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Powell Butte, Estacada-area, Gorge all offer trail systems within easy driving distance

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Tamra Dickinson loves to visit and hike along the trails at Powell Butte Nature Park.  For more than three decades, an East Multnomah County resident has not only been visiting the butte she lives in the shadow of, but also has guided its stewardship and development.

Like clockwork, Tamra Dickinson loves to meander along the 9-miles of trails at Powell Butte Nature Park during her lunch hour while working remotely at home.

"It is gorgeous up here, always something new," she said. "Every season this place changes, with different foliage and animals."

"I'll never forget after one meeting the sun was setting and the sky was purple, the mountains were clear, and you could see the full moon," added Dickinson, co-president of the Friends of Powell Butte Nature Park. "People are just happy up here."

The trails along Powell Butte, 16160 S.E. Powell Blvd., allow folks to breathe easy and convene with nature in the midst of an urban setting. And like other natural oases surrounding Estacada and in the Columbia River Gorge, they are all easily accessible for local residents seeking an outdoor outing.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The most popular route at Powell Butte Nature Park is the Mountainview Trail, which is easily accessible to a variety of skill levels. Unlike many of the other buttes in the area, which have had portions turned over for development, Powell Butte has remained a bastion for nature. There are sweeping meadows where larks will flit about and deer and coyote can be spotted; forested groves with towering swales of native trees; and a mix of well-trod paths for all abilities and more adventurous routes.

Most of the trails on Powell Butte are mixed-use — allowing for walkers, bikers and horseback riders.

"We can all use the park safely and together," Dickinson said. "In my experience everyone is friendly and helps each other out by sharing the trails."

The centerpiece at the top of the butte is the Mountain Viewer lookout, reached along the popular and aptly named Mountain View Trail, where on clear days you get unrivaled views of Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, and other local peaks, all of which are labeled in a plaza. Down by the series of multiple parking lots is the Visitors Center, which has information on flora and fauna, as well as the water system that has a hub and reservoir on Powell Butte.

"Come up to Powell Butte, enjoy it," Dickinson said. "This is a special place with so many types of trails."

PMG FILE PHOTO - Trailkeepers of Oregon volunteers performed renovations on Milo McIver State Parks Maple Ridge Loop Trail in 2018. Summer Recreation

Though many popular hiking trails on the Mt. Hood National Forest's Clackamas River Ranger District remain closed in the aftermath of the Riverside Fire, there is no shortage of choices in Estacada for those who wish to spend some time on trails this summer.

One option is Milo McIver State Park, which offers a variety of hiking trails that are good for all skill levels.

Sam Gibson, park manager at Milo McIver, recommended the Dog Creek Loop Trail for those who are just getting started on their hiking adventures.

"It's one of our most accessible trails," he said.

The half-mile trail runs along the Clackamas River, includes several bridges and ends at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Clackamas Hatchery — home to spring Chinook salmon, winter steelhead and Coho.

"(The trail is) good for small kids. Families can check out the hatchery and see big fish swimming around," he said, adding that the trail also takes visitors to the largest Pacific Yew Tree in the United States, which is located several hundred years from the trailhead.

For an intermediate jaunt, Gibson recommended the Maple Ridge Loop Trail, which spans three miles and offers a mild elevation gain. It received some renovations from Trailkeepers of Oregon volunteers several years ago.

"There's a core group of people who hike it, but it's a little bit off the beaten path," Gibson said.

Adventurous hikers can check out the Vortex Loop Trail, which offers three miles of steep terrain and switchback trails. The loop begins at the park's Memorial Viewpoint, which features views of Mt. Hood and surrounding forestry. It passes through the Vortex Meadow, the site of a state-sponsored rock festival in the 1970s. Those interested can go onto the River Mill Trail, which will provide an additional four miles of hiking.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON STATE PARKS - Visitors to Milo McIver State Parks Dog Creek Loop Trail can stop by the Clackamas Hatchery.Along with hiking trails, Milo McIver also offers disc golf, equestrian trails and camping. On Saturday, Saturday, July 23, it will be home to a screening of "Back to the Future II" as part of the Oregon State Parks outdoor movie program in partnership with Oregon Film and the Hollywood Theatre.

For more information, visit

Discovering the Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge is also an amazing place for hiking enthusiasts to explore the diverse landscapes. Emily Reed, network director at the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance said that it is the Gorge's various terrains that make it a perfect for anyone to come and get into nature.

"It is just so diverse and immense," Reed said. "You can go from a thick green forest to a dry windswept terrain so quickly." I think one of the things that people don't really understand that this place is so gorgeous. I mean they made it a national scenic area.

The Gorge also supplies visitors with many trails for all matter of skill levels and adventures.

"A good starter hike in the area would be at the Sandy River Delta Park in Troutdale," Reed said. "There are just so many lovely hikes, a lot of flat trails and so many things for the entire family to enjoy."

From being part of the Lewis and Clark expedition trail to its water accessibility, Reed recommends the delta as a perfect spot for all ages. "When you think about accessible, the Sandy River Delta is what people think of," Reed said. "There is so much to do that you will never just go there once and be done."

For the more intermediate hikers, Reed believes that Dry Creek Falls trail is a must. With a little less then 4 and half miles of trail, the Dry Creek Falls at Central Gorge is a solid hike for those looking something slightly more challenging.

Hikers looking to test their stuff Reed points to the many trails at Eagle Creek. The 12-mile trail that gains 1,640 feet in elevation from Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls for example is not for the faint of heart.

Reed also recommends that folks to visit the Ready Set Gorge website to learn more about the trails, how to prepare and how they can use them sustainably.

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