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Peninsula Crossing-Columbia Slough Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. Hood from the tracks near the Columbia Treatment Facility, Peninsula Crossing Trail (bobcat)
Near Fessenden, Peninsula Crossing Trail (bobcat)
Moore Island, Columbia Slough (bobcat)
Taverner's cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii taverneri), Columbia Slough (bobcat)
New section of trail, Columbia Slough (bobcat)
Peninsula Crossing-Columbia Slough route in red; continuation of Peninsula Crossing Trail in yellow (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Peninsula Crossing TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Vancouver Avenue Bridge
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 10.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • High Point: 150 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Peninsula Crossing Trail, completed in 1996, takes advantage of public rights of way to link the Willamette and Columbia Rivers across North Portland. There are various pieces of art along the trail funded by the One Percent for the Arts program. The last mile and a quarter of the trail runs along Portland Road, so if you don't want to hike along an industrial artery, take instead the Columbia Slough Trail. This trail runs along a dike above the site of the inundated city of Vanport and ends at the Vancouver Avenue Bridge, with ambitious plans for extensions. This is a land of railroads, wastewater treatment plants, a golf course, and car and horse racing tracks. However, the Columbia Slough itself supports abundant bird life, so look for bald eagles, herons, egrets, ducks, geese, cormorants, coots, and grebes as you hike along.

Walk north along the trail through a circle of sculptures. This is a wide, paved walk/biking trail. The trail follows the “Carey Boulevard Corridor” and parallels the one-mile-long Portsmouth Cut of the BNSF Railway. This cutting across the north Portland peninsula was completed in 1903. Pass through a grassy area planted with a few redwoods, madrones and evergreen live oaks. There’s an apartment complex to the right and then a grove of cherry trees. Cross Lombard and then Fessenden Street, eventually passing by maples, cottonwoods, and hazels, to Columbia Boulevard, where you go right. After a couple of blocks, crossing Clarendon, Van Houten and Exeter, walk across Columbia Boulevard and go one block north on N. Portsmouth. Turn right on N. Columbia Court (There's an option to start the hike here at the Columbia Court Trailhead), and get a good view east to Mount Hood. Walk in front of the fenced Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, Portland’s largest wastewater treatment facility. Look to your right to see the controversial Columbia Wastewater Treatment Building, an eco-friendly state-of-the-art office structure opened at great expense in January, 2014.

The trail resumes across a grassy area and then splits. Go right, passing by cottonwood woodlands, cross a concrete bridge with local bird names as part of the decoration, and then a roofed structure that announces one end of the little loop. (On the return, turn left at the roofed structure, and hike up over a grassy knoll. A stella and a petroglyph rock sit on the summit. Keep right on the trail, past more modern petroglyphs, to reach the main trail.) The Columbia Slough runs on your right. Small trees (Douglas-fir, cedar, alder, elderberry) are beaver-protected with fencing. A chip trail loops back through the woods. On your right, the “Tidal Staircase” leads down to the Columbia Slough. Alongside the trail, a map sign describes the various installations in the vicinity of the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Cross over the pedestrian bridge (also used by Portland Parks vehicles on patrol), getting views west to the BNSF Columbia Slough Bridge and east to narrow Moore Island, and reach the Peninsula Crossing-Columbia Slough Trail Junction.

If you want to continue on the Peninsula Crossing Trail, which from now on will run along Portland Road for 1 1/4 miles to the Columbia River, go left to continue below Triangle Lake. Hike along the slough towards the railroad and then under the railroad bridge. Then hit Portland Road and head north.You can see Smith Lake behind a fringe of cottonwoods. Before a railroad bridge, a spur crosses Portland Road towards the Interlakes Trailhead (See the Smith and Bybee Lakes Hike). Continue under the bridge and then under a second railroad bridge, passing a police impoundment lot across the way. The railroad is on the right, its embankment festooned with Scots broom. Cross N. Suttle Road and come to N. Marine Drive and the channel of the Columbia known as North Portland Harbor, with Hayden Island across the way.

If you're not interested in the road walk, go right at the Peninsula Crossing-Columbia Slough Trail Junction. The treatment plant lagoons are to your left. Pass through a gate and then under a railroad bridge to rise to a dike above the slough. Heron Lakes Golf Course and two ponds are on your left. This area, between Portland and Denver Avenues, was once the city of Vanport, constructed during World War II to house workers, including many African Americans, for the Henry Kaiser shipyards. At one point, Vanport was Oregon’s second largest city. Vanport’s population dropped after the war to about 18,500, but on Memorial Day, 1948, after a rapid snow melt and heavy rains, the Columbia River breached a railroad embankment and inundated the area in a catastrophic flood. Vanport was never rebuilt and became a landfill and then a golf course.

Pass above a stand of cottonwoods and get a view of Larch Mountain in the Columbia Gorge ahead. Swing right above an outlet pipe and floating boom, where you might see waterfowl sunning themselves. Look for cormorants, mergansers, mallards, and grebes in the slough. Great blue herons frequent the steep banks and Canada and cackling geese graze on the grassy slopes of the dike. A wooded area is an undeveloped section of Delta Park. Now pass above Portland International Raceway, with the main track behind a screen of cottonwoods. There’s a lagoon to your right as you pass through another gate near Denver Avenue, the evacuation route for the Vanport Flood, and go right on the Schmeer Road exit for Portland Meadows. The road descends below Denver and then rises to a Stop sign.

The new (January 2014) section of the Columbia Slough Trail begins to your right. Pass above a TriMet parking lot and then a gravel yard. The Portland Meadows racetrack is across Schmeer Road. Mount Hood rears in the distance above the piles of gravel as you continue to the end of the trail at the Vancouver Avenue Bridge. Cross the street here to visit the artwork and dedication plaque for this 2011 structure.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Pets on leash


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck & M.J. Cody
  • Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver edited by Laura O. Foster
  • Walking Portland by Becky Ohlsen (partial)
  • PDXccentric by Scott Cook & Aimee Wade (Vanport)
  • Off-Street Paved Bike Paths in Oregon by Rick Bronson

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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