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Crystal Springs-Reed Canyon Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to the pond, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (bobcat)
Bee attacking rhododendron, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (bobcat)
Feeding time, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (bobcat)
Reed Lake, Reed College Canyon (bobcat)
Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), Reed College Canyon (bobcat)
Trails at Crystal Springs and Reed College Canyon (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps

  • Start point: Crystal Springs TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Crystal Springs
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out + loop
  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 145 feet
  • High Point: 125 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, formerly the property of one of Portland's 19th century mayors, William S. Ladd, is one of the jewels in Portland Parks' crown. Originally developed as a rhododendron test garden, it offers a maze of short pathways on the slopes and inlets of Crystal Springs Lake's east shore. The garden blooms in dazzling fashion in spring and summer, with a spectacular variety of rhododendrons and azaleas. Waterfowl, including many species of wild duck, are attracted to the lake. Across 28th Avenue is the loop trail up Crystal Springs Creek and man-made Reed Lake on the property of Reed College. Reed students have spent countless hours restoring habitat here and the Crystal Springs gush voluminously at the east end of the lake (Note that the Reed Canyon portion of this hike is not universal access).

After you pass through the admission gate at the Rhododendron Garden, there’s a view over the landscaped slopes with a footbridge over a creek below, a pond, a large weeping willow to the right, and a multitude of blooming rhododendrons from mid-March into the summer. Head down to the creek and then up under a magnolia, then down to an arm of Crystal Springs Lake, where waterfowl gather to be fed. In addition to domestic ducks and hybrids, you are likely to see mallards, wood ducks, American wigeons, lesser scaups, buffleheads, Canada geese, coots, double-crested cormorants, and pied-billed grebes. Cross a pedstrain causeway to an “island” shaded by tall Douglas-firs with a small meadow in the middle. There are restrooms here and views across the lake to the Eastmoreland Golf Course. Double-crested cormorants line up on a log that juts into the lake. Head back over the casueway and do another short loop on the north side of the property. Take some steps down to the pond below the entrance station, and head back up to exit the park.

From the Crystal Springs parking area, cross 28th Avenue to take the sidewalk north under a line of sequoias to Reed College’s Botsford Drive entrance. Go right here and walk about 40 yards up the road to a gravel trail that descends to the left down some steps to enter Reed Canyon. At a junction where a footbridge leads across Crystal Springs Creek, keep right along the south side of the creek. Indian plum, maples and alders shade this area. Cross over the creek and then pass under the Theater Building. Under western red-cedar and Douglas-fir, the chip trail passes under a bikeway that crosses over the canyon. At a junction, go left and up under big-leaf maples. At a junction with a paved trail, go right and down towards the lake to pick up the wood chip trail leading along the north shore of the lake. Walk under shady cedars and then another bikeway that crosses over the canyon. The lakeshore is clogged with tree limbs for spawning cover: steelhead, cutthroat, chinook and coho have all been recorded here. Pass some plum trees and enter the wetland area at the east end of the lake, dominated by red osier dogwood. The Crystal Springs themselves gush just east of this point. At a junction, go right, cross a footbridge, and go right again at another junction. At the next junction, go right and down to a boardwalk, keeping to the main trail. Reach another boardwalk and at a junction, keep right. There’s a spur trail to the right on a boardwalk that leads to marshy islands in the center of the lake. Skunk-cabbage grows profusely here and both beaver and nutria are active in the area. Keep along the south shore of the lake and pass under the east bikeway. A spur leads right to a picnic bench under a spreading hemlock. Head up steps to the left and pass below an open-air amphitheater to a parking area by the Facilities Services building. Walk along the side of the building and take some narrow steep steps leading down to the creek again. Cross a spillway below the dam and then another branch of the creek to join up with the trail you came in on and go left.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden:

  • $5 admission fee March 1st through September 30th; free at other times of the year - Mondays always free; children under 12 free
  • Garden hours: April 1-September 30: 6:00am-10:00pm; October 1-March 31: 6:00am-6:00pm
  • Universal access
  • Dogs on leash

Reed College Canyon:

  • Dogs on leash


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody (editors)
  • Nature Walks In and Around Portland by Karen & Terry Whitehill
  • Walking Portland by Becky Ohlsen
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Walking Portland, Oregon by Sybilla Avery Cook
  • Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver edited by Laura O. Foster
  • Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster

More Links


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.