“A scenic trail that starts just past the 12-mile mark on the Wildwood, going to the Leif Erikson.”
— Forest Park Conservancy
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The trail goes to the right from just past the 12-mile marker of the Wildwood National Recreation Trail. This trail descends down the north side of a scenic canyon that includes Rocking Chair Creek. It gently winds down a series of switchbacks and makes its way over the creek to about the 3 & 1/2-mile marker of the NW Leif Erikson Drive Trail
. There are some impressive Big Leaf Maple, Douglas Firs, Red Alder, Western Hemlock, and Vine Maple trees to be seen along the way. In many places you'll see old-growth stumps hosting other trees such as Western Hemlock.
As you wind your way down you'll notice a variety of forest plants, such as Sword Ferns, Lady Ferns, Maidenhair Ferns and seasonal wildflowers, including the Western Trillium. Approximately halfway down, just as you cross the creek, there is a tall cedar stump hosting a hemlock and a three-inch diameter root may be seen running down the side of the stump for at least ten feet. As you near the bottom half of the trail the air will get noticeably cooler as you get near the creek.
One of the highlights of the trail is being able to see prominent displays of Columbia River Basalt along the walls of the stream. This is topped with the Portland West Hills Silt, which serves as the topsoil for Forest Park.
Near the bottom the trail changes to partly gravel before you come out under a large American Chestnut tree, which is the namesake for the trail. There is also a picnic table at this location, which is also very near to the bottom of the Nature Trail
. Just behind the Chestnut you can see Rocking Chair Dam, which supposedly got its name because a lone rocking chair was found at this location well in the past.
Flora & Fauna
There are some impressive Big Leaf Maple, Douglas Firs, Red Alder, Western Hemlock, and Vine Maple trees in the area. In many places you will see old-growth stumps hosting other trees such as Western Hemlock.
A variety of forest plants may be seen, such as Sword Ferns, Lady Ferns, Maidenhair Ferns and seasonal wildflowers, including the Western Trillium. Thimbleberry and Oregon Grape are also present.
Small mammals such as Raccoon and Chickaree inhabit the canyon and it would not be unusual to see signs of Coyote and Black-Tailed Deer.