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Audubon Sanctuaries Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Julio's mew in the Pittock Sanctuary (bobcat)
The pond and gazebo, Pittock Sanctuary (bobcat)
Eco-roofed shelter, Woodpecker Trail (bobcat)
The Willamette Baseline and Willamette Meridian, Willamette Stone State Heritage Site (bobcat)
Footbridge, Founders Trail (bobcat)
Audubon trails and the route to the Willamette Stone (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Audubon Sanctuary TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Audubon Ancient Forest Grove
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Double loop
  • Distance: 3.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 740 feet
  • High Point: 710 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, in the Pittock Bird Sanctuary


Hike Description

The Portland Audubon Society maintains a bird sanctuary along Balch Creek and the slopes above it. Two loops, one in the Pittock Sanctuary abutting Macleay Park, and the other in the Collins and Uhtoff Sanctuaries across Cornell Road, cover the ground for this hike. There are many short trails here; the routes described take the outer trails. Also described is an optional spur, which leads up from the Collins Sanctuary, to one of Oregon's most obscure state parks, at the Willamette Stone.

The trail into the Pittock Bird Sanctuary leads down stone steps between the main building, with its gift shop and meeting rooms, and the Wildlife Care Center, where Audubon cares for injured creatures that have been brought in by the citizenry. Pass a shaded mew, the permanent home of Julio, a female great-horned owl. On this trail, you may run into Audubon volunteers taking injured raptors, such as hawks and owls, for an outing. Switchback and head down under an overhanging yew to Balch Creek. Cross the creek on a footbridge, passing a wildlife sign and come to the junction for the Jay Trail, going right. Walk up the Jay Trail to a junction. Head left here (right is to the sanctuary fence) and come to another junction; left is to a lookout shelter over the pond; right is eight yards to the Woodpecker Trail, where you go right again. The trail rises gently under big-leaf maple, alder, Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, hemlock, and some grand fir with an Oregon grape, sword fern, ivy, and blackberry understory. At a junction, go right on the Jay Trail and cross a footbridge at a large Douglas-fir. At a junction, left leads down to a platform around another big fir. Go right up along a fallen cedar riddled with pileated woodpecker borings. At the junction with the Wren Trail, keep right on the Jay Trail and head up past a spring spouting out of the underbrush to the right. Cross a gully on a boardwalk below a large corrugated iron shed. The trail now follows an old road bed and loops downhill, switchbacking at a thimbleberry thicket and then descending to parallel Cornell Road. Balch Creek spews out of a culvert to the right. Keep straight at all junctions. The pond is to your right. Then reach the creek and head uphill.

For the upper sanctuary trails, cross Cornell and walk about 180 yards right to the entrance to the Collins Sanctuary. There’s a trail map here. Take the footbridge over Collins Creek in a forest of Douglas-fir, cedar, big-leaf maple, sword fern, salal, Oregon grape, fringe-cup, ivy, holly, and salmonberry. Walk over a bridge on a tributary creek and come to the junction with the North Collins Trail. Go right and loop up on an old road bed through a sword fern-lined cutting. Alder, hemlock, vine maple, cherry, cascara, grand fir, and English laurel also grow here. Pass a straggly yew and a seasonal pond. The trail loops around the face of the knoll and up through a salmonberry thicket. Nettles also abound in this area. There are a few pallets in lieu of a regular boardwalk, but there are still many soggy spots. Pass through another cutting under moss and licorice fern-draped maples. Cross a road causeway in an open area of alders and maple. At a North Collins Trail sign see a trail heading uphill. This is the Willamette Stone option described below.

To continue the loop, go right here on the old road bed and come to a junction with the Founders Trail and go right (Straight ahead is the South Collins Trail). Steps lead down to salmonberry-choked Collins Creek and cross it on a footbridge next to a bent yew. Head up steps above the creek under hemlocks and maples, passing by a large specimen of the former. Then you're walking under an arbor of vine maples and generally follow the contour of the hillside in and out of gullies with ephemeral streams. The trail descends over a footbridge and passes under a hemlock bower into a deep gully. Lower down, pass a sizeable grand fir and a large Douglas-fir; also note a few botanical identification tags alongside the trail. Then skirt the seedling nursery on the right and come out at the map sign for the Uhtoff Sanctuary Nature Trail. Cross Cornell to the society headquarters.

Spur to the Willamette Stone: At the North Collins Trail sign in the Collins Sanctuary (near the junction with the Founders Trail), go right and head uphill. Trees here are ivy-draped and mainly deciduous (maple and alder). Reach a chain-link gate for the Royal Highlands Pump Station (down to the right). Walk around the gate and join N.W. Queens Drive. A few yards later, go left on N.W. Dover St. Dover becomes N.W. Manor Drive as you loop steeply up to the junction with Royal Boulevard. Turn left here, looking up to tall communication towers and reach Skyline Boulevard. At Skyline, walk right about 40 yards and cross the street to the parking area for the Willamette Stone State Park.

There’s an information sign here about the Willamette Meridian and the Willamette Baseline, crossing here at a latitude tying with the southernmost point of the Columbia River. Beginning in 1851, all surveys in Washington and Oregon were based on this point. A paved trail leads downhill under Douglas-firs, with young cedars and grand fir, too. Find a plaque and explanation at the exact point of the meridian/baseline junction. Guy cables from a communication tower hang in the brush. Walk back to Skyline. Fifty yards south of Royal is a small cemetery with views of Portland Airport. Then head back down Royal and Dover to the North Collins Trail again.

The diversion to the Willamette Stone adds 1.4 miles and 360 feet of elevation gain to the hike.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Pets not permitted
  • No smoking
  • No bicycles
  • Open dawn to dusk


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody (editors)
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Walking Portland, Oregon by Sybilla Avery Cook
  • Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Oregon Nature Weekends by Jim Yuskavitch
  • PDXccentric by Scott Cook & Aimee Wade (Willamette Stone)
  • Oregon State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Jan Bannan (for Willamette Stone)

More Links


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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