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Wildwood Traverse Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Vine maple thicket on the Wildwood Trail (bobcat)
Mossy maze polypore (Cerrena unicolor), Wildwood Trail (bobcat)
Alders in winter, Wildwood Trail (bobcat)
Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), Wildwood Trail (bobcat)
9 mile marker, Wildwood Trail (bobcat)
One of the map signs at junctions on the Wildwood Trail, Forest Park (bobcat)
Descending the Wildwood Trail towards the Aspen Trail, Forest Park (bobcat)
Tiger lilies (Lilium columbianum), Wildwood Trail (bobcat)
Banana slug on the Wildwood Trail, Macleay Park (bobcat)
On the Wildwood Trail near the Mac Trailhead, Washington Park (bobcat)
The contour driven course of the 30-mile Wildwood Trail (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Newberry Road TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Wildwood Trailhead
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Traverse (one-way, with drop off or car shuttle)
  • Distance: 30.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2755 feet
  • High Point: 940 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

Note: A portion of the Wildwood Trail between Pittock Mansion and the Hoyt Arboretum is closed until Fall 2019 so that a pedestrian bridge can be constructed over Burnside Road.

Which city in the United States boasts the longest soft-surface hiking trail within its urban boundary? Portland, of course! The Wildwood runs for just over 30 miles in the Tualatin Hills, mainly in Forest Park, with its southern segment in the Hoyt Arboretum and Washington Park. Not surprisingly, the route has been designated a National Recreation Trail. Doing the Wildwood in a single day is an aspiration of many, but unless you are an ultra marathoner or athlete of that ilk, it does require careful planning. You can can do the trail as a car shuttle with a couple of buddies, dropping a vehicle off at one trailhead and then driving to another to begin your hike. Most solo hikers will want to begin at the Newberry Road Trailhead, getting an Uber driver, willing friend, or family member to drop them off early in the morning and arranging for a pickup near the Oregon Zoo or taking public transportation back from there. The Wildwood is an easy trail for its length, with many ups and downs but also sticking to a level contour for long stretches. The largest single elevation gain, if you are doing the trail from north to south (as described below) is the 640 feet between the Stone House on Balch Creek and Pittock Mansion, the high point of the hike. You probably won't want to attempt this hike unless you are able to walk at a steady pace of three miles an hour for 30 miles with mini-breaks along the way. Take a headlamp in case you are caught out after dark, and pay attention at the myriad trail junctions, which are generally well-signed. There are blue diamonds and quarter mile markers posted on trees. While the Wildwood can be hiked at any season, consider the condition of the tread and the day of the week. During the wet season, there will be numerous muddy patches that will slow you down. Dry summer conditions stir up dust, so bring changes of socks and plenty of water. The trail will be less busy during the week and earlier in the morning, but it is much loved by Portlanders so enjoy the rare moments of solitude!

Begin the hike at the Newberry Road Trailhead under a mixed forest canopy of red alder, big-leaf maple, western red-cedar and Douglas-fir. Cross a footbridge at the 30-mile marker in a deep gully, and hike a "turnpike" (raised section of trail). Check for elk sign on the trail, and keep your eyes out for magnificent pileated woodpeckers swooping through the trees. You'll pass some burn snags and cross small, salmonberry-choked streams in the Miller Creek drainage. Rise gradually under grand fir, hemlock, cedar and big-leaf maple to a powerline corridor. Cross another creek, and pass a natural log bridge that's nursing a few tiny hemlocks. Cross Firelane 15, and then dip to negotiate a gully, noting a good-sized grand fir on the left. Here you'll see plenty of large stumps with springboard notches. Pass a memorial bench, and cross three creeks in a row, the first in a valley supporting a dense stand of cedar. Traverse up to the B.P.A. Road, and go left to resume the Wildwood Trail in 40 yards.

Switchback down under powerlines as licorice and maidenhair ferns droop over the trail. Cross Newton Creek, and pass under bowers of mossy vine maple. You'll notice a few large Douglas-firs as you enter and exit gullies before crossing Newton Road. Hike through a snowberry/salmonberry thicket, and pass a spur leading up to the Newton Road Trailhead. The Wildwood wends in and out of small gullies on a level contour and crosses Firelane 10. Continue in mostly deciduous forest, and cross two small streams. Drop gently into a gully, and pass the junction with Firelane 8. Head up, and then enter another gully before rising to Germantown Road.

