Standing at the foot of the Tumble Falls Bridge at Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park, visitors can watch the water splash down a hillside, kicking up mist as it rushes down to form Tumble Creek. It’s hard to believe that above that hillside is the ever-busy Fred Meyer on Beavercreek Road. But that’s part of the lure of this 236-acre nature park, one of two new Metro parks recently opened to the public: Newell Creek Canyon on December 6 and Chehalem Ridge Nature Park on December 13.
“It’s 236 acres of land that has been designated as naturescape, but it’s nature close to home,” says Metro councilor Christine Lewis. “You don’t have to get in your car and drive for two hours to some place faraway removed. We want to provide those opportunities as close to home as possible.”
At Newell Creek, that proximity is felt all around the park, with residential neighborhoods near the entrance, commercial districts to the south, and Highway 213 to the north. But even surrounded by the ebb and flow of daily living in Oregon City, the park feels delightfully secluded. After parking, visitors take a winding trail that leads them down into the forested canyon, where more than four miles of new dirt and gravel trails await, including Tumble Falls Trail and its connecting Cedar Grove Trail, which bring you past Tumble Falls, underneath a canopy of big-leaf maples, and to a pond where you might spot a northern red-legged frog. Almost two miles' worth of the fresh trails, like Shady Lane, Red Soil Roller, and Heavy Nettle, has been created specifically for mountain bikers.
Save for a few sections of the Canyon Spring Loop where the elevation climbs a few hundred feet and hikers are sloshing through mud (during the fall and winter), the family-friendly trails provide tranquil meandering with plenty of opportunities to spot nearby wildlife, such as the red-breasted sapsucker, pileated woodpeckers, beavers, red foxes, deer, and more.
Over at Chehalem Ridge Nature Park the scene is a dramatic shift. At 1,260 acres, this is one of Metro’s largest parks, sitting high atop the city of Gaston and providing gorgeous vistas of the Tualatin Valley and the farms and wineries below. Here there are about 10 miles of multiuse trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrian riders that take you through Oregon white oaks and pacific madrones, with some of the hardest at the lower section of the park—the Chehalem Ridge and Madrona Trail, which feature some of the park’s most diverse habitats but also some of its steepest climbs.
Throughout the park visitors can spot hermit thrushes, black-tailed deer, Douglas squirrels, and mushrooms, including witch’s butter (the namesake of one of the park’s trails). Winter brings tons of water, which means muddy, slippery trails, and small streams and runoffs throughout. In the spring, visitors can listen to migratory birds like the ruffed grouse.
Both parks, funded by public bonds passed in 1999, 2006, and 2019, feature parking, picnic areas, and public restrooms. They also feature a first for Metro: dedicated mountain biking trails. In lieu of an in-person opening during December, Metro announced photography contests for both parks.
Click here to read about more nearby nature parks.