Photo: Courtesy Jason Harris

Hillsboro’s Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve

KEY: H – Hike | B – Bike | W – Water Route

Tualatin Hills Nature Park | H, B

Just steps away from the Merlo Road MAX station, this 222-acre Beaverton gem provides entry to a complex ecosystem of wetlands, lily ponds, streams, and groves of oak and pine. In fact, nearly every kind of Willamette Valley habitat is represented here. The woodsy confluence attracts a cadre of noisy denizens like Pacific wrens, Swainson’s thrushes, and Cooper’s hawks. The presence of paved trails, like the Vine Maple Trail, along with easy access to the adjoining Westside Regional Trail, also makes it a haven for relaxed bike cruises beneath a cooling forest canopy. Access: 15655 SW Millikan Way, Beaverton

Cooper Mountain Nature Park | H

Unique trailside features like a bird’s nest–themed iron sculpture, swiveling “listening posts” that zero in on melodic chatter, and a nature-scape playground make this Metro’s most engaging natural area. The hiking’s not bad, either. A web of gravel-strewn trails (all of which can be explored in a morning or afternoon) tours restored woodland habitats and oak savannas, delivering vistas of distant, vineyard-dotted hillsides. Keep an eye peeled for the resident bobcat, who’s routinely spotted prowling the open meadows for stray bird eggs and unwary gray squirrels. Access: 18892 SW Kemmer Rd, Beaverton

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve | H

Set in the floodplain of the Tualatin River, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve stands as a kind of aquatic time-share for the 130 or so winged species trading seasonal space here. Overhead, waves of cinnamon teals, tundra swans, ruddy ducks, and other water lovers appear as if coordinated by air traffic control. And while most make quite a commotion, nothing tops the ear-deafening squawks from a large heron rookery visible from a patch of cottonwoods at the center of the preserve. In the unlikely event you’re skunked on bird sightings, try the visitor center, where a high-powered camera donated by nearby Intel zooms in on the feathery action at the north end of the wetlands. Access: 2600 SW Hillsboro Hwy, Hillsboro

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Photo: Courtesy E. Michael Kipp

While you’re out
Three half-hour nature fixes

Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge The 200 species of birds, 50 kinds of mammals, and 25 kinds of reptiles cavorting about all but guarantee surprises—like a great horned owl staring down from a cedar tree. 19255 SW Pacific Hwy, Sherwood

Orchard Park Stands of Doug firs and a disc golf course deliver sanity for untold numbers of Silicon Forest workers. To blow off more steam, follow the Rock Creek Trail, which visits a heron colony and connects a total of 10 parks. 20900 NW Amberwood Dr, Hillsboro

Lowami Hart Woods A former Camp Fire camp location, Lowami still inspires childlike fascination with the woods. Rocks in Johnson Creek provide a hopscotch course. Mossy logs sub in for balance beams. And abundant bug and bird sightings fill nature journals. 14895 SW Hart Rd, Beaverton

Post-trail Watering Hole

Cruise In Country Diner Grass-fed beef, tangy German potato salad, super-thick shakes, and a Willamette Valley-centric tap list. Why can’t every ’50s-themed burger joint do it like this? Gluten-free grazers are welcomed here with GF buns, chicken strips, and Widmer Omission beer. 9785 SW River Rh. Hillsboro;

This article appeared in the July 2012 issue of Portland Monthly Magazine.

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