From the early pioneers who went renegade, installing ramps and bowls under the Burnside Bridge by using leftover concrete from their day jobs, to the current crop of officials, shop owners and skateboarders who are constantly raising funds and getting new parks built, it's no secret that Portland is a mecca for skateboarding. In 2007, Portland became the first U.S. city to roll out a comprehensive plan that included 19 skateparks, and while it will be years before it's complete, there are already plenty of parks within city limits—some for serious skaters, others for kiddos.
Northeast 52nd Avenue between Alberta and Wygant streets.
Gnar level: 4 (out of 10)
The most recent addition to the Portland park lineup is the "skate dot" inside a newly redeveloped park in the Cully neighborhood. Though the city aimed to build a park for kids and beginners, Evergreen Skateparks packed a lot of transitions into the bowl-style park. Best described as "the most tricks you will ever do going slowly," the micro-quarterpipes and bowls that fill the space require loose legs and quick feet, but it's a real hoot once you get a feel for it. The design is not ideal for large crowds, so skip it on weekends, when scooters and small children tend to take over.
Southwest Vermont Street and 45th Avenue.
Gnar level: 4
Gabriel is a mellow park mostly made up of rolling banks that don't even require you to drop in to skate. There's a perfect 3-foot quarterpipe, a couple boxes, and walls with tight transitions. It has the mellowest scene of any park in Portland. Between hippies Hula-Hooping on the hill and the inevitable kid with no shoes absolutely destroying the park, people here are welcoming and friendly. Skaters of all ages and abilities can feel comfortable and find something to skate, whether it's learning to push in the parking lot, or airing out of the deep end.
Ed Benedict Park
SE 100th Avenue and Powell Boulevard.
Gnar level: 5
Ed Benedict is Portland's only street-focused park, and accordingly, it is filled with kick-flipping teens pretty much all the time. There is a small transition section (a spot that goes from horizontal to vertical), but tweakers like to steal the pool edging, and the lack of decks makes it difficult to skate. If bowls are your pleasure, there are better options in the city. The skatepark is long and narrow with lots of banks, boxes and rails, but in true Portland fashion, everything is a bit weird. For skateboarders looking for the fun of street skating without the bust factor from police, Ed Benedict is your best bet. While anyone can find something to skate here—there's plenty of flat and small features—the crowd tends toward the aggressive side, and they don't take kindly to small children on scooters.
1425 SE 20th Ave., 208-2080.
Gnar level: 6
Commonwealth is the only public indoor park within Portland city limits, and unlike many parks with decrepit wooden boxes, it's 100 percent concrete. A horseshoe-shaped, 4-foot-tall bowl takes up the majority of space, but there's also a small concrete mini ramp and a street course with flat bars, boxes and a bank. At 4,500 square feet, there's not a lot of space, and the surface gets super-slick. But when it's raining or 100 degrees outside, the roof makes up for the park's shortcomings. A two-hour session is $7, or skate all day for $10. Commonwealth also hosts youth camps and has an onsite shop, making it one of Portland's cheapest child care centers.
8000 NE Tillamook St.
Gnar level: 7
Glenhaven is one of the biggest skateparks in Portland at nearly 11,000 square feet, and is divided into three sections—a pool, a square bowl, and a street course complete with pyramid, rails, faux brick banks and a fun little step-up. But it sits next to Madison High School, which makes for an interesting crowd. On your average day, expect to see some of the best skateboarders in the city ripping through the street course, BMXers congregating in the square bowl, and old dudes trying to slash pool coping, not to mention a couple of sketchy dudes who may or may not be trying to sell drugs. If you get there early and have the place to yourself, there are endless possibilities. But at prime time (after school, sunset), you're lucky just to make it across the street course without running into someone.
10325 N Lombard St.
Gnar level: 7
Pier Park takes up a solid chunk of real estate in St. Johns, and a large section is dedicated to one of the few full pipes in the world. Bring your knee pads if you want to step to it—the deep end is 12 feet, making this the go-to spot for vert enthusiasts. For the less aggressive, there's two smaller bowls and a street course. The mini bowl is a lot of fun, with a basic 3-foot section, two hips and a deeper cradle. The street section includes real marble ledges, stairs, a box and a steep bank. There are enough options to please a decent-sized crowd, making this a skatepark that will appeal to pretty much anyone.
Holly Farm Park
10819 SW Capitol Highway.
Gnar level: 8
The main attraction at Holly Farm is a 9-foot bowl that, for some reason, has a 4-foot spine in the middle. Why they put a spine in the middle of the bowl, I'm not sure, as there simply is not enough space to make it flow. Often the bowl will sit empty, as most people prefer to skate the brick banks and smaller snake-run sections. The good news is, Holly Farm is far enough out in Southwest and not good enough to be a destination park, so you'll often have it to yourself.
Under the east side of the Burnside Bridge.
Gnar level: 10
There's only one skatepark in Portland with its own level in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and it's one that should be on every skater's bucket list. While you can't grind the rafters in real life, you're very likely to see pros on tour here or talented locals who easily conquer the huge transitions. As you would expect at a former rogue skatepark under a bridge in the eastside industrial district, Burnside has an unfriendly reputation—there can be bums sleeping in the bowls and drunk skaters—but it depends on the day and time. In the morning, BMXers take the opportunity to ride while skate rats are nursing their hangovers, and if you bring beer anytime, everyone will love you. The park itself is not easy to skate, especially compared to the more modern parks—it's rough, the transitions are inconsistent, and you need to go fast, really fast. A high-rise apartment building is being built nearby, so get there before the angry Californians who'll be moving in start petitioning to shut down the park.