GPS: 45°32'N 122°39'W
Beavers, bobcats, and cutthroat trout aren't your typical city residents, but then Forest Park in Portland isn't your typical urban park. At 5,000 mostly forested acres (2,023 hectares), it's not the country's largest city green space (that honor goes to El Paso's 24,247-acre [9,812-hectare] Franklin Mountains State Park). But Forest Park, an outpost of wild Cascadia just minutes by car or bus from downtown office towers, transports you into wilderness faster and more completely than any other park in the nation. Instead of baseball diamonds and manicured lawns, Forest Park offers an untamed woodland of stately cedar, fir, and hemlock soaring above an understory of sword fern and huckleberry. Roughly 70 miles (113 kilometers) of trail weave through this Pac Northwest postcard, including the 30-mile-long (48-kilometer-long) Wildwood Trail, a favorite among hikers and runners for its easy grades and knack for locating moss-covered beauty spots. "The north end of the park is where you'll find solitude, even on a weekend," says Stephen Hatfield, stewardship director of the Forest Park Conservancy. For an eight-mile (thirteen-kilometer) hike that visits several seasonal streams, step onto the Maple-Wildwood Trail loop off Saltzman Road. Post-hike, ease your reentry into society by joining the trail-weary at nearby Lucky Labrador Beer Hall for a pint of rye ale and some chowder.
Originally published in the April 2008 edition of National Geographic Adventure