Forest Park in Portland: A user's guide
With 70 miles of hiking trails, you've got options. Why not catch a glimpse of Mount St. Helens or Mount Rainier?
Fri, Aug 05, 2011 at 07:31 AM
A park big enough to provide refuge to wandering elk is big to provide refugee to stressed city folk. Forest Park in Portland is that big.
It is a park that is part of — not apart from — the city. There are nearly 20 trailheads where you can start a hike into deep green woods and shady canyons, and along side Balch Creek, which runs cold enough and clean enough for cutthroat trout.
Forest Park was dedicated on Sept. 23, 1948. The park was originally 4,200 acres and subsequent additions have brought it more than 5,100 acres, making it the largest, forested natural area within city limits in the United States.
Things to do
Forest Park has more than 70 miles of hiking trail, including the 30.2-mile long Wildwood Trail, a National Recreation Trail that is part of the region’s 40-Mile Loop system. Some trails take you into the deep shade of narrow canyons. Others pay off with views of Mount St. Helens or Mount Rainier — or both.
The Forest Park Conservancy conducts a series of guided Discovery Hikes that focus on different elements of the park’s ecology.
Nearly 30 miles of trail and fire lanes are open to mountain biking. Lief Eirkson Drive is an 11.2-mile dirt road popular with walkers, runners and mountain bikers.
Why you’ll want to come back
Portland has 40 breweries, more than any other city in the world.
Flora and fauna:
Forest Park’s 8-square-mile expanse of red alder, maple, Douglas fir, western hemlock and western red cedar, sword fern, lady fern, Oregon grape, and red huckleberry provides a home for an abundance of wildlife in the heart of Portland.
More than 60 species of mammal are found in the park, including northern flying squirrel, Townsend's chipmunk, blacktail deer, mountain beaver, bobcat, coyote, wandering shrew, Trowbridge shrew, shrew mole, deer mouse, Pacific jumping mouse, western pocket gopher and long-tailed weasel.
Among the more than 100 species of bird found in the park are rufous hummingbird, olive-sided flycatcher, Pacific slope flycatcher, western wood pewee, Swainson’s thrush, western tanager, pileated woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, ruby-crowned kinglet and bald eagle.
By the numbers:
- Website: Portland Parks & Recreation
- Park size: 5,171 acres
- Funky fact: The novel “My Abandonment” by Peter Rock is inspired by the true story of a girl and her father found living in Forest Park in May 2004.
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. We'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.