Our Favorite Gardens Near Downtown Portland
If you’ve ever visited the Pacific Northwest, you know that scenery = greenery. The Willamette Valley is teeming with deciduous and evergreen forests, and in Portland specifically, you’ll find plenty of city parks boasting giant maples, Douglas firs, and Elm trees – providing summer-time picnickers with the perfect shady place to lay their blankets.
The trees, though, aren’t the only foliage that we like to brag about! From the beginning of Spring and lasting well into Fall, Portland puts on a dazzling display of colors and smells that goes beyond its reputation as the Rose City. Flowers and gardens abound around here! Check out some of our favorites below.
Peninsula Park Rose Garden
Lesser known than the International Rose Test Garden, this little gem is a local favorite. Tucked away in the Piedmont neighborhood of NE Portland, Peninsula Park is one of our favorite spots to stop and actually smell the roses! The southern end of the park is home to Portland’s first ever public rose garden. Each spring, rows upon rows of rose bushes bloom (did we just come up with a new tongue twister?), spreading themselves out around an ornamental fountain, which has decorated the park since its inception in 1917. We love to visit each year and take note of the most fragrant, most colorful, and most unique!
If you’re visiting with kids, you might also bring a frisbee and some other fun lawn games. The middle and northern sections of the park are open and grassy and perfect for frolicking youngsters.
Pittock Mansion Gardens & Grounds
Most people know of Pittock Mansion because if its status as a historic landmark – but did you know that the gardens and grounds of the mansion have some amazing blooms and some of the best views of Portland available? From the parking lot, walk past the ticketing office and continue along the path, bypassing the entrance to the mansion (save this for a rainy day!). This path will take you through what was once the back yard of Mr. & Mrs. Pittock.
During your visit, you will enjoy dogwoods, hydrangeas, rhododendrons (a Portland staple!), and lilacs on top of spectacular views. On a crystal-clear day, and with a proper orientation, you can spot Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and maybe a few more Cascade peaks in the distance. If it’s cloudy, and let’s just be honest… it usually is for most of the year, you’ll still be delighted with the views of downtown Portland below.
Leach Botanical Garden
About a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland, you’ll find the third garden on our list; the Leach Botanical Gardens in Southeast Portland. While this garden doesn’t attract the same throngs of visitors as some of the others, it is equally worthy of your time – and its off-the-beaten-path feel is one of the things we love about it!
This park is less manicured and feels more like Portland “au-natural.” Instead of roses and tulips, you’ll find varieties that thrive in the shady forests of the Pacific Northwest – think rhododendrons, sword ferns, bleeding hearts, and at the right time of the year, trillium flowers. For those of you with a passion for fungus, Leach Botanical is also a great place to try your hand at identifying some of the local mushroom species! The park even hosts events led by local experts that can cover things like basic identification and ecology. Check out their website for anything fun on the horizon!
Leach also underwent a major revamping and expansion during 2020, through the spring of 2021, and debuted the new Upper Garden. Our absolute favorite new feature of this area? The Aerial Tree Walk! This elevated platform allows you to stroll about 40ft above the forest floor amongst the tall and shady Douglas Firs that are representative of forests in the region.
Wanting even more? Portland still has you covered. There are several options within the downtown Portland area that are just a quick hop, jump, and skip away from any major hotel. Check out the International Rose Test Garden from late May to August for some world class roses or the Lan-Su Chinese Garden, known as one of the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China! Wildwood Adventures’ Portland City Tour will cover these for you (as well as the Pittock Mansion grounds described above), and the cost of admission is included in the price of your ticket.
We hope you enjoy strolling through these beautiful spaces as much as we do!