History of the Loop

The 40-Mile Loop was originally proposed in 1904 by the Olmsted Brothers (Frederick Law, Jr. and John Charles, sons of Frederick Law Olmstead) who were brought to Portland from Boston to propose a park system as part of the planning for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and World’s Fair.

Parks should be connected and approached by boulevards and parkways … They should be located and improved to take advantages of the beautiful natural scenery. The above system of scenic reservations, parks and park-ways and connecting boulevards would … from an admirable park system for such an important city as Portland is bound to become.

Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects
1904 – Portland, Oregon

It was a remarkable, visionary concept then when the area was still largely meadows and forested hillsides. Fortunately, city leaders of the time had the foresight to recognize the importance of parks to a livable community. Though many outstanding park lands were acquired, linking them was always put off to the future.

In 1904 the desired linking parkways were to be for the recreation craze of the time. Sunday drives in carriages or the newfangled motorized touring car, for those fortunate enough to have them. Scenic, separated walking or biking paths were to parallel the boulevards and parkways. As times and tastes changed, pathways replaced parkways.

That connected system was to be a 40-Mile Loop encircling the city. The name, 40-Mile Loop stuck, even as the planned loop trail has lengthened to more than 140 miles to include all of Multnomah County and to connect more than 30 parks.

Now, a century later the 40-Mile Loop is nearly complete. The trail connects parks along the Columbia, Sandy, and Willamette Rivers and Johnson Creek in an almost continuous loop. There is something somewhere along the route for everyone, whether it is hiking or biking, whether you’re in a stroller or a wheel chair, whether you are skating or boarding or even horse-back riding or canoeing. The loop includes accessible trails and nature trails along forest hillsides and overlooking wetlands and wildlife.

It can be reached by the TriMet MAX light rail or buses at many points. It connects to downtown Portland, Gresham, and Troutdale. It connects major public attractions, institutions, and campuses. Its proximity makes it easily usable by neighborhood residents, visitors, students, office and industrial workers. It is our gateway to and through the natural, nearby open spaces so basic to the quality of our lives. Now, a century after being proposed, the 40-Mile loop is nearly complete. A few missing gaps remain.

It is time to close the gaps. It is time to complete the 40-Mile Loop.