Thursday, September 23, 2021
Sept. 23, 2021

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Forest Park’s northern trails offer a quieter park experience

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A cloudy spring day offers a calm experience on the Firelane 12 Trail in Forest Park.
A cloudy spring day offers a calm experience on the Firelane 12 Trail in Forest Park. The north unit of Forest Park offers a quieter, more remote way to explore the urban forest. Photo Gallery

Find quiet trails lined with trillium flowers, sweeping views over the mouth of the Willamette River and branching paths through a lush urban forest, all within one section of sprawling Forest Park.

Portland’s famed urban forest is perhaps best known for its southernmost section, an area that includes popular attractions like the Stone House and Pittock Mansion, but those seeking solitude need only head north.

With fewer trails and trailheads to access them, the northernmost section of Forest Park is decidedly more remote. Runners looking to tackle the entirety of the 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail may be familiar with the trail’s northern terminus along Northwest Newberry Road, but the other trails get considerably less attention.

What park managers consider to be the northern unit of the park runs from Northwest Germantown Road to Northwest Newberry Road, a section roughly two miles long and one mile wide. Unlike the central and southern units, where mazes of pathways snake through the forest, the northern unit is relatively sparse when it comes to actual trails – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see.

Those looking to explore the northern unit would do well to start at one of the three trailheads along Northwest Skyline Boulevard, or the trailhead on Northwest Newberry Road. Once inside the park, there are any number of ways to explore it, from the quiet Firelane 12 Trail to the more popular BPA Trail that runs the width of the park.

For those new to the northern unit of Forest Park, a hike that explores the many different trails might be the best course of action – the Skyline Boulevard to Firelane 12 Hike below is a good introduction. From there, create your own loop hikes and find new ways to explore this relatively remote section of Portland’s beautiful, wild expanse.


Distance: 6.2 miles, out and back

Difficulty: moderate (steep hills)

Amenities: none

This hike begins at the Skyline Boulevard trailhead, but you can also start at the Newberry or BPA Road trailheads if there’s no room to park. Like many trailheads in this section of Forest Park, parking is limited to the shoulders of the road. Be careful and make sure your car is not jutting out into the road.

The spot is labeled “Skyline Blvd. Trailhead” on Google Maps, but it would be more accurate it call it the Firelane 15 Trailhead. Once you park, look for the green gate that marks the start of the Firelane 15 trail running east into Forest Park.

Make sure to get a look at the sweeping viewpoint over North Portland, just a short way from the trailhead. If skies are clear, you should be able to see some Cascade peaks over the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers.

About .7 miles from the trailhead you’ll also find a short path that leads to small Kielhorn Meadow. There’s nothing particularly special about the spot, but it is a nice grassy area for a picnic or a rest.

Walk another .4 miles down Firelane 15 to reach the Wildwood Trail. Turn right to head south on the long-distance hiking trail, though you won’t be on it for long.

In about one mile, the Wildwood Trail intersects with the popular BPA Road Trail, so named for the Bonneville Power Administration, which has strung power lines through this section of the park. Turn left and follow the BPA Road Trail a quick .2 miles, then turn left onto the quiet Firelane 12 Trail.

Firelane 12 runs downhill through a dense section of Forest Park about 1.5 miles to the far northeastern corner of Forest Park, where it ends at a small residential trailhead. Once at the end, turn around and begin the long climb back to the start.

Instead of retracing all your steps, walk about one mile back up Firelane 12 to find a junction with Firelane 15. Turn right and follow Firelane 15 uphill about 1.3 miles back to the trailhead on Skyline Boulevard.