4 T's Trail Portland, OREGON

Train – Trail – Tram – Trolley
Distance: RT 5.5 miles (total distance when using all available transportation about – 4mi walking)
Duration: 3.5 hours
Party: Kristin and Myself
4 T’s Trail Photos
Trail Map & Info

4 T’s Trail

We started the adventure with a short walk to the Union Station MAX stop. We caught the green line (runs on 5th & 6th downtown) then exited at the Pioneer Courthouse stop to transfer onto a Westbound train (red/blue line).

The beautiful thing about Portland is the efficiency of the public transportation – especially the MAX, which stands for Metro Area Express. In the downtown area Portland created a “Free Rail Zone” where folks can ride the MAX and Street Car for free within this zone. The free zone is for the MAX is from Lloyd Center to one stop west of Pioneer Square. The Street Car is free within the I405 corridor (NW Glisan to South Waterfront). For this we just purchased one 2 hour pass each.

Taking the Red/Blue MAX line out to the zoo, we exited into the tunnel and proceeded up the elevator. Just outside the elevator the 4 T’s signage is noticeable. The signs directs you to walk along the sidewalk towards the entrance of the zoo. On a busy day like this one was, we crossed the street and headed towards the Children’s Museum to avoid the crowds around the zoo entrance. We continued on by crossing over highway 26 and walking a few hundred feet down along the side of the East onramp to connect with the trail.

The trail shoots up Portland’s Southwest hills into an urban forested canopy. You climb quickly up the hillside getting away from the sounds of heavy city traffic. After a short stint on this urban trail it leads to a road where you’ll meet a four way stop at the intersection of SW Patton Road and SW Talbot Road. A left turn on SW Talbot Road will take you to the base of Council Crest – claimed to be one of Portland’s highest point, which you can vouch for after you walk up the steeply paved trail to the crest.

Council Crest is one of my favorite places to ride my bicycle and run to. It provides remarkable views of the city of Portland, the Willamette valley, and the Cascade Mountain Range. From the top on a clear day Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, Mt Jefferson, Mt Rainier, and the Columbia River is viewable. Council Crest earned this name because it was here where Native Americans held meetings and built signal fires.

On a beautiful sunny Portland day, Council Crest is an excellent place to hang out for a few hours. We ate lunch here and people watched. There were many cyclists riding up the exhausting hill climb, which tops out at just over 1,000 feet. People and dogs were enjoying one another’s company in one of the many designated dog park areas in Portland. Others were soaking in the sun laid down on their blanket reading. Tourist swarmed the area taking pictures at every Godforsaken thing you could see for miles. Before continuing on we both got a kick out of a fellow who appeared to just gotten done Mt Everest – After reaching the top of Council Crest he collapsed onto the cement on his chest and laid there for quiet some time. Staring on we enjoyed watching his friends reactions. Kristin and I were making bets to see how long he would lay there. Once he rose up from the ground we headed onward to conquer the next section of our adventure.

[These twin towers mark the top of Council Crest and can be seen from long distances away]

To connect back with the 4 T’s trail from the Council Crest summit just head East down towards the dog park. Near the trees is some more signage. The trail pleasantly switchbacks down a much less steep route than coming up. Once down from the summit of Council Crest you start to descend through the beautiful Marquam Hills that are known for the big houses and unsteady ground. Walking on this section of the trail you feel like your in people’s backyards at times because your so close to their gigantic houses. Many of the houses are on stilts with multiple decks and levels. For being so close to the city this area is heavily forested mostly to stabilize the ground and to prevent erosion. The tree canopy provides great shade, but makes it take much longer to dry out the trail that tends to stay muddy for awhile after rainfall.

The trail will descend all the way down to the Marquam Shelter, which is a glorified picnic area. The Marquam Shelter is a nice spot to rest for a few moments before beginning the .6 mile ascend to OHSU Hospital. The climb is steady and can be steep in some areas especially the last few switchbacks near the top (of course). Hiking up and around the base of OHSU provides excellent views of the city and a sense of appreciation that Portland has such an abundant amount of hiking trails and parks that are so easily accessible.

Towering up and over the last switchback to the trail juncture you feel like the TRAM should be right there. However, its a bit of a jaunt down through campus. The TRAM is FREE! to ride down only. They run frequently between the two campuses (500 vertical feet, 3,000 linear feet) at the rate of 22mph in about 3 minutes a ride. Be advised and check the TRAM schedule before scheduling your trip. The TRAM is a glorified ferris wheel that offers great views of Portland from the South waterfront perspective.

The Street Car (Trolley) stops at the South waterfront OHSU campus. However, this stop is just outside of the free rail zone. You can walk North just a .5 mile or so to catch the Trolley in the “free zone.” We opted out on the Trolley due to the excellent weather and chose to walk along the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside located in South Waterfront on the espionage offers an excellent Happy Hour Menu with Portland’s best $2.95 Burger and Fries. Full Sail Brewery also has an offsite brewery connected to the bar that brews small quantities (compared to its mother brewery in Hood River, OR), which is served on tap at McCormick & Schmick’s Harborside. Under the Burnside Bridge lies an ultra classic weekend Portland event – the Saturday Market, which showcases Portland’s diversity all in one spot. Great food, great beer, great art, and cool people. If your’e going to go urban hiking you might as well mix a little bit of food and beer in…

*Map breakdown of trail – Keep in mind that the actual hiking portion starts at mile 4 (Oregon Zoo) to about mile 8 (OHSU)*


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Diana Buswell on April 29, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Garrett, Love Love Love this Post. Tell Andrew this is one of the activities for Mothers Day. Did you come up with this?? If so, Garrett you a little bit of a genius. You keep posting hikes and activities in this format you’ll be guiding them for money soon. A hike like this would be very popular for families etc. and you would be awesome at guiding it….something to think about, which you probably have already. Thanks for perfect idea for Mom’s day.


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