Garden.
It opened back in 2016, but it remains one of the most underrated areas of the entire park. There are over 30 different bamboo species in this section of the arboretum, making it one of the largest bamboo collections in the Pacific Northwest!
The redwoods are another huge draw to Washington Park and the Hoyt Arboretum. There are 13 dawn redwoods here – a rare needle and cone-bearing species thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in China in the 1940s.
Washington Park was one of the first areas in the country to plant dawn redwoods in 1952. A few years later, these extraordinary trees produced the first cones of their kind in the Western Hemisphere in more than six million years!
So if you’re in the arboretum, be sure to stroll along Spruce Trail to see the dawn redwoods.
Alternatively, you could hike about one-third of a mile along the Wildwood Trail to the Redwood Deck. Here you can observe towering redwoods soaring nearly 150 feet overhead.
RELATED: How to See The Redwoods in Oregon
While meandering through Washington Park, don’t miss the Japanese Garden. This magnificent 12-acre garden is actually made up of eight separate garden spaces, including a natural garden with waterfalls, a strolling pond, and a sand-stone garden with perfectly raked patterns.
The Japanese Garden is one of the most tranquil areas of the park, so take your time as you stroll through the different green spaces and find your zen before returning to the real world.
Its convenient location near the entrance of the park makes the Japanese Garden extremely easy to access. There is paid parking available and several public transportation options (more on that below).
Notable Hikes in Washington Park
White Pine, Wildwood, Mac, and Walnut Trail Loop
Distance: 5.1 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 738 ft
One of the best ways to see all of Washington Park in a single day is by hiking the White Pine, Wildwood, Mac, and Walnut Trail Loop. This five-mile trek winds its way around most of the park, and there are plenty of places to stop off to catch your breath.
The best part is that most of the park’s main attractions are located right off this loop, including the Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, the Rose Garden, and more. Note that this is one of the busiest trails in the park, so try to avoid weekends and holidays if possible.
Pittock Mansion via Wildwood Trail
Distance: 6.2 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 954 ft
You could also head north from Washington Park into the nearby Macleay Park and hike to the Pittock Mansion via Wildwood Trail. This out and back trail will give you a good sense of Washington Park before leading to the scenic Pittock Mansion.
Not only is the historic building worth your attention, but the views across Portland are the real highlight of this hike. On a clear day, you can even spot Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier in the distance.
Hoyt Arboretum Trails
Distance: 1.3 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 213 ft
For a short and leisurely stroll that has a good effort to reward ratio, check out the Hoyt Arboretum Loop. This easy-going loop will lead you past all the arboretum’s main attractions, including the bamboo forest and the redwood viewing deck.
This family-friendly trail is well marked with identification for all the different species, so you’ll be able to learn more about the area as you hike through it.
How To Get to Washington Park
If you decide to drive to Washington Park, Portland, there are various parking lots, depending on which area you plan to visit. The main parking lot is located near the park entrance, and there are a few other lots near the main attractions, including Hoyt Arboretum and the archery range.
Note that if you drive, parking is limited, and most lots charge a small fee.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to get to Washington Park is via light rail. Both the Blue and Red lines stop at the Washington Park MAX station, making the park easy to access no matter where you are coming from.
You could also hop on the Trimet’s Line 63 from Provincial Park in downtown Portland. The bus will drop you off near the park entrance at the Washington Park MAX station.
Taking a Lyft or Uber is also a viable option for getting to Washington Park – just make sure to select the correct pick-up/drop-off location, as there are six of these designated spots within the park.
These locations include:
- Archery Range
- Hoyt Arboretum
- Oregon Zoo
- Rose/Japanese Garden
- World Forestry Center
- Vietnam Memorial
Because Washington Park is just a few miles away from downtown Portland, it’s possible to walk or hike into the park. One of the more scenic ways to enter the park is by hiking down from Macleay Park via the Wildwood Trail.
Washington Park Free Shuttle
Once you arrive at the park, the Washington Park Free Shuttle is a great way to get around. The shuttle loops around the entire park and stops at all the major attractions, including the MAX Station, the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Hoyt Arboretum Visitor Center, the Oregon Holocaust Museum, the Lewis and Clark Memorial, the International Rose Test Garden, and the Archery Range.
The shuttle arrives at the designated stops every 15 minutes, so you won’t have to wait around for long to hitch a ride. Grab a map and pay attention to the stops – the shuttle only goes one way!
While the shuttle is in service year-round, it runs only on weekends from November-February. The shuttle runs daily the rest of the year, but times differ slightly. Be sure to check the park’s website for more details before your visit.
Tips for Exploring Washington Park
- Feel free to bring your pooch, but keep them on-leash and be sure to clean up after them
- Stop by the Visitor Center near the entrance for trail maps, advice, and restrooms before you begin exploring.
- While there are a few food options inside the park, they are all quite expensive. That being said, there are plenty of great areas to enjoy a picnic, so pack your own lunch to save some money.
- If you’re looking for a larger variety of trails, head to the nearby Forest Park, located about 10 miles north.
I’ve been perpetually traveling and living around the world for years but it’s hard to beat Oregon and the PNW. After years of road-tripping the area, I guess you can say I know it pretty well! When I’m not writing guides for you, you can catch me somewhere petting a dog, attempting to surf, hiking a volcano, or stuffing my face with bread and cheese.