West Linn is known as a desirable bedroom community south of Portland, Oregon. Good schools, low crime, attractive neighborhoods of mostly single-family homes, and easy access to the city are part of West Linn’s appeal. Many West Linn homes are either situated close to the Willamette or Tualatin Rivers or are perched on the east-facing hillside with impressive views of Mount Hood.
If you live in or near West Linn and aren’t in the mood to drive all the way to the coast, the Columbia River Gorge or up to the mountains for a pleasant hike, consider stretching your legs on one of the city’s trails. There are nice ones in the city’s major parks: Wilderness, Maddax Woods, Camassia, Fields Bridge, Willamette and Mary S. Young. In addition, trails thread through the neighborhoods and green spaces of West Linn. One of our favorites is the 1.2 mile Palomino Loop Trail in the Hidden Springs neighborhood.
Although there are a number of access points for this challenging trail, a good place to start is at tiny Palomino Park at the elbow of Palomino Way. We advise doing this loop counter-clockwise, saving the steep section for last. Begin by hiking on the sidewalk south on Palomino Way. Cross Pimlico Drive and turn right on Appaloosa Way. (Are you beginning to perceive the horsey theme of these street names?) Thirty yards up Appaloosa, look for the blue West Linn Trail System sign on your left, leading to a pleasant, grassy alleyway behind the houses. Descend about two-tenths of a mile, pick a few wild blackberries if they are ripe, cross Pimlico Drive again, and re-enter the trees at another WLTS trail marker.
Now the best part of the trail begins. Traversing northward through a band of woods, the trail passes condos and picnic tables, dips to a bridge over seasonal Heron Creek and ascends to a clearing that affords a nice view of the city and Mount Hood. On the north edge of the clearing, follow the trail down into a deeply wooded ravine. Here the footing gets a bit tricky in spots. Some erosion and neglect have left the wooden foot treads in disarray, making for slippery footing in dusty or muddy conditions. Hiking poles and good lugged hiking shoes are recommended for this dicey section.
But the surroundings here are delightful: a cool, ferny forest floor beneath towering cedars and Douglas firs. Somehow these big trees avoided being logged way back when; the taller ones may predate the settling of West Linn in the 1840s. Raccoons and deer live in this forest and we often hear hawks high in the branches overhead. Even in late summer of a dry year, tiny Trillium Creek babbles soothingly. In the autumn, the understory of vine and big leaf maples turns red and yellow, spider webs are suspended between twigs, and mushrooms pop up through the forest duff. Hard to believe this chunk of native forest exists in the midst of hundreds of genteel suburban homes.
The trail ascends for nearly a quarter of a mile on the steep wooded bank of Trillium Creek before emerging from the trees just short of the starting point at Palomino Park. Unless you have hiked at a snail’s pace, I guarantee you will have work up a sweat, increased your heart rate, and burned a few calories in this demanding 1.2 mile trek. To immerse oneself in the sounds and sights of a true Northwest forest for 40 minutes or so is good therapy. And you don’t face a long and tiring drive home afterwards. If you live in West Linn, Lake Oswego or southwest Portland, you’re almost there!