Touch Grass: Hoyt Arboretum

Touch Grass is a weekly column about green spaces around campus, a great spot to get ideas for your next outdoor outing — from someone who doesn’t hike.

Within the sprawling complex of Washington Park there are many attractions, such as the Japanese Garden covered in an earlier edition of this column, the Oregon Zoo, and Hoyt Arboretum. According to its website, the arboretum was founded in 1928, and exists today as a 190 acre tree museum, functioning to “conserve endangered species and educate the community.” Containing “2,300 species of trees and shrubs from six continents,” the arboretum is a vast display of botany, with 12 miles of hiking trails. Originally a forest of Douglas-fir, Western redcedar, Western hemlock, bigleaf maple, and red alder, it took many years for the arboretum to come into its current vision, with many attempts made to diminish this natural space, including plans for homes and a golf course in the 1920s, before it was designated for its current purpose.

The many trails of Hoyt Arboretum are well marked and intersect in a few places, with signposts around – important as there is spotty cell service in much of the park. Trails are well-maintained and very well utilized, even with some space for events. Mostly, the arboretum feels like a natural forest, yet more spread out and with sufficient trails throughout. All trees are marked with their species, and there are even some “fun fact” panels and other educational signage dotted around, to provide context about the trees in the arboretum, and the importance of the work done there to preserve them. With this information, the arboretum can be a place to go for a stroll, a run, or as an educational outing to understand more about dendrology. Nestled within the arboretum there are also benches and handrails, and the trails often connect with the road, so it is easy to set one’s own pace and avoid difficult terrain or long stretches. 

The arboretum is open to visitors 5am-10pm daily, with many parking options both in small lots and on the street, but they can be full so it is somewhat of a challenge to get a spot. Getting to the arboretum from Reed is a roughly half-hour drive, though that can be significantly shorter based on traffic. Using public transport it can be reached in a little over an hour, with a combination of bus and MAX light rail segments, with walks of up to 20 minutes on each end. Washington Park is in a very hilly area off the edge of the city, so a car is the easier option to access any of the many facilities there, including the arboretum. With no admission fees, it is an easy and fun way to learn more about the many species of tree that can thrive in Portland’s climate. To learn more about the arboretum, visit its website at, as well as its Instagram @hoytarboretum. So, go out and touch grass in Hoyt Arboretum!

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