Sauvie Island draws big crowds in the fall as Portlanders seek out the many farms slinging pumpkins, apple cider + all the cozy, crunchy-leaf vibes. But if you want to see the wilder side of the Columbia River’s largest island, you can check out Oak Island Nature Trail, part of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area.
🌿 Quick facts
- Starting point: Oak Island Nature Trail trailhead
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 2.7 miles
- Route type: Loop
- Elevation gain: 26 ft
- Trail surface: Dirt + grass
- Wheelchair accessible: No
- Open: April 16-Sept. 30
- Parking permit: Yes, ODFW Wildlife Area Parking Permit
- Dog friendly: Yes, leashed
🐄 Brief overview
You’ll walk through snowberry thickets surrounded by oak, willow + ash trees, before reaching grassy, open fields with views of West Sturgeon Lake, the Tualatin Hills, and Mount St. Helens. You’ll share the route with wildlife and pastured cattle (watch your step to avoid their pies).
Back at the trailhead, you can take a short trail that leads to a little cove called Wagonheel Hole on West Sturgeon Lake.
🦅 Why you should try it
Save the hiking poles for another day — this trail is a great way to spend some time soaking in the serenity of nature without having to trudge up an incline.
On this “biomimicry trail,” you’ll come across seven signposts with QR codes that you can scan with your smartphone to learn about ways nature has inspired human innovation, thanks to a project led by local students.
Birdwatchers will enjoy spotting sandhill cranes, osprey, pelicans + tundra swans, depending on the time of year. Also keep your eyes peeled for rabbits and black-tailed deer.
💦 Pro tips
You’ll need to buy a parking permit before reaching the trailhead as there’s no payment system on-site. The last mile or so to the trailhead is unpaved and rough, though the drive is still manageable in a small car.
Heavy rain can sometimes flood parts of the trail, which was the case when we tried this hike in mid-June, and much of the path cuts through open, exposed grasslands so it will get hot + dusty in summer. Bring bug spray to keep the mosquitos at bay, and check for ticks after your visit.
🥾 Let us know
Did you try this hike? Do you know of one we should check out? Send us your thoughts + recommendations.