Chehalem Ridge Nature Park
It's not that often that an entirely new park is added to the inventory of places for recreation, but with the opening of Chehalem Ridge Nature Park, Metro has added 1,260 acres and nearly 7.5 miles of trails to explore. The park is open 8 am to 7 pm for hiking, biking, equestrian and picnicking. Dogs and other pets are not allowed. It's Metro's park on the west side, about 15 minutes south of Forest Grove, about a half hour from the Beaverton area through some lovely rolling landscapes. Eager to explore the new trails, I headed out early and arrived shortly after to gate rolling open to the public for the first time. The parking area is immense, and can accommodate a lot of users, with an area for horse trailers. There are several covered picnic shelters that can be reserved for events.
The trailhead for the Woodland trail begins near the Picnic Shelters, and the Timber Road can be accessed from there or the east end of the parking lot. The Woodland Trail begins heading into the forest working northwards along in the hillside west of the Timber Road.
The history of land use is evident in the landscape here; the forest was a timber area and had been managed for future timber use. The trees were replanted in the unnatural feeling straight lines, and with acquisition of the land, Metro has done a great deal of restorative work to enhance the landscape for wildlife, fire resiliency and watershed restoration. Old logging roads have been decomissioned and revegetated throughout the area, while the main Timber Road runs open to users to incorporate into their excursions through the south of the park before closing to the public north of Iowa Hill.
The trails have been constructed with wide benches and easy grades, allowing for broad access to users. Many in the southern section are well graveled, and follow interesting routes to views out over the hills or along the creek. The Chehalem Ridge Trail, follows the ridge north then transitions into the the Madrona Trail which descends a more open hillslope with oaks and madrones before following the road before ending in a small loop in the forest. These trails are less developed and natural surfaced, with somewhat more rolling tread that bikers will enjoy.
I'll have to come back to check out the views- I was limted in my views out into the valley, the entirety of my time was in a steady light rain and dense cloud. My visit to the exposed meadow slope of Iowa hill brought me high enough to experience some freezing rain. While no vast views, the thick clouds and eerily straight plots of forest create a peaceful, haunting atmosphere.
The trails are exceedingly well signed, with directional markers at all junctions that include a plate with a trail map oriented to the location, so route finding should be easy. There are also plenty of benches for breaks.
After the windy weather of the weekend there were a handful of downed trees and branches across the park, but Metro maintenance crews were out removing them already.
Scattered throughout the park are massive stumps and large trees that survived the logging of the area, including some huge cedars that inspire reflection of how the area may have once been.
Hopefully there will be some interpretive displays added along the trail system, because there are some great spots that would benefit from explanation to help visitors build a sense of place and understand the historical and ecological elements they are passing by. One spot in particular is along the north end of the Chehalem Ridge Trail where on one side of the trail the forest has been thinned and on the other side the forest has not been and the difference is stark.
All total, exploring the whole of the trail system netted me about 14.5 miles. It's a really nice area to get some good distance in, especially for running and being on the west side of town. I saw a handful of hikers out enjoying opening day, and a pair of bikers on the trails. The location is designed for a huge capacity of users which it will easily accommodate without feeling crowded. It's a great spot to get some really remote feeling nature access without heading too far away from town. I'm thankful for Metro's vision of transforming woodland into a hub for conservation and recreation.
While the trail is well mapped throughout the park, I could not find any uploaded online at opening day, so I uploaded my tracks and threw together a map for planning visits.