It’s difficult this time of year to get up to the mountains and find a trail that isn’t covered with snow. If you don’t have a vehicle with four wheel drive or snow tires (I have neither), it definitely limits your access. And I would never recommend hiking on a trail covered with snow unless it was well marked. Of course, there are lots of flat trails close to Salem: Minto Brown Island (partially flooded right now), Willamette Mission State Park (a few trails under water) or Champoeg State Heritage Area. But if you’re like me, and you enjoy a challenging hike through dense forests to a spectacular view point, then the drier weather cannot get here soon enough.
So this weekend I choose a “urban” hike for my adventure. Forest Park in Portland is one of the largest urban forest reserves in the country, with over 70 miles of interconnecting trails and covering more than 5,000 acres. The park spans nearly 8 miles along the Northeast slope of the Tualatin Mountains above Highway 30 overlooking the Willamette River. Trails are foot, bike, dog- and equestrian- friendly and wind through lush green second-growth forest with patches of old growth. I read that Forest Park is home to over 100 different kinds of birds and over 60 species of mammals. On our visit we see American Robins, Varied Thrush, Rufous Feathered Towhee and Wrens, and a few homosapiens.
I decide to make this hike part forest-part urban, so I select Pittock Mansion as the starting point. It has a very large parking area and a signboard with a map of the park and trails to help direct you. We choose a segment of the Wildwood Trail that takes off from the north corner of the parking lot. (I recommend you obtain a map of Forest Park and bring it along with you.)
We head down the trail through the dense forest of Doug fir, western red cedar and western hemlock. It is quiet and peaceful, making it hard to believe we’re in the middle of a large city. The trail twists and turns and continues to descend with staircases and steps in the steepest parts. There are other trails that connect with the Wildwood Trail; luckily there’s good signage. Our goal is to head down to NW 23rd Street and find a restaurant for lunch, so we stay on the Wildwood Trail and only once veer right onto the Cumberland Trail. The forest floor is heavily carpeted with Oregon grape, wild ginger, native ferns and even some flowering trillium, a sure sign that spring is coming.
All of a sudden the trail ends and we pop out onto Cumberland Road. The forest is quickly replaced with historic homes, beautiful and grand, and even a few castles! We wind our way down Cumberland Road in awe of one home after the other. Tudor, Arts and Crafts, Colonial, English Cottages and styles we do not recognize with gardens that are immaculate. We continue on Cumberland Road and take a shortcut down very steep public staircases that lead to Summit Ave.
Summit leads to Cornell Road where we take another public staircase to Pettygrove Street. From here it’s a straight shot to NW 23rd and lunch! The hardest part of the day is picking which restaurant to eat in. We finally select a Greek restaurant and sat down for a delicious meal.
Luckily, we have written down the names of the streets and the shortcuts we took so that we are able to find our way back to our car. Since the entire trip has been downhill, that means our way home is entirely uphill!
With full stomachs we head back to the car the same way we came. It is a delightful day.
How to get there:
From Salem take Interstate 5 towards Portland. Take the exit for 405. Once on 405, take exit 2A towards Salmon Street. Crossing over 405, take a slight right onto 14th Ave. Turn left onto Burnside St. Stay on Burnside till you see signs for Pittock Mansion.
It’s approximately 60 miles from Salem and about an hour drive.
Distance and Elevation Gain:
I have no idea how long the hike was, so I will guess. We walked for about 5 hours, including a stop for lunch, so I am going to say about 5 miles. Pittock Mansion is at 850 feet in elevation, so again I guess 400 feet in elevation gain.
Fees and Permits:
No fees or permits required to park at Pittock Mansion.