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.
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 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!).
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.)
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.
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.