Trail Facts at a Glance
Name: Lower Macleay trail
Location: 2960 NW Upshur Street, Portland OR 97210
Hours: 5:00 am—10:00pm
To access the trailhead via the 26 bus, exit the bus at either the stop at NW Thurman Street and NW 27th Avenue (eastbound stop ID: 5836; westbound stop ID: 5835), or the stop at NW Thurman Street and NW 29th Avenue (eastbound stop ID: 5840; westbound stop ID: 5839). To access the trailhead via the 15 or 77 bus, exit the bus at the stop at NW Vaughn Street and NW 27th Avenue (eastbound stop ID: 14247; westbound stop ID: 8802). See more information about how to access the Lower Macleay Trailhead via public transit.
Length: proposed hike is ~.5 miles round trip
Permitted activities include pedestrian use on all trails; motorized mobility devices allowed for people with disabilities. Dogs on-leash only.
Prohibited activities include off-leash dogs, fires, drones, motorized vehicles, camping, hunting and fishing, and possession of firearms. Cycling and equestrian use are prohibited on the Lower Macleay trail.
Date of trail assessment: May 31, 2023
The Lower Macleay trailhead is the starting point of the Lower Macleay trail in Forest Park. The closest address is 2960 NW Upshur Street, Portland OR 97210. The Lower Macleay trail navigates along Balch Creek, a perennial stream that contains cutthroat trout, which are native to the area. After .8 miles, the trail connects to the Wildwood Trail, which runs the entire length of Forest Park connecting with other trails, and from which many loop hikes are possible. See more information about the rest of Forest Park on the Forest Park webpage.
Lower Macleay is home to Forest Park’s only paved trail segment specifically designed to be most usable by people with disabilities. This 0.2-mile segment of the paved trail travels from the open Lower Macleay Trailhead into the cool canopy of Balch Creek Canyon before ending at a viewing area looking out over Balch Creek.
The closest public transit is TriMet bus 15, 26, or 77. To access the trailhead from the appropriate stop along any of these lines, the total travel distance is approximately 1,500-1,700 feet and the maximum grade is 6-8%. There is sidewalk or paved residential street intersections the entire way. Read more about how to access the Lower Macleay Trailhead via public transit.
Around the Lower Macleay trailhead, there is a covered pavilion, picnic benches (including one accessible picnic bench), bicycle parking, and restrooms. There is a fieldhouse maintained by Portland Parks & Recreation here which is used to store tools, but is not open to the public except for two restrooms designed for use by people with disabilities. The paved trail begins at this location and passes under a bridge before it connects with Balch Creek after about 250ft. Near this location are large interpretive signs sharing information about the ecology of the area, as well as a large map of this region of Forest Park. The paved trail traverses a length of about .2 miles through the park, including along Balch Creek, over a bridge, and to a viewing area overlooking the creek that serves as a good turnaround location.
Parking is allowed at the trailhead, and is quite limited. There are three accessible parking spaces at the trailhead, as well as three spaces open to the broader public. There is also parking along the nearby residential streets.
This is a very popular trailhead and is used by runners, hikers with dogs, and families. Use is highest on the weekends and during the warmer, drier months.
Location and Arrival
The location of the Lower Macleay trailhead is 2960 NW Upshur Street, Portland, OR 97210.
There is limited parking at the trailhead, which contains a roundabout with parking stalls located along the outer edge. There are three ADA accessible parking stalls at this location, as well as three additional stalls open to the broader public. There is additional parking along the nearby residential streets.
TriMet bus lines 15, 26, and 77 provide access to Lower Macleay trailhead. You can plan your trip with TriMet using the TriMet trip planner. You can also access the trailhead using TriMet Paratransit services. The trailhead is also served by Portland WAV services which you can call at 503-865-4928. Read more about how to access the Lower Macleay Trailhead via public transit.
The Lower Macleay trailhead features a covered pavilion with a paved floor and several benches and picnic benches inside; picnic benches in the grassy area (including one accessible picnic bench); bicycle parking; and restrooms. There is a fieldhouse maintained by Portland Parks & Recreation here which is used to store tools, but is not open to the public except for two ADA restrooms. There is also a water fountain with space to pull under in a chair or other mobility device. The trailhead also features a garbage can near the pavilion, and a garbage can and a doggie bag station near the accessible picnic bench. There is limited signage at the trailhead.
