Forest Park is as much a Portland icon as Powell’s City of Books or Voodoo Doughnut. The entirety of the park—more than 5,000 acres total—sits within Portland’s city limits, providing a close-in playground for hikers, runners, walkers, and cyclists throughout the year.
The park’s 80 miles of well-maintained trails and access roads have become a haven for athletes braving the elements in all seasons, but it’s an especially popular destination for both novice and veteran trail runners. In addition to gentle grades and well-worn paths, the park hosts several trail races throughout the year, including the Trail Factor 50k on Memorial Day and the Portland Trail Series, which spans the spring, summer, and early fall.
Given its popularity and Portland’s mild winter thus far, there’s no better time to explore Forest Park’s network of running trails. Here are the best trails in Forest Park for a winter run, taking advantage of the park’s scenic beauty, proximity, and diverse options.
1. The Crown Jewel: Wildwood Trail
The most popular trail in Forest Park is the Wildwood Trail , a 30-mile trek that follows the contour of the ridge that Forest Park covers. The trail is full of gently rolling hills, old-growth trees, and bubbling streams, with several trailheads along the way to give runners of all stripes a good workout. The Wildwood Trail is busiest close to Washington Park and downtown Portland; runners hoping to avoid the crowds should start at the northern end of Forest Park in Northwest Portland.
2. The Best Views: Pittock Mansion
Runners can take in sweeping views of downtown and east Portland from Pittock Mansion, especially in the winter, when foliage is less dense. There are a few starting options for runners of all skill levels, but it’s an even five miles round-trip from Lower Macleay Park in Northwest Portland.
The Lower Macleay Trail follows Balch Creek—one of the only perennial streams in Forest Park—before crossing the Wildwood Trail after .86 miles. After taking the Wildwood Trail and crossing Northwest Cornell Road, it’s a 1,000-foot climb to Pittock Mansion, where runners can reward themselves with unobstructed views and plenty of benches.
3. The Best Run for Beginners: Leif Erickson Drive
Ramping up your running efforts as part of your New Year's Resolutions? Look no further than Leif Erickson Drive , one of the most popular running trails in the park. The 11-mile access road gently climbs from the trailhead at Northwest Thurman Street before ending at Northwest Germantown Road. But don't be put off by the double-digit distance: Given the park's vast network of trails and its connection to the Wildwood Trail, runners can create loops of almost any distance to suit their workout.
The path offers an easy alternative to road running, due to its wide berth and gentle grades, according to Lucy Cohen, trails manager for the Forest Park Conservancy.