Top 11 places to see cherry blossoms in Portland (2024)

Top 11 places to see cherry blossoms in Portland (2024)

Over the past couple years, I’ve spent the early spring searching for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Portland. Now, Portland might seem like a surprising destination to view the sakura (cherry blossoms).

However, in 2022 it was actually ranked one of the top 14 destinations for cherry blossoms in the world by Trips to Discover. In fact, two Oregon cities made it on the list—Portland and Salem! With the Pacific Northwest’s temperate climate, the cherry trees absolutely flourish here.

So I’ve compiled a list of all the best places to see cherry blossoms to share with you, including an amazing hidden gem that’s not on any one else’s list! Scroll ahead to #9 to find out where it is.

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Cherry Blossom Etiquette

But first, let’s discuss a little etiquette.

  • Please do not pick the blossoms,
  • Do not bend or break the branches for photos. This can damage the trees and is considered disrespectful.
  • And please be conscientious to carry out anything you bring in with you (including trash).

Now, let’s get on to the part you really came here for!

Where to see the cherry blossoms in Portland

cherry blossoms in Portland

1. Japanese American Historical Plaza at Tom McCall Waterfront Park

When people mention cherry blossoms in Portland, the Japanese American Historical Plaza on the waterfront is the first place that comes to mind for many people. With Portland’s skyline peeking over the tops of the cherry trees, it does create a rather iconic view.

And being one of the most popular locations to see cherry blossoms in Portland, it does get very crowded in the early spring. Yet despite the bustle of the city and the crowds taking selfies, I feel contemplative as I stand amongst the blossoms.

One hundred Akebono cherry blossom trees parallel the Willamette River here, commemorating the many Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II. Of additional significance, the plaza is situated adjacent to the Nihomachi neighborhood. This neighborhood is otherwise known as Japantown, where many Japanese Americans lived and worked in Portland prior to World War II.

TIP: Don’t make the same mistake I made. The plaza and cherry trees are located at the north end of Tom McCall Waterfront Park, near the Steel Bridge.

The first time I tried to visit, I hadn’t done my research and GPS took me to the south end of the park. I found trees, but no blossoms. And I left disappointed, thinking I had already missed the bloom. In reality, I was just at the wrong end of this long park!

cherry blossoms in Portland

2. Washington Park

There are several great places to see the cherry blossoms in Washington Park. Washington Park encompasses both the Portland Japanese Gardens and Hoyt Arboretum, which are both excellent locations for seeing the blossoms.

However, if you’re simply passing through Washington Park, you can still catch a beautiful view of cherry blossoms near the tennis courts.

3. Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden also ranks as one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Portland. And as Japan is known as the “Land of Cherry Blossoms,” it’s quite an appropriate representation.

However, that does mean that the garden gets extremely crowded around cherry blossom season as well. I still found it well worth the experience, though.

Here, the graceful branches of the Yoshino Cherry trees reach skyward in pale pink and white splendor, as in celebration of spring’s arrival. The branches of the Weeping Cherry tree drip delicately downward in the flat garden. And the entire garden is filled with a serenity that will make you want to linger.

Note that the cherry trees at the Japanese Garden may reach their peak bloom later than those on the waterfront, due to the higher elevation in the gardens.

TIP: Plan your visit at peak cherry blossom bloom by checking in on the Portland Japanese Garden “Cherry Blossom Watch.”

Oh, and another TIP!: Because of the popularity of the Japanese Garden during cherry blossom season, parking can get difficult. So I recommend taking advantage of the free Washington Park Shuttle.

If you have timed entry, be sure to show up at least a half hour early, park where ever you can find a spot in Washington Park, and take the shuttle to the Japanese Garden. Do not count on finding parking at or near the garden.

4. Hoyt Arboretum

In this “museum of trees,” it’s no wonder you’d find a grove of cherry trees. The cherry blossoms in Hoyt Arboretum are situated along the Wildwood Trail near the east water tank.

Hoyt Arboretum showcases roughly 15 different varieties of cherry trees, including Yoshino (Akebono), Fuji, and Shirofugen. And each variety has its own window of time to bloom.

With so many different varieties, you can actually find cherry blossoms here as early as late March and all the way into early June. Plus, with Hoyt Arboretum’s higher elevation and lower temps, the blooms come a little later as it is.

So don’t fret if you’ve missed the cherry blossoms at the waterfront or even the Japanese Gardens. Just head over to the arboretum instead for a spring stroll!

