A ramble with beauty

This view doesn’t show very many of the rhododendrons but does provide an idea of the beauty of the park. Here we were up high in the park, close to the entrance but on our way out.

Last week, my friend and I went to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. To call this a hike is pushing it a little, because there are lots of paths in the park, but none of them are very long. Still, I thought I’d write about this beautiful location. It is actually in All Trails, so someone thought it was worthwhile documenting as a hike.

The park has more than 2500 rhododendron bushes. I understand from its web site that the best time to go is June or July. We went in early May on a very hot day. Lots of the plants seemed a little wilty, probably because it was 90 degrees and so much hotter than usual at that time of the year. Still, the park features windy paths along a creek and small lake, lots of places to sit and enjoy the view, and beautiful landscaping. In early May, we saw lots of water birds.

Crystal Springs and Johnson Creek Trail

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland, Oregon

Difficulty: Easy peasy

Panting stops: 0

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation change: 62 feet

Here is one of the several bridges in the park. You can get an idea of the path from this picture. There is a waterfall on the left and ducks on the right.

Right up front, let me tell you to check whether there are any special events going on in the park before you go. When we went, it was a Friday morning, and they were setting up to have a rhododendron sale in the only park parking lot. Reed College, across the street, had its parking marked for a private event and there is no street parking right around the park, so we had to drive back up into a nearby neighborhood and find street parking there. If you have mobility problems, this could be an issue for you. We had to walk about four blocks to the park, which was no issue for us.

Here are some actual rhododendrons.

This park does have an entrance fee, $5, but my friend was able to get free cultural passes for the park from her local library. When you walk in the entrance, you immediately have several choices for directions to go, since the paths through the park go off in several directions. There are several sets of stairs, but if you have mobility issues, you can stay off the staircases and just keep to the flats. You can easily see lots of the park that way.

We took a staircase down to a shady area around the creek, where there were waterfalls and ducks as well as beautiful landscaping. Then we looped around and basically randomly followed trails to try to cover most of the park. The paths are all paved, so the only barrier to seeing the entire park would be if you can’t take the stairs that go into some of the areas. Still, the park materials say you can see all of the major trails without using the stairs.

There is plenty to look at, benches and open areas to relax in, lots of photography opportunities. It’s a beautiful place.

How to get there

From Downtown Portland

Go over the Hawthorne Bridge and take SE McLouglin Boulevard south to SE 23rd Avenue. Turn right on SE Bybee Boulevard. Continue on to SE Tolman Street. SE Tolman Street veers slightly left and becomes SE 28th Avenue. The park is on your left across the street from Reed College.

Parking and Amenities

The park has a small parking lot for about 30 cars, but it was blocked off the day we arrived in preparation for a rhododendron sale. Parking at Reed College was also closed off, but if you cannot find a place to park in the parking lot, you can drive up to the nearby neighborhood around the corner.

The park has plenty of benches and places to rest. There is an information booth and restrooms. Major areas of the park are wheelchair accessible.


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