Balch Creek from Lower Macleay Park
One of the places that Portland is note for is Forest Park. Forest Park is either the largest or second largest park in the nation that is contain wholly with in city limits. It is 5,172 acres in size and has 80 miles of trails (some say 70 miles but they are not Ramble leaders so they don’t know about that other 10 miles or can’t read their GPS right). It is something you won’t be able to see all of in one day. Fortunately there is one trail that should be manageable and interesting and should give you a good feel for what Forest Park is all about. This trail begins at Lower MacCleay Park and follows along side Balch Creek. In preparation for your visit the city parks department has just built a couple of new bridges and has done extensive trail improvement. And yes the property owners of Portland will be paying off the bond for this work for years to come so please use and enjoy the trail so we can feel our money is not being wasted.
Of course there was not enough money to put a parking lot in so you will need to find parking on the street. Trimet Bus number 15 also goes near the Park. Actually it goes over the park on the bridge but there are stairs down to the park. You will find bathrooms, open only in the summer, and a drinking fountain ,only working in summer, in the park. At the start of the trail you will find the standard dogie poop bags, garbage can and sign tells you to clean up after your pet stated in whimsical fashion. This is Portland.
You will find some information signs at the end of the park and where the trail goes into the woods. These are helpful to read to get an idea of what you will see. The trail starts out paved but in a quarter mile turns to dirt and gravel. The trail does have a mild incline. You will be passing through older second growth forest which has had a lot of work done on it to remove invasive species. Within about a mile you will get to the Old Stone House (new comers call it the Witches House). This was a bathroom built by the CCC back in the 30’s and was destroyed in the Columbus Day Storm in the 60’s. The place continues to have trees fall on it from time to time. At this point the trail becomes part of Wildwood Trail that runs about 30 miles through Forest Park.
The trail will continue to gradually climb. You will be passing through vegetation that is pretty typical of the forest land around here. In another mile you will get to a new bridge that crosses Balch Creek. From here the trail starts to climb. Some may find this is a good stopping point and turn around. Others may want to continue on to Portland Audubon Society sanctuary or go all the way up to Pittock Mansion. I hope to have more up on this website about doing these longer hike routes soon.