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Pittock Mansion Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Pittock Mansion (bobcat)
The Stone House (cfm)
Balch Creek (cfm)
Banana slug on the Wildwood Trail, Macleay Park (bobcat)
Douglas-fir grove on the Cumberland Trail (bobcat)
Baneberry on the Upper Macleay Trail (bobcat)
The hike up Balch Creek and Pittock Hill to the Pittock Mansion (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Portland Parks & Recreation
  • Start point: Lower Macleay Park TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Pittock Mansion
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back with a small loop
  • Distance: 5.7 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 950 feet
  • High point: 960 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

This easily accessible in-town hike in Macleay Park features a charming creek, a lush forest with some old-growth Douglas-firs and Portland's tallest tree, and a Victorian-era mansion with an expansive view over downtown Portland and on to Mount Hood. The walk echoes with names from Portland's early settlers: Henry Pittock, publisher of the Daily Oregonian; Danford Balch, property owner and first man hanged for murder in Portland; Lafe Pence, who washed away whole hillsides to fill a swamp for development; and Donald Macleay, Scottish merchant and banker. On the north slopes of Pittock Hill, you can make a loop, going and coming, using the Upper Macleay and Macleay Trails. A shorter option that leaves out Balch Creek can begin at either the Macleay Park Trailhead or the Tunnel Trailhead, both on Cornell Road.

Begin at the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead, and walk under the Thurman Street Bridge, a truss bridge of the Pratt type, towards a red metal sculpture where the Lower Macleay Trail begins. As you approach the trailhead, notice on your left a very strange looking staggered arrangement of wooden walkways and fencing over the creekbed. This is the visual terminus of Balch Creek. It disappears under the huge grate - called a debris rack - and enters a tunnel where it travels underground to an unnoticeable outlet near the shipping yards on the Willamette River. What a rather humble ending to the very charming creek which you will see as you walk upstream!

Pass a sign about Macleay Park, donated in 1897 by Donald Macleay. Then there are the remains of Lafe Pence’s flume, which was later used as a walkway. Fence used hydraulic hoses to blast off soil from the Balch Creek ravine to silt up Guilds Lake, now a flat and dry industrial expanse, for development. Enter the Balch Creek ravine, which looks very natural but was much altered by Pence's depredations. Cottonwood, alder, big-leaf maple, Himalayan blackberry, hazel, thimbleberry, red osier dogwwod, and horse chestnut form the dense growth. Soon you’re into the evergreens - Douglas-fir, western hemlock and red-cedar. Cross a footbridge, and hike up the left side of the creek, a native cutthroat stream. Maidenhair ferns hang on the dripping slopes, and sword fern and bracken fan out from the undergrowth. After a stone-walled lookout, the trail becomes graveled. Invasive species here include holly, English laurel, and ivy. Recross the creek, and pass the Heritage Tree-labeled Douglas-fir on the left. This is the tallest tree in Portland: 242 feet high, 17.3 feet in circumference. Soon come to the mysterious Stone House, a former restroom, and the junction with the Wildwood Trail.

Go straight on the Wildwood Trail, continuing up along the creek bed. You will soon cross over the creek on a footbridge and begin climbing out of the Balch Creek canyon. Half a mile from the Stone House and four switchbacks later, pass a trail leading to the Portland Audubon Society and then a small pollinator garden displaying native species. Arrive at the Macleay Park Trailhead on Cornell Road. Cross Cornell at the crosswalk, and continue uphill on the Wildwood. Keep right on the Upper Macleay Trail, and switchback up noting some old-growth Douglas-firs. Hike above a salmonberry bowl, and come to the four-way upper junction with the Wildwood Trail. Go right on the Wildwood to make six switchbacks up on a trail that is sometimes protected by split-rail fencing. You'll see the Pittock Hill water tank above you before reaching the upper parking area for Pittock Mansion.

Walk down to a restroom building and gift shop. There is a fee to tour the inside of the mansion, but it is free to stroll around the gardens designed by C.C. Colburn. Roses bloom in abundance from spring into fall. The eastern lawn provides spectacular views of downtown Portland and Mount Hood. Below Pittock Mansion is the Italianate-style four-story Gate Lodge, which first housed the Pittocks' chauffeur and his family. The Gate Lodge was a tea room for a number of years and is now being restored as a period museum.

On the return trip, when you get to the Wildwood-Upper Macleay Trail Upper Junction, go right, and follow the Upper Macleay Trail to traverse a maple/hemlock hillside. You'll reach Macleay Boulevard, which is not a trailhead, where you will also find the Macleay Trail leading gradually down along the forested slope. Go right when you come to the junction with the Wildwood Trail, and keep left at the meeting with the Cumberland Trail. It's worth admiring the grove of big Douglas-firs just a few yards down the Cumberland Trail, however. Continue to the lower junction with the Upper Macleay Trail, and cross Cornell Road to return to your vehicle.

Shorter option:

Begin at the Tunnel Trailhead, and hike up the Tunnel Trail to the Cumberland Trail. Go right on the Cumberland Trail and then left on the Wildwood Trail to ascend Pittock Hill. This option is 3.7 miles if you do the complete Macleay-Upper Macleay loop going and coming.


Maps

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Dogs on leash
  • Pittock Mansion: $12 admission for adults
  • Pittock Mansion hours: Closed in January; Open daily 10 - 4 February through May, 10 - 5 June - Labor Day, 10 - 4 September through December; Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Easy Portland Outdoors by Teresa Bergen
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Portland, Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Urban Trails: Portland by Eli Boschetto
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Walking Portland by Becky Ohlsen
  • One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park by Marcy Cottrell Houle
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Portland Step-by-Step by Joe Bianco
  • Nature Walks In and Around Portland by Karen & Terry Whitehill
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck & M.J. Cody
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links


Contributors

  • cfm (creator)
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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