Portland’s 4T’s adventure loop is the perfect urban adventure for ultra-outdoorsy PDX families, tourists, and lay people like us. You get to ride the MAX train, hop on the street car (trolley), float over the trees in the aerial tram, and hike some of the Marquam Trail on foot.
When I was researching the loop, I couldn’t find many accounts of doing the 4T’s with kids. (Find some tips for doing the 4T’s with kids in the last post.) Beyond tips I wanted photos, because it’s easy to get lost walking in the hills. And it’s also easy to get off-track wandering around dowtown Portland with your family while trying to hit four modes of transportation.
So here is a visual tour of what you’ll see along the 4T’s route (thanks to my family for all their cameo appearances). Maybe it will keep you on track. Maybe it won’t. Either way, enjoy the adventure!
One NOTE: We did the route backwards and ENDED with the hike (we started the hike at OHSU and ended at the zoo). So if you’re starting at the zoo and hiking to OHSU, look at the pictures from the bottom up.
Portland’s 4T’s Route in Pictures
We started at the zoo and took the MAX train downtown, where we played and ate. Here’s a link to Trimet’s Red Line Saturday schedule, that will help you get from Washington Park to Downtown Portland.
(Try getting off at Galleria/SW 10th Ave right next to the food carts and a short walk from Powell’s or at Pioneer Place where they have great public bathrooms.)
Then grab the street car anywhere along SW 11th Ave and head south to OHSU. Look for these signs along your route:
The street car is free to the Waterfront, but you pay to get to OHSU (the last stop). If you’re feeling cheap get off and walk about 10 minutes south. Bonus for walkers: kids get a close-up view of a giant construction site.
Then walk through the bike garden at OHSU to get to the aerial tram.
Here’s the trolley arriving at the aerial tram station. (View from the tram station.)
Buy your tickets for the aerial tram at the electronic kiosk in front of the station and then wait for the conductor to say Get on board!
Here’s a view of the South Waterfront aerial tram station and OHSU bike gallery and trolley tracks from above.
Enjoy the ride! Pretty much any seat is great, but we liked the northeast corner for great views of Downtown…
…and the South Waterfront
Here goes the tram up to OHSU on the hill!
Arriving at the station on the hill next to OHSU’s Kohler Pavillion.
Cross over the cool sky bridge.
Look for the little 4T’s decals inside OHSU. Also feel free to ask the information desk workers.
The bathrooms inside OHSU are great for families (turn right when you enter the building from the tram station).
Beyond the bathrooms is a wonderful outdoor space where you can take in great views of the Willamette River and Downtown and enjoy a lovely sculpture garden.
Leaving OHSU and finding the Marquam Trail was the trickiest part for us. Keep walking west and out the building.
Look for a little concrete patio area near the street ahead on your right.
You’ll see some trail markers. They can be a little confusing because arrows seem to be pointing in various directions. Head west up the hill at Sam Jackson Park Road just outside the hospital (and across from that concrete patio).
Sam Jackson Park Road turns into Gibbs Street. There are no sidewalks, but the street has a good shoulder on the right side.
Here’s a marker to look for:
Just after the Hill House, Gibbs Street turns into Marquam Hill Road. Here you have a choice: take the Marquam Trail off the water tower to the north down the hill OR keep heading up Marquam Hill Road and do most of your walking on the streets until you run into the Marquam Trail again up Fairmount Boulevard.
We chose to take the streets because it was starting to rain and morale was taking a momentary dip. It seemed like a bad idea to be lost in a very meandering path in the woods. (In the picture above, we are heading uphill to Marquam Hill Road from the path parallel to the road. To meet up with the Marquam Trail, simply go downhill in the opposite direction from the photo.) Taking the Marquam Trail from the water tower is definitely not direct (nor are the streets, but they are quicker and not so muddy).
Next time we’ll probably do the trail, but the streets were the right choice this go-round. Here’s the street route. Our visitors really enjoyed all the houses built into the hills. It was like a tour of deluxe Oregon tree houses. Note that no streets have sidewalks, so watch out for which side of the street has the best shoulder to walk on.
From Fairmount Boulevard we hit the Marquam Trail again:
Finally we got to the trail. Here we are off-roading on the Marquam up to Council Crest.
Markers along the way helped us out.
Make sure to watch out for trillium!
The first glimpse of the Council Crest water tower from the trail. Council Crest is the summit of the trip!
At Council Crest there are benches, a water fountain, a historical marker, and great views of Portland.
Loop around the water tower to find the Marquam Trail down from Council Crest.
The trail from Council Crest takes you through the enchanted West Hills. Quickly you hit the cross of Talbot Road and Fairmount Boulevard.
Walk on the path along the road until you get to the cross of Patton Street and Humphrey Street. It really helps to have your smartphone maps app going at this point!
At Patton and Humphrey, look around for the little hobbit steps that take you back to the nature trail. (You’ll cross the street.)
This section of the trail was our favorite, with little bridges…
and a lush wonderland feel.
Your little hikers might be ready for a nap at this point.
The whole section after Council Crest is down hill. Eventually you get glimpses of Highway 26 through the trees and you know you’re approaching the zoo.
The Marquam Trail rather abruptly spits you out along the onramp to Highway 26 from the zoo.
Turn right to cross over the overpass bridge. (This is a view looking back toward the trail and Highway 26 eastbound onramp.)
Here’s what my littlest hiker looked like at the end of the day:
And here are some links to others who have done the 4T’s and written about it, in case you’re yearning for more! If you have a post you’d like me to link to, just put it in the comments, and I’ll be happy to share.