What’s to Love: From the Marquam Trail Shelter Trailhead, it’s a stiff 1.7 mile walk uphill to Council Crest Park. The trail crosses several roads, and passes closely to nearby homes. Despite the close proximity to civilization, this hike offers a nice challenge to hikers of all ages and certainly is worth doing at least once.
Caveats: It’s a popular trail, so don’t count on being by yourselves. A lot of people drive to the top just for the view and to hang around at the park.
The Marquam Trail Shelter parking lot is monitored with 2-hour parking spots. You don’t have to pay, but you might if you stay beyond 2-hours and have to pay a parking ticket! Two hours should be enough time walking the 3.4 miles (round trip), especially if you can hike between 2.5 and 3 miles per hour.
Website: Portland Hikers. ORG site has a nice description of the hike.
Distance from Portland: Within one mile of downtown Portland.
Recommended Ages: Unless you’re carrying younger kids/early walkers, I would avoid this trail. This is a perfect hike for kids 5 – 10 years, and certainly, it would be great for teens, if you can get them to get out and hike.
Parental Stress Factor: Moderately stressful. The stress on this hike comes from off-leash dogs (see “Pet Friendly” section below) and several busy-road crossings. At least the signage is very good (follow the 4T trail) signs, and you will not get lost.
Physical Difficulty: It’s a steep trail with very few switch backs. I wouldn’t say it’s “advanced,” because of the short distance. However, it’s a challenging hike that will get your legs burning and your heart pumping.
Family Fun Factor: Depends on how your kids are with hiking. To make this hike a bit more fun for kids, I would definitely include some activities up at Council Crest (see Family Tips below).
Pet Friendly: Great hike for a dog! However, like most Forest Park trails, it’s likely that you’ll encounter off-leash dogs. Most people obey the rules, but almost every time I hike in the park, I run into dogs off-leash. They are always friendly, but the problem is my dog (on a leash) is not friendly. If your dog has issues with other dogs, make sure to keep a close eye on the trail ahead.
Weather Considerations: The is a trail that’s best for dry weather, especially if you plan on hanging out at the top. It’s steep, so hiking in the rain might be a bit much for small kids.
Insider Info: The trail ends-up at Council Crest Park, which is “…thought to be the highest point in Portland.” This is one of the nicest views in Portland!
There are plenty of other hiking options around Council Crest. The trail up to Council Crest is part of Portland’s 4T trail system, which combines trail, trolley, tram, and train to make a nice loop around the city. The walking portion is between 3.95 and 4.5 miles depending on your route.
Family Tips: It’s literally ALL uphill for 1.7 miles. If your kids can make that in a respectable time, the 1.7 miles back downhill will be very quick and a snap. I wouldn’t bring a jogging stroller on this hike, because it’s really steep in some parts with drop offs.
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