Most renowned for their design for New York City’s Central Park, the Olmsted Brothers* were commissioned by the City of Portland in 1903 to access its existing parks and to seek out opportunities to develop new ones. Among those opportunities were Peninsula Park and Mount Tabor, but the chief contributing vision was the preservation of the land and hills now known as Forest Park. According to the Olmsted Report, a “visit to these woods would afford more pleasure and satisfaction than a visit to any other sort of park.” Although this vision for Forest Park was born long ago, the park wasn’t actually created until 1948 due to conflicting visions for the area's development. Park advocates prevailed, however, and today Forest Park is the largest naturally vegetated city park in the United States, with nearly 5,100 acres.
The best way to explore the park is to hike or bike some of the 80 miles of maintained trails. At roughly 30 miles long, the Wildwood Trail is the park's longest trail and a connection between Forest Park and neighboring Washington Park. Leif Erikson Drive is an old, roughly paved 11-mile corridor that runs parallel to the Wildwood Trail. This road was originally built in 1915 to help develop the land. Creating the perfect route through the park will most likely involve finding a suitable connection between these two major corridors. To make this task easier we recommend four simple hikes to get you started: the Lower Macleay Trail Loop, the Wild Cherry Trail Loop, the Ridge Trail and the Springville Trail Loop.
*Interestingly, Central Park was actually designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and his business partner, Calvert Vaux. Their landscape architecture firm would later be passed down to his son and step-son, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, who would ultimately be known professionally as the Olmsted Brothers.