Firelane 15 Loop
Moderate /see map U1/Hike #19
Call it Forest Park’s last frontier. Perched at the park’s northern tip, Firelane 15 borders a power-line corridor that surveys Sauvie Island farmland and St. Helens’s snowy dome. To the west, a blanket of rugged blue hills unfurls to the Coast Range. Such remote topography is a solid bet for wildlife encounters. Park workers routinely spot coyote and black-tailed deer darting into the brush. Bobcat and elk tracks in the mud are not out of the question. And don’t miss the side trail from Fire-lane 15 to Keilhorn Meadow (to the right of the upper gate), a secluded, hemlock- and maple-fringed field—as pretty a place as any to listen for great horned owls.
SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Skyline Blvd, follow Firelane 15, cross over the Wildwood Trail, and turn up Firelane 12 to BPA Road. Go right on BPA Road. Turn right on Wildwood Trail. Return via Firelane 15. (Round trip: 2.8 miles)
Audubon Sanctuary Easy /see map F4/Hike #20
Keep a field guide handy inside the Audubon Society’s 150-acre reserve set just off of NW Cornell Road. More than 40 species of birds, including warblers, grosbeaks, and sparrows, have been recorded here. Bird-happy crowds typically head north from the parking area to the Pittock Bird Sanctuary. Here, an easy mile-long loop trail meanders along Balch Creek and encircles a pond scattered with lily pads. But the Founders Trail in the 34-acre Uhtoff Sanctuary is especially noteworthy. Nicknamed “Pileated Woodpecker Alley” it’s packed with abundant snags, a siren’s song to North America’s largest woodpecker. Still skunked on sightings? Tour the on-site Wildlife Care Center, home to Audubon’s fleet of educational birds, which include raptors and owls.
SUGGESTED ROUTE: Founders Trail to North Collins Trail and back to parking lot. (Round trip: 1.3 miles)
Hard/see map O3/Hike #5
With an awning of curved alder limbs barreling above it, Firelane 7 has been dubbed “Avenue of the Trees.” But it’s also the park’s best path to wildflowers. This south-facing ridgeline trail basks in enough sun to entice prodigious tiger lily blooms, some several feet tall. In spring, the adjacent Trillium Trail is littered with thickets of its namesake blossom, followed by a procession of thimbleberries and huckleberries. For a sweet side trip, descend lower Hardesty Trail to visit “Big Stump,” a massive old-growth cedar nub that bears a pair of eye-like springboard notches cut into its trunk by early-20th-century loggers.
SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Springville Road off Skyline Blvd, take Firelane 7 to Trillium Trail and go right. Turn left on Wildwood Trail and continue to Hardesty Trail to return via Firelane 7. (Round trip: 3.4 miles)
Firelane 9 Loop
Hard/see map Q5/Hike #21
The ravine cut by Linnton Creek must look like a giant feeding trough to hungry birds. Loaded with seed-rich red alders and bigleaf maples, the tucked-away canyon attracts scores of melodious western tanagers, orange-crowned warblers, and evening grosbeaks. At the hike’s halfway point, Firelane 10 zigzags through forest spotted with white oak, western red cedar, and even purple-hued Pacific yew, which sprouts bright red berries that prove irresistible to birds like the orange-breasted varied thrush. A recent hike offered a view of a red-tailed hawk swooping no more than 20 feet overhead.
SUGGESTED ROUTE: From Leif Erikson trailhead off of NW Germantown Road, cross the road to Firelane 9. Descend to the town of Linnton and pick up the Linnton Trail. Turn left at Firelane 10 to return to trailhead. (Round trip: 2 miles)
Lower Macleay to Stone House
Easy/see map E8/Hike #17
Not even Crayola could box up so many shades of green. Set in a lush canyon alongside the cool waters of Balch Creek, the largest stream in Forest Park, Lower Macleay Trail is an explosion of licorice ferns, leafy salal bushes, moss-jacketed hemlocks, and some of the most impressive fir specimens in the park, including Portland’s most gasp-inducing heritage tree, a 242-foot, jade-crowned giant—the country’s tallest fir within a city. For more color, scope out the creek’s population of native cutthroat trout. Then explore the “Stone House,” the remains of a Works Progress Administration–era structure, built in 1936. Its lichen-coated walls make a killer fort for an afternoon.
SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Upshur Street follow Lower Macleay Trail for one mile. (Round trip: 2 miles)
Tolinda Trail to Waterline
Hard/see map Q7/Hike #9
The Tolinda Trail takes its name from the sight of a former Camp Fire Girls camp in the park. But make no mistake: this is one tough cookie of a hike. In less than a mile, the route vaults nearly 400 feet up to Leif Erikson. Temper first-degree thigh burns by enjoying bright blazes of fireweed, numerous lilies, and a welcome shot of solitude. To earn a merit badge for pluck, proceed up the Waterline Trail, a steep, often muddy route that ascends along a ridge to a water tower set in a sun-soaked meadow atop Skyline Boulevard.
SUGGESTED ROUTE: From NW Germantown Road, take Tolinda Trail. Go left at Leif Erikson and up Waterline Trail. Return the same way. (Round trip: 3 miles)