Easy (to Hoyt Arboretum)3.6-mile loop
500 feet elevation gain
Open all year
Moderate (to Pittock Mansion)
800 feet elevation gain
Left: The Pittock Mansion.
The walk through Washington Park is a reminder of what’s so wonderful about Portland. What other city would have a forest path leading from a world-class zoo, past a Japanese garden, to a mansion with a mountain view?
This first portion of the famous, 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail begins beside the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial. To get there, take the MAX light-rail train to the underground Washington Park station and ride the elevator up. If you’re driving, head west from Portland on Highway 26 toward Beaverton, take the zoo exit, and park at the far end of the zoo’s huge parking lot beside the MAX station, opposite the World Forestry Center. Expect to pay $4 to $6.40 for parking. Dogs must be on leash.
Then you can walk up the road from the MAX station 100 yards to a sign marking the start of the Wildwood Trail on the left. But along the way you’ll pass the steps for the entrance to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—and it’s actually more dramatic to start your hike here, going under the memorial’s bridge and following its spiral path up to the Wildwood Trail. From there on, expect trail junctions every few hundred yards. Just keep an eye out for the Wildwood Trail signs. Within 0.4 mile you’ll cross a paved road and pass a huge green water tank to a viewpoint of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. Even if the weather hides these distant peaks, you’ll still be able to spot a potential goal of your hike: the Pittock Mansion, atop a forested ridge.
After 1.7 miles on the Wildwood Trail you’ll get a glimpse down through the forest to the Oriental bridges and manicured greenery of the Japanese Garden. Shortly afterward, a side trail switchbacks down to the right. If you have time, it’s tempting to detour here to visit this acclaimed, 6.5-acre garden, complete with Japanese pavilion and a Portland panorama. Otherwise continue on the Wildwood Trail, which now climbs, crossing several paved roads and a ridgecrest before descending into the Hoyt Arboretum.
If, however, you’ve got enough energy for a 6-mile hike, continue on the Wildwood Trail through the Hoyt Arboretum. Soon the path crosses Burnside Street—a busy, fairly frightening highway you’ll have to cross at a run. Then the trail climbs steeply 0.9 mile through a Douglas fir forest, crosses a paved road, and reaches the Pittock Mansion parking lot. Walk through the portico on the left side of the mansion to the spacious front lawn where there’s a magnificent view of downtown Portland and the mountains.
The 16,000-square-foot palace was built in 1909-14 by banker, real estate magnate, and Oregonian editor Henry L. Pittock. For its day, the mansion was astonishingly modern, with an elevator, intercom, and central vacuum cleaning. Tours are available daily between 11am and 4pm (adults $8, children $5).
To complete your hike, return on the Wildwood Trail to the Hoyt Arboretum footbridge, turn right onto the Creek Trail until it hits the Hemlock Trail, and then follow this path left, over the ridge to the Vietnam Veteran Memorial.