Portland Japanese Garden

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What’s to Love: My wife and I visited the Japanese Garden when we first moved to Portland around 1999-2000. It was nice…pleasant for sure. Fast forward to 2017 with a new 33.5 million “Cultural Crossing Expansion,” and Portland has a new can’t miss destination for the whole family!

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Butte Creek Falls

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IMG_2280What’s to Love: By far the best waterfall swimming I’ve had in Oregon period. It’s off the beaten path a bit, but it’s a lovely drive through Oregon farm country and only about an hour from downtown Portland. It’s the type of place you want to keep a secret, but since it was already published in Portland Monthly (and other publications), I thought I’d join the club.

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Wild Waves Theme Park

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IMG_2212What’s to Love: Another place it’s taken me forever to visit! I don’t know how many times I’ve passed Wild Waves on my way north to Seattle. I’m sure you’ve all seen it, especially if you have kids. The roller coasters and huge water slides are hard to miss, even speeding by on I-5. While it lacks the charm of Enchanted Forest, and the extreme cleanliness of Disney Parks, I was still impressed and look forward to our next family visit.

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Lacamas Lake Regional Park

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Lacamas Park TrailWhat’s to Love:  This 312 acre park within a mile of downtown Camas, WA offers many recreational opportunities including: bird watching, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking. We spent most of our time mountain biking the Lacamas Park Trail, which offers around six miles of trails and does a loop around Round Lake. There is also the Lacamas Heritage Trail, which is a 3.5 mile trail along the west side of Lacamas Lake.

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Family Mountain Biking

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What’s to Love:  Before I get started with my usual format, I want to apologize for the lack of photographs.  It was raining pretty hard for our entire ride, and the camera batteries died right when we were getting started. Hopefully, I’ll get some additional photos soon! Despite that, the “EasyClimb Trail” in Cascade Locks is the perfect outing for parents who want to mountain bike with their kids. The two mile loop features a little bit of everything, EXCEPT hill climbs! There is ample parking, no fees, and plenty of signage – it’s almost impossible to get lost. I’m convinced this is the #1 option for mountain biking with young kids…period. If you think there is a better option, I’d love to hear about it. Get your kids the best shoes to run and ride. Check out this review at RunnerClick.com.

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Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

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Ridgefield Wildlife RefugeWhat’s to Love:  As stated on their website, “The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established (along with 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley of Oregon) in 1965, in response to a need to establish vital winter habitat for wintering waterfowl with an emphasis on the dusky Canada goose whose nesting areas in Alaska were severely impacted by the violent earthquake of 1964. Ridgefield Refuge is currently approximately 5,300 acres of marshes, grasslands and woodlands.” This Refuge is a must do for young hikers who might enjoy bird watching.

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Vancouver Lake Park

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Vancouver Lake ParkWhat’s to Love:  Vancouver Lake Park is one of my new favorite spots. Unfortunately, it took me eight years to make it over the bridge for a visit. I was impressed with the entire park: clean, nice green space, picnic spots, grills, biking, and swimming. Plus, there was no day-use-fee! While summer lasts, make sure to include this on your tick list.

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Milo McIver State Park

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Milo McIver State ParkWhat’s to Love:  Milo McIver State Park is located along the Clackamas River and is only about 30 miles from Portland. For being so close to Portland, it has an “off-the-beaten-path” feel to it. There are some nice picnic areas with grills and plenty of camping, but it’s the disc golf (27 holes) that makes the park a prime destination for the whole family.

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Hardesty Trail Loop Hike

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Hardesty Trail Forest ParkWhat’s to Love:  Although it’s our rainy season here in Portland, I encourage all of my readers to get out with your kids for a family hike. The winter is actually a great time for hiking, but you’ll need to be prepared for slippery conditions, lots of mud, rain, and wind. Forest Park offers many options, but I think you’ll find this little gem one of the better options for kids. Also, check out this review of hiking backpacks from thegearhunt.com.

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Learn to Climb: Chockstone Guides

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Smith Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  The picture featured above is Jim Ablao of Chockstone Climbing Guides.  Our family has climbed with him in the past at Smith Rock State Park. When Jim is working, it’s a sure bet that he’ll be sporting a big smile on his face. Right before I took the aforementioned picture, I asked him, “Another great day at the office, huh?”  Jim obviously loves his work as a climbing guide, but he also has a love for climbing, which shows in his enthusiasm (and competence) as a a guide.  If you’re looking to take your family out, or you want to give rock climbing at try at one of the world’s premier climbing areas, get in contact with Jim as soon as possible.  The fall is a great time to climb at Smith.

