Portland hike to the Witch’s Castle with kids

Lately Peeper has been on a mystery/spooky story kick—a predilection I could attribute to my own childhood love of scary stuff but is mostly due to her Grandpa Shempy’s long made-up mysteries about something called the Monkey’s Paw. So when I had a free morning and the kids miraculously ate their breakfast on time and without protest, I decided to try hiking Portland’s Witch’s Castle with the kids.

Hiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I originally heard of Portland’s Witch’s Castle in Forest Park from my blogging friend Renee. She wrote about hiking to the castle with her teens, and I’ve wanted to do it myself ever since then—but with my littler kids, of course.

Since the day’s forecast called for some rain, I wanted to choose a forested hike so we wouldn’t get totally drenched if it did drizzle. Forest Park, with its immense Douglas firs, provides quite a bit of shelter from the Oregon rain—but as luck would have it, the skies stayed mostly clear. (Thanks, weather!)

Rain or no rain, though, the hike was gorgeous—and the Witch’s Castle lived up to its spooky, and awesome, reputation!

Hiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour MamaHiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour MamaHiking the Portland Witch’s Castle with kids

To discover the witch’s castle with kids, the girls and I parked at the Portland Audubon Society’s Wildlife Care Center and walked the few hundred yards to the beginning of the Wildwood Trail. (Just past a picnic table, you’ll run into a trail; turn left and go downhill here.) We got there early so there was ample space to park; just know parking time is limited, so you may need to park elsewhere if you’ll be on the trail for more than a few hours.

The first part of the trail winds downhill into Forest Park. All around you, Doug firs tower, and you’ll see the kid-friendly sights typical of the Northwest rainforest: banana slugs (which are the second-biggest land slugs in the world!).

Banana slugs (the 2nd largest in the world!) are just one highlight on a family friendly hike in Portland, Oregon. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Know that the trail is moderately steep and it’s plain dirt, so sections of the trail may become muddy and slippery. I held Kiwi’s hand for much of the hike down.

At the base of the hill, you’ll cross a bridge that spans a creek. The girls loved peeking upstream and downstream and marveled at the fallen lumber. (“Uhoh, fall!” Kiwi said. She was very concerned about all the fallen trees.)

Hiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Arriving at the Witch’s Castle

I had really talked up the Witch’s Castle with my kids, especially whenever the girls started to whine or insist they were done with the hike. (Tell me your kids do this, too!) When we arrived at the Witch’s Castle, the payoff was a huge reward!

Exploring the Witch’s Castle with kids was super fun. Peeper was amazed: She asked who lived there and why, all the while imagining a queen and her entourage. Kiwi climbed the stone steps and looked all around, too.

We explored Portland’s Witch’s Castle on a weekday morning, and there was very light traffic. Only a few other people stopped by the abandoned building while we were there. I am sure it is busier during the weekends, though.

Hiking Portland Oregon's witch's castle with kids is a fun outdoor activity when you travel as a family - or if you live here in the Northwest! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

We’ll definitely be back to explore Portland’s witch’s castle. The family-friendly hike through Forest Park is a great outdoor activity for kids and grown-ups, no matter the weather!

Portland’s Witch’s Castle: The details

Directions: You can access trails that will take you to Portland’s Witch’s Castle from Portland’s Audubon Society on Cornell Road or from the Holman Lane Trailhead; we parked at the Audubon Society.

Features: Old growth forest, an abandoned stone building you can explore

Good for: Families, babies in carriers, small children in carriers. The return hike is fairly steep, so elementary aged kids should do well, too.

Must-know: Lower Macleay Trail, which runs from the Witch’s Castle to Northwest Portland, is closed for trail renovation. See the detailed map here.

13 thoughts on “Portland hike to the Witch’s Castle with kids

  • September 20, 2017 at 12:10 pm
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    I love any hike in forest park! It’s such a close getaway 🙂 I bet your children loved it!

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    • September 20, 2017 at 12:47 pm
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      They did! And I need to wander Forest Park more – there is SO MUCH to do, see and explore there!

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  • September 20, 2017 at 12:40 pm
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    I have a feeling that your creative little ones had a field day coming up with stories about this place! Gorgeous shots, hoping to swing by the witch’s house some day… Maybe it will inspire me to write another spooky short story collection 😂

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    • September 20, 2017 at 12:47 pm
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      Another spooky short story collection??? Now I’m curious about the first one!

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    • September 20, 2017 at 6:07 pm
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      It’s such an iconic Portland spot – you should totally go!

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  • September 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm
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    What a fun hike with the little ones – it’s so rewarding when there’s a big sight payoff for work you did walking there, almost like a treasure quest!

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    • September 20, 2017 at 6:07 pm
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      It was super rewarding! It was also nice that we got a big payoff that didn’t require hours and hours of tough hiking.

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  • September 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm
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    This sounds so cool! I’m going to tell my 40-something friend about this and suggest we go and explore. Love abandoned relics like this – thanks for introducing me to it!

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    • September 20, 2017 at 6:08 pm
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      Absolutely! It’s really neat to come across ruins in such an unexpected place.

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  • September 21, 2017 at 11:58 pm
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    The Witch’s Castle is such a fun Portland icon. I love stopping there for a bit when we hike or run around that part of Forest Park!

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    • September 22, 2017 at 9:50 am
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      Yes! And it’s kind of unbelievable we have that right in the middle of our city.

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  • September 25, 2017 at 5:36 am
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    What an awesome place! My kids are right into spooky stuff too and they love scaring each other and playing games about zombies! Looks like such a beautiful walk!

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