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Top 10 Running Trails in Portland

Portland is an incredible city for running. From the scenic waterfront trails downtown to the extensive trails in Forest Park, you can enjoy exploring a wide variety of landscapes, parks, and residential areas as you run through this popular metropolitan area. Here are 10 of the top-rated areas for runners in the city.

1. Forest Park

Cyclists on bike track.

Forest Park is a massive 5,200-acre urban forest with more than 80 miles of trails for runners to enjoy. Well-known by locals as one of the best places in Portland to run, the park spans more than 7 miles along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains and offers breathtaking views of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers and the city itself. One of the most popular routes in Forest Park is Leif Erickson Drive, a wide, 11.2-mile gravel road that leads you through the forest. Alternatively, the park’s Wildwood Trail is a designated National Recreation Trail, offering 30.2 miles of running bliss. Part of this trail passes through Forest Park.

Tips: Forest Park is almost always busy and packed full of runners on Saturday mornings, so plan to head there during the week or very early. 

2. Washington Park

View of dman at Wash Park in Portland.

Washington Park is just two miles west of downtown Portland, offering 15 miles of trails and 410 acres of beautiful, open green space in the city. Many runners prefer to run the portion of the Wildwood Trail that stretches through the park. Still, there are several different route options, and some of them offer incredibly challenging hilly sections. In addition to amenities like public restrooms, sports fields, tennis courts, and a playground for kids, the park is also home to the Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, World Forestry Center’s Discovery Museum, and more. You’ll also enjoy the memorials and art displays throughout the park while you run.

Tips: Entering Washington Park is free, but there’s a $2/hour fee to park. Some attractions also have an admission fee, including the zoo, the Japanese garden, the arboretum, and the museum.

3. Waterfront Loop along the Willamette River

Aerial view of Portland.

This iconic run along the Willamette River in Portland is one that every runner needs to check off their bucket list. The main loop runs along each side of the river, from the Steel Bridge to the Tilikum Crossing bridge, for a solid 4-mile run. Three other bridges across the water offer several great loop options, and the Vera Katz Esplanade, the longest floating pedestrian bridge in the world, is an exciting feature to check out while you’re there. A run along the riverfront also provides easy access to several local landmarks, including Tom McCall Waterfront park, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Oregon Maritime Museum.

Tips: The Tilikum Crossing bridge is only open to pedestrians, bikes, and public transit, so you don’t have to worry about any car traffic on that bridge.

4. Marquam Trail

Part of the Maguam Trail in Oregon.

Marquam Trail is an incredible off-road running path just minutes from the downtown area. This 6.3-mile trail starts at a trailhead in Marquam Nature Park and winds its way through the city’s West Hills, featuring rugged switchbacks and steep climbs. If you follow it up to the highest point in the city, you’ll reach a stone circle at the top of the park, where you can read about four visible far-off volcanoes on plaques. This trail is a rewarding challenge for runners who prefer off-road, scenic adventures, and all experience levels.

Tips: If you want a longer run, it’s also possible to connect to Washington Park by taking SW Talbot, SW Patton, Highway 26, and a few side trails through the city. 

5. Powell Butte Nature Park

Powell Butte Nature Park is a 603-acre scenic natural area in east Portland featuring plenty of running and biking trails with stunning vistas and views of Mt. Hood in the distance. With at least 21 different trails to explore, you’ll never get bored running here, and you’re bound to experience something new each time you head out for some exercise. The trails vary significantly in terms of surface type and elevation and extend throughout the meadows and forest of the park, offering something exciting for every runner at Powell Butte Nature Park.

Tips: The park’s entrance gates shut promptly at closing time each night, so if you run in the evening, you should plan to be back at the parking lot in time to vacate the park before it closes.

6. Fernhill Park

View of the street from Fernhill Park in Oregon.

