Who Knew Dormant Volcanoes Could be So Much Fun?


Portland is home to several dormant volcanoes and cinder cones, which are part of a series comprising the Boring Lava Field of Washington and Oregon. Did they name it Boring since they aren’t erupting? Well, no, the lava field is actually named after the tiny town of Boring, a few miles southeast of Portland. So what better way to celebrate these ancient hills than by making them into parks for all to play in?

Mt. Tabor: Portland’s Volcanic Gem

Mt. Tabor is a dormant volcano located in the heart of Portland SE section. Sources say it last erupted about 100,000 years ago, and because it is an extinct cinder cone, will never erupt again. The northern half of the cinder cone is a residential neighborhood, while the southern half is preserved as an urban park that is over 100 years old! There are three open reservoirs that store and deliver municipal water to the city. But what’s unique about these reservoirs is that the utility buildings look like miniature castles, giving the park an old world sort of feel. There are even single-post concrete lamps peppered along a couple of the trails.


These reservoirs were built over 100 years ago, back when they new how to build stuff.



A streetlamp with moss cover.


Portland is known as a biking city, and bikers definitely make good use of the parks hilly landscape and many trails to get their work out on. Dog lovers can take their pooches to an off-leash section of the park (Portland has a strict pet leash policy, with several off-leash dog parks peppered throughout the city.) There’s even a natural volcanic crater; the perfect home for an amphitheater that hosts several summer concerts a year.

Along one of the reservoirs is a fantastic view of the Portland city skyline, and on a clear day, both Mt. Hood and Mt. St Helens can be seen. Want a good cardio workout and need a bunch of steps? Mt. Tabor has you covered. The northeast side of the park boasts the longest staircase in the city, at 280 steps. There are three “official” trails, varying in length from one to three miles, and many “unofficial” trails.


One of the best views of Portland.


Mt. Talbert: New Park, Ancient Cinder Cone

Mt. Talbert is another extinct cinder cone located in Clackamas, a southeast suburb of Portland. This park is much smaller, with a more dense tree covering and fewer trails, but provides equally good hikes that will get your blood pumping. The trail’s network totals about 4 miles, and trail markers with small maps indicating where you are will ensure you don’t make a wrong turn. The park is relatively new, with the trails being established only about 20 years ago. There’s even a small picnic area at the trailhead.


Tiny maps direct you where to go.


During our hike here, when we reached the summit at the north end (at around 740 feet), we stumbled upon this curious trail memorial.

portland hiking trails

Jerry would have liked this park.


There is a strict no-pet and no-bike policy in this park (and signs indicate as such). However, it doesn’t always seem to be enforced, since we saw two different people walking their dogs here. Perhaps a good reason for the no-pups rule is the distinctive presence of poison oak! Also, pets can damage the delicate habitat. So if you really feel the need to take Fido along with you on your hike, don’t say you weren’t warned. This park is, after all, mostly undeveloped – but don’t worry, there are prominent signs for those who are unfamiliar with the pesky plant.

dormant volcanoes

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