Trek #15: Powell Butte

I was pretty excited to hike up to Powell Butte, Portland’s own viewpoint oasis where, from the top, you can see half a dozen mountains and buttes in the distance. We decided we wanted to go for an evening hike to perhaps catch a killer sunset, as many a hiking blog suggests we can experience. Due to reasons I’ll point out, this is a hike I’ll have to come back to in order to give it a fair review. But overall, I found Powell Butte to be very peaceful and lovely.

It seems that now, through the end of the year, Powell Butte is undergoing massive construction, which also means parking at the main trailhead is closed, and will be at least through the end of this year. We decided that we would enter via the temporary parking and trailhead off of Holgate, and take the Old Holgate trail to the Goldfinch trail which would then take us to where we ultimately wanted to hike, the Orchard Loop Trail.

Much to our chagrin, the Old Holgate trail was terribly muddy. I mean, just disgustingly muddy. It was roughly 1.2 miles of pure, thick, unforgiving mud that we tried to billygoat our way around the really bad spots. Not to mention, this is also a multi-use trail for horses, so we had a good deal of mounds of horse poo to avoid as well. It’s funny to me in hindsight that there was a sign at the trailhead saying that Old Holgate trail is closed ‘when trail is muddy.’ Makes me wonder just how bad is has to be. We went when it was sunny and warm, which makes me believe that in winter during the constant rains this trail is just a knee-deep muck slide.

After finally reaching the end of this trail, we hit the construction zone. There is nowhere to go except to your immediate left, following a construction site fence for a good while. Fortunately this did bring us to the Goldfinch trail, so we weren’t thrown off our planned route.

From the Goldfinch trail, we made our way to the Orchard Loop trail. This was definitely where the beauty of Powell Butte lies. Meadows upon meadows of tall grasses and wildflowers, daisies as far as the eye can see, expansive views of all the hills in the distance. As we wound our way through the Orchard Loop trail, we found the spot we were most looking forward to: the Mountain Finder.

Mountain Finder

This is a spot where boards are laid out to show you just how far certain mountains, buttes, and viewpoints are in the distance. Sadly, the most beautiful sight of all, Mt. Hood, was obscured by a thick fog in the distance. Many of the other mountains were obscured as well, but you could still see a good way out. This is obviously a scenic viewpoint for a very clear day.

At this point we decided to make our way back down. The parking lot we were in only allows cars to stay until 9pm, so we weren’t going to be able to stay long enough to see our sunset anyway.

Overall we estimated that we traversed about 4+ miles of trails at Powell Butte. The scenery at Orchard Loop was very peaceful and idyllic, but overall the rest of the hike was a bit of a bust due to construction and the awful conditions of Old Holgate trail. Perhaps next summer when construction is finished and the original trailhead is re-opened, we’ll make our way back here on a clear day and really enjoy this area the way it was intended to be enjoyed.

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Treks Down: 15, Treks to Go: 37

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One Response to Trek #15: Powell Butte

  1. David Helzer says:

    Great Blog. Congrats on finishing out the year. Excellent picture of Powell Butte grassland. I am contacting you about potentially using the image with credit for a presentation I am planning that includes Powell Butte. Can you please send me an email? Thanks!

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