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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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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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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Dabney State Park

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Dabney State ParkWhat’s to Love:  An overcrowded beach along the Sandy River filled with people throwing cigarette butts, trash, and being obnoxiously loud and rude?  Is that the Dabney State Park you know and love?  My expectations were pretty low going in, especially on a busy summer weekend.  However, similar to Oxbow State Park, the rangers and clean-up crew do an excellent job of keeping Dabney clean, under control, and a great place for families. 

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Henry Hagg Lake

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Henry Hagg LakeWhat’s to Love:  I’ve lived in Portland since 1999, and this was my first trip to Henry Hagg Lake.  I was always concerned that it would just be a big scene with jet skis, motor boats, and a bunch of yahoos throwing trash all over the place.  I was definitely wrong and we had a lovely time.  I found the entire recreation area clean and a bargain at $5.00 for a pass.  The lake offered up a fairly secluded beach with warm water for swimming and a bunch of activities for the whole family.

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Sellwood Riverfront Park

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Sellwood Riverfront ParkWhat’s to Love:  Located just to the west (and below) Sellwood Park, Sellwood Riverfront Park often gets passed-up as bikers cruise the Springwater Corridor and cars zip by on the way to Oaks Amusement Park , Oaks Rollerskating Rink, or hiking in the nearby Wildlife Refuge.  Too bad!  Just like many inner southeast parks, this is one you don’t want to miss. 

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Walton Beach – Sauvie Island

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Walton Beach at Sauvie IslandWhat’s to Love:  Do you want to have a day at the beach without driving 70+ miles to the coast?  That’s exactly what we wanted this past weekend, and the beaches of Sauvie Island provided a reasonable substitute.  Specifically, the Walton Beach area is about 9 miles from the bridge crossing along the NE coast of the island.  It’s a pleasant drive that takes you by many possible side-excursions including blueberry picking at Bella Organics, the Pumpkin Patch Farm, and the Reeder Beach Country Market.

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Driftwood Beach State Park

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Just take a look at some of the pictures I posted in this article – this beach speaks for itself. Of course, many amazing beaches can be found throughout the area from Newport to Yahacts. However, Driftwood beach resides close to a beach rental we’ve frequented over the past few years, and it holds sentimental value along with stunning natural beauty. I recommend a visit to this beach whenever you’re in the area.

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Oxbow Regional Park

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Oxbow Regional ParkWhat’s to Love:  One of my favorite things about writing these articles is the shocking surprises that often occur while on different adventures.  The biggest surprises happen when I think a place is just going to be awful, and it turns out being the exact opposite.  It’s happened several times this summer, and it definitely happened on my visit to Oxbow Regional Park.  This park is a MUST visit during the hot days of summer!

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Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

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Trailhead at Cape Perpetua Scenic AreaWhat’s to Love:  Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is just south of the coastal town of Yachats, Oregon.  The scenic area offers many of the amenities of a state park including a campground with piped drinking water, flush toilets, fire rings, and tables, a visitor center offering interpretive programs, and plenty of picnic areas in the day-use area.  While these features are a boon to the average visitor, parents will be pleasantly surprised by something else.

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Cannon Beach

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Downtown Cannon Beach, OregonWhat’s to Love:  Cannon Beach is the “ace in the hole” when it comes to Portland getaways.  It’s a clean town with excellent surrounding beaches, parks and camping.  Plus, for a hefty price, you can usually find good food and lodging.  It’s a bit predictable for us, but we always seem to stumble onto something new each time.

Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach, OregonMany people don’t like the Disney-like-foot-traffic that plugs the walkways, restaurants, beaches, parks and playgrounds.  Others think it’s a bit sterile and/or upscale for their tastes – they prefer a getaway with a little more character such as Manzanita or Oceanside.  While I like the gritty towns, I also like many of the upscale amenities that Cannon Beach has to offer.  And, if you take the time, you will find that Cannon Beach has something to offer almost any visitor. 

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Oceanside, Oregon

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What’s to Love: This tiny, down-to-earth coastal town has maintained a great deal of integrity and local flavor despite being a popular tourist destination. The beach is gorgeous, there are plenty of rental homes for reasonable rates, and your family can walk along the streets without having to worry about traffic. There are several decent restaurants in town, but I prefer the little coffee shop (Brewin’ in the Wind) right next to the beach parking.

Your kids will love the tunnel cut right through the cliff – you’ll see it, and it’s well worth a stroll through to the other side where you’ll see some amazing sea stacks. If the tunnel is too scary, wait until low-tide, and the way should be clear to walk around the cliff alongside the water.

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Kelley Point Park

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Kelley Point Park Green SpaceWhat’s to Love:  Located right at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, Kelley Point is the northernmost park in Portland.  In my opinion, Kelley Point Park is one of the more interesting outdoor destinations in Portland – as far as parks go.  When cruising along the beautifully forested, paved bike paths, you’ll catch glimpses of the beach, river and large green spaces.  This perfectly serene moment will most likely be sabotaged by a giant, cargo ship’s unmistakable hum – a loud, foreboding hum!  The ship’s horn might give a blast, and you will start to see (and smell) all the industrialization – the chemical plants, acres and acres of new cars, massive cranes, loading and unloading stations, etc.  The reality here is that Kelley Point Park is ground-zero for shipping and receiving via the Columbia River.

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Oswald State Park

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What’s to Love:

This could easily be a unappealing place to bring your kids – it’s overcrowded with terrible parking issues along a very busy highway. However, Oswald State Park does not disappoint! This is an amazingly well-kept beach with plenty of room for all, despite too many people and difficult parking. What makes this particularly appealing to families is the spring-fed, shallow river that feeds into the ocean. This is a great place for kids to play! They can skip rocks, swim, or just splash around in a relatively-safe area. Take a beautiful hike along the beach – there are plenty of tide pools to explore!

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Cape Lookout State Park

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What’s to Love: After a beautiful, 1 mile, all downhill hike you’ll end-up on one of the most breathtaking beaches on the Oregon coast. Plus, the hike back uphill is just enough to deter large crowds of people from visiting this spot. With the large cliffs, sweeping views of low dunes, and a totally wooded backdrop, this beach has it all, except 80 degree+ water. This may look like a beach right out of a Hawaiian guidebook, but the water temperature will definitely tell you it’s all Oregon. There will be plenty of room to find a lunch spot in the perfect white sand. On my first visit, my son Rhys (3 years old) and his little friend Jasmine (2 1/2 at the time) took off running all over this beach buck naked – they loved it!

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