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Washington Park Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Lewis & Clark Column, Washington Park (bobcat)
Historic Reservoir No. 3, Washington Park (bobcat)
Twig men (temporary exhibit), Mac Trail, Washington Park (bobcat)
On the Wildwood Trail, Washington Park (bobcat)
Beech trees, Hoyt Arboretum (bobcat)
The loop through Washington Park (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps


Hike Description

Washington Park is Portland's centerpiece of monuments, parklands, gardens, old reservoirs, and even a stretch of natural forest. This loop hike will begin at the monuments, take you through the landscape of the old zoo, then up to the Wildwood Trail, part of the Hoyt Arboretum (see the Hoyt Arboretum Loop Hike), the Portland Japanese Garden and, finally, Portland's world-renowned International Rose Test Garden. Although only four miles, the walk invites many stops and explorations, so you could spend an entire day investigating the various sights! As noted in Wild in the City, the first acreage for the park was purchased in 1871, at a time when Portland had a mere 8,000 residents. Since then, the park has expanded considerably and become the inner city's haven for both natural and manicured beauty.

Note: Since September 2016, the City of Portland has been constructing an underground reservoir at Reservoir #3. Parking is not permitted at the Sacajawea Statue Trailhead but the trails are open. To access this loop, park at the International Rose Test Garden instead, and join the Mac Trail from there - it is just east (below) the Rose Garden; you can walk north to see the monuments described in the next paragraph. The reservoir project will be the second most expensive public works project in Portland's history after the Big Pipe. Final touches will not be completed until 2025. A reflecting pool will sit on top of buried Reservoir #3, while Reservoir #4 will be decommissioned and replaced by a reflecting pool.

First, head up the grassy knoll past the Sacajawea Statue to the Lewis & Clark Column, under tall Douglas-firs, for a view down to the city. President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the column in a drenching Oregon downpour in May 1903. Heading back, pass the Chiming Fountain and cross the street. Historic Reservoir #3, constructed in 1894, is below. If the gate is open, you can go down the stairs (no dogs allowed) to walk next to the reservoir. (Note that the two reservoirs in Washington Park have been converted to reflecting pools. The Reservoir #3 pool sits atop a new seismically reinforced underground reservoir that was completed in December 2020.) Head back up to Park Place and cross back over the street to view the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, passing attractive brick restrooms, once also a concession stand, which were constructed in 1926. Then cross back to the MAC Trail.

The MAC (Multnomah Athletic Club) Trail, here a wide, paved maintenance track, turns off the sidewalk above Reservoir #3 and the Sherwood Boulevard junction, and before the road junction with Wright Avenue and Rose Garden Way. Walk up the paved trail for about 1/10th of a mile before noting on the right and left sides two low posts denoting the MAC Trail heading down to the left. Here, it is a dirt path that wends above Sherwood Boulevard and below the Rose Garden’s maintenance road. The trail curves around the slope of the hill under Douglas-firs and passes through a concrete barrier, a remnant of an old zoo cage. The MAC Trail continues below a large Douglas-fir, reaches a grassy hillside and then a play area. Curve around the old Elephant House and admire its mosaics. The "house" was built in 1954 to accommodate Rosy, the zoo's first elephant. The space is now a covered picnic area. Cross a paved road above a soccer field and head up into native forest with big-leaf maple, Douglas-fir, vine maple, ivy, thimbleberry, and sword fern. The path rises past a water tank, keeping right at a junction; then, cross the Zoo Train tracks. Take the main trail right below a parking pullout and hike above the Big Meadow to cross Kingston Drive. The MAC Trail switchbacks five times up to the graveled Mac Trailhead, one of those rare spots in the area which doesn't require a parking fee. Here, go right about 25 yards to a junction with the Wildwood Trail.

Take a left here, wind up a ridge in native forest, and then drop to a large field (the Archery Range) and the Archery Range Trailhead. The Wildwood Trail rises up into woods again after the field, and then switchbacks up twice to the ridge crest and comes to the junction with the Walnut Trail. Here, go left and head across a field and through a narrow section of forest to the junction with the Maple Trail. Go left on the Maple Trail and traverse an open grassy area. Soon, reach plantings of exotic maples, and keep on the Maple Trail until the junction with the Overlook Trail, where you go right, switchbacking uphill to a water tank. From here, switchback down to the left, also on the Overlook Trail. Follow this trail all the way to the Hoyt Arboretum Trailhead.

On the north side of the Visitor Center, head down the Oak Trail. At a four-way junction, drop downhill on the Beech Trail to cross Upper Cascade Drive. If you are here in the fall, admire the bright colors of the beeches. At a junction, keep right where a sign says To Magnolia Trail. Keep right again where the Taylor Trail peels off down to the left. Reach the junction with the Wildwood Trail and go right below homes. The trail switchbacks down past the junction with the Beech Trail and crosses Lower Cascade Drive. Pass Himalayan birches and then the Winter Garden to reach another trail junction. Take the Wildwood Trail here, going right toward the Portland Japanese Garden. The trail reenters the Washington Park Natural Area. Pass under Douglas-firs, red-cedars, and western hemlocks. Sword fern, spiny wood fern, and ivy form the carpet. At a junction, go left on the Fairview Spur for the Japanese and Rose Gardens, and switchback at a viewpoint over the Garden’s koi ponds through the trees. With the 2017 expansion of the Portland Japanese Garden, you can no longer enter it from the Wildwood Trail. Keep right at the next junction, and take the Garden Link Trail to switchback above the new buildings at the Japanese Garden. Take a series of steps, and follow a gravel tread along a fence line next to the Japanese Garden's driveway. Then drop down four flights of trail stairs to reach the parking area at the Japanese Garden's new entrance booth on Kingston Avenue. Go right on Kingston for the tennis courts, Rose Garden, and Japanese Garden.

Walk between the tennis courts (the first one was built in 1914), and cross Rose Garden Way to descend wide steps into the International Rose Test Garden. The steps were built in 1941 as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Roses bloom in the garden in profusion from May to November. Explore various parts of the Rose Garden: the Shakespeare Garden, the Gold Medal Rose Garden, and the Rose Festival Queen Walk. From the Queen Walk, go north and pass through a hedge of arbor vitae to reach the paved maintenance road. Turn left here and head down to Park Place and the car.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Pay for parking
  • Dogs on leash
  • No bicycles on trails
  • Arboretum open 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

Note: All of the guidebooks below describe Washington Park, but none address the exact loop detailed above.

  • Walking Portland, Oregon by Sybilla Avery Cook
  • Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster
  • Nature Walks In and Around Portland by Karen & Terry Whitehill
  • Portland Step-by-Step by Joe Bianco
  • Trips & Trails: Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Walking Portland by Becky Ohlsen
  • Portland Townscape Walks #1 by Tyler Burgess (partial)
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody (editors)
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

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.

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.