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Canemah Bluff Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to the paper mill and locks from Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Cemetery Road, Canemah Bluff (bobcat)
Wagon wheels, Canemah Historic Pioneer Cemetery (bobcat)
The loop at Canemah Bluff (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps



A network of former user trails threads through this Metro property above the volcanic bluffs of the Willamette River: these are formations of 15 million-year-old Wanapum Basalts overlain by two million-year-old Boring lava flows. Some of the trails have been decommissioned as Metro works on creating a formal trail system; other routes date back to pre-settler and pioneer days as this was the main portage route around Willamette Falls for those traveling the river. Atop the Canemah Bluff, the oak savannahs bloom with colorful wildflowers in the spring, but the property also extends back into a slope forest of Douglas-fir, grand fir, red alder, and big-leaf maple. The Canemah Pioneer Cemetery contains graves dating back to the mid-19th century, including those of Canemah’s founding family.

Walk past the restrooms to get a view down the river to Willamette Falls and the paper mill site. Continue around the fence line and pick up a trail at an interpretive sign informing about the Canemah portage, the bluff-top route that river travelers took to go around the falls before the locks were built. Other interpretive signs at the park tell about early settlers and the Clackamas tribe that called the area home.

Enter Metro's Canemah Bluff Natural Area, and walk across a grassy scabland with oaks, madrones, Douglas-firs, Oregon grape, and clumps of licorice fern. Spring wildflowers here include camas, rosy plectritis, and blue-eyed Mary. Reach an open rocky viewpoint that looks across to the layers of Columbia River basalts on the West Linn side of the river. Drop into a quick dip and rise before the trail curves to the left, passes a boulder outcropping festooned with licorice fern, and turns into a woodland of Douglas-fir and big-leaf maple. Reach a road bed and go right, keeping right at a road junction.

Reach a copse of madrones and oaks and go right on a path that leads through the madrones and past vernal pools to the bluff, which is staked with rock nets to protect Highway 99 below (The path here and the overlook itself should see a new, safer, renovation by Spring 2016). Head back to the road bed and continue walking along it. Another trail leading right takes you to a more restricted view. Back on the road, come to the fenced Canemah Pioneer Cemetery. If the gate is open, you can go in and walk around. Canemah was the original portage town here, and was founded by Absalom Hedges, who built a steamboat to ply the river above the Willamette Falls. The tombstones of the Hedges and other pioneer families date back to the mid-19th century.

From the cemetery gate, find a trail leading away from the river: this path winds through the sword fern to reach a gravel track, where you can go right. Keep right as you head around the back of the cemetery and then go left at a junction. Circle around to pass a pond shaded by alder, Oregon ash, and maple to your left. The road bed rises up the slope and reaches a junction, where you go right.

Head up and reach a junction with a trail that leads left into Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple forest. Hike up through a thicket of young alders and maples to a Y junction. One option is to go right here to find a rather indistinct, brushy trail under a bluff topped by homes. Then, you need to find your way down the slope. The other option is to go left at the Y-junction. This more evident path drops down the slope to a trail junction, where you can go right past a large, double-trunked cottonwood on the stony bed of an old wagon road. The tread descends the slope past a large grand fir and reaches a residential area at a park entrance sign. Walk down 5th Place to 5th Avenue, where you go right and down the hill to 4th Avenue. Go left up to the Canemah Neighborhood Children’s Park.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Open dawn to dusk
  • No dogs permitted except on Cemetery Road
  • Stay on the trails
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, playground, interpretive signs


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Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder

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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.