A forest in the city, Tryon Creek State Natural Area is an effective escape into lush, second-growth forest when you need to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but don’t actually have time to go far away. The 650-plus acre park is located in southwest Portland. It includes well maintained trails for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians to use year round.
Location: Main parking lot located off southwest Terwilliger Boulevard. Follow signs for Tryon Creek. You can also access trails from Boones Ferry Road, Southwest 4th Avenue, southwest Englewood Drive, and Boca Ratan Drive.
Distance: Variable. A total of 8 miles of hiking trails, 3.5 miles of horse trail, and a 3-mile paved bike trail. My mom and I tried to do the biggest loop possible (which included a short jaunt through a neighborhood to get to another trail head), and came in just shy of 5 miles. But there are many other trail combinations you could try. And if there still aren’t enough miles for you, just do what the runner who passed us twice did: Start all over again.
Pros: The trees are humongous and beautiful. The creeks are bubbly and drown out the city noise, truly making you feel like you’re in a forest instead of a mile from a Starbucks. Plus, lots of creeks means lots of bridges, and who doesn’t love bridges? Except for the swaying bridge. My mom did not like the swaying bridge. Also on the pro list, there’s a nature center. I didn’t go inside, but it purports to have interactive exhibits. There are also guided hikes. Final pro: free parking.
Cons: Since it’s so close to the city, Tryon Creek is packed. Even in January. I don’t want to think about how crowded it must get on summer weekends. And since it’s so accessible, there are lots of little kids. Which is a pro if you have kids, I guess. But if your idea of a peaceful hike does not include tiny humans racing around your knees and screaming, walk as fast as you can for the first mile or two and you should lose them.
Overall, I loved Tryon Creek. During wintertime, the cold and dreary weather can make the outdoors seem so hostile. And rain and snow definitely can make some hikes treacherous, but the Willamette Valley has a wider variety of well-maintained trails than you might think. As long as you’re prepared for the conditions, there’s no reason to hide out indoors until summertime.
- February: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- March: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- April: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- May through August: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- September: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- October: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- November through January: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.