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Powell Butte West Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

On the Dogwood-Holgate Connector Trail, Powell Butte (bobcat)
Pipeline, Holgate Lane, Powell Butte (bobcat)
Mt. Hood from Powell Butte (bobcat)
Reservoir hatch, Reservoir Lane, Powell Butte (bobcat)
Old cedar, Cedar Grove Trail, Powell Butte (bobcat)
Route of the loop hike on the west side of Powell Butte (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Holgate Boulevard TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Powell Butte
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • High point: 612 feet
  • Elevation gain: 695 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Nettles

Contents

Hike Description

A 10 million-year-old Boring volcano, Powell Butte's 612 acres is East Portland's largest outdoor space and offers trails through lovely mature woodland and mountain-top meadows with views of the surrounding Cascade peaks. Parts of the park were closed during construction of the 50 million gallon Reservoir #2, which was completed in 2014. During the construction of the reservoir, new trails were created, some old trails saw some new alignments, and several existing paths were renamed. In addition to the new visitor center at the Powell Butte Trailhead, yellow-painted metal trail posts were put in at every junction. This loop hike begins on the west side of the nature park and allows you to visit most of the new trails while also taking in the summit vistas and forested lower slopes.

From the Holgate Boulevard Trailhead, hike in past the information kiosk, which displays a detailed trail map. Walk up maple-shaded Holgate Lane with a split-rail fence on your right and reach the junction with the Dogwood-Holgate Connector Trail opposite a mossy boulder wall that is sometimes the target for graffiti taggers. Drop down the connector trail among Douglas-fir, big-leaf maple, vine maple, hazel, and sword fern passing large boulders. Reach the junction with the Dogwood Trail, now an official loop that explores the northwest corner of the park. Go left and wind around this lovely flat area under tall Douglas-firs and drooping vine maple bowers. Pass the spur leading out to a neighborhood trailhead off Center Street. Come to the junction at the east end of the Dogwood Loop and make a left into a grove of mature Douglas-firs, one of which is five feet across. A spur leads left to the 148th Avenue Trailhead, an alternative start for this hike.

Keep right on the Elderberry Trail and hike up the north slope of Powell Butte, switchbacking three times, to reach the Holgate Lane-Elderberry Trail Junction and go left. You’ll follow a galvanized water pipe as you make the gentle ascent before the pipe turns up the forested slope towards the underground reservoirs. Continue on until you reach the Holgate Lane-Pipeline Lane Junction, where, looking east, you’ll catch a good view of Mount Hood (and Mount Adams) on a fine day.

Pipeline Lane is a gravel service road; turn right and walk about 190 yards to the gated Reservoir Lane. Duck through the gate (Yes, it’s allowed) and walk the road, essentially on top of the two 50 million gallon reservoirs that receive Bull Run water. Reservoir #1 was completed in 1980 and Reservoir #2 was dedicated in 2012 (There are plans to build up to two more reservoirs on Powell Butte as the population increases). Cross a wide meadow dominated by Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, and plantings of lupine. A loop track leads left past a couple of large reservoir hatches and some vents. Rejoin Reservoir Lane to make a left and get views north to Silver Star Mountain, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Adams. The road descends to a stile at a gate and the Mountain View Trail-Pipeline Lane-Reservoir Lane-East Access Lane Junction.

Make a right here on the East Access Lane and, in a few yards, reach the paved Mountain View Trail. Go right for about 100 yards and reach the junction with the Wildhorse Trail, where you'll turn right again to head up the hill to switchback in a grove of alders. The Wildhorse Trail snakes up through a meadow of thistle, lupine, and goldenrod offering expansive views north. Hike across the meadowy summit area of Powell Butte to reach the junction with Summit Lane.

Take a right and walk towards the walnut/apple orchard at the summit of Powell Butte. Immediately to the south, you’ll see Clackamas Butte across Johnson Creek, while to the southwest, the large Boring volcano with the communication towers is Mount Scott. Reach the mountain finder circle, where surrounding peaks are labeled and visible on a clear day: Mount Saint Helens, Silver Star Mountain, Three Corner Rock, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood can be seen to the north and west (You can also look carefully for the summit of Mount Rainier), while Olallie Butte and the top of Mount Jefferson can be discerned to the south.

Continue west on the paved Mountain View Trail to the junction with Summit Lane and go left a short distance to the Douglas-fir Trail-Summit Lane-Meadowland Lane Junction. Keep straight on the Douglas-fir Trail, formerly the Mt. Hood Trail, and make a winding descent down through a meadow, getting good views of Mount Scott. The trail drops through a scrubland dominated by young alders and passes into Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple woods with an understory of hazel. There’s a gully to your left as you make five wide loops down – these switchbacks were recently crafted to accommodate mountain bikers. Under a canopy of large Douglas-firs, reach the junction with the Fernwood Trail and go left.

The Fernwood Trail, a short new connector tread, crosses a small footbridge and drops to pass over a second footbridge. Descend a sword fern slope to reach the junction with the Hawthorn Trail and make a right. The Hawthorn continues down the slope as more western red-cedars enter the forest mix. Come to the junction with the Cedar Grove Trail and go left in a grove of cedars and Douglas-firs. Twenty yards later, reach the Cedar Grove-South Trail Junction, and keep straight to follow the Cedar Grove Trail out about 150 yards to the Springwater Corridor-Cedar Grove Trail Junction.

Return the way you came and keep hiking up the Cedar Grove Trail. Pass the spur leading out to the Ellis Street Trailhead, an alternative start to this hike, and an old signpost that still designates this the Blacktail Deer Trail. At the Cedar Grove-Douglas-fir Trail Junction, keep left and hike up a gully. The trail leads left to cross a trickling brook under a Douglas-fir-red-cedar-big-leaf maple canopy. Continuing up the main gully, pass an ancient burled Douglas-fir, a Portland Heritage Tree. You’ll also notice some large western red-cedars down in the gully with a patina of green algae on their lower trunks. The trail drops to cross the gully and then switchbacks to an unsigned shortcut leading to the Elderberry Trail. Next, reach the Cedar Grove-Elderberry Trail Junction, and keep right on the former trail. Head up a vine maple/hazel draw and swing right through a tangle of blackcap (wild raspberry) before winding up through a maple grove carpeted with nettles. Reach the junction with Meadowland Lane and go left. In a few yards, come to the intersection with the Forest Edge Trail and go left again to take this trail through scattered alders into a nettle-floored woodland. You’ll see the Elderberry Trail meandering below you before you swing right at a fenceline and drop gradually. Walk out to the reservoir meadow under maples and alders to reach the Pipeline Lane-Meadowland Lane-Forest Edge Trail Junction.

Head left on Pipeline Lane and hike next to a corrugated iron ditch. Soon reach the four-way junction with the Elderberry Trail. Make a right into the leafy woods and trot down about 90 steps to come to Holgate Lane. Here, go left and gradually descend along the galvanized water pipe, which soon disappears underground. Continue walking out under a canopy of big-leaf maple and Douglas-fir to pass a jumble of boulders and the junction with the Dogwood-Holgate Connector. In a few more yards, come to the Holgate Boulevard Trailhead and your vehicle.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Dogs on leash
  • Park open 5:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Most of the guidebooks below have not been updated (as of 2016) to include the new trails:
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck & M.J. Cody (editors)
  • Best Short Hikes in Northwest Oregon by Rhonda & George Ostertag
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Portland by Lizann Dunegan
  • Nature Walks In and Around Portland by Karen & Terry Whitehill
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Canine Oregon by Lizann Dunegan


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Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.