A walk on the weird side – an urban hiking adventure on Portland’s 4T Trail

Portland, Oregon – the weird city, right? That’s what the sign says, in any case, and following a couple of lengthy visits, I’d have to agree.

Keep Portland Weird, Richard GuntonCoffee – served without exception by zealously tattooed hipster baristas in voluminous lumberjack shirts with facial hair the size of haystacks. I think it must be a law or something.

Portland coffee cart

Hang on, who’s nicked my lumberjack shirt

Bicycles – billions of them, ridden without exception by zealously tattooed hipster baristas on their way to work.

Voodoo doll and bacon-topped doughnuts. No, really.Voodoo Doughnuts, Richard Gunton

And please, never again mention the hemp-seed burger.

But the weirdest thing about Portland is not any of this easy-to-mock stuff, which – let’s face it – adds to the gaiety of the nation enormously. It’s the way that Portland gets into your heart and soul, without you meaning it to happen.

Let’s be frank – on the whole, it’s a rather non-descript riverside city, and a bit of a hard sell to tourists wanting big, must-see sights. But Portland has one huge asset – its natural setting – and knows how to use it. You are even – and this is weird – encouraged out of your cars, onto your feet and into the public transportation system to explore it. Communists, the lot of them. Weird communists.

It’s the 4T Trail that I fell in love with

It’s the 4T Trail that I fell in love with, and then – after that – Portland itself, which up until that point I had been struggling to enjoy. By trail, tram, trolley and train, you are guided up hill and down dale, around the periphery of the city centre, up to its highest point and then back to downtown Portland.

There’s four miles of hiking in total, with a descent down the aerial tram and a ride on the MAX train and the street trolley in between. And that’s proper hiking, or at least a decent walk, on well-made trails up through the trees to Council Crest Park for some jaw-dropping views away to Mount Hood, Mount St Helens and Mount Adams. You have to keep reminding yourself that you are walking through a busy city of 600,000 people, as you wind through hillside woods and quiet residential neighbourhoods, with only birdsong and the rustle of leaves in the breeze to disturb you.

I suppose I could have spent the four hours it takes to get round the 4T in a museum or gallery, but would I have got to know the city in the same way? Surely not.

I found the trail by chance – a random encounter with a random website, when I was looking for something to do one day that didn’t involve caffeine, doughnuts or avoiding bicycles.

So consider this my gift – a direct line to the 4T, on which you’ll discover that Portland turns out to be not so weird, but wonderfully, charmingly, naturally wild.

4T Trail – all the advice you need, from public transportation details to route descriptions

Keep Portland Weird, Voodoo Doughnuts, and Portland – many thanks to Richard Gunton
Portland Summer Evening by Stuart Seeger, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Time to Walk Like a Rebel by Ian Sane, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Go by Streetcar by Ian Sane, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Forest Park, Portland, by Szapucki, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
4T Trail by Dzung Tran, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
Portland and Mount Hood by RONg, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

  1. Hi Jules – I really enjoyed this piece on Portland. Especially the non-descript bit. One of my kids asked me if I’d been to Portland and I said….I honestly can’t remember. I’ve been to Seattle and that other one, the one in Oregon (on the water) what’s that one called….oh yes I think it’s Portland…………….By the way the rather stupid palladio1234 moniker is me: Janet Simmonds………don’t ask.


  2. Hi Janet, glad you liked it. I did wonder if I’d been a bit harsh, but in the end I do think Portland is one of those cities that’s probably great to live in, but not so fascinating to visit. Although it has great craft beer and coffee, and the wonderful Ken’s pizzeria, and fantastic street food, and the 4T Trail, and…actually, I think I rather like it after all!


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