Walk up the road about 40 yards, and cross it to the Germantown Road Trailhead on its south side. Pick up the Wildwood Trail here at a colorful information board. Hike past the junction with the Cannon Trail, which connects to the Leif Erikson Drive North Trailhead. Keep rising, drop into a gully, and then rise again, heading in and out of more gullies. Continue past the four-way junction with Waterline Road as the Wildwood generally follows a level contour and winds in and out of gullies. It can be quite muddy with use in this area. Reach Springville Road. The Wildwood resumes 20 yards downhill and continues on a generally level line under alders, maples and Douglas-firs. Come to the first Wildwood-Hardesty Trail Junction, and continue past the turnoff for the Hardesty Trail where it resumes to the left. Cross a seasonal creek on a footbridge, pass through a grove of hemlock and cedar, and ascend an old road bed to the junction with the Ridge Trail. Descend into a deep draw with cedars and drooping vine maples on a maidenhair-lined trail. There are glimpses of the industrial area far below and always the sounds of traffic and trains. Keep straight at the junction with Firelane 7A to enter deciduous groves of maple and alder with thickets of salmonberry along the draws. Sword fern, holly, and Oregon grape make up the understory under young hemlocks and Douglas-firs. Then arrive at the nose of a ridge and the Wildwood Trail-Firelane 7 Junction.

Hike on an even contour into the deep gully of Doane Creek, where you'll come to the junction with the Trillium Trail before crossing the creek itself. In less than half a mile, pass the junction with the Wiregate Trail, and walk in and out of two gullies. Then head into another forested gully down which courses the middle fork of Doane Creek. At a ridge crest, you'll cross Firelane 5 and hike up the shady valley of Doane Creek's south fork, still on an even contour at about 800 feet above sea level. Reach the Wildwood Trail-Salzman Road Junction near the Wildwood’s halfway point (16 miles), and ascend a slope; then make a level traverse.

Hike around the nose of a ridge through a sword fern carpet, and pass the junction with the Cleator Trail. Drop gradually now, passing under powerlines and then in and out of three alder-shaded gullies. Descend a little more noticeably into a deep gully, and cross a footbridge over Salzman Creek at the 14 ½ mile marker on the Wildwood before traversing up. Pass the junction with the Koenig Trail on a ridge crest and keep ascending. Wind through a large grove of red alder, cross a seasonal stream, and traverse in and out of more gullies. Notice some larger Douglas-firs in the forest as you cross Firelane 3, and switchback down to a vine maple thicket and the junction with a short tie trail that leads to the Maple Trail. Continue along the Wildwood Trail into the first of two gullies that feed Munger Creek. Before crossing the first stream, you’ll pass one of the largest and oldest Douglas-firs in the park, about six feet in diameter, one of the Munger Creek Big Trees. Hike up and enter the second gulch, and take note of at least two more huge Douglas-firs heading out of that gully. Reach the Wildwood-Maple Trail Junction at another large Douglas-fir, and continue a short distance to cross Firelane 2 on the crest of a ridge. You'll pass through several small gullies before arriving at the junction with the Chestnut Trail. Switchback down twice, and cross a creek with a new footbridge and the former culvert rusting away among the salmonberries. Soon pass the Wildwood-Nature Tie Trail Junction, and switchback up three times to ascend a salmonberry gully shaded by some large Douglas-firs. Arrive at the Wildwood Trail-Firelane 1 Junction with its picnic tables.

Head around the east side of the ridge to pass the junction with the short Morak Trail, which offers a shortcut to the Forest Lane Trailhead. Alders and maples dominate this next slope, where you'll cross a footbridge with a small memorial plaque to Chris Pate. Enter a lovely leafy glade with a dense understory of hemlocks, cross a footbridge, and pass the 10-mile mark on the trail. Traverse in and out of a couple of deep gullies, and pass the Wildwood-Alder Trail Junction. In 0.3 miles, pass just below the Wildwood and 53rd Trailhead and the junction with the Keil Trail. Descend in a mixed forest with Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western hemlock. Large red huckleberry bushes rise above the sword fern and Oregon grape. Reach the Wildwood-Dogwood Trail Junction, and keep straight to make a generally level transit of the slope. Pass a bench, and then cross a couple of footbridges to reach the Wildwood-Wild Cherry Trail Junction.

In less than half a mile, pass the Wildwood-Birch Trail Junction, and take a meandering, generally descending trajectory from here. A man-made ditch on the uphill side of the trail was dug in the early 20th century to convey water for the hydraulic sluicing of a lower area of the hillside to provide flat land for a development. Pass some larger Douglas-firs where the trail levels, and cross a creek on a footbridge. In spring, the understory here leafs out with Indian plum, red huckleberry, and salmonberry. The path rises into a gully, crosses another footbridge, and then drops again. Wind down through a carpet of invasive ivy, and loop around a wide bend before passing over a footbridge. The trail descends further over a couple short sections of boardwalk and switchbacks where a split rail fence prevents shortcutting. Switchback again, and weave down the slope to the junction with the Aspen Trail. From the junction with the Aspen Trail, not far above the Aspen Trailhead, the Wildwood takes a level contour; look for spring-blooming trillium and violets as you undulate along, crossing three footbridges. Hike in and out of another gully, and drop gradually to the four-way Wildwood Trail-Holman Lane Junction. The grassy field in Holman Park lies below this junction and cherry trees are blooming there in spring, while succulent Armenian blackberries can be harvested along the verge of this field in August.

