The Tuesday Ramble: West Hills Hiking, 2 April 2013

The Portland area is rich in points of interest. Too rich, if you ask me. There are so many great places to go to that it’s hard to go to them all, all the time. Every time I end up on Powell Butte, or Rocky Butte, or biking Leif Erickson, or up to Kelley Point, or (insert location here), I wonder aloud, “Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve been here! I need to come here more often!” And of course, it will again be awhile before I return to said location.

Trillium in bloom.

But there is one type of thing I don’t do as much as I should, and that is hike. Yes, I get around a bunch, but it’s all mostly by bike. But a foot-oriented adventure is rare. I realized that the last time I went on a true walk or hike was in October when I led the Council Crest Climb. That’s half a year ago. So I made a point on one of my days off to head towards the West Hills for a pedestrian adventure.

Balch Creek as it descends into a culvert.

I decided to start my hiking adventure in one of my favorite spots: Macleay Park in NW. Macleay is now considered part of larger Forest Park, and its main feature is Balch Creek and the steep canyon it creates. I really like Balch Creek, as it is the closest and easiest mountain-style creek that is close to where I live. Pretty much every creek on the flatter east side of Portland has been paved over. The major exceptions are Crystal Springs Creek and Johnson Creek, which are not too far from where I live. But both creeks don’t have a lot of “drop” and the lands surrounding them are pretty developed. The West Hills have lots more creeks due to the geography, as it was harder to bury the creeks. And because of the steepness of the hills, the creeks have much more drop, making them more the “babbling brooks” of my East Coast childhood memories.

Balch Creek is paralleled by a trail (Lower Macleay) and the path quickly leaves the more urban environs of NW to the sheltered wooded canyon leading upward. The trail passes many a little waterfall and large tree, and meets the “Mainline”, the Wildwood Trail, near the spooky Stone House. I call the Wildwood the “mainline” because it is a 30 mile long hiking trail following the West Hills. It starts right near the Zoo and heads north for most of the length of Forest Park. I’ve explored most of the five-mile section from the Zoo to the Stone House, but the upper 25 miles is still a mystery. I definitely want to do more exploration of this area in the future. But for now, I’ll head south towards the Zoo with a quick stop at the Audubon Center where I’ll get to see a great horned owl.

Wildwood Trail.
Pittock Mansion.
The view.

It was about a half hour of hiking upward on the Wildwood to the next point of interest, Pittock Mansion. Henry Pittock was the publisher of local newspaper The Oregonian. Being a man of wealth, he built his home high in the West Hills (1,000 feet elevation) with one of the best views in town. Now it’s a city park.

From there, I descended through the tony neighborhood of Willamette Heights and back down to the bike. It was a good three or so hour circuit of walking. I need to get back up into the hills for some more hikes soon!

Thurman Street Bridge at Macleay Park.

For more photos, go here.

5 thoughts on “The Tuesday Ramble: West Hills Hiking, 2 April 2013

Add yours

  1. Dang! You're one step ahead of me (ha, ha). Hiking/walking has almost completely displaced in my life by cycling but at one time I did a lot of it and I've been wanting to do a little more. One thing that I enjoy about hiking vs cycling is the silence. Cycling always has the attendant sound of wind in the ears (be it a whisper or a roar) and the crunchy sound of the tires.

  2. a dumb question: where did you leave your bike? i'm surprised trails don't always have bike racks/signs to lock to.

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