At 5,157 acres, Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the United States. Located just minutes from downtown Portland, Forest Park features 80 miles of maintained trails, fire lanes and forest roads that are perfect for hikers, runners, equestrians and those who want to explore nature. It’s already beloved by Portlanders; now here are five reasons why you should visit this famous park, open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily:
Trail loops for every skill level
Looking for a short one or two-mile hike to get the blood pumping? Or do you prefer a long, gradual hike that’ll make your thighs burn the next day? Forest Park has you covered. With nearly two dozen trails for every skill level, there’s no shortage of ways to adventure. Check out Portland Monthly’s handy user’s guide to hiking, running and biking in Forest Park. If you rather avoid the crowds, be sure to also check out these lesser-known trails.
It’s basically a free animal museum
Keep your eyes and ears open, and you’ll discover more than 112 bird and 62 mammal species inside Forest Park. Head north from the parking area and you’ll stumble into the The Audubon Society of Portland’s 150-acre Nature Sanctuary, where you can see jaybirds, chickadees, varied thrush, dove, salamanders, squirrels and more. You can also meet and learn about rehabilitated birds of prey at the sanctuary’s Wildlife Care Center. The Nature Sanctuary is free to the public and has more than four miles of hiking trails that link up to Forest Park.
You can help restore the park by exploring trails
Being an urban forest, Forest Park faces a number of challenges, such as the incursion of invasive plant species. Every year the Forest Park Conservancy and nearly 1,000 volunteers come together to protect the park’s ecological health and encourage responsible recreation. This summer, the Forest Park Conservancy launched its 2016 All Trails Challenge, a fun opportunity for people to raise money for Forest Park while strengthening their bodies with the All Trails Challenge (80 miles) or the Wildwood Challenge (30 miles).
New, exciting events are happening every week
No matter your interests, Forest Park has something for everyone. Take a guided tour, learn about the history of the park, go on a herb walk, join an organized group run, learn how to basket weave, help clean up trails or journey through the hills on a special Beers Made by Walking hike — the list goes on! Make sure to bookmark Forest Park’s calendar, so you don’t miss out on any special events.
Forest Park has its own villain
Like many forests, Forest Park has a long, interesting history. But, being in Portland, the park’s history is a little quirkier. In 1906 a man named Lafe Pence dug a two-mile system of ditches to divert water to his own land and sell it back to the city at exorbitantly high prices. Unfortunately for Lafe, Mayor Henry Lane and a dozen police officers stormed the hillside and put the digging to an end. Portions of the ditches can still be seen in areas of Forest Park.
This is part of a four-part series brought in partnership the Oregon Department of Forestry, which promotes the stewardship of Oregon’s stunning, diverse forests. Discover how working forests benefit Oregonians from flood control and timber management, to nature conservation and community engagement by visiting ExploreOregonForests.org.