Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

What: Bridal Veil Falls
Where: Columbia River Gorge

When: Year round
Why: These beautiful falls are only a short hike away
Cost: FREE

A Good Gray Bridal Veil Falls

Last July we hiked with my husband’s entire family—2 grandparents, 6 parents, and 10 kids ages 1 to 12—headed to the Gorge. Before showing them Latourell Falls, we stopped to check out the nearby Bridal Veil Falls for the first time.

Bridal Veil Falls was perfect for our group—it’s absolutely gorgeous with fairly easy access. It’s just a few miles west of Multnomah Falls off of the Historic Columbia River Highway. There’s a free parking lot with public restrooms (also free) (just to be clear).

There are actually two trails for Bridal Veil. The upper trail is a half mile round trip, and takes you around the precipice of the cliffs of the Gorge. Apparently you get a great view of the Pillars of Hercules, which is a big basalt tower with a killer name.

The lower trail is only about a mile round trip (but very steep), and it brings you up close and personal to the falls. That’s the route we picked. It was shady with some great glimpses of the Columbia.

Once you reach the roaring, tiered falls, you can view them from above at a platform and then climb (carefully!) down to the rocks. We spent tons of time exploring, tossing stones, and enjoying the refreshing spray by the pool. The lush, moss-covered scene even in the middle of summer will warm your Oregon-loving heart.

Save some energy for the hike back up, because the incline was a bit much for little legs. But overall this is an easy hike with a breathtaking payoff.


Sauvie Island

What: Sauvie Island
Where: North of Portland in the Columbia River

When: Year round (lakes are only open April to September)
Why: Gorgeous pastoral views + calming beach life, just outside the city

A Good Gray: Sauvie IslandWe recently took advantage of a beautiful September weekend and finally checked out Sauvie Island. Guys, what took us so long??

We’d heard mixed reviews about it and we weren’t sure what to expect, but we found it to be green, pristine, and beautiful. A true breath of fresh air.

Sauvie Island is about 10 miles outside of Portland in the Columbia River. Meander north on highway 30 and you’ll eventually see signs for the island’s one and only bridge. Cross over and you’ll find farmland, lakes, and very few residents. At the right times of year you can pick fruit, find a pumpkin, hike with wildlife, or relax at the beach.


Map courtesy of sauvieisland.org

Things to know before you go:
– Parking passes are necessary for public lots (it’s handy to buy one at the convenience store right after the bridge)
– Food options are very limited and there are no gas stations
– Walton Beach was great for families (but be warned: Collins is a nude beach) (ha!)
– Bring a map because signage is iffy and it’s easy to get lost

If you’re coming from afar, the coast definitely offers better beaches. But if you want a warmer spot or you’re in hunt of amazing produce, Sauvie is quite a treat.
A Good Gray: Sauvie IslandIMG_1663 IMG_1654 IMG_1656

Parks with Water Features on Portland’s West Side

When the scorching days of summer leave your family screaming for a relief, where can you turn???

A Good Gray: Parks with Water on Portland's West SideHow about trying one of these cool parks on Portland’s west side! Each has a refreshing splash pad or other water feature running all season long.

Magnolia Park (Hillsboro): small, simple fountains are perfect for young children; fountains are user activated

53rd Avenue Community Park (Hillsboro): a large paved space with a fun programmed spray sequence of fountains; terraced seating all around; in the peak weeks there is a snack bar open

Walnut Street Park (Hillsboro): this small spot features sprays and mists that are user activated

Civic Center Fountains (Hillsboro): these fountains in Hillsboro’s very own civic plaza are a treat for kids of all ages


City Park Fountain (Beaverton): these are the grand-daddy of fountains; located near the library and the farmers’ market, these fountains are tall and powerful

Conestoga Recreation & Aquatic Center (Beaverton): this splash pad for kids of all ages costs $3.50 per child (adults are free)

*Updated* Fountains at Progress Ridge (Beaverton): fountains and splash pad

Are there any I missed? Please let me know!

P.S. Most water features are on from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but it’s wise to double check online.

Nehalem Bay State Park

What: Nehalem Bay State Park
Where: 9500 Sandpiper Lane, Nehalem

When: Year round
Why: It’s convenient (but windy!) beach access with gorgeous views
Cost: $5/day for day use, $29/day for tent or RV camping

A Good Gray: Nehalem Bay State Park

It’s summer, and time to get our camping on. We decided to try out Nehalem Bay State Park on the coast, just south of Manzanita. It sits on a sand spit (ha!) between the ocean and the bay, and it’s a great place for camping, beach access, crabbing, and horseback riding.

The best part about camping there is that you’re only separated from the ocean by the dunes. You can hear the waves crashing from your camp site! As you hike over the dunes towards the beach, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

I will say that this is pretty cushy camping. The sites are close together so you’re extremely close to clean restrooms, hot showers, and playgrounds. Even the tent sites have water and electrical hook-ups. Like many state parks, they sell firewood within the park and each campsite has a fire pit and picnic table. You’re close to the highway and the city of Manzanita.

But we still felt like we were camping. The placement of the trees gave us sufficient privacy. We saw deer, squirrels, and tons of birds.

