Leif Erikson Trail (Unpaved awesomeness, right in Portland)

So, Portland has this awesome park, a park that is over 5100 acres, a park with a running/hiking trail that’s 27 miles long, a park crisscrossed by more than seventy miles of other trails, a park that, in parts, still feels like wilderness. That park, of course, is Forest Park.

I love Forest Park. When I can spare the time to get there, I bike to it to run. From work, I can take even more trails through the adjacent Washington Park to hike to it. And earlier this week, I finally made the time to bike through it.

post-ride(with the muddy bike to prove it;)


Okay, it’s not entirely true that I’d never biked through it. The Ronde PDX rides up Saltzman Road, crossing the park from east to west on a lovely gravel wend through the woods. But aside from a few-mile foray, I’d never taken the perhaps better-known of the bike-accessible routes through the park: the Leif Erikson Trail.

Leif Erikson trail Soma(bordered on both ends by this kind of gate: no cars allowed!:)


Leif Erikson is about 11 miles long, stretching between the end of NW Thurman Rd on the south end and Germantown Road on the north (note that it doesn’t go the full length of the park). With its bends and sweeps and turns, it manages to pack a relatively large number of miles into not that much linear space:


And it’s an absolutely lovely ride. The day I rode it was almost rain-free, a glorious fall day, and the maples and alder filling in between the conifers, the fallen leaves among the evergreen Oregon Grape and ferns, make for a riot of colors and textures.

leif erikson trail in the fall


Someone had even decorated many of the mile markers (they religiously point out every quarter mile) with mini pumpkins. It couldn’t possibly have gotten any more fall-like;)

leif erikson mile marker pumpkin


Though some parts are rockier — or muddier — than others, this trail has a fairly regular and bike-friendly surface, even without a mountain bike. Definitely not a problem with my Soma, and I think probably even my racey Trek with its skinny tires would be fine when the ground was dry.

Of course, this time it was wet and muddy, and the sloshy, slippery, splashy parts made me grin like a maniac. And convinced me that I might really like cyclocross after all;)

leif erikson trail(wheee!!:)


If you go on a weekend, it might be fairly crowded. Since I was there in the middle of a weekday, though, it was almost entirely unpopulated, with a slight uptick in the foot traffic on either end near the trailheads. I saw a few other people on bikes, most of whom were also sporting perma-grins. And — so lovely! — though I could sometimes hear the sounds of the semi-nearby industrial wasteland along the Willamette River, the whole ride was free of car noise.

Mostly, I heard my own bike and the little birds that overwinter here: juncos, chickadees, nuthatch. And when I got to the Germantown end of the trail, though I’d thought I would take the paved road up to Skyline Blvd and go home that way, I was enjoying myself so much that I turned around and rode Leif Erikson back the other direction — which is saying a lot for me, because there are few things I dislike in principal as much as an out-and-back route.

So overall? This may be my new favorite place to be in Portland. A lovely bike ride, a beautiful place to feel like I’m out of the city without having to leave the city, a little oasis in the urban, a place to remember how to be sane.


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