Powell Butte excursion with the pup

Jackie Chan strikes a pose with Mount Hood

Jackie Chan strikes a pose with Mount Hood

On a recent sunny day, I needed to get out of the house while there was time.  I quickly thought of Powell Butte, an oasis of outdoor recreation on an extinct volcanic cinder cone plopped on the periphery of Southeast Portland.  It I been a decade or so since I’d been there.  I hopped in my trusty Subaru with the pup and headed over to the spot I recalled as the main trailhead.  If I’d done more than two minutes of research, I would have known that a construction project had been underway for months, and the park gate was closed.  A massive underground reservoir was being built.  But I didn’t do that research.  So when I had to continue past the closed gate, I turned into Walter Matthau from Grumpy Old Men like a fool.

Powell Butte Reservoir

Future vacation home of Portland water

I did find a different access point in ten or fifteen minutes, walking up an old road.


It eventually met a side trail that may was a piecemeal connector.  It started up a long set of stairs, so I took it.   I came into the sunlight alongside a little aqueduct.  IMG_6033

I could have continued toward the meadow above, but I found another trail leading off into the woods, and I opted for that in hopes of making a decent loop through the forest.  So it was as it traversed, then descended for a bit, and finally turned uphill out of a creek valley.

Along the Orchard Trail

Along the Orchard Trail


It felt unseasonably warm, and I definitely worked up a little sweat.  There were  no other people for a while, but once I looped back on top of the broad butte and into the open meadow, there were many hikers, runners and bikers.  There were even two sets of people on horses.   What a day to be outside!


The sun was glorious, and the views of Mounts St. Helens and Hood were terrific.  It was even interesting to see the cordoned-off construction area, where there was a giant moraine of dirt.

Heading home down the stairs

Heading home down the stairs

After looping around the Orchard Trail, getting a few photos, I headed back to the car, pleased with my stroll, and I reminded myself that there are many trails here, with miles of walking possible.   Powell Butte may fall in the shadow of the more famed and larger Forest Park, but this is an underrated gem for urban hiking.  I forecast a return trip!

P.S. Do your homework on trailheads.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on April 13, 2013, in Flora and Fauna, Hiking with dogs, Outdoors, Solo Hiking, Urban Hiking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. As always, useful advice 🙂
    I can’t help but wonder if there were morels growing in that orchard. It would have been tough to restrain myself from hunting – the location and weather look perfect!

  2. Ha ha, Heather…I saw “orchard” too and immediately thought “Morels?!?” Would the soil be warm enough there at this point already? I have no idea. They are just now starting to pop in Missouri.

    Good post, Josh. I like the simplicity with your descriptions in this one. When I am writing about a place or trip, I sometimes find myself worrying that it is almost too much, and I need to tone it down and let the pictures do some more of the narration. Looks like it was a gorgeous day!

    • Thanks for the kind words and checking out my blog. It was a very nice day. I am not sure about Morels. I’m used to seeing people in the mountains here looking for Chanterelles. I saw no such activity at Powell Butte. But maybe now I would notice it!

    • I think that once you become a “shroomer” you start looking for them everywhere 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: