Summer has finally arrived and the unusually high river levels in the Portland area have subsided, meaning the time is ripe to visit Mary S. Young State Park and Cedar Island. Swimming opportunities abound on the scenic riverside portion of this loop—and a fresh crop of succulent blackberries awaits. The rest of your journey will take you through lush forest and across several streams, providing welcome relief from the sun’s glare.

Set off on the Heron Creek Loop Trail. You will briefly parallel the parking lot and soccer fields before entering the forest. Take a sharp left in 0.1 miles and climb a short, steep hill. Follow the trail as it arcs right and crosses the road. You will begin a gradual descent through a rich span of big leaf and vine maples, red alder, filbert, ferns and (though it is being increasingly eradicated) English ivy. Continue straight at the trail intersection 0.3 miles later. This will commence a two-part series of switchbacks through forested ravines.

At the next intersection, turn left and proceed to a long flight of stairs. Climb down, then turn left to follow the paved path as it curves downhill. After passing Turkey Creek, take a left and cross a small footbridge. The trail will bend right and emerge onto a crescent beach. This popular spot is an ideal place to sunbathe or swim.

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©Jenni Denekas

Take a left, across the sand. Just around the bend you will cross the bridge to Cedar Island. Follow the narrow dirt trail through a stand of cottonwoods. You will emerge from the trees moments later, and be greeted with the delightful sight of a peaceful lagoon.

Turn right to follow the sandy trail as it traces the shore. In 0.2 miles you will enter another small stand of cottonwoods. Keep an eye out for blackberries in this section—they are some of the fattest and sweetest you will taste.

Soon the trail will emerge from the trees onto another curved beach. Follow the beach left around the point and back to the shores of the lagoon, enjoying the scent of wild mint as you pass swaths of wildflowers. Retrace your steps to the bridge and cross back over.

Turn left to return to the crescent beach, and begin to follow the shoreline. You will alternately stroll along sandy beaches and clamber over boulders on your way to a small promontory. Boulder-hop to the somewhat overgrown trail and follow it clockwise. This thin track will provide more opportunities to nibble on blackberries as it circles back to the main shoreline.

Turn up the beach to a footbridge. Cross the bridge and follow the trail as it turns uphill. In just a moment, take a hard left onto Mary’s Trail. Soon you will cross a footbridge over Mary S. Young Creek, then begin a steep 0.15-mile climb.

At the trail’s end, you will arrive at a paved path. Turn right, then take the next left to return to the trailhead.

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Canyon Switchbacks ©Jenni Denekas

 Trail Statistics

Season: Summer, Fall
Length: 4.1 Mile Loop
Difficulty: 2
Variety: Loop
Elevation Gain: 200 Feet
Highest Point: NA
Maps: USGS: Lake Oswego, OR; West Linn GIS
Open to: Hikers, Dogs, Runners, Bicyclists
Passes and permits required: None

Driving Directions to Mary S Young State Park

On I-205 South from Portland, take Exit 8 for West Linn/Lake Oswego. Turn right onto Highway 43 (also known as Willamette Drive). Continue approximately 2 miles on Willamette Drive, then turn right into the Mary S. Young State Park entrance. Follow the park road until it ends (at the second parking lot, adjacent to the dog park). The trailhead is next to the trail map, bench and drinking fountain.
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Lagoon on Cedar island ©Jenni Denekas

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