Our family has been taking more walks than ever. During this time of quarantine, a walk at a park or even just around the block can provide a sense of peacefulness and serenity. Factors like your kiddo’s age/s, where you allow your children to roam, and what you would like to see during your walk may influence your decision on where you should go. The other day, we were at one of our favorite local parks and we had to keep stopping our kiddos from going off-trail because there were many campers and trash in the bushes. The next day, we went to a different local park, and the kids were free to roam pretty much everywhere. If we choose to go on a walk “on foot” from our house, we keep the kids close to us because we live next to a terribly busy street. But just a few blocks over, they can have a little more freedom because those blocks are quiet side streets.
To keep kids safe and happy on a walk, there are many things to consider. The following list is made of the considerations I think of before every walk with my kiddos:
Scooter or no scooter? Should I let them bring their little backpack with stuffed animals or am I likely to have to carry it later? Do they need snacks and drinks, or should we just have lunch when we get home? Coat or no coat? Should we do tennis shoes, or will flip flops be ok? Should I let them bring a little bag for nature items, or will their surroundings be too germy to dig around in? How likely is it that we will see other people, and how close will they be to us? Should we bring a little “scavenger hunt” list, how likely are we to see animals?
It basically comes down to one decision: Are we going on a 1) adventure, 2) a simple outing, or 3) a quick city-block walk? Some days there is no walking at all for them because we just pull them in our wagon. Different families will have different preferences, but here is our family guide for our different “family walk” styles.
A city block walk-
If your family has young kids like ours, it is nice to have something to put the kids in for the part of the walk with busy roads, like a wagon, a stroller, or a baby Bjorn/baby carrier. We spent many years thinking we would let the kids walk while holding their hand, but then we would just end up picking them up a million times because we were scared because they would still wander toward the busy street. Finally, we found that taking them in a wagon for the first few blocks provided great peace of mind. Later in the walk when the roads are less busy, let them walk for a few. The wagon is nice because they have the option to walk or ride depending on their energy. Dependent on your immediate surroundings, a city block walk could be your child walking on foot the whole way, or it could be too busy with cars, and maybe taking them on a stroller or wagon ride will work for some outside time. For older kids, maybe walks or bike rides will be achievable for your family because of the kids’ stronger sense of safety and safe bike paths on the road.
A simple walk-
If we aren’t walking from our house to our destination, we like to drive to nearby parks and let the kids out to go on a walking trail. Now that playgrounds are closed in Portland: things are different. Instead of them flying out of the car and running to the playground like they used to, they fly out of the car and race toward the walking trails. We can also let them bring their bikes/scooters on these outings. Now that we have spent weeks in quarantine, we are learning what parks provide the most freedom for them. Our favorite simple outing parks with walking tracks/trails are:
They have a great walking path, a bike pump track, and a playground (although the bike track and playground are currently closed). The park is about seven acres of space. A lot to explore, and nice paved paths. Address: 460 SE 113th, Portland.
Hazelwood Hydro Park
A short loop, but it is a nice walking path and has a community garden in the middle of the park. The kids love to roam free here. There are a few joggers and people walking their dogs at this park, but everyone seems to be very respectful about giving each other space. Address:1017 NE 117th Ave, Portland.
East Holladay Park
This park is about five acres. It has an awesome walking loop and a beautiful playground (although the playground is currently closed). One section is an off-leash dog park and the other section requires dogs to be on leashes. We spent many years at this park having one parent running our big St. Bernard on one side, and the other parent letting the kids run crazy on the other side. A wonderful park for families with kiddos and dogs. Address: 12999 NE Holladay street, Portland.
An adventurous walk-
Glendoveer Golf Course and Nature Trail-
Address: 14015 NE Glisan St. Portland.
This walk will be dependent on how far your kiddos can walk. It is a long walking path! Around 2.2 miles. My kids—four and seven years old—have yet to do this entire walk. But we did take them a little way onto the trail and then got tired and headed back to our car, ha-ha! But in this short time, we saw a bunny and they had a great time. We have ventured through many times. Although this place is usually busy, the kids have a few great stretches to run. It is also incredibly beautiful because of all the tall trees that surround the walk. It definitely feels as if you are in a magical forest and always incites excitement in my little guys. This park is also based around their fun golf activities.
Mount Tabor Park
Address: 6220 SE Salmon St. Portland.
It seems we have been living at Mount Tabor lately. We have been going almost every day. Walking around the reservoir is something I have done since I was little. My kids have been loving it lately too. I underestimated them and did not think they would make it around. Not only did they make it, but they requested going up higher to the next reservoir! There are three different trails, several different park areas, and much to explore. This is also an extremely busy park, but with respectful visitors. A family could easily spend a whole day exploring this place. We have enjoyed many full-day adventures there.
The next time you head out for a family walk, consider these beautiful places. Portland is full of amazing parks, and each of them has something to offer. Big or small, features or no features, we are lucky to live in such a beautiful, green state. Spending time at parks is a wonderful way to enjoy your family, put yourself in a great mood, and see wonderful things.
Portlandoregon.gov has an awesome tool called “park finder” that helps you find parks based on your area and the park’s features.
Wishing you all a great time enjoying our local parks!