YOU KNOW THE DRILL: You get home from work, and before you’ve managed to pull your key out of the lock, your dog’s nuzzling your knee and beating the floor with her tail like a spazzed-out drummer. She’s happy to see you, sure, but she’s also giddy because she knows her daily trip to the park is just moments away. Portland pooches have it pretty darn good on that front: The city maintains 30 off-leash areas around town designated solely for your four-legged companion’s running, jumping, and fetching delight. You probably have a favorite hangout near your house already, but it’s worth a short drive to check out these four crème de la crème canine playgrounds, guaranteed to give your pup even more reason to wag her tail at the end of the day.
1. GABRIEL PARK
SW 45th Ave & Vermont St Gabriel Park has two off-leash areas, one for frolicking in the sunny months and another for the rest of the year. The winter area, on the south side, is filled with sand—so your dog won’t be able to plop down in a mud puddle during the rainy season. And because the 1.75-acre summer area is open only from around June through October, the grass grows back each year—a good thing given the daily pounding it takes by thousands of paws when the sun’s high in the sky.
2. MOUNT TABOR
SE 60th Ave & Salmon St When you need to stretch your legs alongside your hound, head to the south side of Mount Tabor. First, let him tromp around in the five-acre off-leash area while you trade dog-grooming tips with fellow pet owners. Then hit the seven miles of paths that wind throughout the 196-acre park: They raise both of your heart rates. If peace and quiet is your thing, though, hit this local hot spot on weekday afternoons, as on weekends it tends to be pretty packed.
3. FERNHILL PARK
NE 37th Ave & Ainsworth St If your canine is lacking in the self-control department (that means you, border collies), this park is your best bet for worry-free playtime. Fernhill’s unfenced dog area is located several blocks from the busy lanes of NE Lombard and NE Killingsworth Streets. So you can let your energetic collie (or Lab, for that matter) run free without fretting about him darting into a dangerous intersection.
4. NORMANDALE PARK
NE 57th Ave & Halsey St Owners who frequent this 68-year-old, 14-acre park are serious about running the heck out of their dogs, which tend to be smaller breeds. There isn’t as much exchanging of “Which one is yours?” pleasantries, but that’s fine. Once you’ve stepped inside the grassy 1.6-acre off-leash area that runs along NE 57th Avenue, you’ll be too absorbed in watching the pugs, poodles, and bulldogs go bonkers to care a lick about communing with your fellow humans.