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Hiking the 4T Trail Loop

Yesterday Garry and I hiked the 4T Trail. The four T’s stand for Trail, Tram, Trolley, and Train. So, it was more than a hike: it was a new way for us to experience the City of Portland. The loop took us exactly three hours to complete (we happened to get good connections), and the hiking part took about two hours and fifteen minutes of this. Find a map here.

The 4T Trail concept was developed by SW Trails Chair Don Baack and his son, Eric. Funded by the City of Portland with the enthusiastic support of then-Mayor Tom Potter, and with the support and labor of SW Trails volunteers, the 4T was inaugurated in September 2009. It was envisioned as a unique way for both locals and visitors to spend time outdoors and enjoy the beauty of the City. Also, Don saw the 4T as a way for the expensive new Tram to provide value to all Portland residents and visitors, instead of solely to those with ties to the Oregon Health & Science University. Indeed, this was the case for me: it was my first trip on the Portland Aerial Tram.

We started at the Washington Park Zoo, or Oregon Zoo, as it’s now called, located (according to Portland Maps) in the Arlington Heights Neighborhood. (It was early Saturday morning, the Zoo was closed, and we didn’t see where to pay for parking, so we took our chances. According to the Zoo website it costs $2 to park there.) But we could have started at Council Crest, or Downtown, or anywhere along the loop. We traveled the loop in the counter-clockwise direction, also known as the ‘cheap’ direction. (While the Tram costs $4 per person going uphill, it is free going down.) There are many small 4T signs along the trail, and larger signs at several major points, like this one at the Zoo.

To get to the trail head here, we walked through the Zoo parking lot, across the Highway 26 overpass, and east along the ramp. I like this picture because it shows how accessible natural areas are in this very urban setting.

The entire route was well-marked. The 4T logo is the colorful circle on the brown part of the sign. The white circle logo on the green part indicates that this section of trail is also part of the 40 Mile Loop.

After just two minutes of hiking, we were in the woods.

The trail was dry and smooth in some areas, and muddy and rocky in others, and it was uphill most of the way. We came out on SW Patton Road, and followed the 4T signs through the neighborhood until we got to the entrance of the Marquam Nature Park. Trail maps of the Park were available at the entrance.

Yesterday was foggy. But Council Crest Park offers beautiful views of Downtown and the Cascade Mountains to the east on clear days. In recent years, trees and brush have grown up and occluded much of the view. So on February 10th, 2011, keeping wildlife habitat in mind, Portland Parks and Recreation will begin trimming trees and clearing brush to open up these views again.

According to my research online, Council Crest Park is in the Southwest Hills, Southwest Hills Residential League, and Healy Heights Neighborhoods. (It appears that these organizations’ borders and missions sometimes do overlap and sometimes don’t. I like to acknowledge neighborhood associations in this blog, so I’ll simply acknowledge them all by providing a link for each.)

We left Council Crest and continued on the 4T Trail, heading towards OHSU in the Homestead Neighborhood. There are some new stairs descending from the street and down to this part of the trail, thanks (once again) to the SW Trails group. I don’t know if they built this fence, too, but it is very nice.

Garry enjoying the woodsy scenery.

After another hour or so of hiking, we came to the edge of the OHSU campus. It was almost a bit alarming to come out of the woods and see this building rising out of the hillside. As a member of the Hillsdale Neighborhood Emergency Team, I can’t help but wonder what would happen to this campus in a large earthquake. But I’m sure OHSU officials have thought of this as well, and planned accordingly.

We walked a few blocks through the OHSU campus, still following the 4T signs. (We found an open building and used the restrooms. No facilities on the trail!) We entered the building with the sign that said, “<– Tram.” There is a little coffee/snack shop in here, but we didn’t stop. Garry took a picture of me entering the tram boarding area.

The Tram has special weekend and seasonal hours of operation, so we planned accordingly. Just as we went out to the boarding area, a Tram car was arriving.

This shows people getting on and off the Tram. For many, of course, the Tram ride is just part of a routine day.

Here is the Tram station at the lower end of the hill.

I turned around and saw that a Trolley (also called a Streetcar) was just arriving. We were now in the South Portland Neighborhood.

We got off the Trolley in the Portland Downtown Neighborhood, and walked a half-block to the MAX Train stop.

The MAX made a couple of stops downtown, then entered a long, dark tunnel for several minutes. The next stop was the underground Zoo station. As we got off the train we saw the core sample drilled during tunnel construction, along with a geologic time line. You can read more about this amazing underground MAX platform here. The elevator at the platform ascends 260 feet to the surface in 25 seconds.

The end of another great winter outing in Southwest Portland.

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3 responses to “Hiking the 4T Trail Loop

  1. I just completed this today. I did it the cheap way as well. Unfortunately I only had a $10 bill so I couldn’t take the light rail. So I ended up walking to the Max and using my credit card for the ticket. Before I got on the Max I got some food from a food cart at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

    • Hello Alex – It sounds like you had a good time on the 4T. The food cart sounds like an excellent choice for the limited funds! Thank you very much for letting me know about your experience.
      Lynn

  2. Awesome! As a native Portlander, for some reason the 4T loop has seemed like something visitors would do to orient themselves to the city and experience its natural beauty. But secretly I have always wanted to complete the loop in its entirety (though I have walked the Marquam Park trails numerous times) when someone comes to visit. Thanks for your tour and documentation of your experience! I’ve written a couple pieces on the parts you talk about here, like Marquam Nature Park many times and a hike I took to OHSU

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