PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - When I think of downtown Portland, hiking isn't necessarily the first thing that comes to mind.
The bike-friendly metropolis is best known for its array of delicious food carts and great shopping, but there's much more to the beautiful Northwest city than initially meets the eye.
Located just 10 minutes from the heart of downtown Portland is Macleay Park. The small patch of solitude nestled at the base of the West Hills of Portland features a great place for a picnic and place to catch your breath.
Even better than a picnic spot, Macleay Park is home to Pittock Mansion Trailhead, as well as the beginning of many trails that branch off the famous 30-mile trail called the Wildwood Trail. With a variety of paths to choose from, you can't go wrong, but the Pittock Mansion hike is one for the books.
The 5.4-mile round-trip trek begins at the lower Macleay Park where you walk under Thurman Street Bridge toward three bright red sculptures. Here, there are restrooms, picnic tables, and water fountains as well as a large map of the park where you will find the trailhead.
As you enter the lush forest that makes up the majority of the park, you will walk upstream on the Lower Macleay Trail, following Balch Creek on the left until you run into Wildwood Trail at the Stone House, where you will continue straight on the trail. The Stone House was built in the 1930s and served as a rest station with bathrooms and running water. During the Columbus Day storm of 1962, it was severely damaged, and the city chose not to repair it and instead removed all fixtures, doors, and the roof, leaving just the stone framework _ a great place to stop and explore along the way.
Winding through the mural of fall colors that make up the flourishing forest, the trail crosses Balch Creek and gradually ascends the Balch Creek Canyon to the Upper Macleay Park on Cornell Road. The upper park features a small grassy area with a few picnic tables, a restroom and additional parking. This is also a good alternative route to hike to Pittock Mansion, for those who'd like a shorter jaunt.
After crossing the street, you will head up the path and stay to the left on the Wildwood Trail. As you ascend the hill, there will be several junctions but stay on the Wildwood Trail to Pittock Mansion.
A bench sitting near a map of the park marks the end of the trail to the destination, where you will turn left to walk through the parking lot toward the mansion itself. Walk around to the left of the building where there are a multitude of places to sit and enjoy the views of downtown Portland and relax.
The mansion is open to the public for an admission fee. It is worth a visit. It was home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock from 1914-19. The city of Portland purchased the mansion in 1964 and restored it.
On one of the final days of sunshine, I sat on a bench overlooking the city with one of my favorite books and a sandwich as I silently said goodbye to autumn. The hum of the cars and hustle of the city on a busy Friday was soothing from afar after a long hike. Parents and children alike came to admire the view and run around on the lawn of the large mansion. Several couples sat on benches and took photos of one another with the tall city buildings in the background.
This three-hour family friendly hike was well worth the time it took to complete. With a nice walk back down the hills the forest was quiet and the mid-afternoon sun broke through the trees as I passed several people heading up to the top.
The original story can be found on the Statesman Journal's website: http://stjr.nl/1hDKEwm
Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com
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