Discovering Washington Park In Portland
Best Walking Trails

Discovering Washington Park In Portland

So, you live in Portland and you are bored.  Well, you really shouldn’t be, when there is Washington Park on your doorstep.


old washington park

This historic park is one of the oldest in the city.

Acquired by the city in 1871, this site began life as a (relatively) modest forty acres and this gradually increased tenfold, until it became the four hundred and ten which it is today.

The original park was bought by the city from Amos King, a property developer for the sum of £32634.
To start with it was known as “City Park”. However, it wasn’t all that close to the center of the city, as it stood, in those days.

Its off-center location wasn’t the only issue rendering it slightly unattractive to visitors.
Back in the day, the park was not exactly the most inviting of places to explore.

This may have had something to do with the fact that there were some loose cats roaming the terrain – and we don’t mean Mrs. Dobb’s missing moggy Tibbs!

No, City Park, was actually home to wandering cougars!

cougar in washington park

And it was hardly any wonder they felt so comfortable – with a notable lack of roads, thick brush land and wild trees, the place more resembled an actual jungle than a functional park for the city’s (human) residents!

Now, we’re all for conservation, but being ambushed and um… eaten… by a pack of wild animals, distinctly takes the shine off one’s Sunday stroll!

Fortunately, the city’s planners realized they had a problem on their hands and by the next decade – the 1880’s – employed its first park keeper. And he had his work cut out!

This was especially so as the man they chose – one Charles M Meyers, had no formal landscape gardening training.

garden forks

In fact, he was actually by profession a sailor and simply working on the vaguest memories of the parks in his native Germany.

With an untutored Teutonic Seaman now in charge of, basically, a jungle, you may be forgiven for thinking that anything could possibly go right.

Amazingly, it did. With typical German efficiency, Meyers created order out of chaos. Where there was once wild terrain and loosed animals there were now landscaped lawns, neatly trimmed hedges and pretty flower gardens.

There was even a zoo and cable cars!

john charles olmsted
At the turn of the century, one half of the Olmsted Brothers put in place some further transformations.

The Olmsted Brothers are, of course, the well-known landscape architects – they changed the entrance and also altered some of the gardens themselves.

Not long after these improvements were made, the park dropped the name City Park and became known as Washington Park in 1912.

The new name reflected the location of the altered entrance, which was on S W Washington Street.


Enclosed within the park are several star attractions, these include;


oregon zoo

Entry: Children under 11 $19.95; Adults $17.95; Seniors and Military $15.95
Hours: 9.30 am – 4pm.
About: 200 species and 2000 animals live in Portland Zoo.


the japanese garden julia taylor

Entry: Summer: Members – Free; Child under 5 – entry free; Child 6-17 – $11.50; Adult – $16.95; Senior – $14.50; Student – $13.50

Winter: Members – Free; Child under 5 – entry free; Child 6-17 – $10.45; Adult – $14.95; Senior – $12.95; Student – $11.95

Hours: Summer: Monday noon – 7pm; Tues – Sun – 10am – 7pm.
Winter: Monday noon – 4pm; Tues – Sun – 10am – 4pm.
About: 12 acres and 8 styles of garden, the Japanese garden truly is the most beautiful in town and for many, the best Japanese gardens outside of Japan!

With streams, walkways and even waterfalls, you won’t disagree either!


the rose test garden, portland

Entry: Free.
Hours: 7.30 am – 9 pm.
About: 7000 roses and 515 different species – this is a rose garden and a half!


the petrified stump

Entry: Free to under 3s; Children – $5; Seniors – $6; Adults – $7
Hours: From Memorial Day to Labor Day; Daily Opening10 am – 5pm
From Labor Day to Memorial Day; Thursdays to Mondays 10am – 5pm
About: Learn more about the forests, come and see the Petrified Stump!


childrens museum portland

Entry: free to members. Non members $11; Seniors $10; Military $9; Access/Assistance $2 per person (proof must be shown) Babies under one year free.
Hours: 9am – 5pm
About: This is a big museum- too much to fit into one visit. If you’re in town for any length of time it might be best to become a member and come back to re-visit it again and again, at your leisure!


in hoyt arboretum

Entry: Free
Times: 9-4pm Weekdays 10-4pm Weekends
About: 12 miles of trails, with one mile wheelchair friendly. Come and see more than 2000 species of trees!



oregon zoo by michael durham
16 year old Lucy Young holds a western pond turtle just before release. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

Washington Park exists as a sanctuary for all Portland’s citizens and visitors.

It is managed by Portland Parks and Recreation.

They maintain the premises and look after its facilities, which include tennis courts, soccer fields and numerous art works, including the Chiming Fountain.

Covering over four hundred acres, the space is there for all to enjoy and to explore.

It takes in fifteen miles of trails and is part of the forty mile loop, which connects to Forest Park, amongst other attractions.

Plus of course, access to the zoo, Japanese gardens and many other places of interest.

All this, and you won’t get eaten by a cougar!


All transportation is managed specifically by the Transportation Management Association board. It set up Explore Washington Park to deal with this task.

They are a non-profit making organization.



Explore Washington Park has been formed to ensure every visitor to the park has an enjoyable visit.

They also oversee all the transportation to the park.

Perhaps you may be wondering about the parking charges policy – and why it is not free.

This is because the parking charges play a very important part in improving the experience of the park, for all who use it.

And the department pledge to use all money raised from parking charges effectively, to continue to maintain and update the park.


A free shuttle service operates within the park and gives thousands of free rides each year.

This is one of the proudest accomplishments of the Explore Washington Park board.

It is responsible for giving around 90,000 rides a year. The organization also helps to assist visitors to the park requiring extra help. In 2015 they provided assistance to 35000 park goers.

Got a question? The team behind the Explore Washington Park board are there to answer your questions and can be found on their social media sites! Alternatively, send them an email


bee in washington park

The park is open between 5 AM and 10 PM daily.


the childrens museum portland

You can access the park via car, bicycle, light railway, walking or taxi cab.



$2 per hour or $8 all day parking.
Please check in advance, special rates may apply on certain occasions.
Also please check for oversize vehicle information.

Parking times; 9.30am -8pm.

These are not the park’s only attractions, just the main ones. There are also more besides these – so get out here and visit them!

Video by Xplore Film.

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