What’s to Love: The Oak Island Nature Trail is a pleasant 2.5 mile loop-hike on Sauvie Island. It’s basically a flat, two-lane service road. There is plenty of room for kids to run ahead, and it’s perfect for a jogging stroller. Doesn’t sound too exciting does it? Well, during the month of August, this trail becomes far more than a hiking destination, and it’s well worth your time and energy to find this well-traveled path.
For us, there is one reason to do this hike that makes it an absolute must do in August – BLACKBERRIES! I have never seen such a high concentration of blackberries along a hiking trail in the Portland area. It’s just very convenient to grab some containers, take a hike and pick berries. Certainly, you could pick all day long and not even put a dent in the offerings here.
Because the hike is flat, this is a good test-hike for future outings. If kids tire on this hike, it’s not a big deal pushing or carrying them back to the car. On Mt. Hood, a 2.5 mile hike can turn into a disaster, if you’re not prepared.
In addition, this hike is located on Sauvie Island, so there are MANY other options for family fun either before or after the hike. Here is a short clip:
Caveats: It’s not the most exciting or scenic hike. For part of the outing, you’ll just be walking a dirt road through a grassy field. To park at the trailhead, you’ll need a Sauvie Island Nature permit that will cost you $3.50 – pick one up at the general store as you come off the bridge.
Blackberries are not easy pickin’! The thorns on some of the vines will tear right through skin with ease. To get to the best berries, you’ll have to step on some vines and lean-in to reach, which can have terrible consequences if you lose your balance. I always joke that I feel a step away from an emergency room visit when I’m picking these tasty berries. It’s well worth it, in my opinion.
There is little shade on the hike with at least a 1/4 – 1/2 mile stretch with total sun exposure. The nicest amenity on this hike is a Porta-Potty at the trailhead, so please come prepared!
Distance from Portland: The Sauvie Island bridge is within 15 miles of downtown Portland. Once you cross the bridge, you’ll still have another 7.5 – 8 miles of driving.
Here are directions from an article posted on OregonLive.com. Head 10 miles northwest of Portland on U.S. 30 (St. Helens Road) and turn east (right) onto the Sauvie Island Bridge. Cross Multnomah Channel and follow Sauvie Island Road north two miles to Reeder Road. Turn east (right) and drive Reeder Road 1.3 miles to a Y junction. Take the left fork and drive 4.2 miles on Oak Island Road to a small parking lot at road’s end. The final 1.1 miles is gravel.
Recommended Ages: If you’re berry picking, this hike is great for almost any age from toddlers all the way to teenagers. Make sure toddlers understand that the berries have some nasty thorns, and they should wear some protective clothing.
If you’re just going out for a hike, older kids may get bored. It’s an excellent option for young hikers, because it feels open and barrier free. Toddlers and kids up to age 8 will have fun running wild here.
Parental Stress Factor: This is a low-stress hike! If you’re looking for a casual outing, this is the place to go. Even if you don’t finish the loop, it’s no problem turning around and heading back.
Physical Difficulty: It’s a very easy hike. If the distance seems a bit much, don’t worry…just hike what you can and turn around at anytime. The hike is not handicap accessible.
Family Fun Factor: High! Berry picking is one of our favorite family activities, and it’s best when done with another family with kids. If you’re going strictly for the hike, the fun factor drops to low.
Pet Friendly: Because of the lack of shade, I wouldn’t bring a dog on this hike. However, if you’re visiting on a cloudy/cooler day, dogs may enjoy the freedom this area has to offer. Dogs are supposed to be on leashes.
Weather Considerations: Since there is decent drainage, this hike can be done during rainy days. However, we prefer hiking during berry season. Try an overcast day to maximize your picking.
Insider Info: It doesn’t matter in which direction you go during the loop. The best berries are on the backside of the loop (i.e., farthest point from your car). When you’re surrounded by blackberries on both sides of the trail, you’ll know you’re there!
Also, you’ll encounter a small lake with a rocky beach near the beginning of the loop (traveling counterclockwise). This is a great spot for everyone to throw or skip some stones.
Family Tips: If your main goal is berry picking, you’ll want to bring several large containers and a jogging stroller to help transport the berries. My advice is to pick containers that are large but shallow – the weight of blackberries can crush the ones on the bottom of a big bucket.
If you want to avoid getting cut-up, wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants and shoes with socks. Because you’ll need to step on vines to get to the best berries, sandals are not a good option. Last time we went, I carried a small rake (one made for toddlers) to grab vines from up high – it worked perfectly!
There are parts of the hike with some shade, so bring along some snacks or a lunch/dinner. Most likely, you’ll have to sit right in the center of the trail – don’t worry, it’s a wide road, so people will have no trouble walking around your group. Of course, I also recommend a stop at Kruger’s Farm Market for food.
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