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A night on the ‘East Buttes’

Posted by on September 13th, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Lights on and ready for our next dive into forested darkness.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last night I learned the buttes overlooking east Portland are full of hidden gems that are much easier to appreciate with an experienced guide.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but in the 15 years I’ve in Portland, I’ve only ridden Powell Butte once or twice. And I’ve never ventured into lesser-known Clatsop Butte or the string of other parks and natural areas southeast of downtown Lents. That’s why I’ve always wanted to join one of the weeknight adventures led by Our Mother the Mountain (OMTM) known as the East Buttes. Last night I finally got my chance.

After meeting up at Gates Park (SE 136th and Holgate), a group of about 10 of us rolled east up into Powell Butte. It was a perfect night. Warm and dry, yet the ground was moist from recent rains and the air had a humid, earthy feel to it. After cresting our first butte, we crossed the Springwater Path and headed south into Pleasant Valley and then looped back west through Happy Valley and ultimately through Mt. Scott before dropping back into Lents.


An assortment of the bikes from the ride.

I was giddy from start to finish following ride leader Ryan Francesconi (remember him?) on a magical mystery route that I still think must have been a dream. Somehow we just kept connecting trails and paths from one to the next. Every few miles we’d pop out into a subdivision of new homes or a park where people were walking dogs, then we’d make a sharp turn, bunny-hop a curb and drop back into another forested fantasyland. As darkness fell and our headlights blinked on, the trails got narrower and the stoke got stronger.

Turns out Portland is full of great off-road trails, you’ve just got to know where to look.

If you’d like to join the next East Buttes Ride, get on the Unpaved email list. You can also check out OMTM on their RideWithGPS page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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12 thoughts on “A night on the ‘East Buttes’”

  1. Avatar Al says:

    Ha! I rode by you guys on the Springwater as you congregated at the entrance to Powell Butte.

    It was a great evening to ride but I narrowly missed hitting a bat with my face on the way back after the sun set.

    I need to give OMTM a try.

  2. Avatar Suburban says:

    Hybrids open up the door

  3. Avatar jered bogli says:

    I always want to do this but Thursday is my evening for riding out at Rocky Point. so many choices – maybe the darkness with get me out on the Buttes.

  4. Avatar curly says:

    East Portland has all this!?!?
    Secret’s out 🙁
    My girl walks Powell Butte frequently and is thankful riders are courteous on the trails. I walk with her often and am equally thankful.
    If PBOT would find some motivation and build a decent bike network for East Portland, all this could be easily, and safely accessed by all. Too many riders haul their bikes to Powell Butte to ride. Better to ride Springwater and access Powell Butte.

    Hope you all had a blast!

    1. Avatar SERider says:

      People reaally drive to ride at Powell Butte? Really?
      I have ridden there MANY times (many times at night, when there is NO ONE there), but no way is it worth a drive.

  5. Avatar Boz says:

    Can you post a map of the route that you took?

  6. Avatar Johnny Bye Carter says:

    I was over at Bristol Park (112th Ave and Mt Scott Blvd) and found they have a huge network of downhill trails with lots of professional mountain bike bumps and jumps. Navigation is tricky and I got lost a couple times but the bike trails are awesome and there was nobody else there on the Wednesday that I went.

    1. Avatar Mole Harvey says:

      Sadly all of those trails are being closed because of development. Bummer.

  7. Avatar Johnny Bye Carter says:

    I like to refer to Powell Butte as “nowhere” since the opposition to the Holgate bike lanes went in and the “bike lanes to nowhere” line kept getting used to refer to them.

    I think that west side entrance by Gates Park is the best entrance to bike into Powell Butte. I’ve taken some narrow horse trails down the south side to the Springwater and those are best ridden with pants due to the overgrown blackberry bushes.

    1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

      I think SE 145th & Ellis is the best access from the Springwater to the south. It avoids the narrow trail you mention.

    2. Avatar Jay Dedd says:

      Ha. Others of us call those southern narrow trails, “finally, some challenging” trails. Just don’t ride Wild Hawthorn/Fernwood, which really are horse trails (marked “no bikes”).

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