Nature Activities both on and off The Bluff

By The Beacon | September 24, 2014 3:21pm

By Christine Menges

College students spend a lot of time indoors: studying at the library, procrastinating on Facebook, binge-watching television seasons and chatting with roommates.

But as the summer sunlight dwindles, and gathering clouds warn of a quickly approaching rainy season, students can partake in warm-weather nature activities one last time.

Enjoying nature does not mean voyaging far away, as many transportation-lacking students living on campus might fear. There are many nature areas on The Bluff, or just a quick walk or bike ride away.

The Bell Tower garden: Students pass it almost daily while walking to the Bauccio Commons, but few sit down and take a look around. Next to the Bell Tower, this garden has benches and plenty of flowers, perfect for some quiet reflection. Relax there after a full day of classes, or use it as a refreshing study spot when you tire of being cooped up in a library cubicle.

Columbia Annex: If you’ve ridden the 44 Bus line, you’ve probably seen a glimpse of this park just off Willamette Boulevard. Columbia Annex offers a change of scene from the familiar campus landscape, and a quick bike ride or moderate walk will get you there. Play a game with friends on the multi-purpose athletic field, or relive your childhood with the teeter-totters, swings and jungle gym.

Cathedral Park: Off the Willamette, in the other direction, lies a park beneath the St. John’s Bridge. Named for the graceful pointed arches supporting the bridge above, the park offers inspiring views to the gazers below. The combination of man-made design and natural beauty provides an ambiance atypical of any other park. Bring a smartphone with you, because this place begs to be Instagrammed. As with all things beautiful, you’ll forget yourself for a while as you stand in awe.

Forest Park: You will need a car to get here, but if you can find the funds, the park is well worth your visit. You’ve probably heard people call it the most beautiful park in Portland. While you’ll have to see it for yourself to agree, escaping campus and the urban jungle is a worthwhile goal. According to The Forest Park Conservancy website, this park is the largest urban forest in the United States. With an abundance of hiking trails, the visit is truly a journey.

Multnomah Falls: A drive away, Multnomah Falls offers both trails and gorgeous views. Watch a cascading waterfall, and hike all the way up to the bridge to view it up close. If transportation is a problem, UP’s outdoor pursuits club offers trips there. This is not only a chance to exercise and sightsee, but also to meet new people and bond closer with friends.

Christine is a reporter at The Beacon. You can reach her at or on Twitter @ChristineyBird,