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The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

The Newspaper of McDaniel High School

The Oracle

Local hiking spot is an escape from inner-Portland sameness

Eban Slate
A view of Mt. Hood and the Gresham buttes from a wide path at Powell Butte Nature Park. Many other people are seen enjoying the hike and the view on a warm February day.

Positioned between Happy Valley and Gresham in the outer reaches of Portland, Powell Butte is a 611-acre nature park named for the butte—a plateau-like landform—it is situated on. There are over a dozen miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore, plus wildlife and trees of all kinds. 

I had the opportunity to visit the park to hike back in February on a beautifully sunny day. It’s about a 45-minute drive from my home, but it was worth visiting for me because I’ve already visited the parks within walking distance from my neighborhood—like Wilshire, Alberta and Fernhill—too often, and there’s little that’s unique about any of them. 

The amount of variety in the butte’s environment is incredible; you can walk from deep forest to an open, tall grass field in moments and then climb up to a grove of weeping trees. 

To get into the park, there are three main options: (1) entering through the eastern main entrance on 162nd, where there is a parking lot close to the visitor center; (2) parking in one of the neighborhoods at the base of the butte and walking up to the park if you go at a busy time, like most weekends; or (3) do what I did and drive to the residential neighborhoods on the west side of the park, where there are outlets that connect to the main park loop trail. Don’t let the crowds deter you from visiting, there will always be a parking spot somewhere.

A grove of trees at the top of the butte are silhouetted by a low sun. The scraggly trees add to the savanna-like landscape at the windswept summit of Powell Butte. (Eban Slate)

The trail I went on, which I highly recommend, is basically a loop around the outer part of the park. At four and a half miles and 50 feet of elevation gain, it’s a moderately difficult trail that’s perfect for hikers who don’t want to commit a lot of time into a hike. The loop only took me 100 minutes to complete. 

For those who want a lighter or quicker hike, it’s only about half a mile round trip from the main east-side parking lot up to the park’s iconic mountain locator marking the highest point of the butte. The mountain finder shows the precise direction from the marker and a description of ten different mountains and buttes all over Oregon and Southwest Washington. On a clear day, you can see almost all of them from the 20-foot circle that encompasses the model—no pun intended. 

Continuing on with that point, the views from the park—especially the main east side—are incredible. Mt. Hood is framed by rolling hills and sprawling urban housing, and you can see how the hills to the south and east roll into each other and slowly gain in height. The whole space feels wide open, yet you can still feel how you’re fenced in by towering trees. There are also some ponds to the south that reflect the sunset; that’s definitely the best time to visit. 

While descending the butte via the Summit Lane and South trails, the open grassland merges back into the forest. It feels like you’ve transitioned to a whole new trail, almost like Forest Park, which is located on the far side of the city. The difference is the seamless integration into the urban environment that makes the park feel like an enclave but not a space of isolation in a negative sense. 

Overall, if you need a new place to explore nature or even to get your photography fix at, Powell Butte Nature Park is definitely somewhere to check out during the spring and summer outdoor seasons.

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About the Contributor
Eban Slate, Copy Editor
Eban Slate (he/him) is a sophomore who enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, running, playing piano and shooting photos. He joined The Oracle to write and photograph interesting stories for readers to be inspired by.

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    Liam GoldhotsApr 15, 2024 at 2:10 pm

    Such amazing hiking spot, only wish that different folks weren’t allowed. It’d for sure clean up the place