Hiking Oregon Portland Willamette Valley

Canemah Bluff and Newell Creek Canyon – 04/29/2023

A brief streak of 80+ degree temperatures arrived for the final weekend of April, and we celebrated with a pair of short hikes in Oregon City. We had our sights on two small parks managed by Metro, a regional council covering Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties which includes two dozen cities. The largest of which is Portland.

Our first stop of the day wasn’t at either of the parks though, it was at the Willamette Falls Scenic Viewpoint along McLoughlin Boulevard. The viewpoint was on our way to Canemah Bluff and neither of us had ever actually seen this waterfall in person.




After reading up on some Oregon history we drove on to Canemah Children’s Park which doubles as the trailhead.


We reviewed the map and decided on the following route: From the children’s park we would take the Camas Springs Trail to Cemetery Road and turn right to the Spur Trail. We’d then take the Spur Trail to the Licorice Fern Trail and then turn right on the Old Slide Trail. The Old Slide Trail would bring us back to the Licorice Fern Trail which we would follow to the park boundary before turning around and hiking back to Cemetery Road via the Licorice Fern Trail. Then turning right on the road, we would follow it to the Frog Pond trail where a left would bring us back to the Childrens Park. This whole route was just barely over 2 miles with a little under 190′ of elevation gain.

The delayed Spring was showing here as the wildflower show was just getting underway.
IMG_6211Most of the camas was still working on blooming but a few were open.



DSCN3180Dark eyed junco

DSCN3182Possibly a female yellow-rumped warbler.



IMG_6225Willamette River


IMG_6231Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_6236Camas catching a little sunlight.


This first part of the hike reminded us very much of another nearby hike we’d taken at Camassia Natural Area (post) which is located on the opposite side of the Willamette from Canemah Bluff.

The Camas Springs Trail eventually entered the trees before arriving at the Cemetery Road.

IMG_6241Red flowering currant


IMG_6245Metro’s signage has been top notch in the parks we’ve visited so far.

We followed the Cemetery Road to its end at the privately owned Canemah Pioneer Cemetery where we turned onto the Spur Trail.
IMG_6247Hooker’s fairy bells



IMG_6261Fawn lilies

IMG_6265The cemetery behind the fence.

IMG_6266The Spur Trail.

It was a trillium show along the Spur Trail.




At the junction with the Licorice Fern Trail we spotted a couple of largeleaf sandworts in bloom.

After just 100′ on the Licorice Fern Trail we turned onto the Old Slide Trail which climbed 150′ along a hillside before descending to rejoin the Licorice Fern Trail which we followed to the park boundary near a neighborhod.




IMG_6296The boundary marker. The trail continues a short distance to 5th Place.

We dropped a bit and now had to regain that elevation as we headed back along the Licorice Fern Trail.


We spotted a few more flowers at varying stages of blooming as we made our way back to Cemetery Road.



IMG_6322Back on the road.

We turned onto the Frog Pond Trail which was only about 100 yards long. The trees around the pond were full of little birds that we watched flit about for quite a while before continuing to our car.

IMG_6328The frog pond.

Bewick's wrenBewick’s wren

Nashville warblerNashville warbler?

DSCN3225House finches

DSCN3230Spotted towhee

DSCN3224Bleeding heart near the pond.

IMG_6333Arriving back at the trailhead.

From Canemah Bluff it was only a 2.6-mile drive to Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park. The park opened in December 2021, so it is a relatively new addition to the parks Metro manages. There were just a couple of other cars in the good-sized parking area when we arrived just after 8am.
IMG_6337View from the trailhead.

IMG_6334Trailhead signboard.

There are three types of trails at Newell Creek Canyon: Shared use (bicycle & hiker), hiker only, and bicycle only. Our plan here was to start with the shared use trails and finish with the hiker only Canyon Spring Loop. This way we would finish the shared use trails nice and early in hopes of avoid too much traffic. We made our way around the outside of the grassy picnic area to the start of the trails at a gate.
IMG_6339Please note that pets are not allowed at most Metro parks.

IMG_6341Don’t forget to brush off your shoes when brushes are available.

With the word canyon in the name, it’s not surprising that the Tumble Falls Trail begins by descending into Newell Creek Canyon.

We passed the biker only Shady Lane Trail on our right and further along a second biker only connector to the Shady Lane Trail.
IMG_6342The Shady Lane Trail.

IMG_6346Oregon grape, red flowering currant and Indian plum

IMG_6347One of several benches located throughout the park.

IMG_6349The connector trail.

IMG_6351Candy flower

IMG_6353Trillium with a tiny insect.

IMG_6355Carpet of green.

IMG_6356A rare bluebird day for us this year.

Near the 0.4-mile mark we passed the Canyon Springs Loop which forked off to the left.

We continued on the Tumble Falls Trail which was now somewhat level.

IMG_6362Salmonberry blossoms

IMG_6365Fringecup and pacific waterleaf that had yet to start blooming.

