Are you looking for the best spots to catch fall color in Portland?
You’re in good hands! Autumn is (easily) my favorite season in my hometown.
There’s nothing cozier than thick wool sweaters, hot coffee, a good book and a quaint cafe with large windows overlooking colorful tree-lined streets.
And since sharing is caring, I wanted to share my favorite spots for fall color in Portland. And yes, it’s just as beautiful as you can imagine because there’s a lot of trees around here.
I’m not one for small talk, so get to it!
Best time to experience fall foliage in Portland
Peak fall foliage varies from year to year, depending on the weather. Based on personal experience, a safe bet for best fall foliage in Portland is mid-October to early-November.
Best Spots for Fall Color in Portland
#1. Northwest Portland
The only thing better than the comforting smell of fall is sitting in a cozy cafe somewhere off NW 23rd Avenue and watching the world go by.
NW 23rd Avenue is a pretty tree-lined street peppered with local shops and interesting restaurants, located in one of the most charming neighborhoods in Portland.
Whenever we show guests around our town, this usually ends up being one of their favorite things to do in Portland.
I currently live in the NW neighborhood and find it impossible to sit at home during autumn because the fall foliage is breathtaking.
Some of the best leaf-peeping opportunities are found along NW 23rd Avenue, NW 21st Avenue and the roads leading up to Washington Park.
Allow yourself to get lost in the neighborhood because it’s full of deciduous trees — pockets of color everywhere!
Local’s Tip: Swing by St. Honore or Dragonfly Cafe to warm up with a great drink and sweet treat.
#2. Portland Japanese Garden
Originally opened in 1967, the Portland Japanese Garden is regarded as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in America.
And when you visit for yourself you’ll quickly see why. The garden is perfectly manicured with a small pond, a handful of waterfalls and moss laden paths ripe for exploration.
This authentic garden truly shines in the fall season when the uber-famous Japanese Maple sheds her leaves for the season.
Photographers flock to the Japanese Garden like moths to a flame during October and November – myself included!
The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the best places for fall color in Portland.
Make sure to check out the cozy Umami Cafe for matcha or order any of the tea on the menu, you won’t be disappointed.
Address: 611 SW Kingston Ave. Portland, OR 97205
Image courtesy Portland Japanese Garden
Reading suggestion: Experiencing Fall in Japan
My husband and I visited Japan last autumn (we fell in love with the country) and can confirm that the Portland Japanese Garden is truly authentic.
While visiting the Portland Japanese Garden we felt like we were transported back to the tranquility and culture we so loved in Japan.
If you’re interested, here’s my first-hand account of visiting Kyoto in autumn.
#3. Hoyt Arboretum
As a Portland native, it took me way too long to discover the network of trails at Hoyt Arboretum. What was I thinking?
We decided to hike a handful of random trails last autumn and had an absolute blast. The trails were full of people, so make sure to keep your distance and pack your mask.
We noticed 10+ photographers during our visit, this seems like a very popular spot for fall photos in Portland.
I was so impressed by the hiking trails, especially the Maple-Wildwood Loop, and fall foliage that I’ve returned three times since. The arboretum is full of deciduous trees and the hills truly come alive during autumn!
Parking: $2 per hour, $8 all day (park in the Veteran’s Memorial Lot or the Steven’s Pavilion Lot).
Address: 4000 SW Fairview Blvd. Portland, Oregon 97221
#4. South Park Blocks
I used to work two blocks away from South Park Blocks and would purposely take the longer route home just to pass by these massive trees during autumn.
The trees create a canopy of color and the benches are far too inviting to pass up. I like to take a break under the shade of the foliage with a hot cup of matcha in hand from the nearby cafe — Behind the Museum Cafe.
#5. Pittock Mansion
Spanning an impressive 16,000 square feet and boasting 46 rooms, Pittock Mansion is a stunning French-Renaissance mansion that sits atop the West Hills and is open to the public. The mansion was built so well that the even the original elevator is operational to this day, imagine!
The grounds surrounding the mansion offer some of the best views of downtown Portland, so it should come as no surprise that the area is swarmed with visitors during fall.
The views are worth the crowds though, trust me. The park’s high elevation makes it an ideal spot to catch a great view of Mt. Hood on a clear day.