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Government Cove Peninsula

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Government CoveWhat’s to Love:  I know I’ve been a bit heavy on climbing destinations lately, but Government Cove is a little gem that provides more than rock climbing, scrambling, and bouldering.  This is a relatively undeveloped location (i.e., no fees, no restrooms, no water, no parking area, etc.). Despite that fact, the entire area was very clean with some nice paved and unpaved trails for hiking and biking.

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Beacon Rock State Park

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Beacon Rock State ParkWhat’s to Love:  Being a climber, I’ve always been fascinated, and a bit intimidated, by the 848 foot high monolith – “Beacon Rock.” So intimidated that my first trip to the top was along the mile-long paved walkway and not roped-up hanging off the side of the rock. While the hike (1.8 miles round trip) to the top and back is exhilerating, the volcanic core is just a small piece of the whole picture.  Upon further exploration, you’ll see that Beacon Rock has much to offer the whole family.

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Washougal River Access

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Washougal River - Near Dougan Creek FallsWhat’s to Love:  I was looking for the perfect swimming hole on our way back from a bouldering adventure in Washington.  Our plan was to check-out Dougan Creek Falls, which looks visually stunning and lots of fun. However, on our way to the falls, another access point (about 1 mile short of the falls) caught my eye while rounding a curve.

After noticing this beautiful spot, we parked at a pullout along the Washougal River (literally 30 seconds down a steep bank), and I could hardly believe my eyes!  This spot (see distance from Portland below) on the Washougal is one of the nicest river access points I’ve ever seen in my life.  Perfect for the whole family!

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Horsethief Lake State Park

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Horsethief ButteWhat’s to Love:  Horsethief Lake State Park and Horsethief Butte provide a nice one-two-punch for a full-day family outing.  Located about 90 miles east (via WA 14 or OR 84), you might try these two destinations for an adventurous combination of camping, technical rock climbing, rock scrambling, bouldering, hiking, boating, and fishing. For reviews on outdoor gear, visit GearWeAre.com. This link covers family tents.

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Holly Farm Park

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Holly Farm ParkWhat’s to Love:  Holly Farm Park is a lovely park right off Capitol Highway in SW Portland.  While next to a busy road, this small park has a nice vibe and a strong community feel.  It’s well kept with a relatively large lawn, newer play structure, paved paths, and a very cool mini-skate-park.

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Sandy River Delta: Got Dog?

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Sandy River Delta ParkWhat’s to Love:  1000+ acres of no-feepublic trails, mud holes, bird blinds, beach access (Columbia & Sandy Rivers), and HUGE open fields for your dog to be off-leash!  There are only two areas where dogs must be on-leash (Confluence Trail and the parking area).  Otherwise, your dogs can experience a tremendous amount of freedom running free with other dogs and having a great time in what feels like a wilderness setting.

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Family Getaway – Garibaldi, Oregon

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Jeff Hunter – Manager, Harborview Inn

Jeff Hunter manages the Harborview Inn in Garibaldi, Oregon.  He was kind enough to send Portland Family Adventures an invitation to do some crabbing right off the local pier. Since I’ve never crabbed in my life, we decided to take the whole family for a quick day trip.  We spent a few hours in Garibaldi hoping to catch some crab, checking out the sights, and eating fish and chips at the highly recommended “Fisherman’s Korner.”  Jeff is enthusiastic about the area and all it has to offer families.  After visiting, I share his enthusiasm and want to pass along a quick interview.

 

 

 

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Hiking Angel’s Rest

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Angel's Rest Columbia River GorgeWhat’s to Love:  Since moving here to Portland in 1999, my wife and I have hiked Angel’s Rest too many times to count.  To this day, it remains one or our favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge, and it’s one of the first hikes when entering the Gorge from Portland. While we carried our oldest son up the hike when he was younger, this was our first visit to hike the entire 4.8 miles (round trip) with both kids.

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Windells – Off Season Access

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What’s to Love:  Located 12 miles SE of Sandy, Oregon on the flanks of Mt. Hood, Windells is a training camp for kids (and adults!) interested in skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding, BMX, and free riding.  The sheer magnitude of the outdoor skatepark (aka “concrete jungle”) is enough to make most kids’ jaws drop to the ground in awe. I hope to write about the camp experience (academy, residential, and day) in the near future, but the focus of this article is off-season/day-use access for the general public, which is well worth the price of admission and drive from Portland.

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The Oregon Garden

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The Oregon GardenWhat’s to Love:  The Oregon Garden is full of surprises, especially during the month of October when they host “Family Harvest Days” every Saturday from 1PM to 4PM.  We went with every intention of visiting the Harvest stops, but we were quickly sidetracked by the tram tour and our own kids’ wanderlust through the well organized and meticulously maintained gardens.

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