The unique 4T trail is a self-guided urban nature tour that lets you explore the city — and see some of the best views — without a car. All it takes is about four hours, five dollars and a bit of leg power. The route is well marked with signs, and includes about 2.5 miles of walking. Here’s an overview:
Starting downtown, catch the MAX light rail (Red or Blue line) from Pioneer Courthouse Square (or nearby) to the Oregon Zoo stop. (Before boarding, purchase an all-day, 2-zone pass for $5 — this is good for the train and the streetcar.) The zoo stop is 260 feet (79 m) below ground level, in the nation’s deepest tunnel. Ride the elevator to the surface, where you have the option of exploring the zoo before following the “4T” signs for the next leg of the journey.
Head downhill, across the Highway 26 overpass, and exit the city landscape on the well-maintained Marquam Trail (also signed for the 4T). You’ll hike 1.3 miles up a wooded trail to Council Crest Park, the highest point in Portland at 1,073 feet. As you rest your legs from the moderately steep, hour-long climb, you can savor some of the city’s best views — along with a brown-bag lunch, if you so desire.
Walk downhill from Council Crest, crossing Southwest Greenway and Fairmont streets, and pick between 1) following the trail on a 2.2-mile hike through hilly Marquam Nature Park, or 2) taking a 1.6-mile walk downhill on city streets without sidewalks. Both paths lead to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus, where 4T signs point to the upper terminal of the Portland Aerial Tram. (Tip: there are also public restrooms available at OHSU.) The tram’s shiny, pod-like cars whisk passengers downhill while providing panoramic views of the Willamette River, the city’s east side and the Cascade Mountains. There is no cost to ride the tram downhill (round-trip tickets originating from the lower terminal cost $4 each). Back on terra firma, visit the nearby Daily Café for fortification. Note: The tram runs Monday-Saturday year-round, plus Sunday afternoons in the summer. Visit www.portlandtram.org for full schedule.
The final mode of transport is the Portland Streetcar, which you can board from the stop near the tram terminal. Running about every 15 minutes, the European-style streetcar — or trolley — will carry you back to downtown Portland, only one stop away from your starting point at Pioneer Courthouse Square.