TIP: Washington Park is BIG and the Wildwood trail is l o n g (it’s 30 miles in length!). So unless you’re planning for an all-day adventure, it’s important to know the best place to park to find the cherry trees.

Park at (or take the free Washington Park shuttle to) the Hoyt Arboretum Visitors Center. From the parking lot, it’s only a 5 minute hike, although it is mostly uphill.

You’ll start out on the Overlook trail, a paved path situated between the Holly Loop and the Beech Trail. Towards the top of the hill you’ll see a green circular structure (the east water tank).

Turn left onto Wildwood Trail at the T in front of the water tank. Then take a right at the next T, and a left at the Y to stay on Wildwood. From there, Wildwood trail zigzags downhill into a bounty of cherry blossoms. You can use this map of the arboretum to help find your way.

5. Laurelhurst Park

Located in one of Portland’s oldest neighborhood, Laurelhurst Park is one of the local’s favorites. And if you search locations to find cherry blossoms in Portland, you’ll likely come across recommendations for Laurelhurst Park.

But to be honest, you’ll really only find a handful of cherry trees scattered throughout this 32 acre park. However, the park does have an incredibly diverse array of trees, including trees bearing other spring blossoms such as plum trees and magnolia.

You can use this interactive map of Laurelhurst park to find the spring blossoms. And as an interesting side note, I love how this map lists each tree’s carbon storage!

6. Mt. Tabor

Another beloved park, Mr. Tabor is Portland’s dormant urban volcano. This 176 acre park also only claims a spattering of cherry trees through out.

However, if you stop by Mt. Tabor’s water reservoir on 60th Ave, you’ll catch a stunning view of cherry blossoms with the city of Portland in the background.

TIP: Be aware that as this is a dormant volcano, there are some considerable hills you’ll encounter while navigating the park.

7. University of Portland

The University of Portland near St. John’s neighborhood also bursts with color in the spring. Just look for the bell tower to lead you to the university’s quad to find the best cherry blossoms on campus.

8. Pittock Mansion

In addition to an amazing view of Portland, Pittock Mansion features some of Portland’s oldest cherry trees, planted in 1914. The cherry trees are scattered through the grounds, including near the viewpoint.

9. Orchard Park

Orchard Park in Hillsboro is an absolute hidden gem when it comes to cherry blossoms. Maybe because it’s a newer park, it remains little known for its blossoms, or at very least under appreciated, even to many locals who live on the Westside. The great thing about that is it’s seldom (if ever) crowded!

This beautiful 21-acre nature park covers wetlands, meadows, and forest. And a portion of the well-loved Rock Creek Trail passes through this park.

As large as this park is though, it’s still plenty easy to find the cherry blossoms. The cherry trees here cover small, gently rolling green hills, right near the parking lot and restrooms.

Where to see the cherry blossoms near Portland

Cherry blossoms in Portland

10. State Capital in Salem

Salem is not only one of the best places in Oregon for cherry blossoms, but some even rate it among the top locations in the world. And it’s easy to see why!

Over the years, Salem has been known as the “Cherry City,” for the numerous cherry orchards that once surrounded it. And today, the State Capital State Park stands adorned with an astounding 151 Akebono cherry trees.

Plus, every third Saturday of March, the city hosts Cherry Blossom Day to celebrate both the city’s agricultural history as well as the impact the Japanese culture has had on our state. It’s a great opportunity for a picnic, to view traditional kimonos, and learn about Japanese art and culture.

Particularly stunning though, is the Yozakurao event, meaning “cherry blossoms at night.” Each night for three weeks following Cherry Blossom Day, the trees will glow in the evening hours with Japanese lanterns and lights, creating a truly magical experience.

11. Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge

There are two great ways to see the cherry blossoms near Mt. Hood and in the Columbia River Gorge. Take a train ride through the Gorge or drive the Mt. Hood Fruit Loop.

Train ride through the Columbia River Gorge

Here’s a unique experience you won’t soon forget. Take a ride on the Mt. Hood railroad Spring Train to see the Columbia River Gorge popping with springtime blossoms.

This classic, century-old short line train will transport you through the various orchards of the lower Hood River Valley. You’ll depart from the train station located in the charming town of Hood River.

This round trip experience takes about 2.5 to 3 hours with about an hour layover at The Fruit Company. In addition to the cherry blossoms, you’ll also get to see a variety of other spring time blossoms along the way.

⭐️Click here to book a reservation on the Mt. Hood Railroad Spring Train⭐️

The Hood River Fruit Loop

Another great way to see the cherry blossoms of Mt. Hood is to drive the Hood River Fruit Loop. This 35 mile loop takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to drive (without stops).