There’s four picnic tables at the viewpoint, so bring a snack and enjoy your time, what’s the rush anyway?
#6. Washington Park
400 acres of unparalleled beauty with six cultural institutions tucked into the park boundary – what’s not to love about Washington Park?
In terms of best fall color in Portland, Washington Park is hard to beat. The evergreen trees stay stubbornly true to their name, but the deciduous trees light up in breathtaking shades during autumn. Thankfully, there’s plenty of them peppered throughout the park!
One of my favorite spots to see fall foliage in Washington Park is at the Secret Garden and the area near the Portland International Rose Test Garden.
Fun fact: The rose garden at Washington Park is the oldest continuously operating public rose test garden in the United States. How cool is that? To read more on the history, check out this post.
#7. Laurelhurst Park
Laurelhurst Park has a very special place in my heart because we lived right next to it when my family first relocated to Portland back in the 90’s. I spent many childhood weekends strolling through the park.
And let me tell you – experiencing fall at Laurelhurst Park is spectacular! The pops of vibrant color change the landscape drastically and parts of the park almost feel like a movie scene.
But fair warning – this park is well loved and popular, make sure to keep your distance this year and wear a mask.
Fun fact: In February 2001 Laurelhurst Park was named to the National Register of Historic Places, the first city park ever listed on the national register.
Address: SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd & Stark St, Portland, OR 97214
#8. Forest Park
Spanning more than 5,200 acres and offering 70+ blissful miles of trails, Portland’s beloved Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the country and it is ripe for exploration.
Forest Park swallows you up and makes you completely forget you’re anywhere near a city. The trifecta of towering old-growth trees, earthy smells and birdsong is just what the doctor ordered.
During autumn, the deciduous trees blaze with vibrant fall colors and don striking shades of red, orange and yellow. It’s a sight to behold.
I especially like the Wildwood Trail (which connects Washington Park and Forest Park), the Ridge Trail and Lower MacLeay to Stone House (“Witch’s Castle”).
Don’t miss crossing the newly built Barbra Walker Crossing — it crosses Burnside Street and connects Washington Park with Forest Park.
#9. Portland Waterfront
Tom McCall Waterfront Park is named after Oregon’s revered governor. The park swells with locals during lunch hour and you’ll be dodging bikers, walkers, skateboarders and love birds along the paved path.
This is definitely a great spot for people watching! Sit on a bench for a few minutes and watch the world go by — families on bikes, young couples walking hand-in-hand, and runners skirting out of town tourists. So much fun to see the world in motion.
The waterfront is the best place for cherry blossoms during the springtime, so it’s only fitting the trees make for magical fall color as well.
#10. The Pearl District
The reason I enjoy fall color in the Pearl so much is because there’s a stark contrast between the colorful trees and the modern man-made structures cropped up throughout the neighborhood.
The Pearl District feels like a new neighborhood because of the modern buildings and structures — it’s a completely different experience from Northwest Portland.
But boy, it sure is fun to aimlessly wander through this area, especially during autumn – it’s glorious!
#11. Leach Botanical Garden
Leach Botanical Garden is such a special place. It’s technically owned by Portland Parks & Recreation but is run by a nonprofit. Therefore, admission is free but donations are encouraged and help support garden operations.
My favorite spot in the garden is the ancient maple tree that turns bright red in autumn.
Address: 6704 SE 122nd Ave. Portland, Oregon 97235
Image courtesy Leach Botanical Garden
Best spots for fall foliage in Portland Oregon (Post Summary)
In short, the best places for fall color in Portland are:
- Northwest Portland
- Portland Japanese Garden
- Hoyt Arboretum
- Pittock Mansion
- South Park Blocks
- The Secret Garden at Washington Park
- Laurelhurst Park
- Forest Park
- Portland Waterfront
- The Pearl District
- Leach Botanical Gardens
Further Reading: Autumn in New England
My husband and I had an opportunity to experience fall in New England, and holy cow — it’s unbelievable. If interested, read: 10 EPIC Spots for Fall Color in New Hampshire (Spoiler Alert: The White Mountains)
Hope you enjoyed this list of the best spots for fall foliage in Portland, Oregon!
Until next time,
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