Portland Offers Great Access to Wooded Trails

Is there any city in America that has easier access to the outdoors than Portland?

I visited over President’s Day Weekend and hit the trail for three exceptional hikes near downtown. It was easy to take public transportation to reach each trailhead.

Among the hikes:

  • Marquam Trail to Council Crest: Climbing through a rain-foresty wooded ravine to one of Portland’s best viewpoints atop 1,073-foot Marquam Hill. You can see three volcanoes from Council Crest.
  • Mount Tabor: Just east of downtown, check out this park with miles of trails winding through old-growth forest on the flanks of old volcano. It tops out at 636 feet, offering great views of the downtown skyline from the summit.
  • Wildwood Trail through Hoyt Arboretum: This exceptional hike takes in the best of Washington Park and Hoyt Arboretum. You’ll see old-growth forests, get the occasional view of the city and stretch your legs out for nearly five miles.
Council Crest atop Marquam Hill offers exceptional views.
Hikers head into the ravine on Marquam Hill.
Mount Tabor Park is built on top of an old volcano.
Hikers hit the Wildwood Trail in Hoyt Arboretum.

Escape from Amazonia to Queenly Views

The Hike: South Lake Union to Queen Anne

  • Distance: About 3.5 miles
  • Transit: South Lake Union Trolley, buses 40 and the C Line

Queen Anne Hill is one of Seattle’s most dramatic landmarks. Why not climb it?

Once on top, you’ll walk through some lovely neighborhoods and get the best views in the city.

This journey even comes with a sketchy woodland adventure — if you’re up for it.

Start: Amazonia

maplakeuniontoqueenanne2As you begin your journey at Terry Avenue and Mercer Street, notice the thousands of odd tribal members shuffling along wearing blue badges. You’re in Amazonia now. Don’t worry, they’re too busy staring at their phones to notice you.

Cross Mercer and head north toward the lake.

Once here, hop on the Lake Union Loop pedestrian trail on along Westlake. It’s a pleasant walk with great views of the lake, and it’s flat as a pancake for about a mile. Then things get real.

Entering Lake Union Park at the start of the hike.
Here’s where it gets real. Climb these steps to Dexter Avenue.

Start Climbing

At Crockett, cross Westlake Avenue and take a set of stairs, heading west and ever upward. You’ll hit Dexter, then keep going up on a diagonal road to your right. That’s Dexter Way.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Crossing under Aurora Avenue, you’ll see a rough-looking lot to the south. There’s a footpath here that climbs steeply up the hill through the woods. It’s kind of spooky, but once on top, you’ll pop out of the woods into one of Queen Anne’s nicer neighborhoods at Taylor Avenue and Crockett.

Cross under Aurora Avenue on Dexter Way.
A sometimes-sketchy trail takes you up the east side of Queen Anne.

You’re on the Hill Now

Up you came, up you must keep going.

As you climb west along Crockett, notice that the residents in these nice neighborhoods are no better at picking up after their dogs than anywhere else in Seattle.

Targy’s: Drink up.

Step carefully and you’ll eventually top out (elevation 400 feet) and hit the Queen Anne Avenue commercial district.

Need a snack or a drink? You have a wealth of choices on the avenue.

Consider a stop at one of Seattle’s quintessential dive bars a little farther on. At Crockett and Sixth Avenue West, Targy’s Tavern is the place to get lost for a couple of hours.

Queen Anne Boulevard offers majestic views of Elliott Bay.

It’s View Time

You’re in the homestretch now. One block away, take a left on Seventh Avenue West and head south.

You’re on what’s known as Queen Anne Boulevard now, where you’ll find the best views in Seattle. Wonderful, historic mansions line the route as it coutours around to Queen Anne’s south side, where more views await.

Highlights: Betty Bowen Viewpoint, with exceptional views of Elliott Bay, the Olympics and West Seattle, and on Highland Street, you’ll come to Kerry Park, arguably the best skyline view of the Emerald City.

