I Braved the Famous Portland 4T Trail: Here’s What Happened

Last winter  I had the awesome opportunity to take an afternoon and go on the 4T Trail—a self-guided urban nature tour that lets you explore the city of Portland! I was ready for a nice, relaxing hike, some stunning views, and a chance to take in the city.

I’m a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Portland State University. I’m also a student at PSU in the MBA program. I love the scenery and mountains out here in the Pacific Northwest, and will take any opportunity to get out and enjoy nature on a beautiful day.

This adventure is called the “4T” because you’ll use four ways to get around: the trolley (Streetcar), the train, the trail, and the tram. The whole thing is a giant loop, so you can really start at any point that is closest to you. A Streetcar or Max ticket costs $2.50 for the first two and a half hours, but remember that PSU students can ride the trolley for free! If the trail takes longer than two and a half hours, you can purchase another ticket for $2.50, which will then give you a day pass on all transit. So at most, the total cost for transit on the 4T trail would be $5.00.

Alright, here we go:

The Trolley

I started on the Portland State University campus in the Urban Plaza. I hopped on the Portland Streetcar (the Trolley) and rode it all the way to the 10th and Yamhill stop. One of my favorite coffee shops, Case Study Coffee, was right there, so I stopped in for some fuel.

The Train

From there, I walked north to the Red/Blue TriMet MAX stop, and headed west. The train took me past Providence Park, where the Portland Timbers and the Portland Thorns play. 

A really old building I passed on the train.

I got off at the Washington Park stop, in an underground tunnel that leads to the Oregon Zoo. I walked up the stairs to the ground level. From here, it took me a while to figure out which direction to go, but I headed left and made my way through the parking lot. That was when I saw the first 4T trail sign, with an arrow pointing in the direction to go. 

I followed the sign and ended up following the sidewalk for a while, then I crossed a bridge over Highway 26.

The Trail

Here was where the trail started. The directions say to head to the left, but all I saw was a shoulder along a highway entrance, which seemed wrong and dangerous. I debated this for a bit and then decided to just go left. And I found the trail!

The trail was long, about 4.5 miles, and was winding and steep at times. It was early in the morning and shaded when I started, so it was actually pretty cold and I was glad I brought a good jacket.

It was also super muddy! My least favorite type of terrain.

The trail is actually a winding pathway that has several different courses it links up with. Even though it’s in a really wooded area, you’re still close to Portland neighborhoods. I saw a few people walking their dogs.

At the top, Council Crest Park, the scenery was breathtaking.

I did this hike on a Thursday, so it was pretty much all to myself, but I did come across a couple of people. I can see how this would definitely be busy on a nice Saturday afternoon.

Mt. St. Helens, with a hazy Mt. Rainier poking out to the left. The famous Fremont bridge below.

What’s that? Mt. Hood!

This was definitely my favorite part of the whole adventure. It was a clear day and at the top I could see for miles and miles.

I could spend all day at this lookout but the trail beckoned. Onward! The trail continued on.

Another nice thing about the trail is that it is pedestrian only, so no worrying about mountain bikers coming up behind you. There were quite a few trail runners along my journey.

At the end of the trail portion, it spits you out into a parking lot at Oregon Health & Science University. I headed through the parking lot to the street and took a left, then followed signs for the Aerial Tram.

The view from the tram station. Totally beautiful.

The Tram

The tram whooshes down the side of the hill, taking you over a neighborhood, Interstate Highway 5 and a walking bridge. There’s no cost to ride the tram downhill, but round-trip tickets originating from the lower terminal cost $5.10 each.

COVID-19 Update: The Tram is currently closed except for essential travel to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). Instead, you can hike to the next part of the trip, it’ll just take a little longer.

Once I got off the tram, I found the closest stop to get on the trolley, to the left and behind the closest building. The trolley brought me back to PSU.

I love how easy it was to go on this adventure. Overall, it took me about 5 hours (I took a lot of pictures along the way, and got lost a couple of times) but if you’re dedicated, you could probably finish in four hours (this is also what they say on the website).

The 4T trail was one of my favorite Portland experiences ever and was a blast! I was exhausted afterward but it was so worth it. If you are visiting Portland, this is a great way to take in some of the best things about the area. If you already live in the area, fall in love with Portland again. Go on an adventure without even leaving the city!

Looking for more suggestions on what to do while you are in Portland? You can find our favorite things to do, eat and try in our Visitor’s Guide!