First in a series featuring photo-worthy hikes around Portland that don’t require a car.
I moved to Portland in August with big dreams of mountain-climbing majesty. That is, until reality smacked me in the face and reminded me that Portland is, well, a city — and though the mountains around here are beautiful and abundant, they certainly don’t lie within city limits. So, what’s a car-free summit-seeker to do? Tackle the mini-mountains.
Mini-mountain #1: Council Crest
What you’ll see: Stunning panoramic views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and maybe even Mount Rainier, plus a beautiful cityscape and miles of the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
Why you should go: Umm, please see the above description and photo. Here’s another, featuring Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, if you need an extra push.
How to get there: This is the fun part, obviously. There are many ways to get to Council Crest without a car, but I’ll give you an easy hike option that starts with the Max:
- Take a red or blue line Max train to Washington Park/Oregon Zoo.
- Hop off the Max and follow signs to the 4T Trail.*
- Once you’ve found the trail, follow it south toward the sound of cars.
- That sound of cars? That’s Highway 26, and you’re going to hop on the sidewalk there and walk right over it.
- This is where the route gets a little weird. The only way to re-access the Marquam Trail on the south side of 26 is to nearly get on the highway: After you’ve walked on the sidewalk across 26, follow the shoulder of the eastbound entrance ramp to the highway. This’ll seem strange, but don’t worry — it’s only for a couple dozen feet.
- On your right, you’ll spot a marker for the Marquam Trail. Follow the trail for a lovely uphill hike in the Southwest Hills.
- In less than a mile, you’ll reach a short trail interruption. Follow the well-marked route on city streets.
- After a few blocks on city streets, you’ll reach the base of Council Crest. Follow the trail upward (there’s a paved option here, too, if you prefer), and enjoy the views.
This hike is incredibly short. Roundtrip from the zoo, you can knock it out at a leisurely pace in an hour. For a little more sweat, you can easily tack on mileage by continuing on the Marquam Trail after Council Crest. Or, you can start your hike anywhere on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park. The Wildwood Trail meets the Marquam Trail near the zoo.
PS — Here’s that crazy trail access point by Highway 26. Be safe!
*The 4T is a recommended loop for urban explorers to take the train to the zoo, take the Marquam Trail through SW Portland to OHSU, take the aerial tram down the hill to the South Waterfront, and then take the streetcar (trolley) downtown. (Did you catch those four Ts?)