IMAGES: Adam Krueger
’Tis the season to be insecure in swimwear. All over Portland, people are trying to sculpt their six-packs in the gym. To that, we say “pffft”—why hamster around on a treadmill when we have a whole state to explore? Trail running is hiking’s badass older sister, and goodness knows we Portlanders love to hike. But there are degrees of difficulty to jogging in the wilderness, and the trail you choose will decide whether your woodland run leaves you invigorated or pooped (or pooped by a bear). Here’s a sample of classic trail runs in and around the metro area. Step away from the spin bike and into the wild.
Category: Run ’n’ Drink
Location: Forest Park’s Wild Cherry/Dogwood Loop
Who should do it: Everyone, from beginners to experienced runners with booked-up schedules.
What makes it special: No article on trail running in Portland would be complete without mentioning Forest Park, which is as wet and hazy as any Amazonian rain forest, and within 10 minutes of downtown. This 3.25-mile loop is perfect for those Saturday mornings when you can’t decide between tossing back mimosas or racking up mileage. Park at the end of Northwest Thurman Street and run up Leif Erickson Drive. Turn left on Wild Cherry Trail, then follow Wildwood and Dogwood trails until you return to Leif Erickson. Rehydrate afterward with a pint at New Old Lompoc (1616 NW 23rd Ave.).
Watch out for: Countless other trail runners, of course! On Leif Erickson Trail, mountain bikers can also be a swift and deadly menace.
Category: Run ’n’ Kill Yourself
Location: Angels Rest
Who should do it: Ex-Marines and people with iron ankles.
What makes it special: This popular weekend hike is also perfect for serious runners looking to get in some deep quad burn. A steady 2.5-mile climb straight up the Columbia River Gorge switchbacks in between deep forest, tinkling waterfalls and spectacular vistas. Reward yourself at the top by drinking in the view, along with a few gulps from your handheld water bottle. Then shake out your legs and prepare to bomb the descent. From 1-84 East, take Exit 28 to Bridal Veil. The parking lot for the trailhead will be on your right.
Watch out for: We suggest slowing to a walk through the trail’s intermittent loose rock fields. Besides saving your ankles, it also gives you a chance to check for pika, the cute little gravel rodents that inhabit the fields. Remember to keep a hold on your dog.
Category: Run ’n’ Swim
Location: Hagg Lake
Who should do it: Bathing beauties. Oh, and ultramarathoners in training.
What makes it special: Running? Who said anything about running? As you meander along the 15 miles of trail that circle this pristine, pastoral reservoir, don’t be afraid to take a break and pick some blackberries, or take a quick dip in the water. Afterward, you can rejoin your friends on their Jet Skis, or sunning themselves on inner tubes. What, you don’t have any friends? And you have no Jet Ski? Well, you can always pound the singletrack in preparation for the Hagg Lake Trail Run, a brutal 25K and 50K race that takes place in February. Hagg Lake is a 21-mile drive west of Portland, off U.S. 26 south of Forest Grove.
Watch out for: Keep an eye out for mountain bikers, the blazing bane of the trail runner. Blackberry brambles make wearing knee-high socks a reasonable proposition.
Category: Run ’n’ Study
Location: Reed Canyon
Who should do it: Nerds, and anyone who wants to make a quick detour through the library on their way home to shower.
What makes it special: Portlanders are expert at sneaking in wilderness where an ordinary person would never expect it, and Reed Canyon is no exception. From the inconspicuous trailhead in a residential neighborhood at Southeast 38th Avenue and Reedway Street, this trail descends for a mile into the largest concentration of springs in the Portland area. Boardwalks through the wetlands abound for the naturalist/runner, and if you have any doubt about what species that plant is, well, that’s what the library is for, right? Incorporate a trot through Reed College’s campus (not during Renn Fayre), or else spend some time wandering the grounds at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
Watch out for: Try not to trip over the English or drama majors, reciting poetry to themselves on the shore of Reed Lake.