Today was one of those days you have to get out and take advantage of -- a sunny day in March in the PNW is not something to be wasted! I'm so glad I got out there, even for this semi-quick walk through downtown Vancouver, Ft. Vancouver, and the Vancouver waterfront area.
Length of walk: About 3 miles
Difficulty: Super Duper Easy
What to Wear: Throw on your best sneakers. In summer, slather on some sunscreen, as this entire walk is in full sun.
What to pack:
- Snack or Lunch
Where to Start: This little 3-mile loop is easily accessible from many areas. If you work in downtown Vancouver, a great place to start is Esther Short Park, or Evergreen Blvd. Since I live in East Vancouver, I drove to Officer's Row and took advantage of the free parking lots for visitors.
Ft. Vancouver and Officer's Row is an amazing place to wander, and a great lunchtime hike in and of itself if you're just looking for a nice leisurely stroll. The beautiful homes that soldiers and officers lived in date back to the 1800s. They were restored by the City of Vancouver in 1980s. The houses are now leased by residents and businesses, with everything from dentists' offices to restaurants and venues for special events. However, the lovely thing about it is that you wouldn't think, at first glance, that Officer's Row is a commercial area, as they've kept the architecture and landscaping very "residential" feeling.
Officer's Row is lined with beautiful tall evergreens, and the car traffic passes through slowly and quietly. I started my walk by cutting through the enormous lawn, past the gazebo and headed toward Ft. Vancouver.
You can visit the inside of the walls of Ft. Vancouver for a small fee. I chose not to go inside and instead walked around the fort, connecting with the paved trail on the Southwest corner of the property, and made my way toward the mighty Columbia River.
Along this paved trail you'll find several signs that outline the history of the area and the foliage. There are several places to stop, sit on a bench and admire the view as well as the sculptures and artwork that pepper the entire path.
The Mighty Columbia River and Waterfront Trail
Keep following this wide, paved pathway over the landbridge that crosses the railroad tracks and down to the Vancouver waterfront. Continue west and you'll enjoy amazing views of the I-5 bridge from both sides. Originally built in 1917, the "Portland Vancouver Highway Bridge" was updated in 1958 and now carries 130,000 cars daily.
The Railroad Overpass Mural
As you continue on the paved pathway toward downtown Vancouver, you'll pass beneath the beautiful mural that's painted on the railroad overpass at Columbia and 4th Street. The existing mural was painted by Girl Scouts in 2015 and depicts several scenes around Vancouver.
The Remembrance Wall
This is the largest mural in Washington State and it includes paintings of the famous Uncle Sam WWI recruitment posters. Keep walking along this beautiful mural and you'll see depictions of WWII, Vietnam, Korea and the Iraq War.
Esther Short Park
Esther Short is my favorite park in Vancouver. It's right in the center of town, with a beautiful brick floor and a tall clock tower. There are rose gardens, a playground, and a lovely gazebo. In Summer, this is where you'll find the Vancouver Farmer's Market, which is one of the best Farmer's Markets I've ever visited. The Couve really has it goin' on. This is the perfect place to stop and eat lunch or have a snack. The people watching is especially good here. ;)
The Return to Officer's Row
Simply keep walking North through downtown Vancouver, which is so dang cute at every turn with an impressive library and adorable architecture on every block. The Couve has done a great job of making the downtown area pedestrian-friendly with nice sidewalks and beautiful courtyards to cut through the office buildings. Take a right on Evergreen Blvd. and you'll cross over the freeway and make your way right back to your car at Officer's Row.
Head Back to Work Feeling Great
You've now stretched your legs, worked out the kinks, shook off the stress of the first half of your workday and you're ready to face the next 4 hours feeling rejuvenated. Or, if you're like me, head home to the home office for a secret afternoon nap. (Shhh! Don't judge me!)
Want To Know More?
Take a look at our blog and read more about our favorite lunchtime hikes around the Portland/Vancouver area!