Field Notes

Go Hike This Ancient Gresham Volcano

Red-hot Hogan Butte once helped shape the Gorge. Now it's a tranquil nature park.

By Ramona DeNies February 27, 2018 Published in the March 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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From the summit lookout of Gresham’s newest park, visitors thrill to bluebird views of Cascadia’s geologic greatest hits. Jefferson and Hood tower to your right. Burly heartthrob Adams claims the east. And then, to your left, Rainier and St. Helens dominate the gaps between stands of mossy red alders.

But consider, too, the butte what brought ya. The entirety of Hogan Butte Nature Park—46 acres of picnic spots, interpretive placards, and a half-mile ADA-accessible path through ferns and bentgrass—is itself an extinct volcano, one that predates some of those studly stratovolcanoes on the horizon by more than two million years. Part of the Boring Volcanic Field, Hogan Butte was one of 80 or so clustered steam vents that helped shape the Gorge from modern-day Beaverton east to Damascus.

It’s been a while since Hogan Butte blew its top. Now, this tranquil, 930-foot rise is ringed with native cedars and maples; each spring, it blooms with Oregon grape and red flowering currant. The groves beyond the meadow are home to black-tailed deer, red foxes, downy woodpeckers, and northern flickers. And, since September 2017, the park has also welcomed human visitors: to stroll its walkways, snap shots of wide Columbia Gorge vistas, and gawk, back at the parking lot, at the handsome yellow house once known as the “Crest of Heaven Club”: a dairy-turned-Prohibition speakeasy (and “house of ill repute”) known for its rooftop blue neon star, lit during open hours.

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Already, says city spokesperson Elizabeth Coffey, Hogan Butte is the park system’s new crown jewel. Eventually, that shine could extend to the city’s other ancient cinder cones. Next up for prettification, says Coffey, is leafy Gabbert Butte—just one mile to the west, as the red-tailed hawk flies.

Post-Hike Watering Hole

Three miles north in downtown Gresham, the city’s smallest brewery operates from a combo homebrew store and taproom. Krauski’s Brewskis are always on tap here at the Hoppy Brewer, along with some 20 guest pours. (Order yourself a Moo Melt at next-door burger joint Local Cow, then sink into a comfy pub chair with your snifter of choice.) 328 N Main Ave

Drive Time: 30 minutes
Activity: Hiking
Distance: 0.5 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Fee: Free

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