This garden is known as the largest in a nation and features over 6800 rose bushes and 557 varieties. There is a garden of nominated varieties inside the garden. Some of them are really beautiful - like "Merilin Monro" this year (2007)... And of course, the bushes are changing from year to year to give space to new varieties.
Portland is known as the City of Roses for a reason. There are several rose gardens and There are several different Rose Gardens in Portland, but Washington Park is, I believe, the largest. There are over 7,000 rose bushes which bloom during the summer months. Unfortunately for us, late May is not the best time to visit the Rose Garden, but, we were in the area and decided to stroll through. (Our friends told us October is a great time to visit to see the garden in full bloom.) Despite the roses not being in bloom, we enjoyed the walk through the well maintained garden and admired the other flowers in bloom. The public garden offers free admission and some great views of downtown Portland as well.
In June, the annual rose testing takes place. Certain sections of the garden are reserved for rose testing, and gardeners throughout the world submit hybrid roses, one of which is selected as the fairest of them all.
Just like you can't go to Jake's Famous Crawfish restaurant and not eat crawfish, you can't go to the City of Roses and not go see the roses.
If you are interested in roses, go see my City of Roses travelogue.
The largest rose garden in the US, and I think the world, and best of all free admission. Just park, bring a picnic lunch and relax in the beauty.
Full bloom is June-August (July being best), and an amazing view of the city and Mt Hood.
Not uncommon to see someone getting a marriage proposal here. A beautiful place has that effect.
If your here during summer, don;t miss it. Even a very serene place during winter - still has the great view.
The Wildwood Trail used to be a famous Portland feature, connecting Washington Park and the Portland Zoo to a number of attractions, and then leading deep into Forest Park, and eventually ending at Newberry Road. The section from Lower McLeay Park into Forest Park is mostly the same as any of the other trails in Forest Park, but the section of the trail from Washington Park to Lower McLeay Park passes by a number of attractions and deserves a bit more extensive a description.
The most difficult problem that you face on this section of the trail is where the trail crosses Burnside. For years this wasn't a problem, but the rude fashion in which people drive now means that it is extremely difficult to get across Burnside at this location today. Also, people drive quite a bit faster than the speed limit now than they did only just a few years ago, meaning that you have much less warning before getting run over by drivers at this road crossing. You are better off trying to cross at this location during low traffic periods (such as very early in the morning) rather than during peak travel periods.
Officially speaking, the trail starting point (milepost 0.0) for the Wildwood Trail is up hill from the Washington Park MAX station and zoo. It is near the near Vietnam memorial, and reasonably well marked if you are coming from the MAX station uphill to the trail. There are quite a number of local trails in this area, and if you keep following them up the hill eventually you will intersect the Wildwood Trail. If you start at the Vietnam memorial and simply follow the trail there up the spiral and continue on the main trail up the hill you will eventually run into the Wildwood Trail as well.
If you are coming into the area on the Wildwood Trail, the way to the MAX station and Zoo are not marked that well, but walking down the hill from there should be pretty obvious.
Unfortunately, there are relatively few mile post markers on the trail, so it is somewhat hard to give good directions in terms of the mile posts on the Wildwood Trail.
You can make the trip a bit shorter by cutting over the top of the hill on several trails in the Hoyt Arboretum, but you'll want to use the local maps for the arboretum for that as it is not easy for me to describe what you need to do there. The trail system in the arboretum is a bit of a tangle. Also, doing that cuts out the loop of the trail that goes over to the Japanese Garden and Rose Garden. The Wildwood Trail makes the whole route along the end of the ridge, but the trails inside the Hoyt Arboretum can bring you directly over the top of the ridge if you so desire.
Most everything is reasonably well marked, but the signs have had a nasty habit of being vandalized or completely disappearing in the last few years.
