Tucked away on a Northeast Portland clifftop is one of the city’s most spectacular sites: the Grotto. A sprawling, forested haven and series of botanical gardens, the Grotto is both spiritual and secular, honoring its religious origins while also welcoming everyone who seeks peace, tranquility, and self-reflection. A soothing balm of natural beauty and serenity, The Grotto is undoubtedly Portland’s most peaceful place—and, for 100 years, it has been welcoming pilgrims seeking a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a balm for the mind, body, and spirit.
About The Grotto In Portland
A “sanctuary of peace, prayer, and natural beauty for all people,” The Grotto is an over 60-acre woodland haven perched atop Northeast Portland’s Rocky Butte. Built nearly 100 years ago as an outdoor Roman Catholic sanctuary, The Grotto has evolved over its storied history to become a bastion for visitors seeking tranquility within its forested walls, basking in the idyllic surroundings, regardless of religious orientation.
Though now a nonprofit center, The Grotto still remains a National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother. Full of lush gardens, winding paths, and plenty of meditative settings, it is both a place of worship and a place of quiet contemplation, bucolic natural beauty, and a long, storied history. Dotted with Catholic shrines that encourage spirituality and reflection, the Grotto’s original purpose is still an intrinsic part of both its present and future, while its stunning natural setting makes it accessible for all who seek sanctuary.
Visit The Grotto
The Grotto is open year-round, and the gardens are ever-changing to reflect the seasons. Because there is always something in bloom, there is never a bad time to visit the verdant, colorful grounds.
- Address: 8840 NE Skidmore Street, Main Entrance is located at NE 85th & Sandy Blvd
- Hours: Currently, the grounds, gift shop, and visitor center are open from 9 AM-6:30 PM daily through October 31, 2022. Admission to the Upper Level is sold until 5:30 PM. The Grotto’s hours do change based on the season—to learn more about year-round hours, visit The Grotto’s website
- Contact: (503)-254-7371
- Admission: Admission to the Lower Level is free; Upper-Level admission is Adult $9.95; Senior (65+) $8.95; and Youth (6-11) $4.95. Annual Garden Passes are also available for purchase online. Parking is free
Things To See & Do At The Grotto
One of the best reasons to visit The Grotto is to bask in its tranquil vibes. A place of worship and serene space that’s sacred to both nature and religion, here, visitors can pray, meditate, or simply soak up the stunning natural scenery while exploring the sweeping grounds and pathways. The Grotto also hosts a number of activities throughout the year for those who want a more immersive visit. Additionally, visitors can also attend Daily Mass, Sunday Mass, and Monthly Mass in the Chapel of Mary.
- Discover The Grotto Gardens Guests can explore the gardens of both the Plaza/Lower Level and Upper Level via a self-guided tour (tour books are available for purchase). There are also free guided tours available for groups of 15 or more.
- Take A Self-Guided Retreat Make the most of The Grotto’s natural beauty and peaceful, meditative vibes with a relaxing journey of self-reflection and solitude. The Grotto also offers a Self-Guided Retreat guide to help visitors plan and customize their pilgrimage that can be accessed here.
- What’s In Bloom The Grotto’s gardens are filled with dozens of flower and tree species, and visitors can check their interactive tool to see what’s currently in bloom. Throughout September, both roses and late-summer annuals are at their brightest
- The Christmas Festival of Lights Celebrated annually, this holiday festival takes place in The Grotto’s Plaza and has a plethora of entertainment and events, including caroling, live music, and choir performances in the chapel.
Exploring The Grotto
The Grotto is divided into a Lower Level and an Upper Level, each with its own distinctive attractions, tranquil settings, and chances for spiritual reflection and/or worship.
- The Lower Level is Home to the Visitor Center, a Gift Shop, and an Art Gallery, the Lower Level is free for all to explore. Also located here is The Grotto itself, a deep cave carved out of the cliff itself. Both dramatic and contemplative, The Grotto serves as an outdoor cathedral through October and also contains a marble statue of Mary. Additionally, there is a lovely circular trail here where visitors can view the 14 Stations of the Cross before heading to the Chapel of Mary, rising over 100 feet over the surrounding area. Here, guests can admire the ornate painting, stained glass, and marble statues on display.
- The Upper Level is home to some of The Grotto’s most spectacular botanical gardens, including The Peace Garden, a bright, manicured 1.5-acre space complete with ponds, a stream, a meandering trail, and the bronze plaques, The Mysteries of the Rosary. There is also a lovely Rose Garden that showcases some of The Grotto’s best blooms; and two separate chapels where visitors can sit in quiet contemplation while admiring paintings of Mary (St. Anne’s) or stunning views of the surrounding area, including the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Valley (Meditation Chapel). Visitors can also take a tranquil stroll on the flower-lined path of The Labyrinth, modeled after its world-famous counterpart at France’s Chartres Cathedral
Known for its lush, sprawling botanical gardens and stunning clifftop views, The Grotto is a place of quiet contemplation where visitors can bask in the beauty of nature and the serenity of the surroundings. However, The Grotto is also a place of spiritual as well as natural contemplation. Originally built as a Roman Catholic Sanctuary, the Grotto remains a National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother and still hosts daily masses that are welcome to all; and its numerous Catholic shrines are a testament to its spiritual past, present, and future. However, all are welcome here, regardless of religion or denomination—anyone seeking peace, tranquility, and introspection will find a home amid The Grotto’s gorgeous garden sanctuary.