Saturday, November 13, 2010

The 4 T Trail: Portland's Unique Urban Excursion

The 4 T Trail is an only-in-Portland experience offering visitors and locals an opportunity to enjoy the city’s urban forests and extensive public transit system. The namesake four Ts include: trail, tram, trolley, and train.

Climbing to Council Crest
 The trail, which is well signed, begins at the Oregon Zoo train station. After crossing noisy Highway 26, the path proceeds uphill through thick fir and alder forests to Council Crest, the highest point in metro Portland.

Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier from Council Crest
On clear days, you have a four-volcano view including Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier. The trail leads downhill where you can follow city streets (Fairmount and Gibbs) or continue on the Marquam trail through a fern-filled, forested ravine concluded by a steep uphill climb. Both routes end at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) campus. The total hiking distance is roughly four miles.

The tram connects OHSU with the South Waterfront

Round tram signs mark the route to Kohler Pavilion (espresso and bathrooms) where you board Portland’s newest form of public transit and the second of the Ts, the tram. Head to the north side windows for spectacular views of downtown Portland and the Willamette River bridges. Connecting the campus with the new South Waterfront area, the aerial tram travels 3300-feet and drops 500-feet in elevation in three minutes. It’s as good as Disneyland and absolutely free of charge for the downhill ride.

Great views of Portland from the tram.

At the base station, usually waiting for passengers, is the trolley, the third T. Upon boarding, you will need to purchase and validate a ticket (good for two hours).

The trolley winds through the Portland State campus and down 10th St. Exit at 10th and Alder. If you have worked up at appetite at this point, try some of the food carts across the street, or for something more elegant, there’s Jakes Grill at the same intersection.

The third T, trolley.

The train takes you back to the beginning of the hike.
One block south, at 10th and Morrison, board the train (MAX, red line in the Beaverton direction) and ride this fourth T a few stops to the Washington Park station. At 260-feet below the surface, it is the deepest transit stop in North America! An elevator whisks you to the top, where you emerge back at the Oregon Zoo, completing the full circle.

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