Forest Park is a 5,200-acre urban nature preserve set in the Tualatin Mountains (or Portland West Hills), and the trails follow the contours of this 7-million-year-old geologic formation. The Ridge Trail is a short ascent to the spine of the range, midway between Dixie and Cornell Mountains to the northwest and southeast, respectively. The Ridge Trail climbs nearly 1,000 feet, from the lower trailhead on NW Bridge Road to the Springville Road trailhead on top of the ridge, meandering just over 2 miles in a southwesterly direction. The trail is moderately steep, with most of the elevation gained over the first 1.4 miles.
From the trailhead at the NW Bridge Road parking area, follow the edge of the road 0.14 mile until reaching steps and a sign for the “Ridge Trail.” Climb the two flights of stairs and ascend northwest briefly. At 0.22 mile there is a small wood bridge with fantastic peekaboo vistas of the St. Johns Bridge, Willamette River, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.
The trail next makes its turn to the southwest and switchbacks up the spine of the Tualatins. Wildflowers and groundcover include candy flower, herb Robert, buttercup, thimbleberry, salmonberry, Himalayan blackberry, blueberry, vine maple, English ivy, English holly, garlic mustard and ferns. Some of those species are invasive. The forest canopy is composed of alder, big leaf maple and Douglas fir, with lots of old growth specimens along the way. You may spot chipmunks in the forest.
At 0.84 mile, join a service road briefly and follow the trail sign to veer right and resume the ascent. At 1.24 mile there is a junction with the Wildwood Trail; continue straight. Carefully built turnpikes handle the rainfall that hits this trail in the winter and spring months. At 1.4 mile the climb begins to ease up, and at 1.7 mile you reach the junction with Firelane 7 in Forest Park.
To continue to the upper (Springville Road) trailhead, veer right and continue west on Firelane 7. A magnificent green canopy hangs above you. The total one-way distance to the upper trailhead is 2.12 miles, but you can extend your experience with a foray along one of the side trails (Hardesty or Trillium, for example).
WTA pro tip: consider bringing two cars to perform a point-to-point hike on the Ridge Trail with side trips on the Hardesty, Trillium, or Wildwood Trails. Some hikers park in the St. Johns neighborhood and walk across the bridge to the lower trailhead.