Done walking? You can catch a bus (Routes 2, 13, and 29) two blocks to the east at Highland Street and Queen Anne Avenue.

Betty Bowen Viewpoint looks out on Elliott Bay.
Kerry Park offers one of the best views in the city.


Search for Fall Color and the Ghosts of Seattle

The Hike: UW to Volunteer Park

  • Distance: About 4 miles
  • Transit: Buses 43, 44, 49, 70

Blustery fall days are made for urban hikes.

On a stormy day in Seattle, the SkiZers headed in search of fall color through the University of Washington and the Washington Park Arboretum, eventually a visit Bruce Lee and Doc Maynard at Lake View Cemetery.

The great thing about this hike is that goes from park to park,  spending the majority of your time away from roads and traffic.

Mrs. SkiZer sets the pace through the University of Washington campus.

Start: the UW

Starting from 45th Street and 15 Avenue NE in the U District, we set out across the UW campus. The UW is home to some of Seattle’s oldest trees, and as we headed toward Husky Stadium, we saw some lovely color.

Once past Husky Stadium, we headed south over the Montlake Bridge and hopped onto the the Lake Washington Ship Canal Waterside Trail going east and connecting with the Arboretum Waterside Trail.

Small islands on the Arboretum Waterside Trail are linked by bridges.
A rower makes his way down the Montlake Cut.
Lily pads thrive in the shallow waters near the Washington Park Arboretum.


The waterside trail is excellent. It scoots over two islands, under State Route 520 and then connects with the trails of the Washington Park Arboretum.

Once in the Arboretum, you may never want to leave. We nearly didn’t, getting lost at one point, but that was OK. The Arboretum is a wonderful place to wander.

Eventually, we made our way to East Interlaken Boulevard and headed west.

Visitors walk the trails through the Washington Park Arboretum.
Fall colors are just beginning to peak along the Arboretum trails.

‘Blair Witch’ Woods

After walking past the rich folks’ homes along Interlaken Boulevard, we entered a dark and foreboding woods. We were headed to Lake View Cemetery to pay a visit to some of Seattle’s most famous dead people, and it seemed fitting that we would face a scary test along the way.

Closed? We decided to see.

Off of Interlaken, we came to a trail labeled “Warning: Do not enter.”

Naturally, we went on.

The trail was rough, with downed trees and slippery roots, winding up a steep hill. The SkiZer said, “It looks fine!” to a dubious Mrs. SkiZer. Then he proceeded to wander up the path alone to check things out as it got rougher and darker, leaving a none-too-pleased  Mrs. SkiZer behind.

“F*ck this sh*t!” Mrs. SkiZer was heard to say.

Spooky noises eminated from the trees, a homeless camp appeared, and if this had been a movie, the SkiZers would surely be dead soon. Just in time, they popped out of the woods at 15th Avenue and Garfield, across the street from Lake View Cemetery.

Visiting Doc and Bruce

Seattle’s pioneers are all buried at Lake View Cemetery. So is martial arts movie legend Bruce Lee.

Among the pioneers, David “Doc” Maynard seemed like the guy to see. He had the first cabin at Jackson and First in Pioneer Square. By most accounts, he was a fine fellow, a friend of Chief Sealth and he liked to drink a good deal.

His grave stands under a large cedar tree near the top of the cemetery. We said hello, then visited Bruce, where well-wishers still stop by to leave flowers.

Bruce Lee’s grave at Lake View Cemetery draws crowds daily.
Doc Maynard’s tombstone sits under a large cedar tree.

The finish: Volunteer Park

We were almost done. Our final stop was at Volunteer Park, just south of the cemetery. Entering off of 15th Avenue, we walked to the high point near the Asian Art Museum and took in the view of Seattle. It was a fitting way to finish.

Visitors catch a view of the Space Needle near the Asian Art Museum.