What’s to Love: Leach Botanical Garden’s mission “…is to maintain and enhance living collections of plants for the purpose of education, research and conservation and to preserve the legacy of the Gardens founders, John and Lilla Leach. The Garden is committed to providing positive experiences to the diverse community upon which it relies for support” (source).
After a brief visit, I’m convinced that the Garden’s employees and volunteers take the mission seriously. Mixing a blend of native plant species with “exotics,” the garden overflows with an abundance of life, which is more like what you’d see in Forest Park or simply hiking in the wilderness. I love to see gardens that mimic the natural landscape.
There is a nifty network of trails throughout the gardens with a nice open meadow and a small pond. The gift shop is really cute with some nice specialty items including bird houses and honey from the garden – now that’s local! Here is a short clip of the Garden.
Caveats: Not open on Mondays and closes at 4PM all other days! To get to the Gardens, you’ll have to park across the street and cross a bridge with no protective fencing on it at all! A curious toddler could easily fall through the gaps. In addition, there is a blind curve on both sides while crossing the street. Therefore, I recommend keeping a close eye and a “death grip” on toddlers and young children – at least until you get across the street and enter into the Gardens.
Website: Leach Botanical Gardens
Distance from Portland: Within 8 miles of downtown Portland. Here is a Google Map.
Recommended Ages: All ages. Older kids might get a bit bored with Leach. The trails are all short, and the main activity is looking at the plants. Kids ages 5 and younger are a good bet for sure. My 2-year old loved hiking around on the trails and exploring.
Parental Stress Factor: Very low stress! This is a really nice place to visit to just sort of mellow out a bit.
Physical Difficulty: Trails are not handicap accessible. They do have quite a few ups and downs, but the hills are very brief. I would rate this hiking terrain as easy and appropriate for all ages. Here is a direct link to their trail map.
Family Fun Factor: This is more of a “chill activity” than anything else. The whole family might have fun engaging in a bit of hide and seek, or just throwing out a blanket in the meadow for a nice picnic.
Weather Considerations: Open year-round – it would be fine on a rainy day due to the excellent forest coverage.
Insider Info: The Manor House can be rented-out for special occasions including birthday parties! Check the website for more information. For young children, check-out their “Honeybee Hikes,” which are focused on preschoolers and offered every Wednesday morning from 10-11, March through September.
Make sure to check-out the demonstration gardens up above the gift shop. There is also a compost demonstration area, which used to be maintained by Metro, but it seems like this is no longer happening. At the very least, your kids will get to see the various ways composting happens.
There is an on-site library with over 1100 titles in circulation, and it looks like there are plenty of educational events and garden tours.
Family Tips: Not the best place for a stroller or jogger! The trails are too narrow and steep in places. We brought ours, but it just didn’t make sense. Bring a packpack or other body-carrier for young kids.
Some very nice spots for lunch or snacks, but you’ll definitely want to bring your own food. The surrounding area is littered with fast-food restaurants.
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