What’s to Love: I have hiked all 30 miles of the Wildwood trail, as well as most of the peripheral trails throughout Forest Park. Therefore, I feel I’m in a pretty good position to expound on this incredible natural resource. Whether you’re trail running, pushing a jogging stroller, wandering aimlessly, or hiking with friends, Forest Park has a hiking option that’s just right for your family. This article focuses on a 2 mile loop-hike starting at Lower Macleay park that is a great option for families with small children.
Lower Macleay park is okay. There is a small, circular parking area, an overhead bridge, a park building, some sculptures, and Balch Creek. For a lot of the year, this is a pretty dark, drab, and soggy staging area for a couple excellent hikes. There is a 5.5 mile option, which we used to run before we had kids; however, if you follow the directions in this article, there is a nice 2 mile option that involves the Wildwood, a firelane, and a walk through some very nice Portland neighborhoods.
The hike starts with a gradual uphill on Lower Macleay trail following a stream up a small canyon. After about 1/4 mile, you’ll come to an old stone house that you can explore with your kids. It’s an interesting and surprising diversion right along the trail. At this intersection, you’ll want to take a right turn onto the Wildwood trail, which will take you steeply up and out of the canyon. Although it’s steep, most kids will have no problem whatsoever hiking this portion. If they’re starting to get tired, let them know the uphill part of the hike is almost done!
Be careful when you’re out of the canyon – there are some pretty steep drops to your right. This should not be an issue, if you keep a close watch on your kids. Younger children should not walk ahead during this section. Continue along the Wildwood enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way. Within 1/2 mile, you’ll exit via Holman Lane (right turn), and head toward the local neighborhood. Take a left on Aspen Avenue, right turn on Franklin Court, left on 32 Avenue, and finally a right on Thurman Street. From here, cross over the Thurman Street bridge and take the stairs back down to Lower Macleay Park.
Caveats: About 1/2 mile of the hike is on sidewalks, which isn’t exactly what I call a “hike.” In addition, the Lower Macleay parking area has less than 10 parking spots, so be prepared to park and walk.
This is a typical, high-use-area of Forest Park. In addition to cars all over the place, you will encounter lots of people and dogs. However, most don’t make it past the Stone House.
Website: Very interesting history found at the Portland Parks & Recreation website for Macleay Park.
Distance from Portland: Within 1 mile of downtown Portland. Here is a Google Map of the area.
Recommended Ages: An excellent hike for younger children, especially toddlers and kids 8 and younger. Older kids will probably get bored with this hike. Of course, toddlers will not be able to do the whole thing, but sections are perfect for them to stretch their legs.
Parental Stress Factor: Low to medium. If you do this hike during the week, you’ll be much better off! Any Forest Park access point is extremely busy during the weekends. The parking issues, dogs and people will be a constant reminder that you live in a city.
Physical Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The first section of this hike (less than 1/4 mile) is handicap-accessible. The first mile is all uphill (pretty gradual) – if you’re pushing a jogging stroller, you’ll probably get a bit winded. Make sure you have the leash attached to your wrist!
Family Fun Factor: Low to medium. Lower Macleay Park is mostly a staging area. Don’t come to this “park” looking for a play structure, tennis courts, or a baseball field. In addition, this area can get a bit trashy due to the high-use factor, so don’t plan on bringing the croquet or badmitton set. Once you hike past the stone house and get on the Wildwood, the fun factor will increase.
Pet Friendly: A bit too pet friendly I’m afraid! We almost stepped in dog poop several times on this hike. Please keep track of your dog, and where they are doing their duty! Don’t let your dogs poop off-trail – watch where they go and pick it up.
Weather Considerations: This is a decent year-round trail. The trail has pretty good drainage, so even when it’s the rainy season, you won’t get overly caked with mud. I prefer hiking in this area during warmer months, but this is one of the better options during winter.
Insider Info: Dogs are supposed to be on leashes, but this is one place where you’ll find a total disregard for the rules. For the most part, dogs are well-behaved; however, I don’t trust any off-leash dog around my kids.
If your kids like to hike, there is a 5 mile loop that starts from the parking area. As you start walking the paved-path, look for a large sign that describes the hike.
Family Tips: With small children, I always prefer taking a jogging stroller to carrying them in a pack. With a Bob stroller, there shouldn’t be any difficulty navigating the entire route described in the article. There are a couple steep sections, so you may want to bring a child carrier along as well.
This isn’t the best area for a picnic lunch, or to enjoy snacks along the trail, especially with the high probability of encountering off-leash dogs. Therefore, you may want to eat something in your car before you venture out on the hike.
Other Posts of Interest...
George Rogers Park on May 6th, 2008
Horsethief Lake State Park on July 10th, 2012
Hiking Council Crest on September 9th, 2014