Portland 4T Loop

September 22, 2015

This was one of the last two big walks Carla and I went on before I broke my leg putting me out of commission until mid November.

Portland has a wealth of mass transit options and is blessed with many hiking trails especially in the west hills. Put those two together and you get the 4T loop; Four “T”s allow you to navigate a circle using a Trail from the Portland zoo through Council Crest to OHSU; the Tram, a cable gondola running from the OHSU hospital down to the Williamette river front; the Trolley (Portland Streetcar) up through town; and the Train, MAX light rail back to the zoo. So 4T: Trail, Tram, Trolley, Train.

Here is an overview of the 4T loop. You can find it on the 4ttrail WordPress site.

4T Trail Map
4T Trail Map
  • Green is the Trail; see the dotted line portion? We’ll talk more about that later.
  • Blue is the Tram down the hill to the waterfront area
  • Red is the Trolley (streetcar) to the main city part of Portland
  • Yellow is the Train (MAX lightrail) back to the zoo.

The trail is well marked both on the hike and throughout downtown.

4t_train_sign 2011-4t-brown-sign-1 2011-4t-green-sign

We  made it a 5T: adding the Train from Beaverton Creek Station out in our suburbs to the zoo.  I almost didn’t get to go on this hike as I had jury duty in Washington County. Luckily I was released early. I called Carla and asked her if I had time to join up with her and our neighbors: good news they hadn’t left yet. So I hopped on MAX (I take public transit when I can) and  headed home, changed shoes and we took off.

I had heard of the 4T loop but didn’t know anything about the details of the trail. Add that I’m terrible with directions and I was glad we were with someone who knew where we were going. Nevertheless, I made a few gaffs in my planning. First, I had eaten a very early breakfast before going out to Hillsboro for jury duty and didn’t even grab a snack before we headed out. Second, I wore walking shoes which I would soon discover were not the best choice for the trail. Third, I didn’t bring a camera. I knew I didn’t want to take my big Sony A77 DSLR since it would bang around on the trail, but I could have brought my Sony DSC RX-100 pocket camera.

These were small problems and wouldn’t have an outsized impact on my enjoyment. From the zoo we crossed the Sunset Highway on foot via the overpass. This put us at the start of the well marked hill trail. The first section of the hike is mostly uphill on a gradual climb that includes stair steps formed by old railroad ties or other lumber of similar size. It took us just under an hour to walk the 2 miles up to Council Crest.

Now, I’ve lived in Portland 36 years and I’ve never once been to Council Crest; wow! Have I missed out! The view of Portland and Mount St Helens beyond is spectacular. This was when I gave myself a dope slap for not bringing a camera. I took a few overlapping shots with my iPhone and put them together in a panorama in LightRoom. Given that you can get to it by car there is no reason to not get up there.

Portland and Mount St. Helens from Council Crest
Portland and Mount St. Helens from Council Crest

Shortly after heading down from Council Crest we had a choice to make: trail route or urban route. The urban route is denoted by the dotted green lines in the previous map. The  4T Trail WordPress site has a nice description of the two options. The forest route has an additional 300 feet of elevation gain: 800 feet elevation gain via the forest; 500 for the urban route. Being intrepid we chose the trail route; we walk in neighborhoods everyday. From Council Crest you go down, down, down, and down some more. It was such a long steady downhill hike that my thighs were barking and I was wishing I could stretch my legs by walking on level ground for a hundred yards or so. I was also feeling the effects of having not eaten for the past six or seven hours.

OHSU is way up on the hill and I knew we’d have to regain that ground before the end of the hike. But it was quiet with beautiful vistas of hillsides and canyons.

Funghi along the trail from Council Crest to OHSU on the 4T trail
Funghi along the trail from Council Crest to OHSU on the 4T trail

I read various reports on the distance; the 4T Trails WordPress site is confusing: one part of the site says the hike is 4.5 miles while the map shows 6.6 miles. If I had unpaused my walking app when we left Council Crest I’d be able to tell you (second dope slap).

We passed quite a few hikers and runners along the trail. As we climbed the last ridge up to OHSU the Physicians Pavilion towered above us.  We were cheered on and greeted by some smokers. Smoking is prohibited on all OHSU properties so the smoking employees take a break by walking over to the edge of the park and having a puff.

We walked down the hill by the BICC and the Mark O. Hatfield Research Center and into the hospital to catch the tram on the ride down. I was in the back of the car and didn’t get a good picture of the view, but this is a must see ride in Portland on a nice day. You can see the bridges, the city,  the southeast suburbs and the mountains laid out on a palette beneath you. You have to pay for the ride up to the hospital, but the ride down is free.

It was almost three o’clock and we were famished; we found a great  pork binh minh sandwiches at a little Vietnamese eatery. I wish I remember the name of the place! After being rejuvenated we walked across the street to catch the  Trolley (Portland Streetcar) for a ride up to 10th and Yamhill where we transferred to the Train (MAX light rail) for the ride back out to our car. The train was full of commuters and made us realize how fortunate we are to be retired.

I hope I don’t sound whiny; we had a wonderful day;. I want to make sure you know what to expect if you are thinking about taking this hike. Here are some tips if you go.

  • Wear hiking shoes with nice firm soles. In addition to the exposed rocks and roots, to facilitate water run off in the rainy season, the trails all tip slightly downhill. Good shoes are a big help in navigating these.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. The hike takes between two and three hours.
  • Eat before hand and carry water and snacks.
  • Take a camera; you’ll take in some of the best views of Portland
  • I don’t think I’d go in the middle of the rainy season; the trail is well maintained but I think sunny days are better.

I’m looking forward to doing it again next Spring.

One thought on “Portland 4T Loop

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.