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4T Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Portland's Aerial Tram (bobcat)
On the Connor Trail, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
North South Line streetcar, South Waterfront (bobcat)
MAX train at Washington Park's underground station (bobcat)
Mother and child statue, Council Crest (bobcat)
Split-rail switchbacks, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
Trillium (Trillium ovatum), Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
The 4T: red = hiking trails; orange = road/sidewalk walking; blue = aerial tram; pink = trolley/streetcar; green = MAX light rail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Marquam Nature Park Shelter TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Council Crest
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.4 miles of hiking
  • Elevation gain: 775 feet
  • High point: 1,073 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Backpackable: No
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Crowded: Trails can be crowded on weekends


Hike Description

Portland's 4T Trail involves a four-leg loop that takes advantage of public transportation to connect trails in the forested hills of Southwest Portland with the South Waterfront and downtown. Thus, it is T for Trails (Marquam Trail and trails in Marquam Nature Park), Tram (the Portland Aerial Tram), Train (MAX light rail, Blue or Red Line), and Trolley (Portland Street Car). The hiking section of the route is 4.4 miles if you begin at the Marquam Nature Park Shelter Trailhead, the most practical place to start if you are driving since there is no fee to park there. Other places to begin are at the Galleria stop for the MAX light rail line (10th and Morrison), near the Multnomah County Central Library, or the Lower Terminal for the Portland Aerial Tram. Another place to park, although with a fee, is at the Oregon Zoo or the Wildwood Trailhead near the zoo. The hiking begins with an 0.9 mile jaunt up the Connor Trail and through the OHSU campus to connect with the Portland Aerial Tram; the longer hiking section connects the MAX station at the Oregon Zoo with the Marquam Nature Park Shelter Trailhead. The loop is usually done anticlockwise as riding the Portland Aerial Tram downhill is free, while coming up from the South Waterfront costs $4.90. Since the tram serves OHSU employees, you'll have a less crowded experience between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on weekdays. Also, if cost is an issue, it's good to do the trolley and train sections back to back to stay within the 2 1/2 hour limit of a Trimet ticket. Without breaks, this whole loop will take you about 3 - 4 hours.

The Marquam Nature Park Shelter displays interpretive panels outlining the human and natural history of Marquam Gulch. Take time here also to admire the stunning Marquam Mosaic, installed in the small amphitheater behind the shelter, and created by Portland artist Lynn Takata in 2013. Red maples from the eastern United States shade the area around the shelter; these trees form a blazing grove in the fall. Walk to your left from the shelter, passing a drinking fountain and a 4T sign, and cross a road bed to keep straight for OHSU. Head up a wide gravel track in a leafy forest dominated by big-leaf maple and western red-cedar. At the junction with the Connor Trail, make a left for OHSU. Traverse a steep ivy-carpeted slope to cross a couple of wooden footbridges. Enter a gully, and cross another footbridge before switchbacking up seven times to reach a parking area at OHSU. Go left to cross a gravel track and reach a bollard-protected staging area. Bear left and then right up a ramp and steps, with the BICC Library to your right. Walk along the face of Mackenzie Hall, and then go left to descend a sidewalk alongside a parking area. When you reach a covered walkway, go left to cross Sam Jackson Park Road, and enter a building. Take the first door to the left, and descend a staircase to a sidewalk below the covered walkway. Make a right, following logos for the Portland Aerial Tram, to head up another staircase and enter the Peter O. Kohler Pavilion. Keep straight to reach the upper terminal for the Portland Aerial Tram, where you can wait in line for the next trip.

Tram departures are every five minutes or so, and the trip to the South Waterfront terminal takes about four minutes. Riding down, you'll get great views to the downtown area, across the Willamette River to the volcano-pimpled flood plain of east Portland and, on a clear day, views to Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens. Exit the tram, and walk behind the OHSU building to the OHSU Plaza streetcar stop on Bond Avenue, where you can purchase a 2 1/2 hour ticket with a credit or debit card. This North South Line runs through downtown to the Pearl District and NW 23rd Avenue. A trolley will arrive at the stop every 15 - 20 minutes, and the ride to the Multnomah County Central Library takes about 25 minutes. The route takes you along Moody Avenue past the Tilikum Crossing and under the Marquam Bridge. You'll head up Harrison Street, stop at Portland State University's Urban Center, and then take Mill Street through the Park Blocks before turning right on 10th Avenue. Get off at 10th and Yamhill opposite the Multnomah County Central Library, and walk north (downhill) one block to the MAX train Galleria stop at 10th and Morrison. If you're within the 2 1/2 hour limit, you'll be using your streetcar/trolley ticket for the train. Take the next MAX train that arrives: It's less than 15 minutes to the Washington Park MAX Station at the Oregon Zoo. Pass by Providence Park to head along 18th Avenue. The train makes a right on Jefferson Street in Goose Hollow, and then dives into a tunnel that takes you to the underground Washington Park MAX Station.

