Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Featured Image Description: a tall white rhododendron reaches over a path that leads beneath an ornate bridge in the garden.

This wonderful oasis in the city is very accessible! The 9.5 acre garden has approximately one mile of trails and paths that can completed in a variety of loops. It is home to an incredible display of rhododendron and azalea which bloom in late spring – early summer, but there is much to appreciate year-round. It is a prime spot for birds and wildlife, there is a spring-fed lake with a fountain, three waterfalls, and many benches to rest and enjoy the beauty. It is a wonderful spot to get out and explore your comfort level with being outdoors, or to just enjoy on a low-spoon day.

Spoon Rating (“difficulty”): One spoon. The major trails within the garden are wheelchair accessible. The central path to the lake is paved with a max grade of 5%. The other paths are firm surface and packed pea gravel.

Trail Stats: There are many options – here are stats for the main loop that leads over the lake, to the restrooms, and back. Distance: 0.5 mile; Elevation Change: 20 feet; Max Grade: 5%; Max Cross-Slope: 2%; Typical Width: 4 feet; Typical Surface: paved, wood, packed pea gravel;  Amenities: accessible toilets, potable water, accessible parking, benches. Pets are allowed on leash.

An accessible wooden bridge with pullouts over a lake at Crystal Springs.
The main bridge over the lake. An accessible wooden bridge with pullouts leads over water. There are tall green trees in the background.

Trail Description:

The entrance station is located about 50 feet from the accessible parking spots. The check-in window is at 36 inches, and the staff and volunteers are very helpful and accommodating. Beyond the entrance, an accessible ramp leads to the left, with grades of 2-8%, to a large landing with a bench before curving right and continuing on a generally 5% decline to another bench. From here you can go left and down another decline to a waterfall and a pond, or continue straight across the first wooden bridge. The bridge has level and stable boards with a maximum ¾” gap.

A portion of the ADA accessible ramp with handrails.
A portion of the ADA accessible ramp from the entrance. There are handrails and stone wall barriers.

After this bridge the path continues paved with 2-5% grades. It curves to the right, passing underneath rhododendron, then curves to the left again before crossing evenly onto an 8-foot long section of compact pea gravel then returning to a paved surface. 1/10 mile from the entrance, you arrive at the large main bridge over the lake.

This bridge is approximately 1/10 mile long, with several pull-outs and observations spots over the lake. There are also benches on either side to sit and rest. An interpretative sign describes some of the birds and wildlife you may see. There is no shade over the bridge, so bring sun protection if you plan to linger here.

A bench on a paved area next to a bridge over a lake.
One of the benches at lake. It sits on a large circular paved area next to the bridge.

Beyond the bridge, the path becomes firm, compact pea gravel and forms a loop to the restrooms and back to the bridge. The total length of this loop is 0.5 mile. The most accessible route is to continue forward following the water, past the first pathway on the left which rises at a 5-8% incline. Take the next left. Continue straight to an intersection with a bench underneath some gorgeous rhododendrons. Take either path curving to the left and then go right towards the grassy area following the sign to the restroom.

To finish the loop, backtrack from the restroom and continue straight past the event hall on the right. Continue on the compact pea gravel path, then take the first path on the right – it is a 5-8% grade for approximately 20 feet before reaching a level spot and reconnecting with the main path.

There are additional options for loops through the gardens, along the ponds, and past the waterfalls which are also wheelchair accessible. Benches are placed throughout the garden. You can’t get lost here and, aside from a few roots and very short steep inclines, even the secondary paths are pretty accessible. Park volunteers and staff are often in the garden if you need any assistance.

There is one all-user accessible restroom and two gendered restrooms with stalls. The accessible restroom meets all guidelines, with the exception of a push button sink that you have to reach across the sink basin to get to, and then hold for water. The garden has asked the city for funding to make this more accessible, which is a much-needed improvement.

Cell Phone Reception: Excellent.

Pass/Entry Fee: The garden is open seven days a week, from 10:00 am to 3:30pm, except for Wednesday when it is open 1:00pm to 3:30pm. There is a $5 entry fee for anyone over the age of 10. Entrance is free on Mondays.

Getting There: Address: 5801 SE 28th Avenue, Portland, Oregon near Reed College at the intersection of SE 28th Ave and SE Woodstock Blvd. This is a well-established neighborhood in the heart of southeast Portland.
Parking: There is a paved parking area with two van accessible parking spots and space for approximately 30 vehicles. Overflow parking is available at the Reed College West parking area.
Public Transit: The closest Trimet bus stops are 6400 (Westbound Bus 19) and 7286 (Eastbound Bus 19) approximately 1 block away. Bus route 19 is accessible from the Orange Line.

Land Acknowledgement: This is the traditional territory of the Clackamas Chinook and others whose lands are now a part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Treaty Areas. Much of the Willamette Valley was ceded in the 1855 Treaty with the Confederated Tribes of the Willamette Valley. The people of the Willamette valley were forced to march to the Grand Ronde Reservation. The Grand Ronde Tribe’s federal recognition was later terminated in 1954 until 1983, when the Tribe won restoration and regained a small portion of their homelands.

Map of the garden with the main loop outlined in red. Stats read 0.5 mi, 23 ft elevation gain.
Map of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden with the main loop outlined in red. Stats read Distance 0.5 mi, Elevation gain 23 ft, and there is an elevation profile.

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