There are signs for the Japanese gardens, and the Rose Garden is across the street. Getting back to the Wildwood Trail from there depends a bit on where you wind up, as there are several options. The easiest option for going south on the Wildwood from the Rose Garden is probably going to be to go to the Elephant House (a rentable children's play and party house near the playground at the south side of the Rose Garden) and take the trail that is across the street from there. It climbs back up the hill and re-joins the Wildwood trail. This trail actually goes to the downhill side of the Rose Garden but it isn't easy at all to find from the Rose Garden itself, so finding it by the playground is probably your best bet. At worst, you will have to go back the way you came.
To go north on the Wildwood from that area it is easiest to start at the Japanese Gardens. At the gate at the top of the hill of the Japanese Gardens (there is a lower and upper gate. The upper gate, where you want to start this process, is where you actually pay to enter the garden) there is a paved road that connects the two gates. Follow this road slightly north, and be looking for signs on the uphill side of the road just outside the Japanese Garden area that mark a trail leading from this gate to the Wildwood Trail.
The Pittock Mansion is not particularly well marked, but the Wildwood trail delivers you to the parking lot. Just walk down the hill in the parking lot and you will come to the mansion. This is the parking lot that you come to at the top of the hill between crossing Cornell Road and crossing Burnside.
The trail between the Wildwood Trail and the Audubon Society is only about 100 feet long, but doesn't have a sign in it. On the north side of the Cornell Road crossing, you will come to a small open area with a picnic table and some out of service restrooms. This is Upper MacLeay Park. By the concrete restroom buildings, follow the unmarked trail down the very slight hill through the grass area and you will come to the Audubon Society office, store, entrance to their trail system, and the wildlife care center they operate.
Downhill from the Audobon Society the trail runs along a creek and eventually arrives at an abandoned stone building. Continuing on the Wildwood Trail continues north into Forest Park, while going straight and downhill goes to the trailhead at Lower MacLeay Park.
The following attractions are located along this route of the Wildwood Trail, and research into the various attractions may help your walk:
the Audubon Society of Portland site includes a bird sanctuary with a few trails
And their wildlife care center
The Pittock Mansion features views of downtown Portland and the mountains.
Hoyt Arboretum has plants from all over the world
The Rose Garden
The Japanese Garden
The Vietnam Memorial
The Oregon Zoo
You could easily spend an entire day just visiting all of those attractions along the route, so the length of time that you need for this section of the Wildwood Trail depends a lot on how long you spend visiting all these different sites.
There is a new arena in town, and it may be called "The Rose Garden" (which has few, if any roses anywhere near it), but the much older and at one time much more famous rose garden located in Washington Park is used for some of the official Rose Festival activities, and is where the plaques giving the past Rose Festival Queens are located.
The true rose garden features views of Mt. Hood and downtown, a few items of public art, and roses. In fact, there are some 10,000 plantings and over 550 varieties of roses here.
The official name of this Rose Garden is actually the "International Rose Test Garden" and it is one of several rose gardens operated in city of Portland parks by the Portland Rose Society.
The Rose Garden is broken down into a number of smaller gardens. The Shakespeare Garden has been the most popular place in Portland to have outdoor weddings for a number of years. These sections of the Rose Garden are separated by lines of larger bushes, and so you can't see the entire Rose Garden from a single spot. Therefore, be sure to explore the grounds thoroughly, as you might have missed an entire sub-garden.
Getting Here: There is a bus that comes from downtown Portland to the Rose Garden, but bus route 63 has been severely cut back to the point where it doesn't operate very often at all. Parking is very limited, and even during weekdays during peak tourist season trying to find a place to park can be quite difficult. This is a popular tourist attraction among garden and flower fans! However, during the summer months, it is possible to take MAX to the Washington Park / Zoo station, and the "Washington Park Shuttle" (which only operates during the summer months) from the zoo MAX station to the Rose Garden. If you are going to visit the Portland zoo as well as the Rose Garden, it is also possible to take the zoo train from the Portland zoo to the Rose Garden station, but you must pay zoo admission to take the zoo train, and pay an additional fee to ride the zoo train.
Bus route 20 runs fairly frequently on Burnside, which isn't too far away, so that might be a good option as well depending on your willingness to walk a little ways. Follow signs from Burnside that say "Washington Park".