Description of Trail
The paved trail begins immediately adjacent to the parking area. You can access the paved trail from the parking lot via a curb cut close to the fieldhouse, which connects to a sidewalk along the outer edge of the pavilion.
Traversing the trail from its beginning near the parking area, park visitors will find an ADA accessible picnic table after 38ft from the beginning of the trail, and a trash can and doggie bag station at 70ft. The paved path along this section is flat and has no dropoff; it is contiguous with the surrounding grass. Park visitors may walk on the grassy area. There are additional picnic tables located on concrete pads along this stretch of paved trail, but there is no continuous pavement from the trail to these tables.
The paved trail passes under a bridge as it moves towards Balch Creek. The bridge contains light car and pedestrian traffic that you may hear as you pass underneath. Along this stretch of paved trail, park visitors may see wildflowers and areas of native plants.
At 250ft, park visitors will encounter the first views of Balch Creek, viewable over a chain-link fence. At this location, Balch Creek is partially visible due to large permanent infrastructure over the creek commonly called the “trash rack” which was installed by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services to screen woody debris and other materials from getting into the culvert that carries the creek under the park as it finds its way to the Willamette River. You can read more about the “trash rack” on this webpage provided by the Bureau of Environmental Services. At this location, park visitors are elevated above the creek, behind the chain-link fence which is approximately 4ft tall. Park visitors should have a good view of the creek from all along the chain link fence, as well as beyond the end of the fence as the paved trail continues up Balch Creek. There are also interpretive signs in the area.
At 315ft, park visitors will encounter large interpretive signs and an art installation. The interpretive signs share information about the ecology of the area, as well as a large map of this region of Forest Park. At this location, the paved trail splits. One side of the trail is quite wide; the other is 4.5ft wide. The split trails rejoin each other after 85ft. The paved trail is mostly flat and quite wide all along this stretch, and there is little tree cover or shade.
At the point where the trails rejoin, there begins a slight incline in the trail, averaging 5% with a maximum of 7% at the steepest. 30ft after this point, the chain link fencing along the creek stops and the trail drops slightly to the left as it runs along the creek. For the next approximately 100ft, the trail has a slight downward incline, averaging 5%.
Soon after, at a point approximately 550ft from the beginning of the paved trail, the surface of the trail changes slightly from extremely smooth pavement to slightly bumpier pavement. At this same point, park visitors enter an area with tree canopy providing additional shade, as well as vegetation closer to the sides of the trail. From this location to the turnaround point in the trail, park visitors may be able to hear the sounds of the creek. There are several user-created, non-official short trails down to the creek along this stretch. Portland Parks & Recreation does not maintain these non-official trails and discourages the public from using them as they negatively impact stream health and streambank stability.
About 180ft from the beginning of the more shaded stretch of paved trail, there is a plaque describing the creation of the paved trail. Shortly after this point, the paved trail incline reaches a nearly 7% grade and trail width narrows slightly to 5.5ft wide, and the edge of the trail along the creek is armored by rocks and boulders to help provide definition to the trail.
Approximately 860ft from the beginning of the paved trail, park visitors encounter a bridge crossing Balch Creek, followed by a boot brush station. From this point, the paved trail narrows to about 5ft wide as it parallels the creek. For the next approximately 200ft, the creek is located down below the side of the paved trail. Rocks and boulders armor the side of the paved trail to define the edge for park visitors.
About 200ft after the bridge, park visitors will encounter a bump-out in the trail, a semi-circle surrounded by low stone wall, which is a good location to stop for a rest, and to turn around.
After the bump-out, the trail surface changes from pavement to packed dirt with a lip between the two surfaces. The trail contains obstacles such as exposed culverts, tree roots, intermittent cobbles, and similar objects in the trail surface, creating an uneven tread. The grade increases to between 16-20%, and there are abrupt edges along this section of trail. Park visitors may encounter areas of trail failure, which Portland Parks & Recreation addresses as soon as possible given limited time and resources.
Photos of Signage and Wayfinding
Operations and Maintenance
Portland Parks & Recreation strives to maintain the trailhead, trailhead amenities, trails, and surrounding natural area to provide a safe experience for all users.
Be aware that wind, rain, and high water can leave trails and roads a bit of a mess with hazards like downed trees, landslides, and flooding. Portland Parks & Recreation addresses weather-related impacts as soon as resources allow. Visit Trail Closures and Delays for current information.