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What are the best things to do in Forest Park

What are the best things to do in Forest Park? 

Forest Park is a popular destination for Portland cyclists, runners, hikers, and more. It’s a huge urban forest rich in plants, trees, animals, and other thriving wildlife. 

Want to check it out yourself? Good, because we’ll guide you through the best things to do at Forest Park today! 

1. Hike the Wildwood Trail 

Hike the Wildwood Trail
Image from

One of the most famous trails in Forest Park is the Wildwood Trail. It’s famous among locals – heck, some of our staff even count it as their favorite trail! 

Anyway, it’s a relatively challenging 30-mile trail that starts from W Burnside Road to the south area that leads to a cluster of famous destinations. 

This includes the Pittock Mansion, the Stone House, the Washington Park, and more. 

Hike the Wildwood Trail 2
Image from National Recreation Trail Database

Since this trail is 30 miles long, it’s perfect for experienced hikers who want a more exciting adventure. If you’re just starting out however, you don’t need to reach the end of the trail: there are several paths that lead to exits, so you can stop anytime.  

The whole trail is marked, so you don’t have to worry about getting swallowed by several loops and turns – it’s easy to find your way back! 

Here’s a fun fact: the Wildwood Trail is the sole National Recreation Trail in the Forest Park. This means that this park is recognized by the federal government, meaning it’s proven to be a high-caliber trail. 

Pro tip: 
You can enter the park from different access points like the Northwest Thurman Street or the Northwest neighborhood. 

2. Take a stroll at the Lower Macleay Park Trail

Take a stroll at the Lower Macleay Park Trail
Image from Hiking Project

If you want an easier, less challenging path, this 5-mile trail is the way to go. Although it’s not exactly for complete beginners since it’s considered moderately challenging, do note that you can tap out anytime!

This trail is quite popular not just among locals, but also among visitors because it has several highlights that result in an interesting route. 

There’s the Stone House tucked in the middle of luscious trees – people also commonly call it the Witch’s Castle. We find that it brings a magical vibe to this trail!

Take a stroll at the Lower Macleay Park Trail 2
Image from Forest Park Conservancy

It’s like you’re a character in a fairytale that happens to stumble upon a mysterious house that is said to be a home to a witch. We think this is one of the reasons this spot is popular among kids!

However, the history behind this structure isn’t so magical. It’s actually a former restroom! But to keep the magic alive, you can opt not to tell your kids. 

There are also bridges here and there that are quite enjoyable to walk through. You can even try to spot them all and make a game out of it. 

Pro tip:
The trail is pet-friendly. However, the general rule is to keep them on the leash at all times to avoid disrupting the wildlife. 

3. Jog at Leif Erikson

Jog at Leif Erikson
Image from Forest Park Conservancy

Leif Erikson is popular among runners. It’s a well-maintained trail, so people can traverse the wide paths quite easily. Moreover, there are no steep hills – it’s mostly flatland. 

Of course, running is not the only thing you can do here. Other people also use their bikes, so that’s also a viable option in case running isn’t your thing. 

The trail starts at Germantown Road. If you want to finish all the way to the end, you should turn to NW Thurman Rd. 

Jog at Leif Erikson 2
Image from Wikimedia Commons

However, take note that that’s 12-miles long. If you think that would be too tough on you, you can just turn around anytime and end your trip (we do it all the time, don’t worry!).

Moreover, we find that this is the perfect trail to take if you want to see scenic, architectural views of NW Thurman Street. 

If you’re here on a good day, when the skies are clear and the sun is shining, you will get an unobstructed view of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. 

Pro tip:
If you want to head to the Wildwood Trail after Leif Erikson, just move over to the west and you’ll find your way! There are a lot of paths that connect you to Wildwood and each will give you different sets of experiences. 

4. Discover the St. Johns Bridge viewpoint

While you’re already in Forest Park, you should take advantage of the moment and head over to the scenic spots. We find that this makes our trip even more worthwhile. 

One thing we like seeing the most is the St. Johns Bridge from a specific spot in one of the trails. However, before we tell you where that spot is, let’s tell you about what makes this bridge so special. 

It’s an iconic, historical structure and is considered not only the tallest bridge in Portland, but also one of the few suspension bridges in the city. It’s nice to see up close, but seeing it from a high point is also a pretty nice view. 

