Thursday, September 20, 2007
SW ~ Cooks Butte, Stevens Meadow
Date visited: September 19, 2007
Agency: City of Lake Oswego
Path Surface: Paved, dirt and bark chip in Stevens Meadow
Elevation gain/loss: 350 feet
Distance: Route described is 2.5 miles with additional mileage possible
Ratings: Setting ++ Calorie-burning +++
Directions: From I 205, take the Stafford Road exit and go north on Stafford Road to a roundabout. To the left is Atherton Rd. Follow Atherton Rd. uphill and, as it bends to the right, look for a tiny parking area on the left, just before a small sign that says “Cooks Butte Trail.”
An extinct volcano, Cooks Butte rises to more than 700 feet, overlooking the Stafford Basin. The forested area is home to many birds, including Stellar's jays, towhees, song sparrows, downy woodpeckers, Bewick's wrens, juncos, flickers, ruby crowned kinglets, brown creepers and chickadees.
For extra calorie burning, begin by walking the weedy bark chip loop in Stevens Meadow. Go through the gate that is nearly hidden behind the large park sign. Valley views are the highlight here as the .6 mile trail is, to put it politely, low excitement. Elevation change is nearly 100 feet from top to bottom, though. You may see turkey vultures or even an osprey soar by, as we did.
After completing the loop, cross back through the fence and head slightly uphill to the paved path marked “Cooks Butte Trail.” Follow this path along a bench beneath several multimillion dollar homes. After .2 mile, enter the woods on a hard packed dirt trail. At an intersection, you may choose to climb nearly straight up or drop down to a lower trail. (Refer to map, see below.) We decided to try the switchback trail by continuing straight ahead through the alder and maple trees, with a few cedar and doug firs thrown into the mix. This trail switchbacks .4 mile to a butte-top meadow filled with dandelions, chickory and Queen Anne's lace. The view is disappointing—only a peephole to the east. Be sure to take a look at the “conversation” rock near the bench, however.
Continue on by crossing the meadow, walk past a fire hydrant to a dirt road and turn left downhill. After less than .1 mile, look for a path to the right that takes you onto the top of a water storage tank. The view is blocked by deciduous trees but maybe much better in winter or early spring! Notice, however, the somewhat rare west-side ponderosa pine growing at the edge of the tank.
Return as you came to the butte-top meadow, cross it and choose your route downhill. The switchback route is to the right. A much steeper and rougher trail is to the left.
Several other trails, some very faint, crisscross the butte, but the described route appears to take in the main trail. The map illustrates some of the other trails in the park. For some additional mileage, return to Atherton Rd. and walk downhill on the roadside path to Stafford Rd. This path purportedly connects to the larger Stafford Basin Pathway and Trial System, although we had great difficulty finding the 1.5 mile Stafford Basin Trail because of construction. Maybe another day.....