The route: You’ll take I-84 east from Portland to Highway 35 in Hood River. Follow the road until you see a turn off for Highway 281, which will eventually bring you back to I-84.

Along the way, you’ll find cherry, apple, peach, and pear orchards, as well as 28 fruit stands, wineries and breweries. Make a few stops along the way to visit the farms, try local foods, and smell the flowers.

The best timing to see the spring blossoms along this beautiful drive typically falls between late March and mid May. However, there’s a few special events usually happening in the area if you visit in April, including the Blossom Fest Craft Show, the Blossom Fest Quilt Show, and various Easter egg hunts held by individual farms.

When to see the cherry blossoms in Portland

Timing is everything when it comes to catching a glimpse of the cherry blossoms. The window for cherry blossoms is typically only two weeks long.

However, the exact timing will vary from year to year, dependent on the weather and the particular variety of cherry tree. Many cherry trees often bloom around late March to early April, but you’ll want to start to be on the lookout as early as mid March.

Of course you can always rely on word of mouth that the cherry trees have blossomed. You may see friends posting photos of pink blossoms on social media.

Some local new channels will also sometimes announce that cherry blossom season has began. My favorite, most reliable source though, is the Portland Japanese Garden website.

Their “Cherry blossom watch” page gives frequent and current updates, with photos. They’re the most accurate and reliable source I’ve found so far!

Cherry blossoms in Portland

Cherry blossoms vs plum blossoms

Cherry blossoms (sakura) and plum blossoms (ume) look very similar, as their trees are both from the genus prunus. But there are a few key differences that can help you tell them apart…

  • plum trees blossom before cherry trees, typically from mid February to March
  • cherry blossoms have a serrated appeared to the edge of the petals (plum trees don’t)
  • cherry petals are more oval shaped (plum petals are rounder)
  • cherry trees have a lighter color bark with horizontal striations (plum trees have darker bark without any lines)
  • plum trees have reddish-purple leaves (cherry trees have green leaves).

What is Hanami?

The Japanese word hanami translates literally as “flower viewing.” However, it typically refers specifically to the act of viewing the cherry blossoms.

I love that there’s a word for this incredibly simple activity. Giving the action an official name, or a label, seems to communicate a certain reverence towards the cherry blossom. And looking at the symbolism of the cherry blossom, it’s easy to understand why they’re so significant.

Cherry blossoms in Portland

What do cherry blossoms symbolize?

Cherry blossoms are a bit of a paradox. A spring blossom, they symbolize the common spring themes of life, renewal, and hope. But with their brief blooming period, they also symbolize death, or the fragile and fleeting nature of life.

The cherry blossom has also come to, at least unofficially, represent the Japanese people as well. With such a long and intertwined history with the cherry blossom, the association with the Japanese people happened quite naturally. The country is even referred to as the “Land of Cherry Blossoms.”

Other Spring blooms around Portland

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival

Around the same time the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the tulips begin to bloom as well. Oregon’s tulip festival is held annually at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, about an hour south of Portland. The festival typically runs from late March through early May.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

The Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland hosts a variety of spring time blossoms. From plum tree blossoms and camellias in late winter to orchids and magnolia in the spring, these authentic Chinese gardens almost always have some splash of color.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is home to a wide variety of rhododendrons, azaleas, and other companion plants. These stunning flowering bushes may look exotic, but they’re actually native to the Cascade region. You can usually see them in bloom from April through June, however they often reach their peak bloom during May.

Duniway Park Lilac Garden

Duniway Park covers a 14 acre patch of land in Portland, and it holds a hidden gem many locals aren’t aware of. Duniway Park’s Lilac Garden explodes with fragrant purple blossoms every spring. The garden boasts an astounding 125 different lilac varieties, and a total of 225 plants. The best time to visit this Eden is typically between late March and early May.

Schreiner’s Iris Bloom Event

Located on the outskirts of Salem, this flower festival doesn’t get quite the same notoriety as the tulip festival, but delivers just as great a riot of colors. In fact, Schreiner’s Iris Farm is the largest Iris farm in the U.S.! Their bloom event is typically held in May.

Final thoughts on cherry blossoms in Portland

One of the things I love about the PNW is how green it is. It seems sometimes like you can just throw things in the ground and they flourish.

Oregon is particularly beautiful in the spring, though. From cherry blossoms and tulips to irises and lilacs, the state is a symphony of colors and blooms the whole season long. And Portland certainly has some of the best cherry trees in the state, if not the world!

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