The west side of Portland is home to some amazing hiking. We have the incredible 4T Trail that takes you on a tour of the city using all of the modes of transport (trails, trams, trains and trollies). We have one of the nations’s largest urban forest reserves in Forest Park, which also happens to be one of our cities’ crown jewels. A lesser known gem is the Marquam Nature Park which is in SW Portland near OHSU. This connects with other trail systems throughout the city (including the Southwest Trails network, the trail portion of the 4T, and is 7 miles of the 40-mile Loop trail system). This has become a favorite place of mine for a nice walk in the woods in recent years because it is a really bit of lovely forest, travel time to get there is minimal, it is perfect for kids, and you can make it as long or as short a walk as you wish. Access to the park and parking areas can be found in several places, but the main points of entry are off SW Sam Jackson Parkway, SW Terwilliger Blvd., SW Fairmount Blvd., SW Marquam Hill Road, and Council Crest has the start of the Marquam Trail which will also lead you to the park. The park itself is over 200 acres and has a total of 7 miles of trail that wind their way through this undeveloped piece of land in the heart of Portland. While hiking here we have seen various wildlife (mainly in the form of deer) and many native plants.
This system of trails can be heavily used by commuters and employees at OHSU. Parking can be problematic for the employees and they have found the trails and areas for parking and it makes for a lovely walk before and after work. This can make parking for hikers a little more difficult during the week though and there are areas where parking limits are 2 hours which helps.
The trails are really well cared for and heavily used and it is unlikely you will be completely alone. That said, I have never felt like there are tons of people. I have had complete moments of solitude there, watching the sun’s rays dance through the branches, casting long shadows on the ground below. But there are hikers and runner that use the park and they have always been friendly and courteous (although there was a lot of dog poo on the trails so watch your step and if your dog poos, please clean it up).
Yesterday I went with a friend and her walking group and we explored a few of the newer trails that have been developed in this park. For many years this park only had one trail through it – the Marquam Trail. In 2014 3-new trails were dedicated (along with 4 new bridges) in the south side of the park. The Towhee, Flicker and Warbler trails have expanded the reach of the network and allow longer walks throughout the park or a circuit route instead of an out an back if you want to just walk in the southern portion of the park (off Terwilliger Blvd.). The 5 mile route I marked on the map in the picture above had around 750 feet of elevation gain, which is to be expected as this park in the West Hills. My son has walked this so kids 5 and up shouldn’t have too much trouble. In regards to the kids, paths are nice and level (although there are some roots so watch your step), and wide. There are no big drop offs on the down hill side, making this a lovely, relaxing walk for kids and parents alike. In fact I sent my mom the picture of the arch below and we have now planned a mom-daughter-grandson walk in the woods so she can see it too!
One of the newer parts of the park is the Barbara Walker Vortex which lays on a small parcel of privately owned land (one of the last private parcels in the park). Barbara was a strong advocate for open spaces. She fought for the Springwater Corridor, Waterfront Park, the 40-mile Trail, Pioneer Square and Marquam Nature Park. Her special garden is on a typical Portland home sized parcel of land at 50’x100′ but is a really dreamy space with a magical arch, native plants, benches, a quaint trail down to the creek and it is all surrounded by tall trees. The Marquam Trail passes the trail up to this little oasis and it was such a special surprise. I felt as though I was walking among the fairies. This was a special childhood place for Mrs. Walker and she fought fiercely to keep it for future generations to enjoy. I am so grateful to her for doing just that.
This is such a lovely section of Portland and a wonderful hiking area. Kids will also enjoy checking out the lovely Marquam Shelter and Mosaic. It is a lovely space.