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Marquam Nature Park Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Split-rail switchbacks, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
Detail, Marquam Mosaic, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
Dunn's salamander (Plethodon dunni), Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
Coast toothwort (Cardamine californica), Flicker Trail, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
Trillium (Trillium ovatum), Marquam Trail, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
A most marvelous burl, Connor Trail, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
Trails described in this loop around Marquam Nature Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Friends of Marquam Nature Park


Hike Description

The northern section of this Portland City park borders on the Oregon Health Sciences University Campus off of Sam Jackson Parkway and Terwilliger Boulevard and encompasses two ravines on the slopes of Marquam Hill. In addition, a large swath of steep hillside in the southern Sentinel Hill sector of Marquam Nature Park remained undeveloped over the decades, except for the through route of the Marquam Trail, and was criss-crossed by a network of user paths that often contributed to erosion. As of 2014, an official new trail network has been in place, allowing for an up and down loop from either the Marquam Nature Park Shelter Trailhead or the Marquam Trailhead on Terwilliger Boulevard (The loop is described below as from the former trailhead). Mileage includes the uphill spurs using the Connor and Warbler Trails.

The park is named after Philip Marquam, who was a Multnomah County judge in the 1860s and later served in the Oregon State Legislature. Longer hikes are possible as the Marquam Trail runs through this park and up to Council Crest, eventually connecting to the Wildwood Trail just north of the Oregon Zoo (See the Marquam Trail to Council Crest Hike, for example). The Marquam Trail is part of Portland's 40-mile Loop.

Red maples from the eastern United States shade the area around the shelter; these trees form a blazing grove in the fall. Take time here also to admire the stunning Marquam Mosaic, installed in the small amphitheater, and created by Portland artist Lynn Takata in 2013. Then, on with the hike! Head up past the shelter and then go right on the Sunnyside Trail. Enter the native forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western red-cedar, big-leaf maple, and vine maple. The urban invasives here are primarily cherry-laurel, ivy, Armenian blackberry, English holly and herb-robert. The Sunnyside Trail heads up the north side of Marquam Gulch. A couple of larger bird species can sometimes be seen or heard here: the pileated woodpecker and the barred owl, which nests in the area. For an additional side spur, branch off up some steps to do the Broadway Trail (0.45 miles return), which has more than its fair share of laurels. Continuing on the Sunnyside Trail, head up and then down into a draw. The trail rises to the junction with the Marquam Trail, where you go left (Going right would take you up to Council Crest). This trail makes a traverse with views down Marquam Gulch and then switchbacks down, with new split-rail borders, to the junction with the Nature Loop. Keep right and traverse around the hill. Note a few Pacific yews in here. The trail reaches the junction with the Upper Marquam Trail: head up it to the right. The path rises to cross the bed of an ephemeral stream and then reaches Marquam Hill Road at the Upper Marquam Trailhead.

Cross the road and find the new, and currently unsigned (2016) Towhee Trail. This path, graveled in short sections but also muddy in parts, traverses down a steep slope on an old road bed. Rise past a user trail which ascends a steep ivy slope to Fairmount Boulevard. At an old landing, drop down the nose of the ridge under a deciduous canopy of alder and maple. Switchback twice in a carpet of Oregon grape and sword and wind down some more. The large holly and laurel shrubs in the understory are probably not long for this world as the intrepid volunteers who combat invasive species may soon be in to remove them. Make two more switchbacks and come to the junction with the Flicker Trail, where you go right.

The Flicker Trail rises and then makes a level traverse on an old road bed. Cross a wide footbridge and then two more railed footbridges on this wet slope. Rise again to the junction with the Warbler Trail. This trail rises steeply up a ridge crest using at least 12 switchbacks and mounts some steps to reach the Warbler Trailhead on Fairmount Boulevard. Looking through the deciduous canopy after the leaves have dropped, you can just make out Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier on a good day. Return to the Flicker Trail, which makes a winding traverse down, descending along a rounded ridge in a forest of "ivy pillars" (tree trunks completely covered with invasive ivy). After a handful of switchbacks, traverse off the ridge to the right and descend to the Marquam-Flicker Trail Lower Junction: this is your turnaround point unless you began the hike at the Marquam Trailhead a quarter mile down the slope on Terwilliger Boulevard.

Turn left here and follow the trail as it drops above a gully and then crosses a large footbridge over a creek supporting a salmonberry thicket. Head up along another gully, and then drop again to cross another footbridge. Switchback up the opposite slope and come to the four-way Marquam-Flicker Trail Upper Junction: going right will take you to a minor trailhead on S.W. 12th Avenue and to the left the Flicker Trail crosses a massive bridge. Continue straight, and weave more steeply up the slope in a carpet of ivy. Soon reach Marquam Hill Road and cross it to the water tank. Take the chip path behind a screen of arbor vitae, pass the gate to the water tank, and find the Marquam Trail leading downhill into Marquam Gulch.

The trail drops and switchbacks several times and keeps heading down the gulch, making more switchbacks. Reach the creek bed and the junction with the Shelter/Nature Trail. Go right down the rocky road bed and come to the junction with the Connor Trail: a one-mile out and back. The Connor Trail heads up and then traverses around the hillside on the level. Then the trail switchbacks up to the corner of 9th Avenue and Grover Street at the OHSU Campus. Return to the shelter by heading back down the Connor Trail and going right on the Shelter Trail.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Park hours: 5:00 a.m. to midnight


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Urban Trails: Portland by Eli Boschetto
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland and Northwest Oregon by Don and Roberta Lowe
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody (editors)
  • Portland Forest Hikes by James D. Thayer
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.

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.