Colonel Summers Park or the Skidmore Bluffs might as well be Portland's collective backyard—with one glaring exception. In your backyard, as of July 1, you can legally crack a beer and smoke a relaxing bowl while your dog plays a game of Frisbee on the lawn, without fear of a shakedown. But in public parks, these things can make you a minor criminal, like people who pee outside, or plug a guitar into an outdoor amp. Here's where you can indulge.
Technically, you can't drink in Portland parks, the same way you can't drink on the sidewalk. There are laws about that sort of thing. This, of course, does not jibe with anyone's actual experience of Portland parks (see Colonel Summers), but you need a permit to drink in one. In Portland proper, this permit comes automatically with picnic reservations.
The laws vary by county and city, however. Washington County does not require a permit to drink, and in Columbia County it "depends on the type of event." And watch out for Clackistan, where Oregon City allows no alcohol, and Barton Park and Carver Park rangers can inspect your coolers or any other container they suspect of concealing alcohol.
But never neglect the holy grail. In Hood River, you can drink everywhere. On sidewalks, or in parks. It is the only place in Oregon where this is true.
Where to go:
Mount Tabor Park (Southeast 60th Avenue and Salmon Street), an eastside monument unto itself, has everything from shady walking trails to expansive views of the city, and plenty of picnic sites and shelters. Overlook Park (North Fremont Street and Interstate Avenue), though smaller, is generally not crowded and offers views of the Willamette. At Laurelhurst Park (3756 SE Oak St.), you can reserve grills. Washington Park (1715 SW Skyline Blvd.), one of Portland's most iconic parks, contains many play areas, memorials, trails and fountains. Visit portlandoregon.gov/parks for more information and to reserve a picnic site.
Pro tip: If you didn't get a picnic permit in Portland, there's a sneaky side option, which is to hang out near events that already have permits: big picnic crowds with coolers and such. But if you do so, make sure to choose events where nobody's likely to mind, like a company picnic or friendly on-the-way-to-drunk barbecue. A child's birthday party or Mormon gathering, maybe not so much.
As of July 1, smoking in all Portland Parks & Recreation properties will be prohibited, whether tobacco, vape or otherwise. Also as of July 1, pot will be legal in Oregon. While not explicitly stated, this doesn't seem like too much of a coincidence.s It is also illegal to smoke anything at Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation parks, Washington County parks, Lake Oswego city parks, Chehalem Park and Recreation properties or City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation properties. Columbia County parks and Clark County parks do not allow marijuana smoking but have no ban on tobacco.
So anyone who wants to partake in a substance or non-grilling activity that creates any type of smoke, will need to avoid these spots. Where to go? Smoking is permitted at North Clackamas Parks & Recreation properties, with the exception of Hood View and North Clackamas parks. Oregon City parks and Clackamas County parks have no blanket bans on smoking.
However, there are regulations in place for all the aforementioned properties, specifying where smoking is permissible and generally stating that smoking is permitted in designated areas only. Basically, don't be the douchebag smoking near the kids on the play structures. Look for smoking-area signs, or find an out-of-the-way nook to set up with some munchies.
Where to go:
The very wadeable Eagle Creek runs through Eagle Fern Park (27505 Eagle Fern Road, Eagle Creek), with lots of spots along it to settle down for the day. There are tons of trails through the surrounding old-growth forest, and even a strangely mesmerizing suspension bridge. Clackamette Park (1955 Clackamette Drive, Oregon City) is basically the Waterfront Park of Oregon City, great for spreading out a blanket and people watching, not as much for seclusion. Mount Talbert Nature Park (10945 SE Mather Road, Clackamas) isn't far from Clackamas Town Center but feels like a completely opposite world. Dogs aren't allowed, so just bring cigarettes.
Pro tip: Note that while Portland park rangers will be less forgiving of cigarettes, Portland police are much more forgiving of weed (which is legal, but not technically to smoke in public). But in clackistan, you can go next-level tobacco with a hookah picnic. Grab a hookah and some flavored tobacco from the Third Eye (3950 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-3393), with tapestries to sit on from Saturday Market booths, and possibly even Moroccan lamps with flameless candles, brass trays and a Turkish tea set from 3 Monkeys (811 NW 23rd Ave., 222-5160). Or just go smoke a hookah at the Pied Cow (3244 SE Belmont St., 230-4866).
Only some parks in Portland have off-leash areas that are suitable for both picnics and dogs—few want to set down a tablecloth in a dog park.
Where to go:
Sellwood Riverfront Park (Southeast Spokane Street and Oaks Parkway) includes an unfenced field and a beach area along the Willamette. Apparently the water is clean now, so bring a towel and get some sun while the pups swim out all that energy. Do not confuse this park with Sellwood Park, which, although it is adjacent, is not off-leash. The off-leash area at Chimney Park (9360 N Columbia Blvd.) in St. Johns is one of the larger fenced dog parks in Portland, at a little over five acres. It's a well-maintained grassy field, too, instead of the usual mud or wood chips, and there's a bridge that connects to Pier Park. For hiking, head out to the Sandy River Delta (Exit 18 off I-84, Troutdale), where all the trails, fields and riverbanks are off-leash, with the only exceptions being the parking lot and the Confluence Trail.
Pro tip: Bring plenty of water and plastic bags, and don't forget the Chuckit. Before loading everyone into the car, save your seats by packing plenty of dog towels. A pet car-seat cover might be a worthwhile investment, and Personal Beast (8119 SE Stark St., 445-9449) carries the hammock version, which protects the entire back seat. Pick up some healthy snacks at Meat (2244 E Burnside St., 236-6971), a pet-food store that focuses on raw and holistic diets, then get your own meat down the street at Tails & Trotters (525 NE 24th Ave.,