Anyway, if you’d like to see this beauty, you’ll be able to find it at the start of the Ridge Trail that’s 1.4 miles long. 

The most rewarding way to get through this trail is to place the St. Johns Bridge viewpoint at the end of your hike. It’s a nice little treat you can indulge in after a tiring trip. 

You can do so by starting your hike at Leif Erikson Drive trail’s upper terminus. 

Pro tip: 
Here’s a secret: you can get to the viewpoint without doing any hiking at all. All you need is to just walk along the bridge! But some people still enjoy going through the trails. The good thing about having options is that you can do whatever you want! 

5. Spot the wildlife

Spot the wildlife
Image from Oregon Live

The rich, well-maintained natural resource that is Forest Park is also a home to numerous animals. Though, you know, that’s not surprising to hear about a 5,100-acre park. 

A lot of common sightings include porcupine, bobcats, bats, bald eagles, owls, woodpeckers, and more. As you can tell, it’s a great mix of nocturnal, aerial, burrowing, and arboreal animals. 

This shows that there are different kinds of habitats here where various kinds of species can thrive. 

Still, experts have also seen a decline recently in the wildlife at the park. A good example of this can be seen in the birds. 

Before, you’d be able to spot 100 bird species easily at Forest Park. However, the population of sparrows, thrushes, and chickadees has been going down… and the reason for it is still unknown as of writing. 

Arthropods seem to be thriving here, though. There are about more than 400 species of arthropods in this park – and these are just the ones they’ve already identified. 

You might also be able to spot as many as 6 different amphibians and 23 mollusk species including the Pacific Giant Salamanders, which are quite abundant in this area. 

Additionally, if you’re there to enjoy nature overall, you can even spot trees like grand fir, cedar, western yew, and more. 

Pro tip:
Bring binoculars if you want to see the animals up close without disturbing them. If you want to take photos, it’s best to do it without flash and sound. If you have a telephoto lens, that would be perfect especially if taking photos is your main goal. 

6. Take a Forest Park tour

If you don’t want to venture into the trails by yourself because you want an expert with you, that’s totally understandable. Luckily, there are several tours that can help you out. 

We tried several and picked our favorite one. It’s informative, fun, and has great value for your money: The Urban Hiking Tour by Around Portland Tours

ADDRESS833 SE Main St #121, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-998-3170
OPERATING HOURSMonday – Saturday 8:30 AM – 6 PM Sunday 9 AM – 6 PM 

Around Portland Tours can take you to two different kinds of tours. 

It’s essentially the same because you will experience hiking at Forest Park, but the destinations, and starting and ending points are different. 

That said, both tours do technically start at a coffee shop. Other than being able to grab energizing drinks, this is also the perfect chance to chat up your guide and ask if you have any questions regarding the day ahead. 

Urban Hiking Tour 1

For one of the tours, this is how it will go. 

At 9 AM, you’ll start making your way to the outskirts of Forest Park and slowly make your way to the trails inside. 

You’ll first head to the Witch’s Castle. Like we mentioned earlier, it’s one of the most popular destinations in the park. Afterward, you’ll advance to the hill, taking a short break to see the beautiful streams and the luscious maple trees. 

Later into the hike, you’ll eventually reach the Pittock Mansion where you can get a scenic view of the city. 

The last destination of this tour is the International Rose Test Garden. Expect that this tour will go on for 3 hours, walking for about 4.5 miles. 

Urban Hiking Tour 2

As for the other tour, you’ll meet the guide at a German coffee shop located around Goose Hollow. There’s a lesser-known path in this neighborhood that will take you to Washington Park. 

With your guide telling you stories about the places you pass by, you’ll go up staircases and go through a path to the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Garden.

After passing by several other famous destinations, you’ll enter Forest Park. Afterward, you’ll move over to the Pittock Mansion after crossing Burnside. 

Lastly, you’ll make your way down to the Witch’s Castle. This is a longer hike, with it being 5.5 miles long that will take about 3.5 to 4 hours. 

Pro tip:
They sometimes change the order of the destinations, so be sure to ask your guide about this first in case you’re particular about which one should go first. 
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