Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Portland's 40 Mile Loop

This month I wanted to try something a little different.  I'm going to be using my Wednesday posts for the next few week to highlight some of the great hikes and walks in the Portland!  I love that I get to live in a city that makes it easy to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

The above map shows Portland's 40 Mile Loop.  It's a part-done trail system that surrounds the city of Portland, connecting the east side to the west side.  While doing research for this post, I learned that the original 40 mile loop was proposed back in 1903 by a local architecture firm as part of the Forest Park development.  The name of the loop has become obsolete over the years, since the trail now covers more than 140 miles and connects more than 30 city parks.  The trail now connects Forest Park to the east side and all the way to the Pacific Crest Trail.   It's not exactly a loop, either-- there are several subloops, cutoffs and spur trails.

But enough about the history of the trail... today I want to break down my favorite parts of this massive walking path.  I will be breaking out some of the spur trails into different posts this month.

Eastbank Esplanade-Waterfront Park Loop

This trail is located in the heart of Downtown Portland, and takes you over two of the city's bridges.  It's a busy trail, used by hundreds of people each day.  We keep Khloe on a short leash when we go because of all of the other dogs and cyclists that a zooming and prancing past us.  But other than being busy, it's a great trail.

The trail is a little less than 3 miles and takes you through Tom McCall Waterfront Park downtown, where you walk on a paved path next to the Willamette River.  If you choose to do the loop, you can cross the lower part of the Steel Bridge, which has a walk trail.   Once you cross the bridge, you'll walk along a paved path that descends to a floating walking path.  Continue to the Hawthorn Bridge and cross back into downtown-- or connect to the Springwater Trail.

This trail offers some great views of the city skyline.

Springwater Corridor Trail

I grew up just a short walk or bike ride from the Springwater Trail.  It's a bike and walking path that spans from Boring to Sellwood, near Oaks Park.  Horseback riders are also seen using the trail, and there are several horse loop spurs on this trail.  It's mostly paved and used to be an old rail line.
We spent many a lazy summer's afternoon riding our bikes or walking to the park using this trail.  And I have to say, growing up in Gresham-- my favorite span of the trail is from 122nd to Boring.  It's a pretty walk or ride.  There's a great view of Mount Hood for most of the trail.  And except for the frequent times one has to cross over local streets, it feels like you're not in the city.  The portion of the trial from 122nd to Sellwood is pretty urban, if you like that kind of thing.

There are several connecting trails along the Springwater Trail:

  • I-205 Trail: You can hop on the this trail which follows Interstate 205 and eventually will connect with the Marine Drive River Trail, or you can take it over the Glenn Jackson Bridge into Vancouver, WA.
  • Gresham-Fairview Trail: This is another north-south trail you can pick-up just past 181st Avenue.  This trail winds through the wetlands and also takes you north to the  Marine Drive River Trail.   It offers stunning views of Mount Saint Helens, if the day is clear enough.  You can also spot several animals who live in the wetlands, like blue heron and salamanders.
  • Butler Creek Greenway Trail: The trail head is located about a mile away from the Gresham-Fairview Trail turn off.  It takes you up through suburban Gresham, weaving along Butler creek and up to Butler Creek park.  You do have to cross several neighborhood streets, but this is a good 1.5 mile walk in the woods.

Marine Drive Trail

This walking and cycling path follows the Columbia River from Blue Lake to North Portland... or at least it will once the trail is finished.  For now, it's split in three segments that weave along the Columbia.  Jason and I love this trail because it's pretty secluded.  Not many people walk this trail, at least at the time of day we're walking it, so we let Khloe off the leash-- and she loves it!  Jason also loves this trail, because it's close to the airport, and you can watch the planes landing and taking off.

The trail is 17 miles long, and offers some great views of Mount Hood, Vancouver and some of the floating house boat neighborhoods.  There's a section of the trail that gives walkers access to the beach, so you can walk along the water.

The Marine Drive Trail has one spur that's worth checking out:

  • The Columbia Slough Trail:  This spur weaves through the medow and wooded area on the outskirts of Airport Way, along the slough.  There are several bridges and staircases you walk through and climb up for about 2 miles.  It offers seclusion and some great views of wetland areas.  
Other Notable Trails
The 40 Mile Loop also connects some of Portland's most popular hikes, all of which I will be breaking out over the next few weeks.  You can look forward to:

Powell Butte
Council Crest
Forest Park

Is there anywhere in Portland, Oregon or the Pacific Northwest that you would like me to write about in my Wednesday posts?  I'd love your feedback!  Leave your ideas in the comment section below.

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