Forest Park Running Trails

When you are visiting Portland, there are several places to go for a run so make sure you pack your trail running shoes. From the Willamette waterfront to Tyron Creek and the more picturesque parts of downtown. 

Forest Park Running Trails

Once you appreciate that Portland’s landowners and civic leaders decided to give the city the largest natural area of forest of any US city then you simply have to run through, and around, Forest Park.

At over 5,100 wooded acres situated in the hills found northwest of downtown, for running trails it cannot be beaten. In this guide, we will look at the best running trails in Forest Park. 

Wildwood Trail

Arguably the preferred running trail, or any trail in Forest Park, is the Wildwood Trail. This is a 30-mile trek so at that distance you can test yourself on a real workout though there are a few trailheads to try too. 

The route follows the ridge of Forest Park so you can expect old-growth trees, rolling hills, wildlife, and the odd stream or two.

Due to how popular it is, you may consider starting at the northern end of the route from Northwest Portland but the more popular point is near Washington Park downtown. 

Leif Erikson Drive

Beginner runners should consider Leif Erikson Drive which is popular for a good reason; its versatility.

Though it may be an 11-mile-long access road, it is a forgiving climb from the NW Thurman Street trailhead then ends at NW Germantown Road. 

However, you do not have to follow all eleven miles as Forest Park has so many trails that you could connect to the Wildwood Trail then do whatever distance you want.

Wildwood Trail/Leif Erikson Drive

As the trails are so closely packed together, you could create your looped runs going through Forest Park. Almost inevitably, by mixing up your run you will go through parts of both the Wildwood Trail and Leif Erikson Drive.

You can start from the trailhead which runs from the end of NW Thurman Street (around 1.5 miles west of NW 23rd Avenue) then run down Leif Erikson Drive going northwest for a distance of a single mile to 11 of them. 

Wildwood Trail runs parallel and you can connect to it via Alder Trail, Dogwood Trail, NW Saltzman Road, and NW Germantown Road.

To get back to that original trailhead, all you need to do is follow the Wildwood Trail via Wild Cherry Trail.

Dogwood Trail – Alder Trail Loop

The Dogwood Trail – Alder Trail Loop encompasses five trails and can be completed in all four seasons.

The name is a little misleading as you should end up using Leif Erikson Drive, Wildwood Trail, and Keil Trail too.

Dogwood Trail - Alder Trail Loop

Whichever paths and trails you go down, this should amount to a 2.8-mile circuit and a touch over 400 feet in elevation change.

Start from the trailhead at the side of NW 53rd Drive as there will be roadside parking. The trail begins going up Keil Trail before a left onto Dogwood Trail where you can cross onto Wildwood Trail.

From the bottom of Dogwood Trail, take a left up Leif Erikson Drive then another left to hit Alder Trail. 

Most of this route is Alder Trail yet it comes to an end by taking a left onto Wildwood Trail. Then you return to the original junction by Keil Trail and NW 53rd Drive.

This is a running trail that changes throughout the seasons as you can expect some shade in summer than those same deciduous trees on Dogwood Trail alter their color into the Fall.  

From winter, you can look up and glance through the empty branches to Mount Hood then witness the rebirth in spring of new blooms.

The yellow violets and trillium that populate the woods may mean you have to take a break to fully embrace your surroundings.

Pittock Mansion

To get a catch-all view of downtown Portland, and a lot of East Portland too, you have to head up. Up to Pittock Mansion.

The best views tend to be in winter when the branches are empty and visibility is improved through the trees. 

This is also a versatile running trail so it should be ideal for beginners and more accomplished runners. Once you head from Northwest Portland and Lower Macleay Park, it should be a five-mile loop.

The running trail effectively begins on the Lower Macleay Trail which follows one of the few perennial streams in Forest Park itself; Balch Creek.

From there, cross the Wildwood Trail after just under a mile then cross Northwest Cornell Road for the 1,000-foot climb up to Pittock Mansion.  

Waterline Trail

One out-and-back trail that you may want to try is Waterline Trail which is a mere 3.3 miles long.

You can expect this running trail to be available all year though the ideal time is likely between March and October. While the trail is great for runners, you can also expect hikers and walkers too. 

Final Thoughts

One of the beauties of running a trail in Forest Park is how they vary during the year.

From the changing color of the leaves going into Winter to the new flowers that bloom from Spring. You may even spot some changing wildlife including deer and owls.

There is also the versatility of the trails themselves and how easy it is to mix them up. By simply creating your loops, you can create a route of your ideal distance and still find your way back quite readily.

If you are spending some time in Portland then look into buying a map from the Forest Park

Conservancy to get the most out of the routes that Forest Park has to offer. With such diverse wildlife, it is no wonder that Forest Park is so popular.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Miles Of Running Trails Are There In Forest Park?

Portland is blessed to have Forest Park and it features over 70 miles of trails, forest roads, and fire lanes.

Forest Park itself goes for over seven miles down the eastern slopes of the Tualatin Mountains which have a view going over Northwest Portland. Then there are the Willamette and Columbia rivers which converge and are well worth visiting. 

Can I Ride A Bike In Forest Park?

Yes, while Forest Park is hugely popular with trail runners, hikers, and walkers, you can ride your bike in Forest Park. However, only 29 miles of the 70 miles of forest roads, fire lanes, and trails are available for bikes.

There is also just a single mile that is singletrack which is Firelane 5 yet Forest Park offers some great areas for a cross-country or gravel ride.

Which Trees Should I Expect To See In Forest Park?

The trees that you can find in Forest Park include western red cedar, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock. Forest Park sits on the Tualatin Mountain Range so you can also see some deciduous trees and a few native plants too.

Megan Rinzel
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