June 02, 2021 4 min read
With 12,591 acres of public parkland and open space, Portland is an exceptionally great place to be a trail runner. If pounding pavement and maneuvering around pedestrians on crowded city streets doesn’t sound good, then consider taking to the trails for a unique experience running through the breathtakingly beautiful city of roses.
Portland’s running trails can be accessed rather quickly regardless of where you live. From North to South, East to West, there are myriad types of trails varying in length, elevation, and difficulty, so there’s something for everyone. With so many trails from which to choose, this will by no means be an exhaustive list. Instead, these are some of our staff favorites that continue having us coming back for more.
Wildwood Trail (Forest Park) : With 5,200 acres of veritable rain forest stretching along the Northwest periphery of Portland, Forest Park is the most popular location for runners looking to do some serious miles. As one of the most heavily trafficked trails in the park, Wildwood isn’t by any means overcrowded. With 30 miles of relatively smooth, well maintained trail, there’s plenty of room for everyone, and in fact you might be hard pressed to see anyone given the time of day. With 2,772 feet of elevation gain spanning the entire trail, Wildwood is not for the faint of heart. Be sure to pay attention to signage, as there are plenty of junctions that will set you off in the wrong direction. However, if an out-and-back isn’t really your thing then consider connecting Wildwood with other ancillary trails. In this case, you can skip the out-and-back and go for the loop.
White Pine - Wildwood - Mac and Walnut Trail Loop : As one of our favorite laps in Forest Park, this loop is sure to get the blood pumping and the metabolism cranked up. As a 5.1 miles loop with 738 feet of elevation gain, this trail system provides well maintained terrain and beautiful scenery provided by deep forest greens interspersed with splashes of colorful wildflowers. If you’re new to the city, this might be the best trail system to get a good idea of what Portland has to offer. Runners can expect to cross paths with the infamous International Rose Garden, the Portland Japanese Gardens, the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial, as well as the incredibly beautiful Hoyt Arboretum. Pay attention to signage on this loop as there is plenty of interesting information about the flora and fauna which will be enticing your attention along the way.
Hawthorne and Douglas Fir Loop (Powell Butte) : Oregon has plenty of geothermal activity, as evident by the extinct cinder cone clusters that stretch North through the Willamette Valley. As one of many extinct volcanic edifices, Powell Butte offers a bird's eye perspective on the surrounding Willamette valley, as well as 612 acres of beautiful forested and exposed terrain on which runners can take in clear views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson and Mount Saint Helens. On hot summer days, we like to keep cool on the shaded Hawthorne and Douglas Fir Loop. This short 1.8 mile trail system is an activating run that will have you twisting and turning through Jurassic fern forests while you climb 318 feet towards the top of this extinct volcano. We recommend starting from Elis Road wherein you can park your car and access the loop rather easily. If you’re the ambitious type and find yourself commuting by bike, then head east on the Springwater trail. Just after you reach 145th street there is an inlet wherein you can park your bike and start the accent.
While technically still in the Portland metro area, Tryon Creek is somewhat removed from the busy city center and the sleepy east side. Much like the magnificent trails within Forest Park, Tryon Creek features an unending panorama of natural beauty replete with fern fronds, deciduous canopy coverage and a swath of local blossoms. It should be said that these trails offer both paved and unpaved; However, a fair amount are actually paved, which may dissuade some runners. With quite a few trails within Tryon Creek, our favorite is the Triple Bridge Loop. At the time of writing, Terry Riley Bridge remains closed for repairs, in effect rendering the smaller loop inaccessible; However, some runners have reported that you can circumvent this bridge with a level of caution. In total, this is a 3.5 mile trail with 541 feet of elevation gain, though without the second loop, the total mileage drops to around 2.5. Barring bridge closures, Tryon Creek is a great place to explore. Within the larger loop, trails serpentine through and around waterways making for a serine, enchanting environment. There can be issues with traffic, as this is a very popular destination for birders, hikers and families, so we suggest trying to go in the mornings or later afternoons in order to beat the crowds.
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