This is a great loop hike and has all the parts; a hike through the trees in the beautiful Forest Park, a ride down the aerial Tram from OHSU with scenic views of the Willamette River and MT Hood, a ride on Portland’s Trolley to the heart of downtown and then a train ride back to your car. Of course, you can stop at any of the junction points for lunch or for shopping downtown, say at Powell’s Books. I prefer to start the trip at the Oregon Zoo/Forest Park area so that I can park my car for free. As you hike, pay attention to the brown trail signs and you should have no trouble finding your way.
We begin our adventure by parking near the Oregon Zoo and stop to use their public bathrooms before heading off. Walking south past the zoo, and following signs for the 4-T Trail, we cross over highway 26 on the east side of the elevated roadway and turn left to go down to the Marquam Trailhead, which is on the south shoulder of Highway 26. Immediately, we are plunged into a dense forest of maples and ferns, yellow wood violets and giant trilliums, Soloman’s seal and inside-out flower, all flowering and at their peak. The trail is muddy in parts, thanks to the rain and there are a few creeks with footbridges and wooden staircases to make the hiking easier as we ascend towards Council Crest.
After 1.2 miles, the trail pops out onto Patton Road and we turn right and walk along the shoulder for a bit. We come to the intersection of Patton, Humphrey and Talbot and turn left onto Talbot, following the brown trail signs. The road leads past beautiful historic homes and up to the entrance of Council Crest Park.
The trail through Council Crest Park follows the route of an old electric streetcar line that was built in 1906 and took passengers to an amusement park at the crest. The park was very popular for its Ferris wheel, carousel, and dance pavilion and, the views of Portland. It was closed in 1929, partially due to the depression, and the streetcar line was discontinued in 1949 when paved roads and cars became more popular. The trail leads to a grassy area with views of the Tualatin Valley on the right and downtown Portland on the left. There is an interpretive signpost on the east side of the crest and a drinking fountain. From here, the “Marquam trail leads downhill to OHSU.
We continue on, following the Marquam Trail/ 4T Trail/Marquam Shelter” signs, on a lush path flanked with flowering rhododendrons and maple trees. There are a few benches to rest upon should you need to, and one that is completely covered with moss!
The trail crosses over a few roads and continues on the other side as it descends into Marquam Gulch, a deep, wooded ravine.
We arrive at Marquam Shelter, which has a great interpretative display of the history of this area. Behind us, the trail continues uphill towards OHSU. After a short rest, we follow the signs and turn left onto Conner Trail and in half mile we pop out at the top, ending the hiking segment of this trip.
The trail ends at the back of the hospital so we weave our way through the buildings, pass a very large water fountain and Mackenzie Hall, the original medical school building from 1887. We continue heading east past Baird Hall and down to the OHSU Hospital and have lunch in the Marquam Café. The food is outstanding with a salad bar, fresh soups, hot entrees cooked to order and even grill service. After lunch, we take the aerial tram down to the South Waterfront District where the trolley is located. We climb aboard the trolley and insert our $2 into the machine and get a 2-hour pass that allows us to ride the trolley and transfer to the train.
The trolley ride is a lot of fun and stops at many locations, including the Oregon State University campus. We get off at the 10th and Taylor stop and walk north 2 blocks to Morrison where we board the train heading west to the zoo. The train ride is fast and we end up below the zoo parking lot, 260 feet below ground. This is the deepest underground train station in North America. An elevator ride takes us to the top and we are back where we started.
How To Get There:
Head north on I-5 towards Portland for approximately 36 miles. Take exit #292A, also known as OR-217, towards Tigard/Beavertown. Travel 7.5 miles and merge east onto HWY 26. Take exit #72 towards the Zoo/Forestry Center. Turn left, cross over the highway and follow signs for the Oregon Zoo. (Technically, you shouldn’t park in the parking lot reserved for the Oregon Zoo and other local businesses, but there are nearby lots for Forest Park and you can park there.). The trip is about a hour’s drive from Salem and a little less than 50 miles.
Distance and Elevation Gain:
This is roughly a 9-mile loop with the hiking section about 4.5 miles and an elevation gain of only 600 feet. It’s a moderate hike in difficultly and takes about 4 hours, which includes the trail, tram, trolley and train ride, and a stop for lunch.
Fees and Permits:
There are no parking fees. The aerial tram is the second leg of this journey and it’s free going downhill. The third leg is the trolley and it will cost approximately $2 to get a pass that will allow you to transfer to the train, which is the last leg of your journey. Passes can be purchased for the trolley and the train when you board the trolley. (Note, if you choose to do this trip in reverse, the tram costs $4 and the fee is collected when you board at the bottom.)