Saturday, August 02, 2008

SE ~ Kelly Butte Natural Area

Date visited: July 31, 2008
Agency: Portland Parks and Recreation
Path Surface: Dirt
Elevation gain/loss: 60 feet
Distance: 2 miles
Ratings: Setting + Calorie-burning ++
Directions: Division St east from I-205. Turn south on SE 103rd Ave. to small gravel turnout at gate.

This place is overgrown and a bit creepy, and that was even before I read here. If you are close and want a two mile walk with some elevation and views, give it a try. Otherwise, skip it and head farther south to the much better maintained Mount Talbert.

We took the following route: After parking in the small pullout with two other vehicles, we launched over the bars beside the gate—made me wonder right then if we were really welcome in the park. We walked the road up the hill under maples and alders, with some view to the north. So far, so good-- then we turned right into what looked like another parking area with another couple of gates and a very deserted and derelict feel to it. We headed across the pavement to a graveled area and continued on a dirt trail right in front of us.

Into the woods--good-- things will get better. Kind of. We walked up the hill on the trail to a T intersection and turned left. The trail is fairly level for a bit, in very nice woods, then starts downhill, with some nice views along the way. We tried left at a fork, only to be attacked by killer blackberry thorns. We walked back to the intersection and tried the right fork. This took us further down hill on an overgrown path. At least there were a few ripe thimbleberries to reward our efforts. At the bottom of the hill is a huge water tank. We walked all the way around it to view the “art.” This area is level and grassy: head here if you are the picnic type.

We then walked by an unidentified brick building to the south (visible from the water tank) onto another dirt path, clawing through the overgrowth, past an area which shows evidence of camping. We then turned right to circle back to the path leading to the water tank, turned right, passed the thimbleberry patch again, then left to head back up the hill. We stayed on this path up over the top and it eventually led to a grassy bank above the paved parking area we walked through earlier. We turned back down the road to our car.

We saw not another soul while we were there. The good news is that there are a few places with wildflowers and we saw some bird activity, including Stellar's jays, chickadees and bushtits. We did not see the bomb shelter.


  1. Great post, & thanks for the link to my Kelly Butte piece. I keep meaning to go back and check the place out again, but I keep chickening out. It's a real shame the park's so derelict and abandoned. It could be a really great place if the city would just do a little basic maintenance now and then.

  2. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Thanks! It is a good post. The Kelly Butte will be my backyard literally since I just bought a home nearby.

  3. Maybe this place is clean up a little by now. It has great potential and I hope you enjoy it!

  4. When my husband was a Portland Reserve officer in the early 90's they went up here to tour the facility when it was a 911 dispatch center. They use to get calls all the time to investigate trespassers who would, I assume, inadvertently hike around the center not knowing what it was. It's weird how they just up and abandoned the place and let it rot.