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PDX Runs: Waterfront Loops

Portland Waterfront Run Eastbank Esplanade

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.


Getting to and from the Waterfront

A great place to start and finish your runs is of course our store at 2258 NW Raleigh St. What better way to cap your run than savoring a frosty beverage in the Run Pub?

It's about 1.8 miles from our storefront to Friendship Circle at the intersection of the waterfront path and the west end of the Steel (black) Bridge. Follow this route to get there and back.

Take NW Overton Street under the freeway, past the Fields to NW Naito Parkway (Front Ave.). When you cross Naito, go straight and slip between the old police horse barn and the modern condo tower to get to the riverfront pathway.

From here, just keep the Willamette River in sight on your left as you pass behind condos and under the Broadway (red) Bridge.

When you cross the train tracks and pass under the top deck of the Steel Bridge, you'll arrive at Friendship Circle and the starting point for the loops below.

The two, 20-foot steel towers of the Friendship Circle sculpture celebrate Portland's sister-city relationship with Sapporo, Japan.


2.6-mile Loop – Steel Bridge–Hawthorne Bridge

Starting at Friendship Circle make like a goose and continue south along the riverfront pathway (away from the Steel Bridge) following this route through Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The Willamette River is on your left.

Run through the shade of the cherry trees, then pass under the Burnside Bridge and skirt the venue for Portland's Saturday Market. Continue on the path past the Oregon Maritime Museum (in the boat) and under the Morrison Bridge.

When you come to the fountain—Salmon Street Springs—run around it and behind the Rose Festival building with the rose on top. Follow the sweeping ramp up onto the Hawthorne Bridge and head east over the river.

When you get to the other side, you've got some Esplanadin' to do. Take your first left to get back down to the riverfront path, now the Vera Katz (former mayor) Eastbank Esplanade. There's a drinking fountain outside the fire station if you need a drink.

Head north, back toward the Steel Bridge, with the river again on your left. Coming up to Mile 2 you will take a left and descend the ramp to the floating dock that emerges under the Burnside Bridge. After you climb back to solid ground, veer left onto the Steel Bridge for the home stretch and your return to Friendship Circle.

Total distance, 2.6 miles. If you started at PRC on Raleigh St, and return there now, you'll have covered 6.2 miles, or a solid 10K! You deserve a refreshment.


4.1-mile Loop — Steel Bridge–Tilikum Crossing

For a little longer run, try this loop that incorporates the pedestrian/mass transit bridge Tilikum Crossing.

Start at Friendship Circle as before, but this time, don't cross the Hawthorne Bridge. Instead, at Salmon Street Springs, continue straight under the Hawthorne Bridge, then follow the path up and around the grass bowl that hosts the Blues Festival.

Continue south on the path between the small shops and the marina, under the Marquam Bridge (I-5) and up the ramp onto the cable-stayed Tilikum Crossing bridge. The buses and trains have a 25 mph speed limit on the bridge, but you don't! Let it rip!

On the other side of the bridge, pull a U-turn to get back down to the waterfront path and head north past the USS Blueback and OMSI. Continue north once more under the Marquam Bridge before passing beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

Stop for a drink at the fire station bubblers, or don't, and finish out your run just as you would the Steel Bridge-Hawthorne loop above.

Total distance once back at Friendship Circle will be 4.1 miles; if you started at PRC and return to the store, you'll have covered a very respectable 7.7 miles (more than 12 km).


11-mile Loop — Steel Bridge–Sellwood Bridge

This classic Portland loop has changed slightly over the years due to development along the southwest waterfront, but it remains a staple in the training regimens of local long-distance runners and marathon training groups.

It's mostly flat, and mostly car-free, allowing you to dial in a desired pace and try to maintain it. At 11 miles, two loops makes a great pre-marathon long run.

Here is your route.

Start the same as the Tilikum Loop above, but when you reach Tilikum Crossing, turn right and then an immediate left on SW Moody Ave.

Make a left immediately after the aerial tram station, then a right on Bond and a left on Curry to get back to the waterfront.

When this short stretch of parkway ends, go right and find your way back to Bond Street, where you go left.

At Bancroft Street go left and sneak between the Spaghetti Factory restaurant and the Oregon Ballet Theatre School building to get back onto the waterfront path.

Now you get to stay on the path for more than a mile--just keep the river on your immediate left--as you pass by Cottonwood Bay, a restaurant, condos, and marinas.

Take a left on Beaver Lane and pass the Willamette Sailing Club (lotsa little boats) to enter Willamette Park. Stay to the left after the dog run to return to the waterfront pathway.

Go through the park, past the boat launch (bathrooms here), tennis courts, and soccer field, and exit onto SW Miles Lane. Just go straight--the path resumes when Miles Lane ends.

Just past Mile 5 you'll zig-zag up a ramp onto the Sellwood Bridge and head east over the river. As soon as you pass over the bikepath beneath you, take your first left off of the bridge into a little cul-de-sac.

Go straight, then left at the charming Old Church (water here if you need it), and finally stop all this twisting and turning with a right turn onto Springwater Corridor (mixed-use path).

Now you get to go straight north(ish) for about three miles on the Springwater Corridor, passing Oaks Amusement Park on your left and then through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

After passing under the Ross Island Bridge and alongside the cement plant, you'll go straight for a couple of blocks and hang a left onto Carruthers Street, which will take you back to the Easbank Esplanade and a straightforward and familiar run north back to the Steel Bridge and Friendship Circle.

This loop is about 11 miles exactly. If you start and finish at PRC on NW Raleigh Street, then we're talking about a hefty 14.6-mile effort.

Even if you didn't, find your way to our store and pub and tell us about your run. We can't wait to hear about it!