Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review of the Day: One City's Wilderness

One of Portland's many blessings is Forest Park, a swath of green on the city's western flank, covering over 5,100 acres and containing close to 80 miles of trails, including the Wildwood Trail, the longest contiguous trail in a city park in the United States.

In the updated and expanded third edition of One City's Wilderness, Marcy Cottrell Houle provides the quintessential guide to this incredible urban park. The book contains detailed descriptions of 29 hikes covering all the trails through the park. Each description includes a full-color map; useful statistics, including GPS coordinates; an elevation chart showing elevation gained and lost over the course of the hike; a precise description of the trail and what you will see; and useful sidebars providing tidbits on the history, flora, fauna, and geology relevant to that section of the park. There is also a foldout color map of the entire park inside the back cover.

The book is chock-o-block full of photographs of the park, including color pictures of the park's most beautiful features, field guide sections on plants and birds, and a few black and white photos depicting the park's history.

Houle also includes informative chapters on the history of the park, its geology, watersheds, vegetation, and wildlife. These later include checklists of the plants, mammals, and birds to be found in the park.

But the book is primarily about the trails because hiking through Forrest Park is how best to experience and enjoy it. As Houle explains:

Forest Park is not overrun with asphalt, swimming pools, picnic areas, or developed sports fields. Instead, since its inception sixty years ago, it has offered a quiet kind of enjoyment, the kind most cherished by lovers of the outdoors. The eighty miles of trails and firelanes . . . and the hundreds of acres of hills and canyons in between, make Forest Park a haven for hikers, bird watchers, nature photographers, runners, bicyclists, equestrians, teachers, and students – in short, anyone needing close-in inspiration and natural refreshment.

Every reader will be inspired to accept Houle's "All Trails Challenge" to undertake all of the 29 hikes described. Conveniently, the book contains a challenge section listing the hikes and including a place to record the date each one is accomplished.

One City's Wilderness is a must-have guide for every hiker living in or visiting Portland.


(If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.  Also, if you have hiked any of the trails described in this book and would like your review of that hike listed here, leave a comment with a link and I will list that post.)


This is another high quality book from the Oregon State University Press.


  1. Of all the things I miss since I became my husband's caregiver, hiking and canoeing are right up there at the top. Portland and Eugene sound like great cities. Some day I must visit both, and Seattle too. I've never been to that part of the country.

  2. Rural View: The Pacific Northwest is beautiful and a great place to hike. I hope you get the opportunity to visit!

  3. Wow, sounds like a fun book. I wonder if there's something like it for the Boston area! :-)

  4. Marie: Well, you have The Commons, but last time I was there, I didn't find 80 miles of trails. :)

  5. This sounds good,t he park sounds beautiful. We do hike often during the spring and summer months here.
    Great review!


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