Forest Park, an idyllic escape in Portland

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Portland, Oregon lies in an ideal location. It’s a short drive to several mountains, to the beach and even to the desert. If you enjoy windsurfing, the Columbia Gorge is an hour away, offering the best windsurfing in the nation. Mt. Hood offers year round entertainment, from snow skiing to the Alpine slide to camping and hiking. Lakes and rivers provide abundant water skiing, rafting, and tubing.

Sometimes it’s nice to get away, but, you don’t have to leave town to get in a good hike. Portland, Oregon’s own Forest Heights Neighborhood offers some of the best hiking in the area and it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Lake Oswego.

Forest Park, which lies in the heart of Forest Heights, is the largest (over 5,000 acres!) forested park in an urban setting in the country. Forest Park contains over five thousand acres and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Portland, Oregon based writer Marcy Houle has this to say about Forest Park:

“[It] captures the essence of what is natural and wild and beautiful about the Northwest… From this forest sanctuary, panoramic views of the city of Portland, the Willamette and Columbia rivers, and five major peaks of the Cascade Range … can be seen through the tall fir trees. From its inception …, Forest Park has been a refuge for both people and wildlife, and an integral part of the environment of Portland.”

Forest Park can be visited with frequency and still be a unique experience each time. With numerous trail options and different difficulty levels, Forest Park offers hiking for everyone, from the novice to the professional.  A favorite trail of my dog and I is the Wildwood Trail.

The Wildwood Trail, which offers over forty miles of switchbacks, twists and turns, ambles through Forest Park and creeps into Washington Park. The trail is a fairly easy hike and we often take it past Pittock Mansion before ascending to view the snowcapped giants—Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Jefferson. We then descend down, near the attractions of Washington Park, which include the Hoyt Arboretum and the Oregon Zoo. If we’re so inclined, we continue to the less traveled trailheads near the St. Johns Bridge. If you have a whole day to kill, you can take Wildwood Trail through the entire city of Portland.

Many individuals take the MAX to the trail head; go for a jaunt and a quick jog on this trail before heading off to work. Portland, Oregon is one of those rare areas in the country that allows you to fully commune with and experience nature without having to travel too far from home. So, take a day and come out for a small hike—or a big one. And be on the lookout for me and my dog. We’d love to say hello.

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