The largest urban wilderness in the United States with over 5,100 acres and 70 miles of trails, Forest Park stretches along the crest of Portland’s West Hills. It is 8.5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.
As much a statement of Portland’s priorities and values as a leafy refuge for hikers, joggers, and cyclists, Forest Park is home to an abundance of wildlife (more than 112 bird and 62 mammal species, including bears, elk, deer, and cougars), all found just minutes from the urban center of Portland.
The mixed conifer forest is made up of western red cedars, Douglas firs, western spruce, red alder, and bigleaf maple trees with a lush understory of swordfern, western trillium, maiden hair fern, Oregon grape, Indian plum, salmonberry, and stinging nettle. The park provides sterling opportunities for outdoor recreation, education, and enjoyment.
For hikers, the park’s centerpiece is 30-mile Wildwood Trail, which links various parklands in the West Hills with Forest Park. The southern end of the trail starts just past the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial near the Oregon Zoo. From here it runs through Washington Park and Hoyt Arboretum and past Pittock Mansion.
At Cornell Road the trail crosses the Audubon Sanctuary (5151 NW Cornell Rd., 503/292-6855, www.audubonportland.org, dawn–dusk daily), where the Audubon Society of Portland administers a 148-acre free-to-the-public nature preserve that is a showcase for native flora and fauna. The sanctuary has over four miles of forested hiking trails in the verdant West Hills.
From the Audubon Sanctuary, the Wildwood Trail enters Forest Park and runs north for another 22 miles. The trail can be accessed at any of the points described above or at several more northerly trailheads.
One convenient access point is the western end of NW Upshur Street at Macleay Park; another is the end of NW Thurman Street (the number 15 Thurman Street bus from downtown stops about 0.25 miles downhill from this entrance to the park).
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel