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Portland’s Nature Highlights: 9 Tips for a Gay Summer Trip to Oregon

Portland’s Nature Highlights: 9 Tips for a Gay Summer Trip to Oregon

The two US states of Oregon and Washington form the northwestern part of the United States of America. Lush, green forests, numerous rivers, partially snow-capped mountains, and an adventurously rugged coastline. But LGBTQ+ travelers coming to Portland don’t actually have to look far outside the city for some of these natural highlights. As nature lovers and an adventurous gay couple ourselves, it was our quest for this USA trip to seek and experience Portland’s most beautiful natural highlights – and to share them with you. Have fun exploring Oregon’s second-largest city with our selection of Portland’s 9 nature highlights with Couple of Men!

– in paid collaboration with Travel Portland –

Gay Portland Travel Journal about Oregon ©
View from our hotel room over the green city of Portland ©

A trip to the beautiful nature in and around Portland

Climatically and weather-wise, Portland is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and fans of parks, gardens, waterfalls, rivers, and forested hillsides. Even more so, Portland’s municipal park system is among the best in the United States. Another unique characteristic of Portland is the 2015 law that mandates a total ban on smoking in all city parks and natural areas. So, fresh air is guaranteed for your visit to nature in and around Portland. But enough of the preamble. Now it’s time to present our selection of the 9 best nature highlights in Portland.

Flying with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines ©


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#1 Kayaking on the Willamette River

Active and yet relaxing: Our kayak trip with Portland Kayak Company on the Willamette River, which lasted several hours, was definitely one of the best experiences during our city trip to Portland. For this, we went across the river and at a moderate pace around the island called Ross Island. The best photo spot was the northernmost tip of Ross Island with the two photogenic bridges Ross Island Bridge and Tilikum Crossing Bridge as background.

A Couple of Men Selfie in front of the Ross Island Bridge and Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland ©
A Couple of Men Selfie in front of the Ross Island Bridge and Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland ©

Gay Portland Travel Guide

The U.S. state of Oregon is a particularly scenic and diverse vacation region. Especially the largest city and economically most important metropolis, Portland. But how gay-friendly is Portland? And where is the best place to stay? What is there to do? We’ll answer your questions for a gay-friendly and adventurous city trip to Portland, Oregon!

Plan & book your Portland trip here >

#2 Waterfalls in and around Portland

As we’ve already mentioned in our gay Portland travel guide, the weather is dry in the summer and wet in the winter. And where it rains a lot in the winter, the water subsequently falls in streams from the mountain hillsides, as waterfalls, of course. Only a few kilometers from downtown Portland, along the Columbia River, there are some breathtakingly high waterfalls to be admired. These include Latourell, Bridal Veil, and Horse Tail Falls, as well as Multnomah Falls – Oregon’s highest waterfall.

Gay Portland Travel Guide Oregon ©
Multnomah Falls, just outside Portland ©

#3 Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park at Willamette River

Who would have thought that just 50 years ago, Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park would have been a six-lane highway? Today, there’s really nothing of that to be seen or experienced anymore. This gem on the banks of the Willamette River now features tree-lined walkways, sparkling fountains, and wide, green lawns. But for the LGBTQ+ community, this park has another special meaning. That’s because it’s the location of the annual Portland Pride Waterfront Festival. Additionally, the Pride Parade comes to a grand, colorful end here on the western bank of Portland’s Willamette River.

Drag Queens on stage at Waterfront festival area ©
Drag Queens on stage at the Waterfront festival area ©
Welcome in gay-friendly Portland ©

Gay Portland Travel Journal

We spend a week in Portland during Pride month in June. The weather was outstanding, and so was the LGBTQ+ friendly atmosphere. Together with our gay couple friends Matt & Michael, we attended the Pride Festival & parade stayed in a gay-friendly hotel, ate delicious food, and experienced the strong connection Portland and Oregon have with Nature.

