Get Outside! Elk Rock

It’s the end of summer, folks. We all need a little extra self-care as the season’s getting chillier and darker. Hiking Forest Park, or even Washington Park’s arboretum, can feel daunting. I suggest two much shorter hikes – well, more like walks – that happen to be right across the river from one another.

Elk Rock Island, in Milwaukie, has ample parking, or is a ten minute walk from the Orange Line. Once you’e away from the traffic, however, and crossing the dry river bed that, in wetter months, makes this place an island… you’ll find yourself in another world. A quiet, unpeopled collection of Game-of-Thrones-y crags and rocks that once formed an active volcano. If you take the perimeter, you’ll find a leisurely, unpaved stroll by the water, watching infrequent kayaks pass by. Pack a sandwich (prepare for the lack of restrooms), find a comfortable ledge to sit on, and relax to the sounds of waves lapping gently on the rocks beneath you. If you choose to venture inland, there are a few very short paths through a forest. If you’re lucky, you’ll see bald eagles or other critters.

If you’d like a little more of a walk, head directly across the river, up to the cliff you’ve been staring at from the island. At the cross-streets of Military Ave & Military Lane (right off Riverside Drive) – down a lovely, long lane of old Portland mansions – you’ll find a sign alerting you to The Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop’s Close. Here you’ll find several gorgeous trails that wind up and down a small hill, through occasional meadows, lily ponds, flower gardens, and more. There are benches for resting or meditating along the way, and no matter the season you visit, a lovely green smell and fresh, not-at-home air.

Peter Kerr spent 60 years on his estate’s huge garden, and when he passed, his daughters gave the land up, on condition that it always be available to the public, free of charge 🌼