See Portland, OR: Tackling the 4-T Trail with a Toddler

On our latest visit to Portland, Oregon, we were interested in seeing the city from a different perspective.  The two of us have visited Portland quite a bit, and we were intrigued by the idea of experiencing so much of the city without ever getting into a car.  We’re also always up for an adventure, and love exploring our surroundings so tackling the 4-T Trail was an outing made for us.

The Four T Trail: Portland, Oregon |

The 4-T Trail is a trek that roughly loops the Southwest section of Portland:

  • Train (MAX light rail)
  • Trail (Hike)
  • Tram (Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)’s Aerial Tram)
  • Trolly (Portland Street Car)


Portland, OR's 4 T Trail: Train |

We began our journey by walking just a few blocks from our downtown hotel, to the MAX light rail station.  From here, we traveled Southwest to the Oregon Zoo.  Bergen was happy enough just hanging out in the backpack carrier set on the floor of the train while we sipped our morning coffee.  As we exited, we learned we were actually standing in the deepest station in North America, and the second deepest in the world!  As we looked around for our way out, we were expecting to find a large set of stairs poking out towards the sky, but it turns out, there are no stairs.  We had to use an elevator.


Portland, OR's 4 T Trail: Trail |

Once we were back on higher ground, we immediately recognized signs directing us toward the 4 mile hiking portion of the adventure. Yes, you have to cross small highway exit so to speak, and walk a few hundred feet along the road, but it was hardly difficult or troublesome.  Soon the bustling world was far off in the distance as we enjoyed fantastic greenery and blooming trillium.

Anytime the trail departed from the forest and onto roads, the course was clearly marked.  Council Crest was our favorite part of the hike, and was also a perfect spot for Bergen to get out from the carrier and stretch his legs.  Cherry Blossoms were in bloom, and the relatively clear skies gave us a great view of the city and surrounding mountains and volcanoes.

Portland, OR's 4 T Trail: Council Crest |


Portland, OR's 4 T Trail: Tram |

After a tough last bit of hiking as we climbed off of the Connor Trail portion, we found the Aerial Tram just a little ways down into the OHSU campus.  I didn’t have much of an idea of what the tram would be like as it’s existence was new to me.  Boy were we blown away with the view and general “coolness” of the entire thing.

Bergen on the other hand was not nearly as impressed.  He can be such a daredevil in his play and exploration, but here and there we are finding things that truly frighten him.  For one he’s deathly afraid of goats, sheep, and pigs.  And here at the tram we learned that he wasn’t such a fan of heights.

On our 3-minute trip down to the South Waterfront, we learned that the tram is actually utilized for transportation purposes by employees and visitors of OHSU, and is not just for tourists or recreational visitors like Seattle’s monorail has largely become.  I also found out that if you are only riding the tram down, there is no charge for your trip; only those riding up pay $4 per ticket (free for children 6 & under).

Portland, OR's 4 T Trail: Tram |


Portland, OR's 4 T Trail: Trolley |

With thoughts of a filling lunch on our minds, we made our way to the Portland Street Car with a great bathroom stop at the OHSU Center for Health and Healing.  Bergen, again did really well just hanging out in the backpack carrier people-watching, and I loved getting to see some of the sights along the way.  We passed Portland State University buildings, parks with festive happenings, and cute shops that I would love to visit on a return trip.  We departed the trolley close to our planned lunch spot, Kenny & Zukes.

Quick Tips for Toddlers & Kids:

  • The backpack carrier was a huge reason for our success.  Though it’s tougher on the back and heavier than the ergo, Bergen seems much happier with the higher view.  It also gave him a place to hang out (and not get into trouble) on the train & trolley portions.
  • Take advantage of bathroom stops when you see them!
  • A given: Bring some snacks & water.
  • We got up early and ate a good breakfast at our hotel.  This allowed us plenty of time for the adventure during Bergen’s “peak” time of the day.
  • Make a plan for where you’ll eat lunch whether you pack a picnic or eat at a restaurant, food cart, etc.  You’ll be hungry by the end of the journey!
  • Take along a map & notes from the 4-T Trail website.

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More Portland Fun:

This post is part of Friday Daydreamin’ with R We There Yet Mom?

6 thoughts on “See Portland, OR: Tackling the 4-T Trail with a Toddler

    • Thanks, Joy! This one should serve us for a little while longer….but it will be an interesting transition for us once he’s too big to be carried! I hope he’ll be ready to get hikin’ 😉 There are some other contraptions out there that I guess we could have for backup.

      • It’s a transition, for sure! We went on a mini hike this weekend in Gig Harbor – my son loved it! I think this will be our first “real” year of fun hikes as a family. 🙂

      • That’s awesome, Joy! Gig Harbor is beautiful. Now that B’s really steady on his feet, I think we also have to remember that he CAN walk on his own for part of the way–we just have to change up our pace a little bit 🙂

  1. Wow! You really did some exploring, didn’t you? It looks like you had an amazing day. I’d love to head back to the Pacific NW and poke around some of the places you’ve mentioned. I’ve only seen Portland from the air as we were approaching to land. 😦

    • We sure did, Tonya–I was so happy with how it all turned out…must admit that I was a little worried about us pulling off each of the T’s (in one piece, with our sanity). Portland is a great city–hope you get to visit someday soon!

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