After exiting the train, go to your right, and take an elevator 260 feet up to ground level. You'll see the Discovery Museum of the World Forestry Center across Knights Boulevard. Cross the street, and follow the sidewalk downhill to your left. Pass Peggy, a 42-ton logging locomotive, and Merlo Hall. After a parking area and before the Portland Children's Museum, go right on a road leading to staff parking. Where the road bends left, take a connector trail to join the Marquam Trail and make a left. Switchback down a slope of big-leaf maples to Canyon Court. Go left and then right to cross Highway 26 on a road overpass. Make a left to descend along an entrance ramp about 120 yards to a Marquam/4T Trail sign. Take a set of steps, and then switchback in a mixed forest of Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple, red-cedar, and western hemlock with a lush understory of vine maple, sword fern, and snowberry. Invasive English ivy is also prevalent. The roar of traffic from below somewhat mars the experience as you dip below a vine maple bower. Cross a footbridge, and switchback twice up a forested gully under a utility line. Cross the gully, and follow eight short switchbacks up to Patton Road. Head up the hill to cross Humphrey Boulevard, and then go left to cross Patton at the Chevron Station. Keep straight up Talbot Road to reach a five-way junction. Walk straight to follow a paved trail, the route of an old streetcar line that led to an amusement park atop Council Crest. Pass the junction where the Marquam Trail leads right, keeping on the old rail bed. You'll arrive at a road junction. Go left to walk up over the park's lawns to the summit of Council Crest, passing the mother and child statue (stolen in the 1980s and recovered 10 years later). From the summit viewing plaza, there are views to the Tualatin Valley, Chehalem Hills, and also to downtown Portland and Vancouver, Washington. On a clear day, Mount Hood can be seen to the east and, far to the south, the snow-capped summit of Mount Jefferson. The three closest Washington stratovolcanoes, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams, can be discerned to the north.

After enjoying the views, follow a path down to the park's off-leash area, and go left to reach a junction with the Marquam Trail. Go right to descend three switchbacks and cross Greenway Avenue. Traverse down above Fairmount Boulevard, and eventually cross it. Switchback down into a gully festooned with ivy under conifers and maples. Switchback twice again to cross a footbridge and pass between two homes to reach Sherwood Drive. Across the road, the trail descends some steps and switchbacks four times to enter Marquam Nature Park. Keep right at the junction with the Sunnyside Trail (You could also go left to descend to the trailhead) to pass in and out of a gully. The trail descends on four split-rail fenced switchbacks and reaches a junction. Go left for the Shelter Trail, and switchback down into the bottom of Marquam Gulch among mossy maples. Reach a wide trail, and make a right to keep straight downhill. Pass by some old concrete cisterns now covered with moss and then a port-a-potty to reach the Marquam Nature Park Shelter.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Portland Aerial Tram:
    • Descent from OHSU to the South Waterfront is free; $4.90 for the ascent
    • Operating hours 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays and holidays
    • Pets (other than service animals) in a secure crate
  • Trimet:
    • $2.50 for a Tri-Met pass lasting 2 1/2 hours for the trolley (Portland Street Car) and MAX train.
    • Pets (other than service animals) in a secure crate
  • Marquam Nature Park:
    • Dogs on leash
    • Park hours: 5:00 a.m. to midnight
    • Port-a-potty is up the Shelter Trail from the trailhead; drinking fountain at the shelter


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Easy Portland Outdoors by Teresa Bergen
  • Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver edited by Laura O. Foster
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Oregon Townscape Walks by Tyler Burgess
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Oregon Favorites: Trails & Tales by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun

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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.

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