Aptly named, Forest Park puts wilderness within minutes of downtown Portland. Located in the city’s northwest corner, this 8-mile-long (13 km) conservancy covers 5,156 acres (2,086 hectares) that, in addition to providing a respite from urban life, support more than 112 bird and 62 mammal species and act as a natural air purifier.
With 70 miles (113 km) of trails, Forest Park is a popular escape for runners, equestrians and hikers alike — leashed dogs are even allowed to enjoy its splendor. One favorite course, the 30-mile (48 km) Wildwood Trail, spans the entire length of Forest Park, connecting it with to the Audubon Society Sanctuary, Pittock Mansion and Washington Park through the region’s 40-Mile Loop system of trails. The pathway can be accessed just northwest of the Washington Park MAX station, and offers endless loop options with shorter paths, so you don’t have to commit to the whole thing. The park can also be accessed from several points in the Northwest Portland neighborhood; an entrance up Northwest Thurman Street leads to Leif Erikson Drive, a favorite road for exploring the park’s wooded hills.
But one of the most popular options is the scenic 5-mile (8 km) round trip trek from Lower Macleay Park to the Pittock Mansion. Macleay Park, at the west end of Northwest Upshur Street just past 29th Avenue, provides an easily accessible starting point. Follow the Lower Macleay Trail, which traces Balch Creek, the park’s largest stream, into a thickly wooded ravine.
One mile up the trail, where it intersects the Wildwood Trail, visit the moss-covered remains of a stone building erected by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. (Known as the Stone House or Witch’s Castle, the structure is, in fact, a former restroom.) Continue straight on the Wildwood Trail, still following Balch Creek, and begin a leg-pumping ascent to Upper Macleay Park. (A smattering of picnic tables and a port-a-potty make this an ideal rest stop.) The Audubon Society of Portland, with its free interpretive center and wildlife rehabilitation facility housing owls, red-tailed hawks and more, provides an inviting detour nearby.
For the final leg, continue across Northwest Cornell Road and stay on the Wildwood Trail, which snakes upward on a .5-mile (.8 km) climb through a quiet canopy of towering firs to reach Pittock Mansion. Set nearly 1,000 feet (304 m) above the city, the 100-year-old home of 10th-century newspaper tycoon Henry Pittock features immaculate gardens and sweeping downtown views — a fitting reward for an afternoon on the trail.