May is starting off lovely here in the Pacific Northwest, isn't it? There's sun in the forecast as far as the eye can see.
All this warmer weather means we are going to start seeing more animals, insects, and other creatures that either hatch or come out of hibernation in the spring. It also means we'll be transitioning into butterfly season soon.
There's a lot to be excited about this time of year, so make some space to get outside before this season ends.
Here are some bits of nature & trail news that we have on our minds right now:
Now let's talk about what to explore with Kids this May!
May is a month that's at the crossroads of three different wildflower seasons. Early spring wildflowers like trilliums are almost done with their season, mid-spring wildflowers like Camas Lilies or Balsam Roots (pictured above) are peaking in the first half of May, and early summer flowers like Lupines or Meadow Checker Mallows are starting to bloom around Memorial Day.
Kid Friendly Trail Options & Packets: Early to Mid-May
Camassia Nature Park Trail:
This 1.4 mile loop (located in West Linn, Oregon) is probably the best park in the area to see camas lilies. Camas lilies and other wildflowers carpet the rocked cropped meadows throughout the park.
Get a Camassia Spring Wildflower Trail Packet to explore this trail with your little one (available thru May only):
Canemah Bluff Nature Park:
Located across the river in Oregon City, this park is the less-crowded sister to Camassia Nature Park, with 1-2 miles of trails dotted by Camas Lilies. You won't find quite as many flowers as you do at Camassia, but you will find a playground and bathroom. And let's be real. That means a lot when you are hiking with kids. Plus, as a park with a deep history, this is a great place to learn about Indigenous cultures and early settlers.
More about the Canemah Bluff Family Trail Packet:
Eastern Columbia River Gorge:
Want to see mountain wildflowers? Head east of White Salmon and Hood River to explore the areas around Mosier, Oregon and Lyle, Washington. Favorite family hikes include the Mosier Tunnel Trails, Rowena Crest, and Catherine Creek. Want to know more? The hiking page at Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a great resource for locating wildflower trails.
Kid Friendly Trail Options & Packets: Mid to Late-May
Cooper Mountain Nature Park:
You'll find all kinds of wildflowers at this Beaverton area park throughout the month of May along the forest trails and across the broad meadows throughout the park. As spring gives way to summer, taller grassland varieties of wildflowers appear. This is another great option for the kids who like their playgrounds. You'll find nature-play themed playground at the parking lot.
Pick up a Cooper Mountain Family Trail Packet for activities about flowers...and songbirds! Songbirds are one of the other great spring time wonders:
Powell Butte Nature Park:
Perched high above it's SE Portland neighborhood, Powell Butte Nature Park can feel worlds away from the city that surrounds it. It's one of the highest park's in Portland, making it a stellar place to view all the area's mountains, including Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, and Mt Adams, and the rest of the Cascadian Ridge. Starting in late May, the park also springs to life with summer prairie wildflowers that by mid-summer can grow as high as some adults.
All these wildflowers bring all kinds of other wonders too, including butterflies, caterpillars, and ladybugs. If you pay close attention on your visit, you might also spot a garter snake or brown arion slug (these kinds of slugs prefer prairies).
Grab a Powell Butte Family Trail Packet for activities about prairie animals and butterflies, and volcano and butte geology themed fun:
Animals that Slither, Leap, and Crawl
As the weather heats up, so too do the chances of spotting those cold-blooded animals that require the suns heat to keep them warm. Head to the wetlands to seek out turtles, toads, and tree frogs. Find garter snakes in the same areas, or hiding in the grass at one of the prairie parks, like Cooper Mountain Nature Park or Powell Butte Nature Park.
Wapato Greenway State Park:
One of the reasons the ~2.5 mile trail loop at Wapato Greenway State Park (on Sauvie Island) is such a big crowd pleaser among kids is because the chances of seeing or spotting an animal are very high. Along the water you'll likely see or hear frogs. In the grassy savanna section, you'll hear (and maybe see) snakes. Throughout are areas to look for birds. At the river dock 1/3 way around the trail, you'll find fish. As spring gives way to summer expect to also see dragonflies and butterflies at the park.
Go once strawberry season begins so that you can pair your adventure with a trip to a farm.
Pick up a Wapato Greenway Family Trail Packet for activities about wetland wildlife and white oak savanna habitats.
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge:
One to see turtles? Lots and lots of turtles. This Washougal, WA, area refuge is your place in the warmer months. Turtles, birds, frogs, and other animal wildlife. Steigerwald Lake also offers lovely views of Mt Hood and the Columbia Gorge on clearer days. You may get to also see nesting birds if the timing is right, and perhaps goslings or ducklings.
Learn more about the Steigerwald Lake Family Trail Packet:
Other May Finds: Birds, Butterflies, & Ladybugs
May is a wonderful time to get outside for lots of reasons. Here are a few of the other kinds of wonders you can expect to see in May.
Bird Nesting Season
May is nesting season for many different birds. Head to Camassia Nature Park in West Linn, Jackson Bottom Wetlands, or to Sauvie Island along the beaches to find ospreys nesting.
Pick up one of our wetland packets and head to one of the wetland parks to look for goslings and ducklings. Wapato Greenway and Steigerwald Lake are both great options. So is Ridgefield NWR.
The Beginnings of Butterfly and Lady Bug Season
In late May you'll start to see more and more butterflies and moths, as well as ladybugs. This the beginning of a season that will last all summer. Butterflies are pollinators that thrive in wildflower areas. Head to Powell Butte, Wapato Greenway, Cooper Mountain, or Graham Oaks Nature Park (packet available exclusively to subscribers).
End of school activities can make May a really busy time for families. There's no better way to get a break than to get outside and explore. This is a great time of year to watch nature in flux and the seasons change and new animals and plants appear. Happy adventuring!
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Bryna R. Campbell