Driving: I don't recommend it due to the complicated nature of the roads, and the difficulty in finding a place to park near the garden, but here are some options:
+ from Burnside going west, turn left at the sign that says "Washington Park" after you start climbing the hill and enter the forest. This is approximately 24th, but is named Kingston. You will have to carefully follow the signs, as it is a bit of a maze in there.
+ from Burnside going west, turn left onto SW 23rd (you may want to make 3 right turns and go around the block rather than attempt to turn left off of Burnside) going south. After several blocks, turn right onto Park, which is the first traffic light. When you get to the one way streets, turn right at the large stone staircase. Continue around the circle and follow the signs to the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. You may find some parking places near the traffic circle, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Rose Garden.
+ from SW Taylor Street downtown, turn south onto SW 17th Avenue, then right onto Salmon Street. Continue climbing the hill after you go past the Multnomah Athletic Club. There will be a slight northward jog in the road as you cross King Avenue, and continue climbing the hill on Park Place. When you get to the one way streets, turn right at the large stone staircase. Continue around the circle and follow the signs to the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. You may find some parking places near the traffic circle, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Rose Garden.
+ Highway 26 to the zoo exit. From the zoo, go up the hill until you are at the uphill side of the parking lot. There is a small road to the right at the very upper end of the parking lot before the steep climb uphill begins. A small triangular shaped parking lot will be on your right just before you need to turn. Follow this road, and the signs to the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden. After much winding around, this road dumps you into the parking area for the tennis courts that are just up the hill from the Rose Garden.
+ from eastbound on Burnside, turn right onto SW Kingston, and follow signs to Washington Park and then signs to Rose Garden.
The Other Rose Gardens:
While it is much smaller, the Peninsula Park Rose Garden should be considered one of Portland's hidden and nearly unknown treasures. If you are headed through town on Interstate 5 during June, this might be worth your stopping to see.
The tiny rose gardens that make up Ladd's Addition Rose Gardens (there are four small Rose Gardens scattered through the neighborhood) might be worth a stop if you are visiting Portland in June, and happen to go to the Hawthorne District or other inner east side neighborhoods.
The International Rose Test Garden is one of Portland's top attraction as befits a city surrounded by so much natural scenic beauty and referred to as the city of roses. It has a long lineage going back to 1917 and its 4.5 acres hold 7000 roses at any given time. More amazingly they span 550 varieties, many developed right here. Concerts and plays are performed in an amphitheater so the park is a central gathering place for locals as well as tourists. Admission is free.
Peak season is generally June but that is weather dependent. We were there in mid-July after a particularly hot couple of days and the roses, while still pretty, were past their prime.
Portland is known as having many parks and pocket parks since it has the largest number of parks in a city in the mainland. Washington Park is the largest and most famous of the parks. The park has a number of notable attractions, including the International Rose Test Garden , Hoyt Arboretum , Japanese Gardens and the Oregon Zoo. The park has 129.51 acres (52.41 hectares) on mostly steep, wooded hillsides which range in elevation from 200 feet (61 m) at 24th & W Burnside to 870 feet (265 m) at SW Fairview Blvd.
Open Hours: 7am-9pm everyday
A large section of Washington Park is maintained as the Hoyt Arboretum, and has a collection of plants from all over the world. There are a number of hiking and walking trails, and the Wildwood Trail wanders touches it twice.
The web site gives much more information for visitors of the arboretum, including areas for students, scientists, and other specialists who come to take a look at specific plants.
Most of us, however, are content to just walk through the grounds on the trails and look at the plants in a casual fashion. There are a number of park benches and some picnic areas and thus it is a popular place for people to enjoy a warm day - or even a cold day if it is clear. One of the picnic areas is covered, and sometimes you can find people enjoying a day with heavy rain here too!
Parts of the arboretum are laid out in an organized fashion with identification on all the plants. Other areas are left a little more wild in nature, but even in those areas tags identify a number of the trees, flowers, and other plants.
