Looking for a Forest Park hike that can be completed in about an hour? Delve into the woods on this 2.5-mile loop that explores a soothing swath of Forest Park. The loop has 515 feet of elevation change, traveling downhill from Northwest 53rd Drive on Wild Cherry Trail before rising back up Dogwood Trail.
Wild Cherry Trail – Dogwood Trail Loop starts from one of the roadside parking area along NW 53rd Drive, 0.9 miles from Cornell Road. Walk through a bit of grass to enter the forest on Wild Cherry Trail.
Before you know it, you will come to a junction where the loop gets underway. Dogwood Trail parts to the left, which will be this loop’s return route (unless you prefer to make the circuit in a clockwise direction). Stay to the right to continue strolling down Wild Cherry Trail.
The dirt single-track has a steady downhill grade that is just a bit steeper than gradual. Slip through a forest of bigleaf maples, red alders, and some rather large second-growth Douglas firs. As you swing around a bend, a quarter mile from the start, pass a bench that provides a decent place to take a break and listen to songbirds chattering throughout the understory.
Continue down switchbacks to a junction with Wildwood Trail, which intersects both Wild Cherry Trail and Dogwood Trail (and sounds like a portmanteau of the two). Wildwood Trail could be used to truncate this loop by nearly a mile. Wild Cherry Trail does not pass straight through Wildwood Trail. Instead, you need to make a right turn on Wildwood Trail, followed by an immediate left onto the lower section of Wild Cherry Trail. This split junction is 1/3 of a mile from the trailhead.
Make your way down to the next (longer) stretch of Wild Cherry Trail, weaving across creases in the forest slope. Ferns, Oregon grapes, and native shrubs crowd the path beneath the fir trees (pesky English ivy is preset too, of course).
Don’t be too disheartened when you come to the bottom of Wild Cherry Trail, after 0.9 miles of hiking, and meet a paved stretch of Leif Erikson Drive. This road is closed to motor vehicles (but do watch out for zippy bikers) and you’ll be rid of the pavement in another quarter mile.
Turn left up Leif Erikson Drive. You’ve crossed the low point of the loop and have a gradual ascent ahead. About halfway to Dogwood Trail, Leif Erikson Drive shifts to a dirt and gravel surface while retaining its wide path. Along the way, look to your right for glimpses through the trees over Portland and the Willamette River. If you catch the right window, Mount Hood may be visible as well (especially after some leaves have fallen from the trees).
Leave Leif Erikson Drive after 0.6 miles and make a sharp left turn up Dogwood Trail. This will be the first intersection you cross. Note: if you reach Alder Trail, you hiked 0.55 miles too far on Leif Erikson Drive. Also note: by hiking up Alder Trail instead of Dogwood Trail, you can switch this loop from 2.5 miles to 3.5 miles. More details are provided below.
Begin up Dogwood Trail, starting the last mile of the hike. Does the forest along Dogwood Trail look even nicer than it did along Wild Cherry Trail? It’s hard to say, but the licorice ferns climbing up the mossy bigleaf maples do seem to be just a bit fernier. During spring months, thimbleberry, trillium, and woodland violets add flowers to the greenery.
Weave your way up ridge, climbing 200 feet in 0.35 miles on the lowest section of Dogwood Trail. Come to a junction with Wildwood Trail and cross through it to proceed up Dogwood Trail. The dirt trail continues to rise at a stead rate, going up the round spine of a forest ridge. After a pair of switchback bends, the grade tapers out. The dense forest may thin just enough for you to catch another glimpse over Northwest Portland.
If you find yourself wondering, “did the trail stop climbing?” It has. The trail crests and angles slightly downhill to approach a junction with Keil Trail. There’s just a tenth of a mile to go! Turn left at this T-junction to stay on Dogwood Trail, which gradually descends to the junction with Wild Cherry Trail. Close the loop, turn right, and walk 75 yards back up to the trailhead along Northwest 53rd Drive.
The Forest Park loop on Wild Cherry Trail, Leif Erikson Drive, and Dogwood Trail is complete!
Dogs are welcome on this hike but bikes are not allowed (bicycles are only allowed on Leif Erikson Drive, but not on Wild Cherry Trail or Dogwood Trail). No permit or fee is required to hike in Forest Park, so get out and enjoy!
The basic directions for Wild Cherry Trail – Dogwood Trail Loop are:
- Begin down Wild Cherry Trail from NW 53rd Drive (0 miles)
- Stay to the right through a junction with Dogwood Trail where the loop begins (0.05 miles)
- Cross Wildwood Trail by making a right turn and an immediate left turn to continue down Wild Cherry Trail (0.33 miles)
- At the bottom of Wild Cherry Trail, turn left up Leif Erikson Drive (0.9 miles)
- Make a sharp left turn onto Dogwood Trail (1.5 miles)
- Cross Wildwood Trail and proceed up Dogwood Trail (1.85 miles)
- When the trail crests, meet Keil Trail and turn left (2.4 miles)
- Reach the end of Dogwood Trail and turn right up Wild Cherry Trail (2.45 miles)
- Return to NW 53rd Drive (2.5 miles)
Longer option: This hike can be extended by one mile by using Alder Trail instead of Dogwood Trail. For this variation, continue on Leif Erikson Drive past the bottom of Dogwood Trail for another 0.55 miles. Turn left up Alder Trail and hike 0.85 miles to Wildwood Trail. Turn left and take Wildwood Trail for 0.3 miles over to a junction with Keil Trail just below a trailhead on Northwest 53rd Drive. Angle right and hike 0.2 miles up Keil Trail to Dogwood Trail. Bear right, hike 0.05 miles over to Wild Cherry Trail, and turn right to hike the final 0.05 miles up to the trailhead.
To get to the trailhead: From Interstate 405 in downtown Portland, take exit 3 to head west on Route 30. Drive about half a mile to the first exit for Vaughn Street. The offramp passes over the top of Route 30 and merges with Vaughn Street. Drive a couple blocks west and turn left onto NW 25th Avenue. Drive half a mile south and turn right onto NW Lovejoy Street. In 400 feet, bear right onto Cornell Road. Drive 1.9 miles up Cornell Road and turn right up NW 53rd Drive. Go 0.9 miles up this road and park in one of the spaces on the right in front of the trailhead. A log fence borders the roadside parking. The trailhead is just before a curve to the left in the road and comes after the parking for Birch Trail and before the parking for Keil Trail and Wildwood Trail.
Trailhead address: Dogwood Trailhead, Northwest 53rd Drive, Portland, OR 97210
Trailhead coordinates: 45.53826, -122.73406 (45° 32′ 17.7″N 122° 44′ 02.6″W)
The loop on Wild Cherry Trail, Leif Erison Drive, and Dogwood Trail is colored in red, brown, and orange.
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