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Columbia Children's Arboretum Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

White birch (New Hampshire), Columbia Children's Arboretum (bobcat)
Maples and American gums, Columbia Children's Arboretum (bobcat)
Picnic area, Columbia Children's Arboretum (bobcat)
Sugar maple, Columbia Children's Arboretum (bobcat)
The loop around the Children's Arboretum (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Columbia Children's Arboretum TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Children's Arboretum Picnic Area
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 5 feet
  • High Point: 15 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Columbia Children’s Arboretum, a Portland City Park, stands on land originally owned by the old Columbia School District and marked as a possible site for a new high school in the 1920s. The area was taken in by Portland Public Schools in 1964. Students from the local middle school, which served a lower income and very transient neighborhood, began working here under the GROW program, part of a hands-on approach to science. The brush was cleared, orchards, trees, and organic gardens planted, and the 50 state trees project was begun. However, in 1983, the Columbia Middle School was closed and the interest in the park dwindled as the site became a magnet for homeless campers. Portland Parks purchased the acreage from the public schools in 1999 and began a rehabilitation effort with the help of local volunteers. Many of the state trees have been replanted and new signage has been posted. This quiet haven is now an inviting enclave for tree lovers and school groups among the industrial expanses of North Portland.

Walk up the gravel road past the gate. There’s an alder-shaded ditch to your left. Go right on a chip track past spruce and beech trees and an old orchard. There's an expanse of lawn beyond the orchard. Rejoin the gravel track and pass a footbridge that leads out to Meadow Drive. Cross the Towle Bridge, named after two of the park’s benefactors, which crosses the moat, or drainage ditch, that encircles the main part of the park. Willow, cottonwood, and alder shade this quiet backwater. Look for beaver activity here.

At a couple of longleaf pines, the state tree of North Carolina, go right on a narrow chip track. You’ll now begin to circle the long meadow in the middle of the park and can make diversions to some of the labeled exhibits. For example, to your left are a white birch (New Hampshire) and an eastern cottonwood (Nebraska). The trail enters the thickets above the moat, where a more natural cover of Pacific Northwest vegetation - Douglas-fir, Pacific willow, black cottonwood, red osier dogwood, and high bush cranberry - predominates. Duck through a willow tunnel and emerge at the meadow. Keep right at a junction where a trail leads to the small rose garden and a grove of cherries. Then, pass a path that leads out to Lija Loop. Circle around on grass past a blackberry thicket to reach the main path through the arboretum at a port-a-potty. The other park trailhead, at Meadow Lane, is to your right.

Walk past a tall row of maples and American gums, which offer a spectacular fall display, and then reach the park's picnic area. Continue on the main trail under maples and sycamores. In a more open area, there are a few sugar maples. Past these, note the eastern white pines and oaks. Cross the Towle Bridge and head back to your car.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Pets on leash; pick up after your dog
  • Open sunrise to sunset
  • Port-a-potty


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Guidebooks that cover this hike

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.