There is very little flat ground here, so be prepared for the trails to be on hills.
The roads are steep too, so be careful if there is ice on the road!
The visitor's center has various information, as well as public restrooms and drinking fountains.
The memorial is built near the start of the popular Wildwood Trail, but it is intended for respectful rememberance and visitation, not general recreation like the rest of the park (though many visitors ignore the purpose of this section of Washington Park).
The memorial is located up the hill from the zoo and the forestry center, and is somewhat hidden behind the forestry center. Follow the signs closely and you will find it.
It is built in a sprial shape. If you start in the center and work outward you will be following the events of the war, as well as more mundane events here at home. The spiral has a bridge over the main entrance to the memorial. Names of Oregon war dead and events of the war and at home are placed on markers along the spiral trail.
From time to time you will find flowers (such as this rose) near the memorial by names of lost family members.
Among interesting plants in the memorial are hardy roses that bloom much of the year: even in November they put out a few small flowers.
In this garden I wished I could have rented it for myself only.... Even a small group of tourists and some lonely visitors on a rainy summer day would spoil the tranquility of it. This garden is joy for your eyes and soul...
Completed in 1978, this 36 acre park is officially called Governor Tom McCall Park. It consists of an esplanade walkway which is part of the riverfront corridor, the "bowl" that forms a natural amphitheater, Salmon Street Springs fountain area, the central lawn which is used for concerts, and the Arkeny Pump Station plaza, near the Saturday Farmers Market. The park hosts some 20 permit events each year, which together draw almost one million people, including 350,000 to the annual Rose Festival. Waterfront Park is used year-round for jogging, biking, walking, and picnicking. Other attractions in the park include the Japanese-American Historical Plaza (1990), the Battleship Oregon Memorial (1956), the Police Memorial (1993), and the Founders Stone honors Portland's founders.
In Portland's earliest years, the area forming the park was the city's busiest area, full of docks, warehouses, and boat traffic. The seawall was constructed in 1929, then Harbor Drive freeway was built on the river's edge in 1943, blocking access to the river from downtown. With the construction of I-5 and I-405, Harbor Drive could be closed and removed in 1974. Over the next 17 years, the city slowly constructed the park at a cost of $20 million.
"ZooLights" is the name of this annual event. While it is too expensive to go to this event every year, particularly if you have children or otherwise a large family, it is interesting to visit it at least once. This is what happens when the zoo is redecorated with "Holiday Lights" (can't use the term "Christmas Lights" any more).
Some of the animal exhibits are very different when viewed at night. For example, this year (2004) the sea lion exhibit was open with some lighting in the tank. The glow coming from the seal's skin, highlighted due to the much different lighting and darkness, was quite beautiful.
Some of the animal exhibits close for this event, so unfortunately don't expect to be able to visit the whole zoo.
Generally, there are also some arts and crafts stalls as well as some displays (such as a model railroad) that are not there during regular zoo hours.
All of the photos seen here are from the 2004 ZooLights festival.
As seen in photo 4, even in the rain the event is popular enough for the zoo to run both trains, and for significant crowds to be at the zoo on a weekday evening.
The Rose Gardens of Washington Park is where we started our day. Arriving off of the bus from the MAX we made a quick bathroom stop and grabbed a quick ice-cream snack. We were able to walk the grounds while still eating and made sure to get all the trash in the bin. Was nice to see someplace still people friendly and we don’t want to be part of what gets that changed.
As we wandered in and around we marveled at the views of the city and the nice day we had. Just meandering through the different rose patches and taking photos and having fun just being there.
There was a wedding reception going on in part of it and we were amazed to find it free although they had drop boxes for cash throughout. Also off to the side is an amphitheatre. Another of the main gathering points here.
When in Portland you should see the Rose Garden. Not the big steel and glass building where the Trailblazer play, but the Rose Garden that is located in Washington Park. Pack a picnic lunch and spend a few hours walking around the garden and then enjoy a nice bite to eat in one of the side gardens. This is a great place to relax and cool down.