Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (Tualatin)
Got little walkers? Got a need for hiking in the glorious Pacific Northwest while it’s raining? I most definitely have the place for you!
After a rather grumpy, drizzly summer morning, kvetching from both me and the munchkins (“Can we move to Hawaii yet?”) pushed my darling hubby over the edge, who said, “Get in the van.” He discovered Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge a few months earlier, having noted that one of its trails is open all year long; outdoor freedom!
TRVNW is between Tigard and Sherwood on 99W, easy access from I-5 or OR-217 (I have a pathological aversion to 99W, hence the reason I never saw it). There is plenty of parking, an inviting visitor center, and bunches of things to do any time of the year, both indoors and out.
The trails are well marked, the visitor center is not only beautiful but engaging, and it’s only a few minutes outside of Portland. And fortunately for us that day, it stopped raining for a few hours!
For hiking with preschoolers it can’t be beat. The trails are graveled, mostly level, and well maintained. There is a drop down at the beginning (website says it’s 5%), but as someone with a bum hip and knee, it was fine. The year-round trail is about two miles long; a mile in, an observation deck, a mile out. There are also other decks and rest areas you can stop at along the trail; we liked the river deck.
The other trails are seasonal; the wetlands flood them out during the winter. There’s Ridgetop Overlook that does have a pretty steep grade for little legs (website says 20-25%), but it really didn’t seem that bad (for my bum joints or my then two-year old). The longest trail seems to be about three miles.
The bird watching is A-MAZING, no two ways about it. It’s not just the ubiquitous geese, but many other birds you don’t usually see in the city; the refuge touts over 250 different species. Bring binoculars! We found this guy just chilling, watching all the hikers go by.
There are other non-feathered creatures as well. One day that we went there was a very confused (or just very lonely) snake out in the cold on the side of the trail (and yes, it was alive and slithering). My little guys take their magnifying glasses; I’d recommend bringing those, too.
The Wildlife Center is, as my elder son said, “whoa, super cool!” (That also might be because it has a gift shop as well…he’s in that phase.) Exhibits are engaging and child-friendly, and there’s a community chalkboard where visitors can list what critters were seen that day. Restrooms and water are available at the Wildlife Center and the trail head, but as for the rest of the refuge, you’re on your own.
Sherwood is only a mile south down 99W, King City/Tigard two miles north; both places have numerous restaurants and coffee shops. Unfortunately, the trails are only for walking; no bikes are allowed and not navigable for strollers on the gravel. Pets are not allowed, so Fido has to miss this outing.
For information on activities, hikes and events, check out the Portland-Vancouver National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.
Sally Davidson Parker is a wife, mother, teacher and freelance writer who lives in Beaverton.
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