The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun: McDonald Forest

by Angela Davis on June 25, 2012


Ready to discover (or re-discover) Portland? From the coast to the Gorge, from Clark County to Salem, The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun will allow you to experience the awesomeness this area has to offer, all from Frugal Living NW readers! Go here for links to all posts!

McDonald Forest (Corvallis area)

Saturdays are for family adventures at our house. One of the things my family and I love to do is to find awesome hiking places that are great for little ones. When we happened upon McDonald Forest we were thrilled.

McDonald Forest is an OSU research forest located west of Highway 99 and is 6 miles north of Corvallis. With 11,250 acres, most of which are forested, you are sure to feel like you are on your own adventure away from the city.

We asked another hiker which way would be the best choice for our crew and headed off down the “William A Davies Road.” This wide path was a great option for us because we could easily take our double jogger stroller for the baby and still have an extra seat for a tired toddler. There are lots of trails to choose from and some are even named after the type of management. The web site explains this further:

Four distinct forest management themes, even-aged, two-storied and uneven-aged, plus reserved old-growth stands, allow side-by-side comparisons of the effects of implementing these themes.

These terms are a bit lost on my little ones, but the fact that this is a research forest provides extra learning opportunities for older kids. They even have signs as you hike to explain more about the forest if this interests you.

We chose to spend most of our time on this gravel road that lead down into the forest. By choosing this path (William A Davies) we could let our kids explore without worrying about their safety. Mama has more fun hiking when she is not worried about the children falling down a ravine. A couple times we ventured down some more traditional trails when my husband needed more adventure, and then just headed back to the main road when we had our fill.

The best part was an awesome pond surrounded by a rock wall. There were some little fish that could be easily seen swimming around, a wall perfect for having your first experience with creating echos, and tons of rocks and pebbles for tossing. This was such a great reward for their effort and the perfect place for some play time before turning back. It was awesome experiencing this type of fun with our kids for the first time.  This was our twins’ first time hiking on their own, and the baby’s first time walking out in nature with the help of mama.

There is also an adjacent arboretum on the same property that would be the perfect spot if you are looking to expand your outing.

Packing ideas:

  • Comfortable shoes
  • Water and snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • A small sack for the children for their nature treasures.
  • A magnifying glass for further investigation.
  • Little potty for toddlers? (So worth the ick factor)

Our lunch choice:

Corvallis has a great downtown area with lots of options for lunch. We chose the downtown location of American Dream Pizza. We like trying out local pizza places to get a taste of something different without breaking the bank. We got a large cheese ($15.95) with herbed olive oil for the sauce, and lemon herbed chicken and gorgonzola for additional toppings ($1.80 each). For under $20 we fed our family well and had plenty to take home!

Kari is a blessed wife and mom to 4 year old twins and a 21 month old. She lives in Salem and blogs about local natural/organic deals, frugal homemaking, creativity with little ones, planning parties, and small projects around the house at Twin Mama Loves.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

becca banana June 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm

What a cute and fun adventure!!! This part made me burst out laughing: “Mama has more fun hiking when she is not worried about the children falling down a ravine”….. um, yeah, definitely!


Jennifer June 25, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I live very near here! It is a nice place to hike with children. There are lots of geocaches and several letter boxes in this area. Now if the weather would just cooperate a little better!


Kari @TwinMamaLoves June 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Glad to hear that you enjoy McDonald Forest too, Jennifer. Do you have any trails to recommend? We keep going back to the same path because we know what to expect and the tots love the pond. Any other areas we should try next time?


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