If we were only allowed to prescribe one thing to our patients and their families, it might be: Get outside (leave the phone at home or on silent!) and move your body!
Contact with nature invites you to take deep, cleansing breaths of fresh air. It offers the awe-inspiring performance of Mother Nature’s seasonal abundance and a chance to recharge the body, mind, and spirit. Study upon study demonstrates how connecting with nature improves whole-body health – including reducing stress levels, improved sleep habits, and lowering the risk of depression and anxiety.
5 Portland Area Hikes the Whole Family Can Enjoy
So, if you’re ready to fill our “Number 1 Prescription,” here are five Portland-area hikes you can enjoy with the whole family.
1. Local botanical gardens
We are fortunate to live in a city with so many botanical gardens. In addition to learning more about local and global flora, botanical gardens are accessible and easy for little-but-independent legs to traverse. In addition to a wide range of plants and educational opportunities, botanical gardens also draw local birds, insects, and butterflies that captivate the attention of children and adults alike.
Set a goal of visiting a different botanical garden each month:
● Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
● Peninsula Park & Rose Gardens
● The Grotto (this one offers the opportunity to practice quiet time in nature, observing thoughts as you stroll through the tranquil setting)
2. Lower McLeay Trail
Start by showing up at the Lower McLeay Trail parking lot (2960 NW Upshur St). Then head out on a trail that takes you up along Balch Creek and into the southeast corner of Forest Park. If you have little ones who shun the backpack or stroller, you can stop at the Stone House, take a great photo, and then head back. Families with older children can continue on Wild Cherry Trail, and more ambitious hiking families can increase their mileage by heading along the Dogwood, Alder, and Firelane trails – all of which make for excellent half-and full-day hiking options.
3. Latourell Falls
We love hiking to the Latourell Falls because, while popular, the trail is never as busy as the trail to the famous Multnomah Falls. This trail is a 2.4-mile loop, with a climactic stop at the spectacular falls. In addition to being the closest of Gorge’s falls, Latourell is also considered one of the most “photogenic.” While Latourell Falls has water year-round, summer water levels are always on the lower side, making for a captivating and mystical effect. A Timed Use Permit is required from May through September, which you can reserve online at recreation.gov.
4. Cooper Mountain Loop Hike
The easy Cooper Mountain Loop Hike offers a varied geographical experience, including forests, oak woodlands, and prairies. Diversity in geography means diversity of wildlife, so keep your eyes and ears open for some of the nature park’s rare plants and animals. They also have a nature-themed playground, picnic area, and a Demonstration Garden with information about low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly plants you can add to your landscape at home.
5. Oxbow Regional Park
The Oxbow Regional Park has more than 16 miles of trails, but families can decide which hikes appeal to their ability and stamina. Trails range from stints in old-growth forests to waterside walks – and within that extensive network of trails are opportunities to play in the water. Ambitious outdoor families can hike for hours or may opt to camp at one of the park’s many campsites.
Bonus Tip: Guided Nature Activities
Are you someone who appreciates guided or facilitating nature hikes? Then, visit the Metro Parks & Activities page, where you can Register for a guided class, walk, stewardship activity, or hands-on group experience at a Metro park or natural area. Families are welcome!
More Family-Friendly Hiking Spots
Other favorite family-friendly hiking spots in and around Portland are:
● Smith and Bybee Wetlands Area
● Williamette Water Greenway – Wapato Access
This list should keep your family outdoors, moving, and healthy for the summer months and beyond!
Focus on Proactive Health for The Whole-Body
Going outside and exploring the areas in and around Portland is a beautiful way for the family to focus on whole-body health and wellness proactively. Are you looking for pediatricians who focus on healthy lifestyle choices for infant, child, and family wellness? Schedule an appointment with Pediatric Associates of the Northwest.