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Marquam Trail to Council Crest Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Marquam Trail sign on Council Crest (Gordon Smith)
Scenery in Marquam Nature Park (Gordon Smith)
One of several bridges along the trail (Gordon Smith)
Split-rail switchbacks, Marquam Nature Park (bobcat)
GPS track of the Marquam Trail (click to enlarge)
  • Start point: Marquam TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Council Crest
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out-and-back
  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1100 feet
  • High point: 1,073 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Not usually

Contents

Hike Description

Wending its way through a patchwork of city parks and greenspaces, the Marquam Trail stretches over five miles through peaceful, secluded forests in Southwest Portland. As part of the city's 40-Mile Loop trail system, it connects the Terwilliger Trail in the south with the Wildwood Trail to the north. This Field Guide entry details the southern portion of the trail, from the Marquam Trailhead on Terwilliger Boulevard to Council Crest. The majority of the hike is in the Marquam Nature Park, and the upper third of it is on a section of trail that is also part of the Council Crest Hike, a shorter hike which begins from a different trailhead.

Easily one of Portland's best close-in hikes, the Marquam Trail is as pleasant as any in the West Hills and, on clear days, features an outstanding five-mountain view from Council Crest Park, once the site of a popular amusement park. The hike has about 1,100 feet of total elevation gain, so it's perfect for anyone looking for a good workout without expending the time or gas to reach hikes farther afield. It's also a perfect winter hike for those rainy, foggy days when you can't buy a view in the Columbia Gorge. Bonus: The trilliums are outstanding in early spring!

Starting from the Marquam Trailhead, the trail climbs through dense forest that feels secluded even though it's within a stone's throw of OHSU. Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, and big-leaf maples dominate the canopy at this point, and vine maple and Indian plum leaf out in the understory in the spring. Head up along a shallow gully, and cross a couple of streams. Look for blooming trilliums and violets in spring. Keep right at the Marquam-Flicker Trail Lower Junction, 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 a second 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 a 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.

Nine switchbacks take you down to a wide trail, where you'll make a left. Cross the creek in Marquam Gulch, and ascend some steps to another junction, where you'll make a right. Cross a footbridge, and drop a little to make a traverse before keeping left at the next junction. Continue along the slope, and make four switchbacks up a trail bordered by split-rail fencing. Mossy big-leaf maples rustle overhead. Cross a gully, and keep left at a junction to continue on the Marquam Trail. Another four switchbacks will take you past a memorial rock to Rusty and Dan Goldy and some steps at Sherwood Drive. You're now out of Marquam Nature Park.

Cross Sherwood to resume the trail and cross a footbridge. A couple of switchbacks take you into a gully, and then you'll switchback again to rise and then drop slightly under Douglas-firs, cedars, hemlocks, and maples with an Oregon grape/sword fern understory. Another two switchbacks take you to Fairmount Boulevard. Cross to a Marquam Trail sign, and traverse along a leafy hillside to reach Greenway Avenue. Directly cross this road, and switchback up three times to a junction near the off-leash area at Council Crest Park. Make a left to leave the Marquam Trail, pass through the off-leash area, and cross a road to arrive at the summit area of Council Crest. From the small viewing plaza, there are some views to the Tualatin Valley, the 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. Just below is the mother and child statue (stolen in the 1980s and recovered 10 years later).


Maps

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Two-hour parking on Terwilliger
  • Dogs on leash
  • Park hours: 5:00 a.m. to midnight

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles by Paul Gerald
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Portland, Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Nature Walks In and Around Portland by Karen & Terry Whitehill
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver edited by Laura O. Foster
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland and Northwest Oregon by Don and Roberta Lowe

More Links


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.