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Mount Sylvania Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Twin tunnels under Jefferson Parkway, Mountain Park (bobcat)
Filbert orchard, Aquinas Street, Mountain Park (bobcat)
Understory, Lesser Park (bobcat)
View over Tualatin Valley, Nansen Summit Park, Mountain Park (bobcat)
Vine maples below Nansen Summit Park, Mountain Park (bobcat)
The loop on the slopes of Mt. Sylvania (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: McNary Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Mount Sylvania
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 775 feet
  • High Point: 978 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

Mountain Park is a Lake Oswego suburb that has been developed on the slopes of the Portland area's million-year-old shield volcano, Mount Sylvania, since 1968. Carl Halvorson, a local entrepreneur, envisioned the community as a sort of suburban utopia, and he purposefully designed it to provide greenspaces for residents. It is the largest planned community in Oregon (At the time, it was the largest urban planned community in the country), and is home to about 25% of Lake Oswego’s population. Developers focused on high-end housing near the summit; there are also sprawling apartment and condo complexes as well as community facilities for recreation. Along with the construction of roads and other infrastructure, some of the native woodland was preserved in a series of narrow greenways that wind between the various neighborhoods. A network of trails, both paved and unpaved, takes advantage of these, and tunnels keep walkers away from busy street crossings.

Note: There are lots of urban trail options in this area. Use the convenient Mountain Park Trail Map to guide your wanderings.

Walk into McNary Park, which actually sits atop an underground reservoir. There is a small play area here and native plantings around a patch of lawn. Head to your right and find a wide chip trail that leads down to McNary Parkway through a small thicket of woodland. Go left on the sidewalk and walk ¼ mile on McNary, crossing it at the junction with Hidalgo, to the junction with Jefferson Parkway above the Mountain Park Church. Cross Jefferson Parkway and go right 15 yards to find the steps and path leading down to the church’s parking area. Keep walking downhill until you reach a couple of paths at forested Tanglewood Park.

Take the path leading down into the woods on the right. This is a leafy gully dominated by big-leaf maple, Douglas-fir, hazel, and hawthorn. Cross a small creek and reach a junction with a trail map. Keep left and descend in three short switchbacks. At the next junction, bear right and keep right as you go uphill and then reach an open sward between residential areas. Mountain Park holds its neighborhood events on this grassy expanse shaded by big-leaf maples. Go right at a junction and proceed uphill, staying left at the next intersection. Descend past the site of an underground water tank and then take the chip trail leading right along a fence, with the Kerr Reservoir below to the left. The trail follows above Kerr Parkway and reaches a bus stop.

Cross Kerr here and then go right to cross Touchstone. Pick up the trail that leads up between Kerr and the Mountain Park Racquet Club buildings. At a junction with a trail map, keep right and continue uphill and parallel to Kerr. Take one of the two tunnels under Jefferson Parkway and keep left at a junction below Kerr. Drop and reach another junction just before the paved path veers right and passes under Kerr Parkway through a tunnel.

Take the steep chip path down to the left. The trail winds down in native woodland and reaches another pair of pedestrian/bike tunnels under Jefferson Parkway. Pick up a paved trail again to cross Bernini Court and descend in Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple, Oregon grape woods. At a junction above a footbridge, head right under a vine maple bower and turn up to cross Abelard Street. Resume a chip path above an RV/boat storage yard. At an intersection with a user trail, keep right and ascend to Aquinas Street. Go left for 50 yards and find a paved trail leading down steps and then past back yards shaded by native oak, Douglas-fir, and hawthorn. Cross Hampton Court, and when you reach Aquinas Street again go left and then right past the remnant of a filbert orchard. Go right to Aquinas and cross the street and then the parking lot of the Montgomery & Graham Insurance Company.

When you reach Jefferson Parkway, go left and follow the sidewalk down to cross Fosberg Road. Walk another block by the side of what is now Lesser Road and cross it when you see 55th Place. Hike up 55th Place to a cul-de-sac. Here you’ll find a paved trail leading between a tall screen of arbor vitae. This corridor leads into the woods at Portland’s Lesser Park, an unimproved wooded area below PCC Sylvania. Keep left at the next two junctions and follow the trail down through Douglas-fir/maple woods. Make two right turns and ascend gently to continue along the forest perimeter. Reach Portland Community College’s track/soccer field, but make an immediate left into the woods again. Keep right at all junctions and pass through shady forest with sword fern, vine maple, and an invasion of ivy. Reach the west entrance road to PCC (G Street) and go right.

Walk up along G Street. The campus will be very quiet on weekends, especially on a Sunday. Your goal is the east entrance to PCC, so you can either keep up on G Street or take a shortcut through the buildings. At PCC’s east entrance off 49th Avenue, cross to Hidalgo and walk along Hidalgo, passing Becket and Bolivar before you see some steps leading up on the right (The streets in this part of Mountain Park celebrate the great “liberators” of various countries). The steps become a chip trail between large dwellings. At Garibaldi Street, go right about 20 yards and find more steps and another chip trail. Head up to reach Nansen Summit, the road which circles around Mount Sylvania’s crown (Fridtjof Nansen was not a liberator, but a Norwegian polar explorer and diplomat who received the Nobel Peace Prize). Walk to your right and, just before a road junction, find a paved path leading up to the park at the summit area. From the top of Mount Sylvania, an ancient shield volcano of the Boring Lava Field, see between the trees and the mansion roofs to get views of the Tualatin River Valley and the West Hills. There’s a weather station here and a radio telemetry antenna as well as a couple of benches.

Return to the path you came up on. Next to it is a narrow maintenance road which leads directly down to circular Nansen Summit street. Go left for 90 yards, and find a chip trail that winds down through the summit area’s largest patch of native forest. Pass under vine maples and reach Garibaldi Street. Descend right to Juarez and then drop down Juarez to Becket and your vehicle at McNary Park.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Nansen Summit (Mount Sylvania) closed 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Maps

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

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Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.