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Firelane 1-Nature Trail Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

On Firelane 1, Forest Park (bobcat)
View to Swan Island from Firelane 1, Forest Park (bobcat)
Big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), Firelane 1, Forest Park (bobcat)
Rockingchair Dam, Leif Erikson Drive, Forest Park (bobcat)
Footbridge on the Nature Trail, Forest Park (bobcat)
The loop using Firelane 1, Leif Erikson Drive, and the Maple, Wildwood, and Nature Trails (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Portland Parks & Recreation
  • Start point: Firelane 1 TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Munger Creek Big Trees
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1595 feet
  • High Point: 920 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: For older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, except for Firelane 1


Hike Description

Firelane 1 is one of the most unusual entrances to Forest Park, but if you can forgive the hum of activity in the industrial area and the powerlines above, you will catch views to Willamette River and Cascade peaks beyond. The true loop here begins at Leif Erikson Drive and takes you past several notable features, including Rocking Chair Dam and the Munger Creek Big Trees. Take the Nature Trail, one of Forest Park’s oldest trails, back to Firelane 1.

Walk across a field which becomes flooded when it is raining. The firelane rises past some springs and switchbacks steeply up under powerlines and then heads north. Ignore any user trails leading off as some of these may lead to transient camps. Blackberries proliferate in the understory here, but the undulating firelane is shaded by young maples. Cross several small creeks and drop in and out of a gully. Breaks in the trees offer views across the tanks of the oil refinery to Swan Island, Mocks Crest, Mount Saint Helens and Mount Hood. The clank and thunder of industrial activity carries up the slope, even on Sundays. Look for lupine, flowering current, trillium, and toothwort blooming in spring. Cross two more deep gullies below a forested hillside of Douglas-fir, grand fir, and big-leaf maple. The trail then veers away from the powerlines and up the slope through a carpet of waterleaf. Look for the grove of madrones off the trail here. Rise steeply past an open gate and reach the Leif Erikson Drive-Firelane 1 Junction.

Go right on Leif Erikson Drive, which is a very popular highway for runners and cyclists, especially on weekends. Walk under hemlocks, Douglas-firs, and maples above the deep gully of the South Fork of Rocking Chair Creek. Where Leif Erickson Drive crosses this creek, you’ll see the Nature Trail and then the Chestnut Trail leading up their respective gullies. Look for Rocking Chair Dam, which used to back up a small reservoir for firefighting purposes, in the first gully; there’s also a picnic table here and the horsechestnut tree which gives the Chestnut Trail its name. Continue on Leif Erikson where it cuts deeply into the slope, exposing the underlying lava layers of Columbia River Basalts. Pass the 3 ½ mile marker and then the junction with Firelane 2. Head up another deep gully to cross the Munger Creek and, after the 4 mile marker, come to the Leif Erikson Drive-Maple Trail-Firelane 3 Junction.

Go left here to take the Maple Trail, which rises gently under alders, maples, and Douglas-firs. After a third of a mile, you’ll reach a junction with a tie trail that connects, under bowers of vine maples, to the Wildwood Trail. Descend the Wildwood Trail gradually into the first of two gullies with some fine examples of old-growth Douglas-firs, the Munger Creek Big Trees. After crossing the creek in the second gully, you’ll see more large Douglas-firs on your left. After this, you’ll pass the 13-mile marker on the Wildwood Trail and then reach the Wildwood-Maple Trail Junction. Keep on the Wildwood here, and switchback up to cross Firelane 2. Drop into a gully and then ascend again, making two short switchbacks up into a ravine. Exiting this gully, drop and traverse in a lovely mixed forest with some older trees and an understory of salmonberry, elderberry, Indian plum, hazel, red huckleberry, and sword fern. Cross a footbridge in another ravine and pass the junction with the Chestnut Trail. The Wildwood Trail keeps dropping, switchbacking twice down to a creek and rises to switchback and reach the Wildwood-Nature Tie Trail Junction.

Head down the slope to reach the Nature Trail and go right here (Going left will take you straight down the creek to Rocking Chair Dam and Leif Erikson Drive). Switchback twice up to an alder/maple bench which once had a picnic shelter and restroom; these have been removed, as have the numbered posts which corresponded to a 1980s interpretive guide for the Nature Trail. Cross a footbridge and hike out of a gully under mossy vine maples and then up a ridge carpeted with Oregon grape. Head into another gully, and then make two more switchbacks up to a broad bench with a picnic table to reach the Firelane 1-Nature Trail Junction: this is about 100 yards below the Firelane 1 crossing of the Wildwood Trail.

Go left down Firelane 1 alongside a maple shaded ravine on the right. The trail loops into ravine and then drops above the creek to reach Leif Erikson Drive. Go left for 50 yards to reach the other Leif Erikson Drive-Firelane 1 Junction to return the way you came.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Share Leif Erikson Drive with mountain bikers


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

The guidebooks below offer partial descriptions of the loop:

  • Portland Forest Hikes by James D. Thayer
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park by Marcy Cottrell Houle
  • Hiking & Running Guide to Forest Park by Friends of Forest Park
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe

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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