Park Facts, History, and Rules

Forest Park: A Brief History

Native American settlement of the area now known as Forest Park is believed to date back 10,000 years. The first European American explorers arrived in the Willamette Valley with the Lewis & Clark expedition in 1806. By the mid-1800's, most Native American people living in the area had been removed by state and federal authorities in favor of European American settlers.

In 1903, John Charles Olmsted and his brother Frederick Law Olmsted, sons of the designer of New York's Central Park and many other iconic green spaces in the United States, proposed that the densely wooded hills above northwest Portland be designated by the City as “a forest park." In the early 20th century, the park narrowly avoided large-scale residential development, largely due to its geologic unsuitability. After nearly half a century of advocacy and hard work by visionary community leaders, Forest Park was eventually dedicated in 1948. That same group of civic-minded individuals formed an organization that continued to advocate and work for the preservation and protection of Forest Park; that organization is now known as Forest Park Conservancy.

The following guidelines were created by Portland Parks & Recreation to help park visitors understand and respect the rules governing the use of Forest Park, and are designed to promote both conservation and recreation. Please note that regulations involving use of the trails in Forest Park are subject to change, please check the PP&R website regularly for updates.

Please call the Ranger Hotline at 503-823-1637 to report any park rule violations or suspicious activity. If there is an emergency such as an injured person or a crime being committee, please call 911 immediately. 

Forest Park: Rules

  • Hours: Forest Park is open to the public from 5:00 am until 10:00 pm every day.
  • Dogs must be on a leash at all times in Forest Park 
  • Dog owners are responsible to packing out all trash or dog waste. Please do not leave waste bags by the side of the trail. No one will pick it up and it causes great ecological harm to the park's ecosystem. 
  • To protect wildlife and watershed health in Forest Park, always stay on the trail, don't litter, observe posted rules for allowed trail uses.
  • Forest Park is a city park, therefore no fires, camping, fireworks or firearms are permitted.
  • Respect other users and wildlife by keeping your pet on leash at all times, and by cleaning up and removing pet waste from the park.
  • Do not remove any plants or animals in Forest Park without permission from Portland Parks & Recreation. Fishing and hunting are prohibited.
  • If you drive to Forest Park, do not leave valuables in your car. Motorized vehicles are prohibited inside the park. 
  • If you are interested in hosting a wedding or other event in Forest Park, please visit Portland Parks & Recreation's wedding or event rental page. For small events, you may wish to phone Portland Parks & Recreation at 503-823-PLAY (7529) to determine if your event requires a permit.

Cycling Guidelines

  • Never ride off-trail or on unmarked or unauthorized trails.
  • The following trails, forest roads and fire lanes are open to cyclists: Leif Erikson Drive, Saltzman Road, Springville Road, BPA Road, Newton Road, Holman Lane (uphill only) and Fire Lanes 1, 3, 5, 10, 12, & 15.
  • Please show courtesy to other trail users by reducing speeds at intersections and on busy routes, letting other users know when you are approaching, and yielding to those on foot and horseback.
  • To minimize trail erosion, avoid riding on trails that are muddy, and do not widen trails by riding around obstacles. Carry your bike around any obstacles you encounter.
  • If you are interested in renting a bike to ride on designated trails in Forest Park, here are a few suggestions: Water Front Bike, Pedal Bike Tours or C ycle Portland

Equestrian Guidelines

  • Never ride off-trail or on unmarked or unauthorized trails.
  • Horseback riding is permitted on the following trails, forest roads and fire lanes: Saltzman Road, Leif Erikson Drive, BPA Road, Springville Road, and Fire Lanes 1, 7, 10, 12 & 15.
  • Please note that the only trailhead accessible by vehicles with horse trailers is Upper Springville Rd.

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