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Oregon is such an outdoor paradise and Portland a great starting point to explore the numerous surrounding valleys, beaches, mountains, vinyards and forests. But what about the city itself? With its spacious Washington Park and hilly Forest Park, Portland is an outdoor eldorado, where you can combine urban explorations and discover wooded trails in one day without even leaving the inner city limits. The 4T Trail is a great opportunity to get to know the city and enjoy nature at the same time. For this self-guided urban hike you don’t even require a car as all locations are well connected by public transport. So the only things you need to bring along are your hiking boots, some water and snacks for the way and 5 USD to pay for your Trimet ticket!
Train, Trail, Tram & Trolley – the 4 T´s of Portland´s 4T Trails
First things first: You can start the 4T Trail at several points and also complete the tour the other way around. But my recommendation is to start at Oregon Zoo. You can reach the “Washington Park” station by Max (Metropolitan Area Express), the first of the 4 T´s (train). While reading through the article, you will find several advantages of this route itinerary. 🙂
4T Trail – Train
At 260 feet (79 m) the Washington Park / Oregon Zoo train station is the deepest tunnel in the US. So already one good reason to disembark here and ride this elevator up to the surface!
4T Trail – Trail
As exiting the station, facing towards the Oregon Zoo entrance, turn right and follow the 4T signs downhill. You need to cross Highway 26 via the overpass, before the 4T signs lead you into the woods onto the Marquam Trail.
Follow the Marquam Trail uphill until you get back on the road. By then you are close to Council Crest Park. With (1.073 feet / 328 meters) its viewpoint is Portland´s highest elevation, so surely worth a small break, have a snack and enjoy the sun with a nice view.
Fun Fact: There is rock wall at the summit transferring an echo when you stand in the middle of the ring..
From Council Crest Park follow the 4T signs downhill again. After another hour you exit the trail onto the road that leads right to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). Arriving there you have finished the second “T” – trail and you should definitely enjoy the view from the visitor´s terrace, before taking the Portland Aerial Tram downhill, which is the third “T” of the hike.
4T Trail – Aerial Tram
If you are lucky you can spot Mount Hood in the distance on a very clear day. This idefinitely sn´t a given during autumn-time. On the day we hiked the 4T Trail for example the weather was nice and sunny, but some clouds on the horizon still covered the view of snow-capped Mount Hood.
Nonetheless we enjoyed the hike through the woods very much. Riding the Aerial Tram down to the Southern Waterfront only takes a few minutes, but the panoramic view above the cityscape and the Willamette River Valley is really worth it. So make sure you don´t miss out this part of the 4T´s.
4T Trail – Trolley
Back at the bottom station you can hop onto the 4th “T” – trolley, which is the synonym for the European-like streetcar running through the city. From there you can get back to Downtown Portland or the Pearl District. Wherever you will end up going, you definitely deserve to treat yourself with a rewarding lunch or dinner! And the best part: You can still use your Trimet day-pass for getting around the city with the public bus, streetcar or Max.
Facts about the 4T Trail
Time & duration
The hiking part of the 4T Trail is around 4.5 Miles (7.5 km) long. So the 4T Trail is great for a half day activity. Just have an eye on the schedule of the Portland Aerial Tram. Weekdays it operates until 9.30pm, but on the weekends only until 5pm. Be aware that the tram only opens on Sunday during summer hours. So before you go, you better check the timetable to make sure you don´t miss the tram-experience to get back down into the city, especially on a weekend. The tram operates load-n-go and usually departs every 5 minutes.
A ticket for riding the Aerial Tram up to Oregon Health & Science University will cost you 5,10 USD in cash as long as you aren´t a student or staff of OHSU. Going down is free of charge for everyone. In fact the Aerial Tram is operated by the OHSU to bring primarily staff, patients and visitors up to the university and health clinic. But as the tram is part of Portland´s public transport system, it is open to the public as well.
If you follow the route the way I described it above and only take the Aerial tram downhill, the whole tour will only cost you 5 US Dollars for the a Trimet day-ticket of Portland´s public transportation system, which you can use for the busses, the lightrail Max and the streetcar. So the 4T Trail is not only a great opportunity to combine a hike with exploring the city. It is sustainable and affordable as well! So what are you waiting for? Get your hiking boots on and follow the 4T signs!
QUESTIONS & COMMENTS?
Have you ever been to Oregon and explored Portland? Leave me a comment! Do you like the article, or still have any suggestions, feedback or recommendations? I am happy to read what you are thiking! If you like my content, please feel free to share this article with your friends!
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