PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Walk along the river at Portland’s Tom McCall McCall Waterfront Park in late March and you’re sure to see hundreds of people gathered in the area to enjoy and photograph the gorgeous pink blossoms on the trees. 

This is the time of year when cherry trees explode with blooms, creating a snow globe-like atmosphere along the waterfront and other parts of the Portland area. The pink petals dancing to the ground are a sign of spring. 

Weeping cherry tree in flat garden. Photo by Tyler Quinn, courtesy Oregon Japanese Garden
Weeping cherry tree in flat garden. Photo by Tyler Quinn, courtesy Oregon Japanese Garden

“Winters in the Pacific Northwest can be cold and wet. So, I think cherry blossoms are a harbinger of warmer days ahead and longer daylight hours,” said Will Lerner, a communications specialist for the Portland Japanese Garden, another location in the area where people can go to take in the natural beauty of the blossoming cherry trees. 

Due to the Portland Japanese Garden’s higher elevation in Washington Park, the trees there might bloom slightly later than the ones along the Portland waterfront. So, anyone hoping to enjoy the flowers for several weeks could make plans to see them both. 

Here are several places in Portland, Vancouver, Salem, Gresham, and even Hood River where people can go to enjoy cherry blossoms. 

Portland area

Portland Japanese Garden

Lerner said the trees at the Portland Japanese Garden typically blossom at the end of March or early April. The Yoshino cherry tree in the Strolling Pond Garden and next to the Umami Cafe will typically bloom a week or two later. 

“If you time it right, you can enjoy your tea with the soft flutter of cherry blossom petals starting to fall. It’s a really lovely experience,” Lerner said. 

The inclement weather that affected the area in late February might push the blossom time back in 2023, he warned. 

For people looking to capture the perfect selfie or family photo with the pink flowers, Lerner recommends visiting the weeping cherry tree in the Flat Garden. Guests can also get a great photo of the tree from the western veranda of the pavilion. There are also good angles on Cherry Tree Hill and at the Strolling Pond next to the Heavenly Falls. 

Portland Japanese Garden has a cherry blossom tracker on its website to monitor the trees’ statuses. 

The Japanese American Historical Plaza at Tom McCall Waterfront Park

To catch cherry blossoms earlier in the season, stop by Tom McCall Waterfront Park to take in the view. There are 100 Akebono trees at the park and the space is ideal for a morning run, lunchtime picnic or evening stroll. 

The trees were donated to the city of Portland by a group from the Japanese Grain Importers Association in 1990. They line the sidewalk between the Burnside and Steele Bridges. 

Hoyt Arboretum

Like the Portland Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum also sits at a higher elevation, meaning its cherry trees blossom later in the spring. The arboretum recommends visitors come see them in April. The arboretum said cherry trees flourish in temperate climates and they have more than 200 varieties of them on display with various flower shapes and colors. 

Portland Parks

They might not be well-known destinations, but Portland parks are filled with cherry trees and other trees that blossom in the spring. Laurelhurst Park has several cherry trees and Mt. Tabor also has some cherry trees scattered through its grounds. 

Vancouver area

The Clark College Sakura Festival

On April 11, 1990, John Kageyama, the president of America Kotobuki Electronics, Inc. gave 100 Shirofugen cherry trees to Clark College as a celebration of Arbor Day and Earth Day. Since then, Clark College never misses a year to celebrate the anniversary. The trees are planted on Clark College’s main campus in Vancouver’s Central Park. In 2023,  opening remarks for the festival will take place at 1 p.m. on April 20 in the Royce Pollard Japanese Friendship Garden. A celebration will follow at 2:30 p.m. in Gaiser Student Center. 

Gresham area

The Gresham Japanese Garden

The Gresham Japanese Garden does not hold special events to showcase its cherry trees in bloom, but the trees typically bloom in March or early April and the public is invited to visit and enjoy them. 

Salem area

Cherry Blossom Day at the Capitol

A Senate bill passed in Oregon in 2017 declared the third Saturday in March as Cherry Blossom Day in Salem. The day is meant to celebrate the cherry blossom trees on the Capitol Mall and it has become a celebration of the Japanese cultural influence in Oregon. In 2023, the day falls on March 18 and it will be the first in-person Cherry Blossom Day since 2019, due to the pandemic. There will be free, family-friendly activities in the State Capitol Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Hood River area

Hood River Fruit Loop

Take a drive around Hood River’s rural farms to enjoy the blooming cherry, pear and apple trees. The 35-mile scenic drive is known as the “Fruit Loop” and takes travelers through the valley’s orchards to enjoy the blossoms. Visitors are asked to stay within public spaces.