PDX Runs: Willamette Bluff

Portland Marathon Willamette BluffMile 21 of the Portland Marathon on Willamette Boulevard


Many of you from North Portland will be very well acquainted with Willamette Boulevard as it forms a major artery for runners and cyclists connecting Greeley Avenue to St. Johns and points between. Those of you who have run the Portland Marathon will also recognize it as the likely location of your dreaded bonk between miles 18 and 23.

It is a mostly flat bike- and runner-friendly boulevard that offers great views from the Bluff looking over the Willamette River and across to Forest Park. The relative flatness makes it a great multipurpose route for anything from tempo runs to easy day slogs. A number of parks in the area allow for some options to add variety to this route.

The distance from Greeley to the St. John’s Bridge is about four miles.

There’s sidewalk the whole length of Willamette, so you don’t have to interact with bikes and cars other than at intersections. Those come fairly frequently, though, so pay attention!

Parking can be found relatively easily along the entirety of Willamette Boulevard, but I would recommend accessing it from either Cathedral Park in St. Johns or the intersection of Willamette and Greeley just north of the Adidas North America HQ.

Run out and back along Willamette for as long as you want, or consider running one of the add-ons highlighted below.

Pier Park and Columbia Park are two great options for spicing up this run that have already been described in previous posts. Here are three of my favorites.

University of Portland Entrance Willamette Boulevard Portland Oregon
Willamette Boulevard takes you past the University of Portland, distance running powerhouse.

 

Swan Island

[click here for map]

Run down past Adidas and take the stairs down to Going Street. Follow the sidewalk along Going, heading downhill. Just after you cross North Basin Avenue you will see a McDonald’s across the street. There is a crosswalk which will take you to North Port Center Way. Follow this until a clear bike path turns off to the right. This is the Willamette Greenway trail.

This little-traveled stretch is surprisingly beautiful in an industrial sort of way. The strava route shows that you cut through the Daimler trucks North America building, but the path was diverted when the old building was demolished. Stay on the Greenway through McCarthy Park. When the path ends, run out to Channel Avenue, and take the next left onto North Ballast Street.

Follow Ballast straight across North Lagoon Avenue and take it through a industrial complex to North Basin Avenue. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, take a right on Lagoon Street and then a left on Anchor Street. Follow Basin Avenue past UPS and enjoy experiencing an interesting industrial side of Portland. Just after the Portland Coast Guard Station take the Waud Bluff trail back up to Willamette. (Waud Bluff, btw, is great for hill repeats, as you'll see.)


Waud Bluff Trail Portland Oregon
Waud Bluff Trail

 

Tracks

[click here for map]

This is a more adventurous add-on for those of you looking to get in an urban adventure. Some might even find this a little sketchy. Take a friend, if you think that might be you. The route takes you along the Willamette River below the University of Portland. Start by descending the Waud Bluff trail to the train tracks below, and head northwest, toward UP. Footing is not great for the first half mile along the train tracks until a worn-in path alongside becomes more apparent. Follow the train tracks to a graffiti-covered train crossing. After that explore side trails of the “Pirates Cove.” Keep following the tracks and eventually you will pop out onto Richmond Avenue. Here you are very close to Cathedral Park. Run up Richmond, take a left on Crawford, and another left on Burlington. This puts you back on the Willamette Greenway. Here the Portland Water Pollution lab will be on your right, and St. Johns bridge will come into view. Finish with a loop around Cathedral Park, or run up through the park back to Willamette.

Overlook Loop

[click here for map]

This last option is just in the general vicinity of the end of Willamette. It is a run I would do occasionally as an 8–10 miler when I was running for University of Portland. It is a good option to add on more distance from any Willamette Boulevard out-and-back, and takes you through nice neighborhoods to Overlook Park. Do as many loops as you desire on the bark-chip trail in the park across the street from Kaiser, and head back along interstate to complete this route. I’m not going to describe it in full here so check the Strava link for more details.

Food

There are some great post run options for food and drink at either end of the run.

If you parked at Cathedral Park consider indulging with some Moonstruck chocolate. This location is their main factory where all chocolate production occurs. During the week before 2:30 p.m. you get to see their chocolatiers in action. Occidental Brewing Companyis headquartered just across the street. They are known for their Kölsch and Hefeweizen but will have some other great beers on tap.

Down near Adidas I would recommend checking out El Burrito Azteca, a favorite of many in North Portland. Professional runner (and former PRC staff member) Scott Fauble gives the Potato Burrito two thumbs up. Lucky Lab’s North Tap Room is also nearby on North Killingsworth and is a great stop for beer and grub.

-Will Baker-Robinson

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