One of the most excellent benefits of attending Portland State’s urban campus is the option of practically taking a few steps beyond downtown and finding yourself immersed in the majestic beauty of the Pacific Northwest. With sound advice from the Campus Rec Outdoor Program, here’s a sampling of local hikes for when you want a break from your studies and some fresh air:
A short bus ride out of the city brings you to the trailhead of Forest Park, a lush, Douglas fir-draped sanctuary of nebulous trails, flora and fauna. “Forest Park has tons and tons of trails,” said Chris Bullard, assistant coordinator of the PSU Outdoor Program. “It’s a multi-use trail, so there are runners, mountain bikers, walkers, and hikers.” With so much variety and a range of hills, the park also offers a great chance to get your workout while enjoying the scenery.
“In Forest Park there’s a trail called Wildwood which runs the full length of the park from Germantown Road way up north, 30 miles zigging and zagging back and forth, down to Washington Park,” added Shelby Schuh, also of the Outdoor Program. “Along with that comes a whole network of criss-crossing trails and fire lanes. It’s an incredible resource to have right here, just outside the city.”
How to get there: Take the MAX Blue Line to the zoo. From there you’re at the southern terminus of the Wildwood Trail. Just look for the signs.
4T Trail Loop Hike
Another great way to get outdoors and see the sights of the city simultaneously is the 4T Trail Loop Hike—that is, tram, train, trolley, and trails. “You start with the Max up to the zoo, then hike over to the Council Crest Trail, essentially the top of OHSU, then you take the tram—free on the way down,” Bullard said. To wrap it up, take the trolley back to wherever you started.
The 4T Trail Loop Hike is an easy, 4.5-mile stroll combining the escape of a natural setting with the gorgeous bird’s-eye view of the city from the tram. Everyone new to PSU and Portland should make the 4T hike at least once.
How to get there: Take the Blue or Red MAX to the Oregon Zoo Trailhead, about a 30-minute ride, then hike the Marquam Trail to council crest.
A third option for a local hike is Mount Tabor—your chance to hike an extinct volcano. With wider trails and easy inclines, “Mount Tabor has several 3–4-mile hikes of easy to moderate difficulty,” Bullard said. The whole complex circles a city park, so this is a nice place to hike, picnic, and relax. Trails do attract crowds at times, so be prepared to share space.
How to get there: Catch the number 14 Trimet from SW Madison and 4th. It’s about a 40-minute ride to the trailhead.
Advice for those new to hiking
Before heading out for even the easiest of hikes, there are a few things you should know. “Depending on when you’re going it can always rain, so bring a rain jacket,” Bullard advised. “Wear athletic, non-cotton clothing—something that’s quick drying. Wear sturdy shoes or running shoes. You don’t necessarily need hiking boots.” Also, it’s always a good idea to bring plenty of drinking water to stay hydrated and snacks for energy.
Always make sure someone knows where you’re going so they have an idea when you should return. Hiking with a buddy is strongly recommended. You can use GPS on most trails close to the city but should also be able to orient and read a map. For longer hikes, get comfortable using a compass, although most trails are pretty well labeled.
Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy these nature escapes close to campus.