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Orenco Woods-Rock Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Orenco Apple, Orenco Woods Nature Park (bobcat)
Malcolm McDonald House, Orenco Woods Nature Park (bobcat)
Boardwalk, Rock Creek Trail (bobcat)
Black hawthorn pomes, Rock Creek Trail (bobcat)
Rock Creek, Rock Creek Trail (bobcat)
The Rock Creek Trail from Orenco Woods to Rock Creek Boulevard (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Orenco Woods TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Rock Creek Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out with loops
  • Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 195 feet
  • High Point: 190 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes



Hillsboro’s universal access Rock Creek Trail follows the course of Rock Creek from the new Metro property at Orenco Woods Nature Park, dedicated on February 4th, 2017, through Orchard Park to arrive at Rock Creek Boulevard just north of Highway 26. Extensive riparian restoration has taken place along this creek, but there are also some busy road crossings. Orenco was a company town established in 1906 by the Oregon Nursery Company, which gave its abbreviated name to the settlement. The nursery became the largest such enterprise on the west coast. A statue of their signature Orenco apple and the home of the company’s co-founder, Malcolm McDonald, are reminders of this past association. Later, however, the company’s fortunes took a turn for the worse, and it filed for bankruptcy in 1927. The land was converted to a nine-hole golf course and then, in 2006, was slated to become the site of a housing development until the Recession of 2008 caused property values to take a nose dive. In 2011, the City of Hillsboro and Metro took advantage of this opportunity to acquire the future park.

Using residential streets, it is possible to connect this section of the Rock Creek trail with the Rock Creek Greenway to the north (See the Rock Creek Greenway Hike) and Noble Woods Park to the south (See the Noble Woods Loop Hike).

Because Orenco Woods is a Metro property, dogs are only permitted on the Rock Creek Trail here, but not on other trails in the park.

From the parking area, walk past the restrooms. You’ll pass a ‘nature play’ area and a covered picnic area on your right. Just beyond the latter, come to a four-way junction, and make a left on the paved Rock Creek Trail. Keep right at the next junction, where there’s a sculpture memorializing the ‘Orenco apple,’ a variety once cultivated in local nurseries. The open areas have been planted with oaks, but soon you’ll pass through a mature stand of Douglas-firs and cross the high wide arch truss bridge over Rock Creek. The trail passes above the bottomland, with a new housing development to the right: this parcel was split off from the land purchase and sold to help pay for the park’s construction. Pass a wide trail that winds down to Rock Creek and reach Cornelius Pass Road.

Go left and proceed along the sidewalk. You can see Rock Creek, densely shaded by alders, down to your left before you walk under the MAX line overpass. Cross Cornelius Pass Road at a crosswalk and continue up Wilkins Street. Cross NW Ordonez Place and pass a Protected Natural Area on your left which has its own benches and pea gravel trails. Cross Arroyo Place and come to a powerline corridor and the southern end of the Rock Creek Trail at a sign.

Take the trail and cross Trail Walk Drive. There are large apartment complexes on either side of the corridor. The path bends and drops to the left to descend to a leafy bottomland on Rock Creek. Walk along a wide curving boardwalk and then pass a spur leading out to the Cherry Lane Trailhead. Continue along the western edge of the bottomland. Enter Orchard Park and cross a chip trail which is part of the disk golf course. At a junction keep right and drop down the paved trail between low stone walls. A wide boardwalk crosses the marshes and then Rock Creek before entering an alder, ash, willow, and cedar swale. A spur leads right out to 206th and also Sheffield Avenues, passing a circle pf stone seats. The trail recrosses Rock Creek and swings up out of the bottomland to a junction. Go right here and pass some restrooms to reach the Orchard Park Trailhead.

From here, head right to Amberwood Drive and take the flashing lights crossing to continue the Rock Creek Trail at an attractive stone entryway. Walk along through a creekside thicket of hawthorn, wild rose, Oregon ash, red osier dogwood, and snowberry. When you reach Cornell Road, wait for a Walk signal at the pedestrian crossing, and then pick up the trail on Rock Creek’s west side.

In a woodland of Douglas-fir, a paved spur leads left from a curving boardwalk to an area of business parks on Aloclek Drive. Continuing on the boardwalk, cross an open wetland. Watch for great blue herons and perching red-tailed hawks. Cross Rock Creek with a cattail marsh on your right and Douglas-firs on your left. Pass another spur and walk below a large apartment complex. The trail drops and wends through the bottomland along the creek with several unpaved spurs leading to its banks. Pass an aspen grove and head around an apartment building to reach Evergreen Parkway.

Cross Evergreen at the pedestrian crossing and drop down on the trail alongside Rock Creek. Pass a row of sycamores near a couple of benches and streamside plantings of Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, and Oregon white oak. In spring, look for the great blue heron rookery here. There’s a fenceline to the right and a gate to the left. Walk by a grove of alders shading a thicket of red osier dogwood. You'll see a cell tower to the right before walking under busy Highway 26. Cross a footbridge by a stand of cedars and reach the Rock Creek Trailhead at Rock Creek Boulevard, the northern terminus of the trail. If you begin from this end, parking is along the curb.

Return the way you came to Orchard Park, where you can pick up a paved trail behind the restrooms. Keep right to continue on the paved trail and then sidewalks all the way back to Orenco Woods Nature Park.

You can make a circle around the Orenco Woods Nature Park using the Habitat Trail (no dogs). Past the entrance sign on Cornelius Pass Road, make a right to drop down a wide concrete trail, which becomes chip and gravel when you reach the bottomland: note that these lower trails can get flooded in the wet season. Cross Rock Creek on a footbridge and switchback up the slope under tall Douglas-firs. Pass along an open area planted with oak saplings and reach the ‘forest canopy bridge’ that spans the deep gully of a tributary creek in a riverine woodland. Keep right at a junction and then make another right at the Orenco Apple. Go left at a junction and drop to a bottomland of alder and ash. A spur leads left to a viewing platform on a pond. Pass under the huge footbridge and walk under oaks and Douglas-firs with Rock Creek running to your left. Hike up the bank on the gravel path and cross a wide open space planted with oaks to reach the junction with the Rock Creek Trail. Before returning to your vehicle, you can visit the Orenco Apple and the Malcolm McDonald House, a 1912 craftsman-style abode that belonged to the first President of the Oregon Nursery Company.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Parks open dawn to dusk
  • Keep dogs on leash; no dogs at Orenco Woods except on Rock Creek Trail
  • Restrooms, picnic tables, and play areas at Orchard Park and Orenco Woods Nature Park
  • Disk golf course at Orchard Park


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver edited by Laura O. Foster
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine edited by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody

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.

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