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Gresham Butte-Butler Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Holly arbor, Gresham Butte Saddle (bobcat)
The abandoned truck, Gabbert Butte (bobcat)
On the Gabbert Loop Trail, Gabbert Butte Natural Area (bobcat)
Binford Lake, Butler Creek Greenway (bobcat)
Johnson Creek on the Butler Creek Greenway (bobcat)
A Hogan cedar, Gresham Butte Saddle Trail (bobcat)
The hike described traced in yellow (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo


Hike Description

This hike explores the slopes of two of the Portland area's Boring volcanoes with views to others. The Boring Lava Field was active for 2 1/2 million years and became extinct about 300,000 years ago. The Gresham Butte Saddle Trail rises on an old logging road to a saddle between Gabbert Butte, to the south, and Walters Hill (also called Gresham Butte) to the north. The top of Walters Hill/Gresham Butte is in a subdivision, but you can get sweeping views over Gresham from here. The old road bed to the top of Gabbert Hill, once slated for development but acquired as open space by Metro and the City of Gresham in 2007, rewards with the discovery of the Gabbert Butte Truck, apparently a relic of the much-maligned 1970s Mount Hood Freeway project. You can continue down the south slope of Gabbert Butte in Metro's Gabbert Butte Natural Area (Note that no dogs are permitted on Metro-managed property). From here, via city streets, you can make a loop using the Butler Creek Greenway and the Springwater Corridor and then return to the Gresham Butte East Trailhead via the Saddle Trail. Another possible full loop involves heading east around the Springwater to reconnect with your car off of Regner Road.

The Gresham Butte Saddle Trail leads up graveled but overgrown S.E. 19th Drive under cottonwoods and alders. A creek runs down to the right. Douglas-firs, cedars, holly, hazel and big-leaf maples make up the woodland vegetation. Near the beginning of the trail, look right across a creek to see a couple examples of the shapely Hogan cedars (An interpretive sign at the Gresham Butte Saddle explains these unique trees). At a junction keep left; the trail rises through an understory of Himalayan blackberry, sword fern, vine maple, and snowberry. Cross a creek bed, wend up, and then dip down to recross the creek. At the Gresham Butte Saddle, come to a four-way crossroads with a bench. One sign here describes the "Hogan Cedars", a unique and particularly shapely variety of the western red-cedar that grows only in this area, especially down along Johnson Creek. The other interpretive sign tells of the trails and Boring volcanoes.

Go left on a steep road bed up Gabbert Butte. Alders and big-leaf maples, with some Douglas-fir, dominate here among sword fern, Oregon grape, salmonberry, and thimbleberry. Keep up the main track, ignoring user trails to the left which cross private property. Roadside posts have “Gresham PRO “ stenciled on them. Still keeping steeply up, reach a fork and go left. You'll see a water tower through the trees, and soon you'll arrive at the much graffitied Gabbert Butte Truck. Apparently, this vehicle brought in equipment for a survey of the proposed Mount Hood Freeway in the 1970s. The road, which generally followed the trajectory of Powell Boulevard, was supposed to go right through Hogan cedar territory. Activists protested destruction of the trees, and an alternative route was planned through a neighborhood. Residents rose up in arms over that proposal, and the outcry of various activist groups eventually led to the cancellation of the project. If have have a dog with you, you'll need to turn back here as pets are not permitted in the Gabbert Butte Natural Area.

Past the truck, you'll see one of the user trails coming in from the left and also a blue water pipeline post. Continue around to the fence surrounding the water tower, and keep right. At the fence corner, go left at a sign for Metro's Gabbert Butte Natural Area (No dogs allowed). Make a left here and, fifty yards down the road, come to the east junction of the Gabbert Loop Trail. For a longer walk in the natural area, keep left here, and walk down the water facility's gravel service road. Wind downhill in an understory of snowberry, sword fern, and blackcap raspberry, getting views of more Boring volcanoes - Sunshine Butte to the south and Hogan Butte to the east. Reach the gate at the Gabbert Butte Trailhead, and make a right. The path here leads down along backyard fences before bearing right into a plantation of young Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red-cedar. Traverse this leafy hillside, which supports a more natural woodland not overwhelmed by invasive plants. Maple and alder dominate at first, with large sword ferns drooping trailside. Then you'll pass down between large Douglas-firs. Continue the traverse as you cross a maple/alder slope, and reach the west junction of the Gabbert Loop Trail (Metro is in the final planning stages for a much larger loop around the Gabbert Butte Natural Area).

Go left here, and drop down an old road track under cottonwoods, maples, and Douglas-firs. You'll reach the dead end on S.W. 33rd Street. In a few yards, go right on Wallula Ave, and then curve to the left onto 31st Street. Descend to Towle Avenue, and cross it to reach S.W. Willow Parkway. Take the sidewalk on the right side of Willow, which you'll be walking along for 0.4 miles. You'll drop into a creek drainage and, at a Speed 25 sign, see a mossy, lumpy paved trail leading into blackberries. Ignore this trail, as it is often overgrown. Continue along Willow up and then down into the Butler Creek drainage. At another Speed 25 sign, just past Lillyben Avenue, take the trail leading right to follow the east bank of Butler Creek down the slope.

Pass a small pond on your left, and reach 27th Drive. Walk a few yards to your left to cross Butler Creek, and now take the trail down its west bank. Reach a junction in Butler Creek Park. Here, go right to follow a looping trail past a playground and basketball court. The small Butler Creek Reservoir will appear on your right. Head back towards the creek, and cross it on a footbridge before going right to continue down the east bank through a cedar grove. Bear right to cross Butler Creek in a willow grove, and then keep descending on a boardwalk. Next, you'll see small Binford Lake on your right. Look for mallards and wigeons scooting on the pond. Pass a bench and a picnic table before reaching S.W. Binford Lake Parkway. Cross this road, and switchback down to pass under a large Douglas-fir. In this area, you'll notice plantings protected by mouse-netting in an area where the blackberries have been pulled: elderberry, vine maple, cascara, snowberry, and red osier dogwood. Descend farther, with homes to your right and Butler Creek to the left. Cross S.W. 14th Drive, and then cross Johnson Creek on a on a high 135-foot pedestrian bridge. Veer left, and come to a log bench under Douglas-firs at a bend in Johnson Creek. At a trail junction, make a right in an alder bottomland. Soon reach the wide Springwater Corridor Trail across from a bench in a grove of cottonwoods, and make a right.

Walk about 3/4 of a mile on this often busy trail, passing a covered bench. You'll see an interpretive sign about wildlife in the area. Cottonwoods, alders, western spiraea, willows, and hazel dominate this Johnson Creek bottomland. Power lines also run along the Corridor. When you reach Towle Avenue, go right and cross Johnson Creek. You'll head uphill on the sidewalk on the west side of Towle about 0.6 miles to reach 19th Drive, where you need to turn left. Walk uphill to the gate at the Gresham Butte West Trailhead. Descend to cross a gully, and then rise along the old road bed where it is attractively rimmed with mossy rock walls. Pass through a holly plantation, and come to the bench and interpretive signs at the Gresham Butte Saddle. You can go straight to return to your vehicle, or you can make a left for a quick out and back to views near the summit of Gresham Butte (Walters Hill).

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • No dogs permitted in the Gabbert Butte Natural Area


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine by Michael C. Houck & M.J. Cody
  • Walk There! 50 Treks In and Around Portland and Vancouver edited by Laura O. Foster
  • Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster (partial)

More Links


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.

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