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Smith and Bybee Lakes Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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Pelicans on Bybee Lake in the summer (bobcat)
Viewing platform at Smith Lake (bobcat)
Leafy beggar ticks (Bidens frondosa), Smith Lake (bobcat)
Common teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), Bybee Lake (bobcat)
Trails at Smith and Bybee Lakes (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps


Hike Description

This 200-acre property, in the middle of the rather faceless port area, is the biggest wetland park in a U.S. city. Interestingly, the two lakes are maintained in different ways: Smith Lake’s water levels are more constant to accommodate fishing and canoeing, while Bybee Lake rises and falls naturally with the tides and the seasons and the help of a water control structure installed in the 2000s. Not surprisingly, the latter lake is where you are more likely to see large numbers of water birds.

Head back from the trailhead parking area on the roadside walk with cottonwoods on your left and ponderosa pine plantings across the road to your right. Just before the park entrance, find a paved path, the Interlakes Trail, which leads off into an Oregon ash/black cottonwood bottomland with a dense understory of snowberry and red osier dogwood. Note the 1996 flood level on a sign. At a junction, go right for a view of a slough which should exhibit basking turtles and gadwalls on a sunny day.

Going left takes you on a loop toward Smith Lake. Stop at the gazebo for views of the larger lake’s expanse and note the beaver activity in the area. (Many trees here have been caged for protection from these large rodents.) Continue around to the main paved trail and go left. You get a view of Bybee Lake, and the trail fetches up at a viewing gazebo. In summer, common egrets, white pelicans, great blue herons, pied-billed grebes, ducks, ospreys, and bald eagles will be prospecting these waters. It is one of Portland’s great avifauna convocations!

Past the gazebo, you can continue farther on a foot trail through the dense reed canarygrass with a few spurs approaching the lake via thickets of water smartweed.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No dogs or bicycles
  • Open dawn to dusk


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody (editors)
  • Easy Portland Outdoors by Teresa Bergen
  • Urban Trails: Portland by Eli Boschetto
  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Nature Walks In and Around Portland by Karen & Terry Whitehill
  • Peaceful Places: Portland by Paul Gerald

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.