The Shady Lane Trail joined from the right just before reaching the Tumble Falls Bridge.

IMG_6369The Tumble Falls Bridge.

IMG_6371Tumble Falls

On the far side of the bridge the trail became the shared use Cedar Grove Trail from which the biker only Red Soil Roller Trail quickly split off.

IMG_6374The Red Soil Roller Trail to the right.

We followed the aptly named Cedar Grove Trail downhill to its end at a bench overlooking Newell Creek Canyon. While we couldn’t see the creek itself the sound of flowing water let us know that it was down there.
IMG_6376A small pond along the trail.

Song sparrowSong sparrow

IMG_6379Western red cedars

IMG_6381Nearing the end of the trail.

IMG_6383Map at the end of the Cedar Grove Trail.

IMG_6384Newell Creek is down there somewhere.

We headed back the way we’d come. It was warming up nicely and we spotted our first butterflies of the year as we climbed back toward Tumble Falls.

IMG_6387Male margined white?

IMG_6390Female margined white?

When we reached the Canyon Spring Loop we turned onto it and followed it for 500′ to a junction on the ridge where the actual loop began. We chose to go right and followed the ridge east.
IMG_6401Slender toothwort

IMG_6402The Canyon Spring Trail below in the trees.

The trail lost approximately 100′ before completing a 180 degree turn and leveling out as we headed back West.
DSCN3243Spotted towhee


IMG_6407Heading back beneath the ridge.

Shortly after starting back beneath the ridge, and not long after the subject of owls had come up, we spotted a great horned owl sitting in the undergrowth just off the trail near a tree.


We stopped a ways back to see if it would fly off but aside from some slight head movement and slight eye opening it didn’t move. We made note of where it was and slowly passed giving it as much space as possible. Our plan was to report it when we got back to the car in case it was injured or sick. We finished up the loop and had started up the Tumble Falls Trail when we passed two Metro parks staff. We let them know about the owl, showed them a photo, and pointed out on the map where we’d seen it and they were going to check on it and report it to the appropriate entity if necessary. We hope the owl turned out to be okay. As much fun as it is to see the wild animals it is sad when we come across an injured one.

DSCN3256Trillium and mushrooms



DSCN3267Stellar’s jay

IMG_6416Back at the Tumble Falls Trail.

We felt better knowing that we’d let someone know about the owl and made our way back to the picnic area which we passed through to return to the car.

Our hike here came in at just under 3.5 miles with 570′ of elevation gain giving us approximately 5.5 miles and 760′ of elevation gain on the day. Both parks were nice and really well maintained, kudos again to Metro for the job they do with the public spaces. One thing that became clear as the morning heated up was that we are not at all prepared for warm weather hiking. It’s been so cool (cold) and overcast for so long our bodies aren’t ready for temps in the 70 or 80s. Hopefully there is still time for a reasonable transition to the heat of Summer but that window grows shorter every day and more cool, wet weather appears to be on the way for the coming week. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Canemah Bluff and Newell Creek Canyon

Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Oxbow Regional Park and Powell Butte Nature Park

A trip to Portland to celebrate my Grandmother’s 93rd birthday provided us an opportunity to do some hiking in the morning before the festivities began. In the previous couple of years we had taken a hike in the Columbia River Gorge before seeing Grandma for her birthday but the Eagle Creek Fire had changed those plans this year so we turned to a couple of Portland area parks instead.

We started our morning at Oxbow Region Park. We paid the $5/car day use fee and drove through the park to the boat launch near the campground.

Sign at the Oxbow Park boat ramp

After a quick trip down to look at the Sandy River we headed east on a trail marked by a hiker symbol and a sign for the amphitheater.

Sandy River

Amphitheater trail in Oxbow Park

We soon passed the amphitheater on our right.

Oxbow Park Amphitheater

On the left the banks of the Sandy River showed much erosion where an ancient forest is being exposed years after being buried by volcanic eruptions from Mt. Hood.

Eroding bank along the Sandy River

Eroded bank of the Sandy River

One of many signs along the river bank

We were on Trail M which passed by the campground before dropping down into a green forest.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Trail in Oxbow Park

The trail was near the river offering occasional views.

Sandy River

We had planned on sticking to Trail M which followed the river around past Buck Bend but encountered a closed trail sign along the way.

Closed trail in Oxbow Park

There was a trail leading to the right at the closure so we turned onto that trail instead. A lack of signage and the presence of more trails than what the map in our guidebook showed caused a bit of confusion for the next little while. It didn’t help that none of the trails in the park were showing on the GPS so we decided to wing it and just work our way in the general directions that our book showed.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Ferns in Oxbow Park

Trail in Oxbow Park

After about .4 miles of making our way to the south and west we arrived at what is labeled on the park map as Group Camping area 2.

