PDX Runs: Waterfront Loops
If you would rather admire the PDX skyline than escape from it, a waterfront loop is a great option. For those in the downtown area—or visitors staying in a downtown hotel—it is a good way to avoid the stoplights and traffic. People-watching is solid on the Portland waterfront, too. Once you learn your way around the paths and bridges on the Willamette River, it’s easy to switch things up with a figure-eight loop or add distance along the Springwater Corridor.
Four-mile Loop – Hawthorne Bridge to Steel Bridge (video below)
Starting at PRC (800 SE Grand Ave.), head south on Grand Avenue. Turn right on Madison Street, where you will see signs for the Hawthorne Bridge. Be aware of cyclists on this section–you don’t want to get run over because you were in their lane! Continue across the bridge, admiring views of the skyline and Willamette while running around pedestrians. Follow the sidewalk as it curves to the right and down to the waterfront. From here, go left (north) and stay along the waterfront (river on your right) until you run into the Steel Bridge. There is a nice pedestrian/bike path that will take you back over to the east side. This is where the best view of the city is, as you run right along the water on the Eastbank Esplanade, with the Burnside bridge looming ahead. Don’t miss the left turn up the ramp to the Hawthorne bridge! Go right if you’re up for another loop, left to head back to PRC. Exact distance: 3.9 miles. Here's a video—slightly dated, since the Dutch Bros. has been demolished and the fire station construction that causes a detour at the end is now complete.
Six-mile Loop – Tilikum Crossing to Steel Bridge
Starting the same way that you would on the four-mile loop, turn onto Madison Street and then exit the bridge onto the Eastbank Esplanade before you cross the river. Turn left (south) at the bottom and continue until you get to Tilikum Crossing, right after you pass OMSI. Before going under the bridge, take the sidewalk to the left and make a hairpin turn at the top to head onto the bridge. This is the only “hill,” so attack it! Once onto the west side of the river, turn right onto SW Moody Avenue, then right onto SW River Pkwy. Cross the street at the crosswalk and this will take you to the waterfront path. After passing by the waterfront shops and cafes, keep to the left and go up the incline (OK, there’s another little hill), then immediately back down and under the Hawthorne Bridge. Now you are back on the four-mile loop! Cross at the Steel Bridge, run along the Eastbank Esplanade, and head back to PRC at the Hawthorne Bridge ramp. Exact distance: 6 miles. Here's a map of this route.
11-mile Loop – Sellwood Bridge
By continuing south beyond Tilikum Crossing and onto the Springwater Corridor, one can make an 11-mile loop. This section of the trail passes through the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and Oaks Amusement Park. Cross the Willamette River on the Sellwood Bridge and head north through Willamette Park. You’ll intersect Moody Avenue again after passing some boat docks and condominiums. Constant construction means this route has been riddled with detours for years. Taking an experienced Portland runner with you is a good idea. Here is a pretty straightforward map of this loop, as of 2019.