Walking Mount Tabor, Oregon’s Cinder Cone in the City

What to do when you’re in one of the best states for exploring mountains, new at climbing, and tethered to the city of Portland during your summer vacation? Walk Portland, Oregon’s dormant volcano, Mount Tabor!

This is exactly what I did this summer.

Sun Rays on Beautiful Mount Tabor

One sunny day in August, my daughter, brother-in-law, niece, and I took a beautiful scenic road from the Mt. Tabor neighborhood to Mt. Tabor’s visitor center, found a map outlining the trails on a nearby board, and enjoyed a leisurely day of exploring the place.

The Mt. Tabor Visitor Center has a helpful board nearby with information and printed maps.

The area surrounding the visitor center is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain, with a park for kids to play in, covered benches for picnics, a basketball court, and the amphitheater walled by the mountain’s cinder cone and rock.

The Mt. Tabor cinder cone is part of the Boring Lava Field, which consists of several cinder cones and small volcanoes, and extends from Boring, Oregon to Washington state.  Here’s a view of the amphitheater and the mini crater on the right of the volcanic rock.

Amphitheater and Cinder Cone

At the visitor center you can also enjoy a variety of native plants and flowers, including lovely lavender-blue bouquets of hydrangeas that thrive in the Oregon climate.  Douglas firs are also native to the mountain and shroud the inner sections of the park in a magical canopy.  Invasive species including Himalayan blackberries, which grow out of control in Oregon, and English ivy have recently become a threat to the native plants of Mount Tabor, save for a group of volunteers, Friends of Mt. Tabor Weed Warriors, that have recently taken on the project of removing the invasive plants from the mountain.

Hydrangeas

Mount Tabor is a fairly easy, walkable climb, with three paths for climbers: red, green, and blue trails.  However, the paths can get fuzzy at times.  There are colored markers dispersed throughout the mountain, with starting points at the park’s office.

The red trail is an easy one mile walk and bikes are allowed.

The green trail is a moderately easy 1.7 mile route with a mix of paved and gravel walkways.  Bikes are only permitted on the paved parts of the green path.  The green trail offers more mountain views than the red.

The three-mile blue trail consists of some steep hilly areas and stairs, and winds around the mountain’s three reservoirs.

Trail markers like these dot the mountain to help keep hikers on the desired path.

Beauty surrounded us on all sides and we were eager to explore, even if I did, admittedly, have a hard time keeping up with my daughter during some of the inclines.  After taking a break at a nearby rest stop to discuss our various trail options, we decided to put away our maps and just follow the most intriguing paths.

“Why are you so slow, mom?”

When I said there were some steep trails, I meant nothing more dangerous than a twenty foot slide if you can’t keep your footing.

A bit steep

Whichever path you choose, you’re sure to get some amazing views, including trails surrounded by majestic towering firs, some excellent views of the city as you ascend, and a vista of Mount Hood once you reach the summit and look to the northeast.  Look to the west from the peak for a nice view of Portland.

Here’s one of the elevated views, with what looks like a spring below, but we weren’t quite sure.

On this path, we got to peek through the trees at various times to catch some amazing views, we weren’t sure what this body of water was below, but speculated that it was one of Mount Tabor’s springs, one of its three reservoirs, or maybe even “the secret lake.”  We had ditched the maps by this time so anyone’s guess is as good as mine.

After the amazing walk, we reached the peak at an elevation of 636 feet, where I took this photo of the mark of the summit, a statue of Harvey W. Scott, a pioneer and editor of The Oregonian, to commemorate my first mountain ascent.

Mount Tabor’s peak is marked with a statue of Harvey W. Scott.

After walking back down, I took a few moments to soak in the beauty of the towering fir trees near the playground, which make the mountain truly spectacular.  From the play area, you can also see Mount St. Helens from afar.

Treetops

So much of the mountain can be seen from paved roads, that it’s also an excellent ride for cyclists, and each August you can even participate in their annual  PDX Adult Soap Box Derby if that interests you.  Mt. Tabor Park also offers an off-leash dog park to the south of the mountain.

There are four main entrances to Mount Tabor: 69th Avenue and Yamhill Street to the north, Harrison Street to the east, Lincoln Street to the southwest, and the northwest entrance is at 60th Avenue and Salmon Street.

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