Our girls enjoyed the Junior Park Ranger activities that are available most days, and people drive slowly so it’s safe to bring bikes for your kids. People can also bring their horses here to camp and ride on the beach (I really need a horse!), so we took a walk through the horse camping loop and people invited us to visit with their horses.

The biggest drawback of Nehalem Bay State Park is the wind. OH THE WIND. The campsites are breezy, but the beach is impressively windy (even compared to other parts of the Oregon Coast). The mornings are tolerable, but the afternoons are unbearable. We saw one family wisely playing in a nook in the dunes. We hear other parts of the bay are quite nice, but the beaches near the camping are always windy.

You’ll probably want to make a reservation in the summer. If you want to shop the sites a bit, some kind soul has created a slideshow of every single site in the Nehalem Bay State Park. Thank you, stranger.

A Good Gray: Nehalem Bay State ParkA Good Gray: Nehalem Bay State ParkA Good Gray: Nehalem Bay State ParkA Good Gray: Nehalem Bay State Park

Shute Park Aquatic and Recreation Center (SHARC)

What: Shute Park Aquatic and Recreation Center (SHARC)
Where: 953 SE Maple Street, Hillsboro
Who: All ages
When: Weekdays 5:30 am to 9:30 pm, Sat. 7 am to 5:30 pm, Sun. 8 am to 5:30 pm
Why: Access to a pool and workout equipment without breaking the bank
Cost: Affordable yet complicated (see the website)

A Good Gray: SHARC

A wise friend pointed out that putting on a swimsuit during the winter somehow makes you feel like you’re beating the system. It really perks you up. How right she is!

SHARC in Hillsboro is our go-to place for aquatics, but it ain’t just your standard city pool. There are actually three pools:
1. Main Indoor Pool: L-shaped with diving board and awesome 117-foot slide
2. Warm Water Pool: Kept at a balmy 88 degrees, and includes children’s water feature and parts as shallow as 18 inches
3. Outdoor Pool: Includes two diving boards but only open in the summer

Half of the warm water pool is available for most of the day, so we like to show up, borrow some noodles, and kill an hour or two playing there. If you’re wanting to use the awesome water slide, mushroom-like water feature, or diving boards, you have to come during Recreation Swim Times (weekdays 7 to 9 pm, or weekends 1 to 5 pm).

We love that there are 4 family changing rooms with showers. There are lockers all around too, but you need to bring your own lock (I skip the lockers and leave my bag lazily in the pool area).

Other SHARC features to love:
– Spa pool (hot tub)
– Dry sauna
– Swim lessons
– Water exercise classes
– Fitness classes
– On-site child care
– Full cardio and weight room
– Spin room
– Personal trainers
– Massage
– Multi-purpose rooms for par-tays

Finally, plan on getting annoyed with the parking. There are very few spots out front, but when you snag one you’ll feel like you won the lottery.

A Good Gray: SHARCA Good Gray: SHARCA Good Gray: SHARC A Good Gray: SHARC

Pictures borrowed mostly from the SHARC website. I didn’t want to be that creepy lady taking pictures of people at the pool.

Indian Beach

What: Indian Beach 
Where: Ecola State Park on the Oregon Coast
When: Year round
Why: Kid-friendly, secluded beach
Cost: $5 for day pass

A Good Gray: Indian Beach

Many have recommended Indian Beach to us, and thank goodness we finally checked it out. Besides the typical awesomeness you see on the Oregon Coast, it’s also secluded and quite fun with kids.

You access the beach through Ecola State Park (just north of Cannon Beach). The state park status means you pay $5 for a day-use pass, but you get public restrooms, picnic tables, and ample parking. A staircase gives you easy access to the beach.

Once you’re on the sand, you can get down to beach business. We climbed rocks, explored tide pools and played in small waterfalls. We also ate lunch on one of the many conveniently placed driftwood logs, enjoying the view—beautiful cliff faces, crashing waves, and the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse a mile off-shore.  If you get there at the right time of year, you can also see migrating whales or find whole sand dollars (but alas we didn’t have luck with either).

We hear Indian Beach can get pretty busy in the summer (especially with surfers), but we enjoyed our quiet Winter day. We were even graced by the presence of a professional hula hooper (no, really), and frankly you don’t see that every day.

A Good Gray: Indian Beach A Good Gray: Indian BeachA Good Gray: Indian BeachA Good Gray: Indian BeachA Good Gray: Indian Beach A Good Gray: Indian Beach

Indoor Play: PVC Pipe Bath Toys


I can’t take credit for this indoor play for two reasons:

1. The idea came from this blog (via Pinterest, of course).
2. I promptly sent the link to my dad, who then made it a reality.

See? I was semi-useless. Yet I can enthusiastically give an endorsement for how much fun it is! We can take early, extra-long baths now thanks to these bad boys. Because my dad expanded on the idea, we have a lot of different pieces that can be mixed and matched. Dad even made a funnel out of a small soda bottle. We have big plans to bring the pipes out on our back porch when it warms up outside.

Why we love it: It keeps the kids happily occupied whilst they use their creativity. Plus it’s fun for me too. (My husband makes fun of me every time he hears me say, “Hold on! It’s Mommy’s turn.”)