Imagine yourself floating in a sea of wild grasses and millions of wildflowers and you’ll get a pretty good sense of hiking at Camassia Natural Area in West Linn, just outside Portland.
The easy loop is perfect for families and little hikers. There is plenty to see—bridges! giant rocks! flowers galore!—as well as a self-guided information pamphlet pointing out uncommon plants and other trivia.
The best time to visit Camassia Natural Area is in the spring, when the purple-hued camas is in full bloom (hence the name of the preserve), but there’s always something beautiful for the whole family to see, no matter when you visit.
Walking the loop
From the trailhead, you can walk to the left or right—and since it’s a loop, it really doesn’t matter! Let your kids pick the route: They’ll love feeling in charge of the hike from the get-go.
Don’t forget to grab a brochure at the initial signage (where you can also leave donations). Your kids will love pinpointing where you are on the map—Peeper and her friend certainly did on a recent hike there!
More importantly, the pamphlet explains the numbered signs you’ll see along the loop. (Ask kids to be on the lookout for the numbers as you hike. They’ll be so proud when they spot one!)
The numbers direct your attention to places where you’re likely to see everything from birds to poison oak. If you and your littles don’t know how to identify poison oak yet, pay attention—and stay on the path. There’s plenty of it off the trail.
Portions of this hike are along mini-bridges, which Peeper loved. But there are small gaps in between some of the sections, which can trip up little feet. Poor Peeper’s foot got caught in one of those gaps and she took a tumble!
Hike along trail offshoots
All along the Camassia Nature Preserve trail, well-marked paths lead to other natural areas. You can head down to the West Linn High School via a wooded path (students use portions of the preserve as an outdoor classroom for ecology classes) or up to the 50-acre Wilderness Park.
There’s little worry about taking a wrong turn, though: Every fork in the trail is well marked with a sign and an arrow. Just follow the signs saying “loop” and you’ll circle back to where you started.
Highlights of the Camassia Nature Preserve trail
Camassia Nature Preserve is best known for its exuberant display of wildflowers, but that’s not its only draw. You can also see Mt. Hood on a clear day (look for #9).
Chances are, you’ll also bump into bird watchers. Kids may want to ask to peek through their binoculars; they may see an eagle, osprey, Anna’s hummingbird or hairy woodpecker.
Invite kids to keep their eyes wide open, too. Whenever we hike at Camassia Natural Preserve, Peeper plays I Spy. She runs ahead on the path a little ways then stops still. By the time I get to her, her nose is centimeters away from something interesting she’s spotted: a bumblebee collecting pollen, a trickle of a creek or a tiny purple flower.
Asking kids to be your family hike’s trail guides may just inspire them to show you something you wouldn’t have noticed. And it’s a great window into what interests your kids.
About halfway through the loop, a bunch of big rock outcroppings offer a great place to stop for a drink of water and a snack.
So what are you waiting for? Camassia Natural Area is just minutes away from Portland, less than a mile off I-205 in West Linn. It’s an easy, family friendly hike!
Camassia Natural Area: Details
Directions: From I-205, take exit 8 toward West Linn and turn south toward Oregon City. Take a right just before the 76 gas station and go up Willamette Falls Drive. Take a right on Sunset. Take your first right after the overpass onto Walnut Street. It’s residential—you’re not in the wrong place! Parking is a quarter-mile up the road.
Features: Woodlands and meadows, view of Mt. Hood
Good for: Toddlers, families, babies in carriers
Must-know: Stay on the path—this preserve is home to rare species and is maintained by the Nature Conservancy. It’s also full of poison oak. Dogs are not allowed.
Have you ever visited Camassia Nature Preserve? Do you have other favorite wildflower spots near Portland?