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What’s to Love: I moved to Portland from one of the best mountain biking cities in the country – Durango, Colorado. I used to ride endless single-track right from my doorstep, and I lived just blocks from downtown. I miss the Durango sunshine, but I miss the epic mountain bike rides the most. Within the city limits of Portland, Powell Butte is the best cure for “single track fever.”
What about Forest Park? It’s okay…if you like riding on a dirt road with some steep fire lanes here and there. Forest Park doesn’t have the rolling, tight single-track trails that make mountain biking so much fun. Powell Butte fills the bill…sort of. You’ll find an interesting sampling of trails that are shared with other users – including horses and hikers. The terrain is rolling, at times fast and smooth with steep short hills. Just when you’re starting to have a good time, the fun ends!
Powell Butte also has some hiking trails where bikes are not allowed. If you’re looking for a wilderness experience, Powell Butte has just enough forest to help you feel isolated (again, just briefly). The amenities are few at Powell Butte, but the bathrooms are pretty clean. Finally, one of the best features of Powell Butte is the fact the Springwater Corridor passes right by with easy access to the south-side mountain bike trails. Here is a short clip of mountain biking at Powell Butte.
Caveats: The trails are great, but they are pretty short. You’ll start to get into a groove, and the trail will end. Due to all the various users, the trails can get a bit confusing. The fact that there is considerable vandalism to the trail signs doesn’t help much. The map that is printed in the brochure is accurate, but hard to read.
Distance from Portland: 8 Miles from downtown Portland, but if you travel up Powell, it will take you at least 20 minutes to get to 162nd SE.
Recommended Ages: For mountain biking, I recommend ages 8 and older. Younger kids (as you can see in the video) will have a difficult time with the mud and hills. My 4 year old rode about half the route explained in the video (and Insider Info below), but we did have to push a lot. Certainly high school kids would have a blast riding around here with a group of friends.
Parental Stress Factor: Low stress! This is a pretty open park with a wide-variety of options for hiking, biking and wildlife viewing.
Physical Difficulty: Although short, some of the climbs are physically challenging, especially with mud. If you’re planning on mountain biking, and you’re not in biking condition, try Leif Erikson Drive instead. Leif Erikson is also a better option for younger kids and family-rides.
Family Fun Factor: If your kids are older (8 and above), the potential for family fun is “highly likely,” especially if you’re riding bikes or horses. If you’re looking for a play structure, water fountains, outdoor grills and picnic areas, this is not a good destination.
Pet Friendly: This is a perfect destination for a dog on a leash.
Weather Considerations: The park is open year round, but I would avoid the park (for mountain biking) during the winter months. There will be too much mud, which can lead to serious trail erosion.
If you’re mountain biking from the parking lot, I recommend biking up the paved, “Mountain View Trail.” From there, travel in a counter-clockwise direction on the Cedar Grove Trail, to the Blacktail Deer Trail, to the Pioneer Orchard Trail, to a left turn on the Orchard Loop Trail, which brings you back to the paved, Mountain View Trail.” This is a sweet little loop.
Family Tips: A jogging stroller is a great option here for young-hiker-assistance. Since the trails are pretty short, a backpack-type-carrier would also work fine. Don’t plan on finding the perfect picnic spot here – have your snacks and/or food in the car or at the picnic bench along the Orchard Loop.
Respect the trail etiquette for all user-groups. Know the trails – if a trail is not for a mountain bike, stay off! Teaching your kids good trail etiquette is important for conservation and access issues.
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