You'll make a gradual descent from Holman Lane into the leafy recesses of Balch Creek. Vine maple glows a brilliant yellow on this slope in the fall. As you near the creek itself, look down to a large Douglas-fir on the Lower Macleay Trail. This is the tallest tree in Portland: 242 feet high and 17.3 feet in circumference. Soon come to the mysterious Stone House, a former restroom which was decommissioned after the October 1962 Columbus Day Storm, and the junction with the Lower Macleay Trail. Keep right 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. Stay left at the junction with the Upper Macleay Trail, and make a relatively level traverse above Cornell Road to the junction with the Cumberland Trail. It's worth admiring the grove of big Douglas-firs just a few yards down the Cumberland before you continue a short distance to the junction with the Macleay Trail. Go right for a short ascent to the Wildwood-Upper Macleay Trail Upper Junction. Make six switchbacks up on the Wildwood, which 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, the high point of the hike.

There are restrooms down the hill near Pittock Mansion (See the Pittock Mansion Hike), but the Wildwood resumes at the upper end of the parking lot. A slide has recently taken out part of the trail, so a new tread switchbacks down to Pittock Drive. Continue down the forested south slope of Pittock Hill, passing the 3 ½ mile marker on the Wildwood Trail. The unmarked trail to Valle Vista Terrace leads off to the right. Make two switchbacks down, passing a couple of big Douglas-firs, to a gravel road, a closed section of Verde Vista Terrace. Hike under a graffitied wall that bolsters the road, and turn down a gully before traversing a salal/sword fern slope. Reach busy Burnside Road, and cross it carefully (The new Barbara Walker Crossing, a bridge for pedestrians, will be installed here in 2019.).

Ascend a slope on a trail cut dripping with licorice ferns. Soon enter the Hoyt Arboretum (See the Hoyt Arboretum Loop Hike), and make a left at a trail junction. Switchback down to Johnson Creek under a canopy of cedars, and cross the footbridge. Stay left at the junction with the Creek Trail, and switchback up to keep left at the junction with the Redwood Trail below the Redwood Deck in the Arboretum’s redwood/sequoia plantation. Switchback twice to pass the viewing platform, and reach the Wildwood-Spruce Trail Junction at the end of Bray Lane, where you'll stay left to switchback up under ponderosa pines to reach Fairview Boulevard at a junction with the Fir Trail.

Cross Fairview, and switchback down to the junction with the Oak Trail. Stay left here to switchback down to the right. Cross Upper Cascade Drive and then Cascade Drive before reaching the Beech Trail and the Winter Garden, with its heathers and daphnes. Stay on the Wildwood as it wends toward the Portland Japanese Garden. The trail enters the Washington Park Natural Area. Pass under tall Douglas-firs, red-cedars, and western hemlocks. Sword fern, spiny wood fern, and ivy form the carpet. At a junction, keep right at the Fairview Spur, and begin a traverse above the Japanese Garden, getting some views through the trees down to its paths and koi ponds. Big-leaf maples become dominant in the canopy as you approach the graveled Mac Trailhead, one of those rare spots in Washington Park which doesn't require a parking fee. Keep right at a junction near the trailhead to stay on the Wildwood Trail.

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, reenters the Hoyt Arboretum, and comes to the junction with the Walnut Trail. Hike along the slope, and bear right at the Cherry Trail junction. Note some crabapples, and then switchback in native Douglas-fir, red-cedar, and maple woods. Pass under cherries of various species, including a splendid birchbark. Stay right at a junction to reach a grove of locust trees at a water tank and the junction with the Magnolia Trail. Passing two junctions with the ADA accessible Overlook Trail, you'll reach a spot with the most expansive views on the entire 30-mile route. On a clear day, Mount Saint Helens and even Mount Rainier can be seen. Continue past the Holly Trail junction, and descend below another water tank near a large spreading madrone. Cross Knights Boulevard, stay right above a staircase, and hike below a third water tank before reaching the junction with the Hemlock Trail.

Make a left here to wind around under hazels, Douglas-firs and big-leaf maples. Rhododendrons will bloom here in late spring. Stay right and then left at two junctions to pass the junction with the Marquam Trail, which heads south above the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (See the Marquam Trail Hike). Keep descending at two more junctions to pass the Arboretum's witch hazel collection. Come to Knights Boulevard, where you'll see the Wildwood Trailhead across the road. The underground MAX station is just south of here down Knights Boulevard near the Oregon Zoo.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Picnic tables at some junctions; trail maps at most junctions
  • Dogs on leash

Maps

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Most of these guidebooks offer only partial descriptions:
  • Hiking & Running Guide to Forest Park by Friends of Forest Park
  • One City’s Wilderness: Portland’s Forest Park by Marcy Cottrell Houle
  • Urban Trails: Portland by Eli Boschetto
  • Portland Forest Hikes by James D. Thayer
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Portland by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan

More Links


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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