Forest Park covers over 5,200 acres and considered one of the largest city parks in the United States. The park is an easy two or three mile drive from downtown Portland. It’s well worth a stop. Portland’s heavy rains feed beautiful emerald green mosses and ferns that create a fairytale setting. I imagine there are many fairies and gnomes hiding out in these woods. The Witch’s Castle also known as the Stone House adds to the fairytale feel.
The Witch’s Castle has many tales. The story of its origins is much less interesting than the folk lore surrounding this structure. This stone structure was built as a ranger station and restroom in the 1930s along the Wildwood Trail. The building was severely damaged in the 1962 Columbus Day Storm. The facility was then stripped and left as a landmark along the trail. Over the years it has been vandalized from time to time.
Many of the ghost stories told about the Witch’s Castle have their origins in the story of original owner Danford Balch. He owned the 450 acres that this structure sits on. When his daughter, Anna, eloped with a farm hand Danford was so enraged that in a drunken rage he murdered his new son in law, Mortimer Stump. Danford was executed in 1847, hung from the gallows. In a even darker turn of events his daughter chose to attend his execution. One must wonder if it was hatred and rage that inspired her to attend this gruesome event. The creek is still called Balch Creek after the Balch family.
It’s an easy half mile hike, although there is some elevation gain and loss of a few hundred feet. Make sure you keep hold of little ones. The trail has a steep drop off and no hand rail. This hike is dog friendly. Park at the Upper Macleay Trail for the quickest route.