Click here for our Portland Journal >

#4 River Beaches of Columbia River

If it may at times be a little less active, we recommend a beach day, but not necessarily at the Pacific Ocean. There are several sandy riverbanks along the Columbia River that are popular for a sunny beach day in the summer when the water level tends to lower. Rooster Collins Beach is located in the northwest part of Portland and Rooster Rock Beach is in the east part of Portland, both on the Columbia River. The two beaches are known for being clothing-optional and (gay) cruising beaches as well. For beaches on the Pacific Coast, we recommend checking out the Lonely Planet article here >

Gay Portland Travel Journal Portland: A Couple of Men at Rooster Rock Nude Beach (Columbia River) ©
A Couple of Men enjoying the sun at Rooster Rock Beach (Columbia River) ©

#5 Lan Su Chinese Garden

Before we head out to the western part of Portland, we have one more small but beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden in the heart of the city that deserves to be added to our list. Opened in 2000, the Suzhou-style garden is considered a true urban oasis, with an authentic tea house as one of its highlights. Moreover, in addition to covered walkways, bridges, open colonnades, and ponds filled with Kois, the park offers a richly planted landscape, with a man-made lake in the center.

Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon ©
Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon © Photo by Eric Muhr

#6 Portland Japanese Gardens

The Portland Japanese Garden is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens located outside of Asia. We were even able to see this for ourselves during our recent trip to Portland. Back in 1963, the gardens were founded as a symbol of reconciliation and healing between two enemies of the Second World War. The garden complex incorporates five different garden styles – a flat garden, strolling pond garden, tea garden, nature garden, and sand and rock garden – which are meant to work together harmoniously and convey a sense of peace. Yes, peace, tranquility and the symbiosis between man-made Japanese gardens with the plant life captivated us as well. A visit should be on every traveler’s bucket list, not just those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Gay Portland Travel Guide Oregon ©
Portland Japanese Garden – one of Portland’s Nature Highlights ©

#7 Portland International Rose Test Garden

In addition to the Portland Japanese Garden, Washington Park has another natural highlight to offer. The oldest officially operated public rose test garden in the United States, Portland International Rose Test Garden, was of course also on our list. And we should not get disappointed. We had never seen so many, blossoming roses in one place. Roses in shades of pink, white, red, and yellow, plus a fantastic view of downtown Portland and the striking, snow-capped Mount Hood as a backdrop. Conveniently, the garden is located practically at the front gate of the Japanese garden.

A Gay Kiss Photo at the International Rose Test Garden ©
A Gay Kiss Photo at the International Rose Test Garden ©

#8 Hoyt Arboretum in Portland

Even though we didn’t make it to the Hoyt Arboretum ourselves, we definitely want to mention it here. This collection of diverse, living trees and shrubs, in Portland, is one of the most extensive arboretums in the country. Over 2,000 unique species from six continents, including Japanese maples, magnolias, hollies, and firs, can be visited at the Portland Hoyt Arboretum, and not just by LGBTQ+ travelers. Put on your hiking boots and begin your journey through the world’s forests on a total of 12 miles (about 19 kilometers) of trails.

Autumn Colors across Portland, Oregon ©
Autumn Colors across Portland, Oregon © Cristofer Maximilian

#9 Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Our last nature highlight in Portland is at the top of our list for our next and therefore second visit to Oregon’s largest city. The Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, located between Reed College and Eastmoreland Golf Course in southeast Portland, is home to more than 2,500 species of rhododendrons, azaleas, and other plants. But that’s not all, as the garden is considered one of the best places in Portland to view the native nearly 100 species of birds and waterfowl. We think this park duly rounds out our collection of Portland’s natural highlights.

Portland's Nature Highlights Blossoming Rhododendron
Portland’s Nature Highlights Blossoming Rhododendron

Gay Oregon Travel Guide ©

Gay Oregon Travel Guide

From the “City of Roses to” the stunning nature of Oregon. After our summer city trip to Portland, we jumped into our rental car and made our way once around the state in the Pacific Northwest region. Stunning waterfalls, the deep blue crater lake, and the Pacific coastline are simply stunning and a great place for a diverse vacation close to nature.

Plan & Book your Oregon Trip >

Now it’s time to plan your trip to Portland with our nature highlights

We honestly cannot wait to be back in Portland. And we hope we could inspire you to plan your visit to Portland and Oregon soon, too. Be sure to plan some extra days to travel around Oregon. Greater Lake and the many waterfalls along the way, as well as the Pacific coast, should definitely not be missed. Have a look at our Gay Oregon Road Trip Journal on our blog!

Do you want to know and see more of us gay couple travel bloggers? Stay tuned and follow along on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest, and Instagram! See you around in the United States of America, Northern America, and on one of our next gay pride trips worldwide!

Karl & Daan.

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Please note: This trip was made possible in close collaboration with Travel Portland and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. A special thanks for the tips and support goes to our wonderful readers, followers, new and old friends from all over the world. Nevertheless, our photos, our videos, our opinions, and our writings are our own, as always.