Group camping area 2

Old outhouse

From the camping area we turned right (south) and began following the river again. We were looking for a trail (I believe it would have been Trail N) on our right that would lead us back toward the center of the park on a bit of a loop. We passed an unmarked trail to the right at a small section of wooden fence but it seemed too close to the camp so we continued on a bit further. We hadn’t gone much further when we began to second guess ourselves and turned back around. When we got back to the little fence we decided we were so close to the camping area we should explore in the other direction for just a bit.

We passed the covered picnic area and headed north along the river past a new looking bench.

Newer looking bench

Not too much further we spotted the back of the closed trail sign and realized we had inadvertently wound up on that trail after all. We turned around again and headed back past the camp and turned right at the fence. This path angled back past the camping area but was clearly not Trail N which we had not gone far enough to reach. It turned out okay though as we spotted a couple of deer along this trail near the camping area.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Black tailed deer

We continued to follow paths in the general direction shown in our guidebook (NW) and were passing along a hillside when Trail N joined from the left. This was when we knew for sure that turning at the small fence had not been the trail we had been looking for. We were now on a wide path which soon split.

Trail in Oxbow Park

Trails in Oxbow Park

We initially went right but that trail quickly arrived at the parks campground so we turned around and took the left fork. In a little under three quarters of a mile we came to an old roadbed (Trail G) at a gate post. The road was coming downhill from Alder Ridge and is the route taken by equestrians that start at the Homan Road Equestrian Trailhead. We had actually planned on starting there to avoid the $5 fee but there were “No Parking” signs all around the actual trailhead and we weren’t sure at the time about parking further away along Homan Road. It turns out that would have been okay but without knowing for sure we played it safe.

We turned up the old roadbed heading for Trail H which completes a 1.6 mile loop around Elk Meadow on Alder Ridge.

The loop was pleasant but low clouds ended any chance of views from the ridge.

Alder Loop

Foggy forest in Oxbow Park

After completing the loop we took Trail G, the old roadbed, back downhill to the junction by the gate post and turned left sticking to the old road bed until we reached a junction with the narrow Trail F forking slightly uphill to the left.

Trail in Oxbow Park

We hadn’t been on Trail F for long when we spotted a doe and fawn in the trees below.

Black tailed deer

Black tailed deer

We followed Trail F until we reached Trail D where we turned right.

This path crossed the park entrance road and brought us to Trail C along the Sandy River where we turned right back toward the boat ramp.

Sandy River

We followed this path back to our car completing a 6.3 mile hike that consisted of a lot of backtracking. It was a fun hike though as we spotted 5 deer in the lush green forests of the park.


We weren’t due at my Grandma’s house until 1pm and it was not quite 10am when we finished this first hike so we had plenty of time to check out another nearby park. Our second stop was at Portland’s Powell Butte Nature Park. We used google to drive to Powell Butte from Oxbow Park which took a little less than half an hour. We parked in a large parking area near the Visitors Center.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Visitors center at Powell Butte Nature Park

We set off at a signboard with a trail map just beyond the Visitors Center.

Powell Butte Nature Park map

The map was a welcome sight after the issues we’d had in Oxbow Park. Heather took a photo which was really helpful considering some of the trails had been renamed and new trails added since our guidebook had been printed.

We followed the paved Mountain View Trail uphill away from the center.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Mountain View Trail

We followed this path for .44 miles to a three-way junction where we stayed left following a pointer for .1 miles to a Mountain Finder.

Mountain finder

It was too cloudy to see most of the peaks identified by the finder but the brief descriptions of each were interesting none the less. After checking out the finder we continued on what was now the Summit Lane Trail. We stayed right at junctions on this trail for just under three quarters of a mile as it looped around open grasslands and a small group of trees left over from an old orchard where a murder of crows had gathered.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Crows in Powell Butte Nature Park

Crows in an apple tree

At a four way junction we turned left onto the Douglas Fir Trail which left the grassland and entered a forest.

Douglas Fir Trail

After .6 miles we stayed right at a junction with the Fernwood Trail.

Trail sing in Powell Butte Nature Park

In less than a tenth of a mile from that junction the Douglas Fir Trail ended at the Cedar Grove Trail.

Cedar Grove Trail sign

Cedar Grove Trail

We climbed uphill on the Cedar Grove Trail for .4 miles where we then stayed right on the Elderberry Trail. This trail ended after just over a quarter mile at the wide gravel Meadowland Lane. We turned right on this path for a quarter mile which brought us back to the four way junction where we had taken the Douglas Fir Trail earlier.

Powell Butte Nature Park

Here we turned left back onto Summit Lane for less than a tenth of a mile to the Mountain View Trail which we followed back down to the Visitors Center for a 4 mile hike. We’ll have to go back sometime earlier in the year when more of the areas flowers are blooming and on a less cloudy day to see the mountains but even without those attractions this was a really enjoyable hike.

We arrived at Grandma’s right on time and had a good time celebrating her birthday with cake and ice cream before heading back home. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Oxbow Regional Park and Powell Butte Nature Park