Fernhill Park is a 26-acre park in Portland that’s home to a 400-meter running track and several other amenities, including public restrooms, tennis courts, a splash pad, a playground, and ball fields. Depending on what kind of run you’re after, you can jog through the park itself or check out the hard-packed 1-mile dirt trail, which features a few short inclines to get your blood pumping. Fernhill Park is a popular spot for local cross-country runners to train, so you can anticipate seeing plenty of other runners while you’re there. There’s also a large, off-leash dog area in the northeast corner of the park, so bring your pup along for the run and some play time afterward.

Tips: A quick jaunt down Ainsworth Street will land you at Alberta Park, just west of Fernhill Park, where you can run some additional loops for more mileage.

7. Springwater Corridor

View of Springwater Corridor - a railroad track next to a paved path.

The Springwater Corridor is a well-loved multi-use rail trail that winds more than 20 miles through the city, connecting local parks and green spaces. The trail is about 10 to 12 feet wide for a paved, spacious, and enjoyable running experience in Portland. Along the way, you’ll enjoy access to many of the city’s best parks, including Tideman Johnson Nature Park, Leach Botanical Garden, and Beggars-tick Wildlife Refuge, among others. Runners on this corridor are also very likely to come face-to-face with various wildlife, including several types of birds, deer, coyotes, and even mountain lions on the more remote segments of the trail. Springwater Corridor also has several bridges that cross over Johnson Creek, offering peaceful water views of the surrounding landscape.

Tips: This path is also a part of the famous Hood to Coast relay race, spanning 195 miles.

8. Mount Tabor Park

View of Portland from the Mount Labor Park.

Mount Tabor Park is built on top of an extinct volcano, boasting epic views of the city from the 636-foot summit. A run on the ancient lava of this park is unlike any other, featuring flat and easy loops around the lower portion with challenging, windy, paved routes to the top. The park spans 191 acres and has open-air reservoirs, picnic sites, public bathrooms, and play areas for kids. You can easily create your own running route through the park, but if you want to follow an official trail, try one of the three options: the Red Trail (1 mile), Green Trail (1.7 miles), or Blue Trail (3 miles). All three are fantastic ways to explore the area on foot.

Tips: In addition to the shady trails and incredible sights, Mount Tabor Park also has an off-leash dog park, ball courts, a horseshoe pit, a playground, and an outdoor amphitheater.

9. Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Bridge in forest.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area is a 658-acre green space just 15 minutes from downtown Portland. With 8 miles of trails, 8 different bridges, and a boardwalk that extends over the local wetlands, this well-maintained area is an excellent location for a run. Whether you prefer the more rustic, natural trails through the forest or the paved 3-mile bicycle path that parallels Terwilliger Boulevard, there are plenty of diverse route options for runners of all experience and skill levels. There’s also the short and paved 0.3-mile Trillium Trail with benches and viewing decks along the route.

Tips: The paved bicycle path through the Tryon Creek State Natural Area is a part of the 40-Mile Loop, an extensive greenway trail system that runs through and around the city of Portland.

10. Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

Oaks Bottom Wildlife in the fall.

The Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is home to 163 acres of meadows, woodlands, and wetlands in Portland along the Willamette River. A peaceful and inviting place to experience nature in the city, this area is also home to many endangered wildlife species, providing a haven for humans and animals alike. The wildlife refuge also provides a trail connection to the nearby Sellwood neighborhood, just east of the park.

Tips: The Springwater Corridor Trail also cuts through the western edge of the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, allowing you to extend your run into other areas of the city.

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Sources:

  1. https://forestparkconservancy.org/forest-park/maps/
  2. https://explorewashingtonpark.org
  3. https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/fullscreen/976300811/ 
  4. https://paulgerald.com/portland-hikes/classic-portland-hike-marquam-trail-council-crest/
  5. https://www.portland.gov/parks/powell-butte-nature-park
  6. https://www.portland.gov/parks/fernhill-park
  7. https://www.portland.gov/parks/springwater-corridor
  8. https://www.travelportland.com/attractions/mount-tabor-park/
  9. https://www.portland.gov/parks/mt-tabor-park
  10. https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=103
  11. https://www.portland.gov/parks/oaks-bottom-wildlife-refuge 

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