Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

McLoughlin Promenade Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking across Willamette Falls to the paper mill complex and old hydroelectric plant from McLoughlin Promenade (bobcat)
Oregon City's industrial area from McLoughlin Promenade (bobcat)
Graves of Dr. John McLoughlin and his wife, McLoughlin House (bobcat)
Singer Creek, Singer Hill Trail (bobcat)
The walk above Willamette Falls at Oregon City (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps



Founded on an 1829 land claim by Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor at the Hudson Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, Oregon City was the first incorporated city to the west of the Rocky Mountains. The city sits on basalt terraces above Willamette Falls, one of the largest waterfalls (by volume) in North America. In 1846, Great Britain and the United States signed a treaty delineating the current boundary with Canada, and McLoughlin, the "Father of Oregon," moved to Oregon City. Soon thereafter, new settlers began arriving after traveling across the country via the Oregon Trail and Oregon City became the capital of the Oregon Territory and then, in 1859, the newly created State of Oregon.

This walk takes you through some of this history. Begin at the 20th century Municipal Elevator, and then walk the higher terrace to get views of Willamette Falls. Continue upriver, stopping at the Museum of the Oregon Territory if you wish, to Old Canemah Park, near the site of the town of Canemah (now part of Oregon City). The two settlements were connected by a portage path that served upriver and downriver traffic. Return the same way along the bluff and visit Dr. McLoughlin's house and grave before descending to the lower terrace and your vehicle.

Walk up to the municipal elevator through a pedestrian tunnel under the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Historic holographic photographs document the construction of the elevator. Volunteers sometimes operate the lift, which rises 90 feet, and can answer questions: it is one of only four such elevators in the world. From the top of the bluff, you can view Willamette Falls and the closed (2011) Blue Heron Paper Company Mill from a glass-fronted viewing rotunda. Go right on the sidewalk (the McLoughlin Promenade) after exiting the elevator, and head up with a row of historic homes to your left. Below you, on the terrace above the river, is Oregon City's busy industrial area. The clifftop McLoughlin Promenade was constructed in the 1930s as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. There’s a rocky prominence at the highest point on the promenade with its own grassy sward and twisted oak. Get good views across Willamette Falls, the largest waterfall by volume in the Pacific Northwest, to the bluffs across the river at West Linn. Walk back down past the VFW Hall and take a pedestrian overpass over McLoughlin Boulevard (Highway 99E). Descend the steps and continue southwest to a pullout and viewing point with a bust of McLoughlin himself. Then cross McLoughlin Boulevard. If you want to visit the nearby Museum of the Oregon Territory ($5 admission; closed Sundays, Mondays) on Tumwater Drive, head up Second Street.

Otherwise, walk down McLoughlin Boulevard on its east side to a power substation with a driveway guarded by a cable. Go left here and then head along a narrow, pine- and cotoneaster shaded track squeezed against the substation fence. At the end of the fenceline, the footpath jogs left and then right and up past an oak to the top of a rocky cliff and Old Canemah Park. Reach the paved loop in the park, and continue up very steeply under a Douglas-fir, grand fir and hazel canopy. Invasive ivy chokes the woodland. The trail drops to the Old Canemah Park Trailhead and then resumes under big-leaf maples to a picnic bench and fenced viewpoint area at the top of the basalt cliff. Sword fern and licorice fern proliferate, and a pretty madrone serves as an accent. Keep going around the paved trail and then take the footpath back to the power station.

Walk back up the promenade to the municipal elevator and keep going to Singer Hill Road, which comes up from the commercial area below. Take the underpass under Singer Hill Road to end up in the grounds of the McLoughlin House, a National Historic Site (guided tours only; closed in the winter season). It’s a boxy, Georgian-style building constructed in 1846. You can pay your respects at the graves of the good doctor and his wife in the grounds. Next to it is the Barclay House, also closed in winter, which has a gift shop. Walk back under the underpass and take the Singer Hill Trail. These wide stairs, an old Indian trail to the river, lead down past Singer Creek, which cascades through a culvert, to the base of the municipal elevator.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Parks closed 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Portland City Walks by Laura O. Foster
  • Oregon Townscape Walks by Tyler Burgess
  • PDXccentric by Scott Cook & Aimee Wade (Municipal elevator)
  • The Willamette River Field Guide by Travis Williams
  • Waterfall Lover's Guide: Pacific Northwest by Gregory A. Plumb

More Links

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.